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You Don’t Get to Say Goodbye – Episode 5

November 19, 2019

Heartbreak.

While the heart may be broken many times, there comes with each a sense that the present one stands as the most painful of all. While the feeling is understandable, retrospect identifies which ones inflicted the most impact. Some become bellwether moments while others get the nod of “that was destined to happen.”

When you reach a point where you no longer own access to your will to live, you know you’re in trouble.

Elizabeth

She always walked with a pronounced bounce in her step. This produced a number of mesmerizing effects on Ray. Her hair nearly always sported a ponytail. “Chantilly Lace” came to mind every time he witnessed the phenomena. That bounce in her step fell nowhere near ladylike, yet it came even less close to sultry. The only description Ray could conjure fell to words like joy, self-esteem, confidence, comfortable in her own skin, and free.

Elizabeth was a Jewish girl one grade beneath him. That type of observation stood as an interesting juxtaposition to the fact that she was far more intellectual than anyone in the senior class. She was the only underclassman in the Trig/Calculus class. There were only 7 people in the class out of the entire high school.

Her eyes appeared as large saucers. A deep brown, incredibly expressive nature allowed her to convey joy and merriment without saying a word. She possessed a quick wit and an amazing ability to think 10 steps ahead of most people. Few would call her attractive. She had no physical classic beauty attributes. She would never be confused for a model, or even a “looker.” But to Ray, Elizabeth defined beauty. He could not understand why all his friends could not see just how stunning she was.

He actually knew why they couldn’t get past the physical aspect. They were all caught up in Playboy model types of beauty. Elizabeth had nice curves, if not classic. But she possessed something no other girl in school could come close to: a mind loaded with creativity, exuberance, brilliance, and she genuinely cared for others. She was not “stuck on herself” like so many of her compatriots.

Ray and Elizabeth became fast friends She was a total flirt and Ray loved it. They made up little flirtation phrases and never failed to use them when they passed in the halls of school. She lived quite a ways away on the top of a mountain. Ray would sometimes drive up the mountain to Japonica Lane just to see if he could guess which house was hers. He only did this a couple times because the street ended in a cul-de-sac and there was no way to make the trip down the lane without being noticed. He didn’t want to be creepy.

As his senior year moved quickly on, the prom sprang onto the horizon. Ray was now head-over-heels gaga over this little Jewish waif. He mustered all his will one day and approached her during lunch break.

“Hey Bethry!” Ray tossed her direction, using his flirty name for her.

“Hey! What’s up? Want to find a dark corner?” Ray felt the thrill attached to the mere thought of doing such a thing. They’d been flirting like this for quite some time. Of course, Elizabeth flirted like that with many guys. She was simply bubbly that way.

“You realize prom is coming up soon,” Ray jumped right in.

“Oh, really? I hadn’t noticed.” She shot him that sly, ‘I’m lying’ teasing look, daring him to ask her.

“Would you like to go as my prom date?” Ray’s boldness surprised him.

“Why, I’d be most honored dear sir!” Elizabeth stated in an exaggerated southern drawl. She batted her eyes at him for added effect. He so defined the word smitten.

“Well, me lady, there’s only one thing with regard to this shindig,” Ray replied with a less admirable southern accent.

“And what, pray tell, may that be?” When she was in full flirt mode, Ray could scarcely think, much less corral his thoughts enough to make sense.

“I, uh, um, well, I don’t, I mean, I’ve never really, um, danced before, like, uh, you know, at a dance.” His stumbling did not seem to bother her. In fact, her eyes lit up at his uncomfortable stammering and she poured on the flirtatious charm even more.

“Well, now that seems a mite troublesome as this IS a dance you’re inviting me to, sir!” She winked at him. “I suppose I could teach you some steps if you’re willing…” she tossed over her shoulder as she walked away from him.

Ray stood in place for a moment. She was halfway across the room before he realized she kept glancing back as an invitation to walk with her. He scrambled to catch up. “Oh, I’m willing, ma’am. I’d be much obliged!”

She grinned. “I’ll be wearing a long, yellow dress.”

She strolled into her after-lunch classroom and winked at him once again.

Ray drifted down the hallway, in search of that part of his brain which would tell him where HIS next class was located.

