Thursday, November 04, 2004

Shoebox memories

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I stumbled upon her picture recently, going through an old shoebox. It's faded now, and slightly yellowed. The years have passed and taken our luster with them.

Her letters seem quaint now, and disjointed. Like they'd been written to somebody else. It had to be somebody else, because there's no way I could've done the things I remember doing back then.

We were freshmen in high school then; we shared a class. Clara was her name. Alex, who was both her boyfriend and a buddy of mine, changed schools halfway through the year and left her as prey to hungry wolves.

It's not that there weren't other pretty girls around, there were. But we always tend to covet our neighbor's wives, you know. There is something particularly enticing about romancing a woman whom you've secretly yearned for in the shadows.

Clara was very attractive. She had a shapely figure, for a fifteen year old, and she walked like a woman; long, curly dark hair, great legs, a kind smile, and deep brown eyes. I had the hots for her.

With Alex out of the picture I offered her a shoulder to lean on. She'd say: "Oh, it's no use, we never see eachother anymore, he never calls me, it's just not gonna work out."

I'd reply, "Of course it is, you just have to give it time, he'll come around."

I've always had a charming smile. It wasn't long before she fell for me. Walking alongside the bushes after school one day, brushing our bodies close to eachother, I quickly curved my arm around her waist and pulled her lips up to mine. We kissed deeply, passionately.

She lived far away. I would walk her to the bus stop after school each day and we'd hold hands and make out along the way. On the weekends, I would take a bus out to see her.

Eventually, I got what I was after. She caved in on a Sunday afternoon when her mother left us home alone while she attended mass. It was quick and painless, and not very romantic. I remember taking off almost immediately. Teenage boys aren't very considerate.

After that she became very clingy, almost desperate to be around me all the time. Though I liked the adulation, all that neediness turned me off.

She planned this big night for us to celebrate our first month together. Her mother was going to be out and Clara was making us a candlelight dinner. She wanted it to be a special night, when we could exchange presents and maybe some kind of vows. I don't know.

The day before the big night, standing outside the room where choir practice was being held, with my friends waiting for me in the parking lot to go do some serious partying,I decided to break things off with her.

The cruelty of my words and behavior don't escape me now, but I don't think I saw it the same way then.

We were saying good-bye, kissing below a willow tree. I took her hands in mine and shifted my eyes between her and the parking lot beyond.

"I think we better call this whole thing off," I said.

"What," she asked, surprised, "tomorrow night? But everything's ready!"

"Yeah, I know," I said, glancing down at my shoes,"but I don't think I can make it."

"What do you mean? We've been planning this all week!"

"Well, see, that's just it. I don't think I want to be with you anymore."

She stared blankly at me, as tears welled up in her eyes.

"It's not that I don't like you, I do," I said. "Actually, I'm just scared because I think I'm falling in love with you."

"So this is what you want?" she asked, now sobbing and shaking, holding on to me in desperation, "now that I'm loving you and needing you, you want to walk away? Because you're afraid of where it will lead???"

She dug her arms into the insides of my sweater sleeves, grabbing onto my bare arms. I couldn't look into her imploring eyes.

"I'm sorry, I just can't do it any longer," I said. "I've gotta go. The guys are waiting for me."

I tried to pull away, but she wouldn't let go. I ended up dragging her over the grass, while she held onto my clothes and cried out like a lunatic.

When I finally got rid of her and left her sobbing in a puddle of tears, I could only feel relief. Relief that the scene was over, and relief that we were no longer involved. It's hard to explain, but my fear of commitment as a young man made it hard to feel relaxed if I had, at the time, any serious romantic entanglements with a girl.

My buddies were all high-fiving me when I reached the car. Whooping and hollering about how I'd left the girl, broken and humiliated, lying on the ground with her face buried in her hands.

As low as this was, I went even lower the following month.

The guys and I went to a party. I didn't know she'd be there. When we saw how few women were there, I decided to patch things up with Clara. Only for the night. She called me a few days later, and in what has probably been the most cowardly act I've ever committed, I handed somebody the phone and asked them to tell her to fuck off.

I went to another school the following year and never saw Clara again.

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