On The Street Where You Live
I have often walked down this street before;
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.
All at once am I, several stories high.
Knowing I’m on the street where you live.
Are there lilac trees in the heart of town?
Can you hear a lark in any other part of town?
Does enchantment pour out of ev’ry door?
No, it’s just on the street where you live!
And oh! The towering feeling
Just to know somehow you are near.
The overpowering feeling
That any second you may suddenly appear!
People stop and stare. They don’t bother me.
For there’s no where else on earth that I would rather be.
Let the time go by, I won’t care if I
Can be here on the street where you live.
Lerner and Lowe, My Fair Lady
Autumn leaves. Cool, misty evenings under ethereal Friday-night lights. It is a consuming, timeless soap opera whose episodes may never be forgotten by its actors. Adolescence is a four-season sport and rose-colored romance is in full October bloom. It begins in September with new faces and the slow, steady march toward maturity. A sudden annual collision with the opposite sex brings conflicting signals, fleeting hookups, unrequited crushes and heart wrenching breakups. It is a time of football stand cheers and under the bleachers tears. A three-symbol text message can be a weapon of mass destruction or a winning lottery ticket.
The first crush has been finally given a clinical designation by the pharmaceutical industry – HATO1 (Heart Ache, Total Obsession number 1). HATO1 has been confirmed by the Center for Disease Control to be more virulent and permanently damaging than its highly communicable cousin H1N1. The delirium alone can linger longer and its effects may be felt over an entire lifetime.
Yet, the age of the Internet and cellular phones has spawned a virtual form of romance that has reduced the art of puppy love. We have faded from adolescent courtship – – the mood music of a thousand notes passed in class, and a proxy courtship where vicarious messengers and best friends confirmed the terms of your first steady relationship. Romance is now a massive roving gang of polygamous boys and girls speaking in text, sound bites and cyber encounters that are mistaken for substantive interactions. Kids believe they are “going out” with someone simply based upon how many hours they have logged speaking on Ichat. It is now possible to date and actually never see your beloved’s lower torso.
Some time ago, one of my children came into dinner and declared to the family that he was now going out with “Girlfriend 1”. We asked him when this all came about.
“We were Ichatting,” he said cockily.
We spent the next half hour teasing him and theorizing on where his new relationship might go. He might actually have to see her – in person. A half an hour later, he came back into the kitchen and declared they had broken up. “What happened,” I asked. “Things got too complicated. We’re both ok with it. ” I laughed and asked him which of them was getting the dog. He gave me his classic “ you are an odd man” leer and left the room.
From the premature age of nine, I was dazzled with girls. Having watched way too many old movies, I was consumed with the idea of having a larger than life, epic romance. But as is often the cruel fate of nature and the Gods, I was not proportioned correctly, wore hand me down clothes that did not fit (they were too tight) and had the head the size of a pumpkin. I was Charlie Brown perpetually courting the “little red-haired girl.” Like the animated anti-hero, my heart was also oversized. My inability to attract the opposite sex – except for an equally corpulent buck toothed girl named Martha –did not deter me from playing Cyrano to many of my more swarthy friends – advising them in the nuances of romance.
I offered tips on how to avoid such relationship killers as pregnant telephone pauses (always make notes of everything you want to say). I counseled on how to avoid being labeled a poor kisser (I had never kissed anyone myself but endorsed the use of Spearmint Binaca). I picked out a cheap jeweler where one could purchase a talisman of affection (always have your St Christopher medallion and chain ready to give her as a token of going steady). I shared verbatim my brother’s strategy of feigned indifference – -always walk by her class looking straight ahead. It makes you look like you can take her or leave her, and always observe the 48-hour rule of not calling back after a successful call. Having watched two savvy older brothers navigate the treacherous straits of romance, I dreamed of becoming the greatest mariner d’ amour yet. Now, if only I had a boat and could find some water.
Each back to school September I would fall in love with the new girl who just moved to town. Perhaps, this new recruit would see beyond my XXL hat size, cement calves and famine immune figure. Perhaps, I was a born too late. In Medieval times, girls would have chased me as only a scion of a family fortune would be prosperous enough to possess his own love handles. The thin were not in.
In days before they clinically defined my actions as “stalking ” and my crush as an”obsession”, I would lather up with my father’s Hai Karate or English Lavender cologne and mount my trusty ten speed to ride up and down my love’s street, hoping to see and be seen. In retrospect, I am quite certain that inside their new home, between boxes and echoing chaos, an amused mother was peering out of a drape-less window, ” Holly, who is that boy outside that keeps riding his bike in front of our house? ” A magnificent 10-year-old brunette girl with waist length ponytails – a Cindy Crawford in waiting, would glance outside. “Oh, that’s some boy in my class. He must live nearby.”
An irritated father enters the rug-less living room lugging a box of books and glances out the window. ” Who’s the fat kid.”? His wife punches him in the ribs and he winces.
” It’s cute, Tim. Holly already has an admirer.”
That entire exchange was pretty much the kiss of death. Once parents acknowledged you favorably, you were toast. I was the super polite kid that the moms always thought was “cute” but the girls clearly saw as “endorsed” which removed any forbidden fruit allure. Girls liked the rogues and boys who were so distracted by sports and activities that they did not even notice they were involved with the girl. Years ago when my daughter declared she was ” going out” with a boy. I asked, “Does he know it?”
I was persistent and would find ways to be in the neighborhood. I just wanted to catch a glimpse of her long brown hair, see her smile and hear her funny laugh. At school she would not look at me and was always protected by a gauntlet of giggling, acerbic girls. It was agony – this crush – a thick lump of aching coal glowing in my chest day and night. Invariably, l would abandon every one of my own rules and frighten the poor girl into the arms of a more indifferent boy.
Later in high school, nature and genetics would thankfully stretch me and re-contour me into a baseball and basketball player. Yet, in a strange way, I never wanted to forget that chubby lothario on his bike – doing figure eight turns, hoping to catch a glimpse of his girl. You can never really forget it for somehow it’s memory makes you feel more alive.
It’s a Thursday night and I am now picking up my son from football. He suggests I drive home along an unfamiliar route. He is mute – a virtual CIA agent – offering very little information on why I need to take this circuitous route home. “ Just do it, dad,” he hisses. I comply knowing something is up. “Ok, slow down,,” he demands absentmindedly from the passenger seat. We cruise silently by a large house – windows illuminated and people moving across a dining room clearing dishes. He takes out his cell phone and text messages with the speed of a court stenographer.“
It’s dark and wet. Mustard and sienna stained leaves litter the edges of the rural road. The boy looks up and glances one more time toward the friendly colonial lit up like a jack-o-lantern. For a moment, I spy the silhouette of a young girl at the window.
“Ok, let’s go.”
“ What was that all about? “ I ask.
“ Nothin’. Let’s get home.”
I suddenly recall that ancient ache and realize this must be the street where she lives.