***

Prom night arrived. Ray drove up to Japonica Lane for the first time as a legitimate interloper. Her house stood near the end of the cul-de-sac on the left side. She met him at the door in her gorgeous yellow dress, her long hair incredibly styled with a couple slender curls parading behind her cheeks and the rest of her hair in an elaborate mix of ties and swirls. He’d never experienced beauty on this level. Ray knew overwhelming love for the first time in his life.

Yes, he’d been gaga crazy for Dawna and Rachel, and Tamara, but Elizabeth had established residence in his heart over nearly a year of interaction and flirting and intellectual sparring. Ray loved her on levels he’d never known existed.

“Are you ready, me lady, to trip the light fantastic?”

“Absolutely dear sir, as long as you don’t trip me on the dance-floor!” she teased.

One of the great things about being with Elizabeth was that he could be himself. Yes, she was a big time flirt. Yes, she was intellectually intimidating at times, but she never lorded these attributes over him, or anyone else for that matter. She simply lived in her skin and allowed those around her to do the same.

At the dance, the music was loud and Ray felt immediately intimidated. Flashbacks to his one dance with Dawna and how awkward they both were flooded his heart. They each were stiff and frightened. Ray feared he would be the same now, nearly six years later.

Elizabeth immediately tamped down his fears by becoming her usual social butterfly self. They went around and spoke with people each of them knew. This established a comfortable rapport between her and Ray. Earth, Wind and Fire whisked through the speakers with their new song, “September.”

“Ready to dance?” she asked without segue.

“I…I guess,” Ray stammered.

“Don’t worry. This is easy. It’s a swing. All you have to do is remember 1,2, rock step,” she instructed.

Ray had no clue what that meant. “Uh, ok.”

“Here’s how we get into dance position,” she shouted over the music. “Give me your left hand! Ok, now put your right hand on my waist right here on my back,” she instructed by placing his hand just above her left hip.

Ray noticed how tightly her yellow gown hugged her hips. Something within him screamed to slide his hand down a few inches… “Ok, got it,” Ray stated with disguised fear.

“You begin with your left foot. We dance in place to begin with. Your left foot we step forward just a little bit. That’s “1.” You lift your right foot and set it down, that’s “2.” You bring your left foot back just behind your right heel. That’s “rock.” You lift your right foot and set it back down again. That’s “step.” 1,2, rock step. 1,2, rock step.

Ray felt stiff as a board. He felt like Frankenstein, unable to unlock his knees. But he tried the 1, 2, rock step. To his amazement, she matched him. His left hand was holding her right hand. His right hand was just above that beautiful curve in her gown. He felt his knees begin to relax. Now all he needed to do was find the beat of the music.

By the end of the song, Ray had actually managed to find the rhythm and become slightly competent.

“You’re a good listener!” Elizabeth exclaimed as the music died down.

“Hopefully, I’ll get to be a good dancer at some point,” Ray replied.

“Don’t worry about it. Look at all the people too scared to get out here and dance!” She smiled up at him. “You’re already better than them and that was your first dance!”

Over the course of the evening, they talked and danced a few more times. They fell into a comfortable rhythm. They held hands a lot. This was pure heaven for Ray. He remembered how thrilling it was to walk around holding hands with Rachel five years ago. This was far better!

Near the end of the evening, Ray felt compelled to pop the question. He knew this was what he needed to do. He knew he would kick himself if he did not at least try. Elizabeth was the girl for him. Every fiber in his body told him this was right. There would be no better time than this dance to ask.

“Uh, Beth,” Ray began.

“Yes?” she crooned, batting her eyes up at him.

She must have noted his tone, his non-use of his pet names for her, and his nervousness. “Would you go with me?” As soon as he said it, he wondered at how goofy it sounded on one hand and how serious on the other. Shouldn’t it be “go steady with me?” But this was the vernacular of the day, and he was sure he’d said it right.

Her eyes lit up and she appeared to reach another level of glee. “Yes. Yes, I will go with you!” She hugged him and from that minute forward, for the rest of the evening, everything became a muddled blur.

When they arrived back at her house, he walked her to the door. He knew he needed to kiss her. Not that he didn’t want to, but it was imperative that he actually work up the nerve to kiss her. As he bent over to press his lips to hers, he noted at how short she was compared to him. Not that this mattered in any way to him other than he did not want this kiss to be awkward. Their lips finally met.

Hers were so soft. The connection electrified him. The power jolt nearly knocked him away as he struggled to maintain the kiss, to linger just a bit, so as to extend it forever in his heart and mind.

“I’ll come up tomorrow if you like,” Ray stated, working hard to keep himself steady. His knees felt like they would buckle.

“That would be nice,” she said as she slipped in the door.

“See you tomorrow, Bethry,” he smiled as he stepped back.

“Goodnight.”

***

Ray was nervous. He’d actually asked Elizabeth to go with him, she’d actually said yes, and he was going to head up the mountain. To bolster his confidence, he asked their mutual friend,Teresa, to go up with him. It turned out that Mark Turney lived next door to Elizabeth and Teresa had a crush on him. This would be a great way to introduce Teresa and Mark and help Ray overcome his fear.

When they pulled up to Elizabeth’s house, there were cars in her driveway, so Ray parked across the street in an empty lot. Ray and Teresa strolled across the street. They found Beth sitting on Mark’s lap on his front porch.

Ray was stunned. Mark had his arms around her and she simply sat there as he and Teresa approached. She greeted them as did Mark. Elizabeth did not move from Mark’s lap, nor did Mark release his arms from around Ray’s girlfriend. Teresa, being a chatterbox by nature, immediately struck up a conversation. Mark and Elizabeth interacted in the conversation. There was joviality, laughter, and a steady stream of words. Teresa kept the conversation going and going and going.

After the conversation had droned on for ten minutes, Elizabeth noted Ray had not spoken as yet. He and Teresa remained in the yard looking up at Mark and Elizabeth on the porch. “You haven’t said a word Ray! Say something!” Elizabeth exhorted.

Everything within Ray’s world had crumbled at this point. This was not the way it was supposed to be. His girlfriend on another guy’s lap. Not only another guy, an extremely attractive, intelligent guy home from his first year in college. Everything hurt inside. His heart. His mind. His soul. He could not find anything to say. Anger flushed through him and yanked a word from his mouth. “Something.”

Ray turned on his heel and headed back to the car. Teresa stumbled verbally as, right after Ray had spoken, she’d attempted to get the conversation going again.

“Well, uh, I told Ray I had to get back home pretty quick, so I, uh, I gotta run!” Teresa said as she backpedaled toward the car whose engine just roared to life. “See you at school tomorrow!”

“I’m so sorry, Ray,” Teresa said, trying to console him as he drove down the mountain.

“That was not right, was it? I mean, she’s my girlfriend and she did not even come down and hug me and she just kept sitting on his lap like it was not something that would bother me. Am I crazy?” Ray blurted through tears streaming his cheeks.

“No. No, that was not good. She should not have done that,” Teresa agreed.

He dropped Teresa off. It was dusk. Ray decided to drive up to the top of one of his favorite mountains. When he reached the top, he turned off the engine and cried for a couple hours, attempting to work through what had just happened.

The moon rose above an adjacent mountain. The view over the ledge where he’d parked took on a surreal appearance. He started up the engine. All it would take would be a short acceleration. He and the car would fall gloriously to a demolished end at the bottom of the rocky mountainside. He did not want to live. It seemed that he would never find anyone who would love him.

He searched and searched and could not find a reason to keep living. He shifted the car into drive. He placed his left foot on the brake, his right on the gas pedal. All it would take…

Why should I live? What hope do I have? I want one piece of hope. One reason…

Miranda.

He’d just met her through a mutual friend a few days ago. She actually flirted with him. He would ask her out. “If she says no, he’ll come back to this spot and floor it without stopping…”

 

Broken Heart

Dreary become the days of solitude and loneliness
Beacon searching no longer a thing
Sad songs resonate with a wounded heart
Tears released as the songstress sings
Too much sadness, too little joy
Heart too mangled as an abused little toy
No respite for a deep-feeling soul
All that remains is that abysmal hole
The one in his heart open, inflamed
The one left to fester, unexplained
Hope, a faint, far distant memory
Hope, a fading, far distant memory
Hope, a dying, far distant memory

Dreary then, the days of solitude and misery…

 

You Don’t Get to Say Goodbye – Episode 4

November 3, 2019

Sometimes we take not only the road less traveled, but also the road less lighted. Yes, delving into darkness can be thrilling, frightening, and educational. Little good ever comes of such endeavors unless you take the time to learn something. In some cases, the lessons don’t reach you for many years. But isn’t that the way of most everything? Even now, on the other side of halfway, lessons still present themselves. Concepts you like to think you could have grasped back in the day, but when you’re really truthful with yourself. the fact that you didn’t get it until now tells you everything you need to know about who you were then…

Sometimes we go slumming…

Nanette

Ray had never been one to associate with “the wrong people.” He’s always managed to steer clear of the ruffians, the bad girls, the smokers, the druggies, etc. For the most part, this was not a conscious choice. He simply, genuinely, had little in common with those types of people. The “selective” nature of his association with people sprung directly from his own personality.

Ray was now a senior. He felt the burden of not having a steady girlfriend since seventh grade. The situation had very little to do with his desire. Quite possibly he wanted one too much. His overwhelming shyness thwarted him at every turn. All his attempts at flirting and double-entendre were admirable. In fact, he had a number of girls he flirted with often. He simply could not bring himself to close the deal.

TJ was gone. He’d gotten a girl pregnant and graduated a year early. All Ray’s other friends liked to play sports, so Ray enjoyed his time on the basketball court or playing football. He also worked delivering newspapers from 2:30am to 5:00am every day. He had loads of money. He had loads of time. While his friends had to work evenings, he had them free and clear.

His third period class had him sitting near the door. His teacher left the door open most of the time, as did the teacher diagonally across the hall. Early in the semester, Ray noticed a girl with jet black hair cascading down her back like a licorice waterfall. One particular autumn day she made eyes at him.

He felt a rush of blood through his face and the tingle flare throughout his body. She appeared to be attractive, at least from a distance. That was good enough for him. He knew she was a sophomore because he noted a couple of familiar faces in the same room with her. He winked at her the first opportunity that popped up.

She smiled.

If it took being a senior to catch a girl’s eye, he was not above it. In fact, their grade levels gave him a confidence advantage. His senior status would carry quite a bit of weight. Any sophomore worth her salt would leap at a chance to go out with a senior.

The non verbal flirting went on for a couple weeks. His cursed shyness still ate at him. Ray managed to get her name – Nannette – and a few little tidbits of information on her. She lived in the bad section of town, a place Ray had never ventured. He still wouldn’t either. Ray’s sister warned him off.

“Nanette is not very nice. I don’t think she’s very clean, either.” Lea was a sophomore and had a couple classes with Nannette. “You could do so much better.”

“What do you mean, ‘she’s not very clean?”

“Her hair is greasy and she looks and smells like she takes a shower once a week.”

Ray kept his thoughts to himself. He realized Nanette possessed more bad-girl tendencies than good. She also fell outside his preferred body type. Ray liked lithe, somewhat thin girls who stood a bit taller than most. Nanette was short and stocky, although she was developing nicely. She would never grow into a woman Ray would be physically attracted to…

None of that mattered. Nanette was interested in him and he was interested in what she could teach him. No doubt she did not own much “thinking power.” Nannette was far too base and dull of wit to ever be confused with an intellectual being. Another of Ray’s criteria she did not meet.

In fact, the only criteria which had Ray pursuing her was that she was interested, available, and apparently somewhat hot to trot.

One morning after class, they met in the hallway. “Are you ever going to ask me out?” Nannette queried with a tease.

“Of course I am,” Ray drawled, buying time for his normally nimble mind to shift into the right gear. “In fact, I was thinking we could go to a movie this Friday.”

“Oh, crap!” she exclaimed. “I’m babysitting for my sister. Her and her husband are going out to a movie. He’s a marine, you know.”

“Bummer,” Ray replied, more relieved than bummed.

“But you could…” Nanette trailed the partial sentence off with an intensely devious, flirtatious look in her eye.

“I could what?” Ray asked, intrigued.

“Well…you could come over to my brother-in-law’s house when I put the baby down for the evening.”

“Would they be ok with that?” Ray asked, hoping the answer would be positive.

“What they don’t know…”

“What time?” he heard himself asking.

“Let’s shoot for eight o’clock. Here’s the address.” She handed him a piece of paper containing the nearly illegible address scrawled in ink (another thing Ray did not care for – sloppy writing).

“I’ll be there,” he stated boldly, even though every muscle in his body felt weak and rubbery.

“I will turn the light in the front room on and off three times. That way you’ll know its safe to come in.” She giggled with excitement. Ray fed on that giddy feeling himself. He worked hard to control his excitement.

“I look forward to it,” he stated far more calmly than he felt.

 

Over the course of the next two days, Ray drove out to the address Nanette had handed him. He observed the neighbors, their houses, and places he could park which would not draw attention.  He wanted to make certain nothing could go wrong. He could not imagine what would happen if they got caught. Whatever that would look like, he knew he wanted no part of it.

Friday night arrived. Ray’s palms gleamed with sweat underneath the streetlight. He’d parked behind the house because there were no lights. It would be difficult for anyone to even know he had parked there. He arrived a half-hour early. Ray strolled through the yard, making a mental note of any obstacles which might get in his way if he had to bolt.

The only major obstacle was a small, stone fence which nearly encircled the house in a horseshoe shape. The wall-fence did not stand particularly tall, Maybe three feet. He could easily jump that. He was hoping Nanette would signal with the light earlier than eight o’clock. Of course, she had no way of knowing he was out there.

Ray kept checking his watch. It was ten after eight. Had she played him? Was he  a fool for believing her? How cruel would that be?

Electricity pin-balled throughout his body as the front light flicked off and on three times. His stomach knotted up. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead despite the chill, autumn air. He made his way through the front gate and onto the porch.

Wood planks revealed his presence. Before he could knock, Nanette opened the door. She shushed him with an index finger to her lips. “She would not go to sleep. It took me forever to get her to crash.”

She stepped back and let him in, then checked behind him before closing the door.

“We can sit on the couch,” she said, pointing to a dilapidated couch covered with a yellow comforter.

Ray strolled over and sat down with Nanette joining him quickly.

He put his right arm around her and she turned and shoved her lips on his. This kiss exploded fire throughout his body.

Nanette unbuttoned the second button on her blouse. He disengaged the kiss and took the not-so-subtle hint. His left hand slid across the opening she’d created and slipped underneath her bra. Her nipple was so tiny and quite taut. She moaned as soon as his fingers made contact with the delicacy.

Ray’s mind jumped images of flicking that nipple with his tongue. This one thought dominated everything within him. He could not focus on anything else. His fingers left the soft mound of her breast and paired up with his right hand. They worked on disengaging the rest of the buttons on her blouse.

She joined in as though the world would end within the next minute. Nanette wriggled out of her top while Ray fumbled with the bra. He had no clue how to get that damned thing off! Nanette giggled and flicked something on the back and Ray felt the resistance of pent-up flesh release.

In the darkness, Ray marveled at their Siamese, pristine beauty. Both nipples now stared at him. Dull light from the lamp in the window was the only illumination to serve him. His face dove onto her right breast. His tongue gleefully danced on top of that tight pinnacle.

“She must be liking it,” he thought as she moaned reassurance to his overstimulated brain.

It appeared there would be minimal conversation. Ray squeezed and licked and flicked and toyed with those incredible breasts – incredible simply because they were the first he’d ever experienced – until Nanette shocked his senses again.

She unsnapped her jeans. Her short little fingers worked the zipper down as Ray froze on his chest-high perch. He sat up, placed his right arm around her shoulders again, and kissed her.

Deeply.

He did not let up. His left hand made contact with her naked stomach. Her moan became more shrill. His fingers snaked beneath her jeans. Her panties. They met a soft carpet of hair. Then wetness…an opening…a moan more guttural now…and…and…

A car engine and headlights in the window of the back rooms were followed by two car doors shutting.

“Shit!” Nanette exclaimed. She scrambled to get her clothes back together. “They’re home early!”

All the known demons to mankind and more assaulted Ray’s overstimulated heart. Fear and panic ripped at him. True fight or flight took over. Fortunately his clothes remained on, although he noted she had unbuckled his belt and unzipped his pants at some point.

“Get out!” Nanette whisper-shouted as she stood and zipped her jeans. “They’ll come in the back door because they park in the back driveway.”

Ray muttered something unintelligible, even to himself. He grabbed at the waistline to his pants to keep them from falling to his knees and causing a tumbling disaster. He leaped off the front porch, felt grateful for his previous recognizance of the yard, and dove over the stone fence.

He crawled up next to the fence, breathing like every molecule of oxygen was necessary for his survival. He strained his ears for sounds of voices or footsteps. No door flew open with a clatter. No harsh yelling ensued from within the house.

As Ray fumbled, ever so quietly, to re-zip his pants and buckle his belt, crickets and sounds of the night went on their merry way without regard to Ray, the arrival of Nanette’s sister and brother-in-law, and what had transpired within those walls.

Not trusting the moment, Ray remained on the ground. The cold earth beneath him seeped into his clothing, through the layers of his skin, and into his bones. He was in over his head. This was not romance. This was not how he’d envisioned a relationship. The wrongness of it all took over his thoughts. He needed out.

After another five minutes, the cold became unbearable. Ray rose stiffly to his feet, a wary eye on the windows and door. He stretched out his recalcitrant muscles. The faster route back to his car lay before him, through the yard. He chastised himself for parking in back of the house now. Ray started off at a brisk walk, then a full sprint, taking the long way around the block. He slowed down as he approached his car. Now was not the time for anything careless.

He unlocked the door, slid into the seat, and prayed the dilapidated Chevy Vega would spring to life on the first try. Of course, it didn’t. Nor the second. Nor the third. A white cloud of smoke signaled the engine bursting to life, albeit sputtering like it was on its last breath. He shoved Leftoverture into the 8 track and was greeted by “Carry on My Wayward Son.”

Ray snickered as he pulled his car away to relative safety. He realized as the words, “there’ll be peace when you are gone” rose from his speakers, that they hadn’t even said goodbye…

 

Slumming

Youth and desire
Burning questions

If the questions burn,
What is their fuel?

Most often – intellect.

Intelligence appears as a backseat to wanton desire
Decisions follow created paths carved into reality
No discernable trail
No logical success outcome
No real chance to make any dream come true
Because the dream does not exist in the real world.

Complications
Degradations
Road blocks
Unexpected variances
Surprise situations

Yet…

In those short moments
Those ideal
Incredible
Exhilarating moments where reality meets fantasy

Where imagination
Desire
Thirst
All meet with rooms, and couches, and clothes, and skin, and secretions, and electricity

There.
There meets reality and the world you most desire.
There resides the snippets in life where memories love to be colored like a favorite coloring book
There lives the ashes, mingled with the laughter at oneself decades later
There, splayed out on the pages of your mind, rest the moving pictures of your life
There you revisit them

Yes, the thrill and adrenalin long ago faded into less than mist
But for that moment…

You were kissed…

You Don’t Get to Say Goodbye – Episode 1

October 15, 2019

Love.

Simon and Garfunkel once sang, “If I never loved I never would have cried…”

Let’s say you find yourself single. Not only that, you’re single and you’re past your mid-life crisis. Or so you hope. The landscape of dating has become skewed beyond all recognition. You try dating sites. You work to re-identify who you are. You soul search. You decide you’re better off on your own.

You know you don’t mean that.

But you know its true. Why? Because every woman you meet is not her.

Have you ever had a “her?”

That woman who steals everything you own inside – with a simple smile. A quirky habit. A simple giggle. Her presence.

Then there are all the others. The true “damagers.” The ones who trample your emotional repertoire. The women who shredded all the feelings of warmth and compassion you hold deep inside. Once they finish shredding your innards, they mock your pain, spit on your emotional remains, and grind you under their heel as they stalk away.

So odd that the question of whether love is worth the pain does not get examined as deeply after the cruel ones. The agonizing search for answers drives madness and delirium throughout your heart and soul when you lose a love you believed in. A love you embraced whole-heart.

The odd thing is this. You don’t get to say goodbye. Sometimes it’s you. Sometimes it’s them. Only the heart can tell…

In this serial storyline, life scenarios will be presented. Love and pain will be the common theme. A poem, in remaining true to this site, will follow each story. The ultimate tie-in will be the observation that “You don’t get to say goodbye…”

Episode One

 

Dawna

T.j. spun his bike in a violent semi-circle by standing and stomping on his right pedal. Ray followed suit.  The synchronized move appeared as super-hero moves, at least in their eyes. They were tuned to each other… and their prey.

Dawna and Sally.

T.J. was more wingman in this cat-and-mouse chase of the twelve-year-old nemesis’. Ray was flipped-out-gaga over Dawna. Had been all summer. The twitterpation had begun near the end of sixth grade.

They stood poised in the shade of a generous maple tree, sweat beading on their tan bodies. Their eyes darted as their necks twisted methodically, scanning for a glimpse of the elusive female riders.

“Do you think they saw us?” Ray asked with a hint of wistfulness he could not cover.

“I say we run them down and talk to them. We’re faster than they’ll ever be.” T.J. noted Ray’s slight cringe of fear.

“What would we say?”

“You’re the one who wants to ask Dawna to the dance tomorrow night.”

“I don’t know how to do that.”

“You’re never going to find out if you don’t ask.”

“Maybe you could talk to Sally at school tomorrow…”

“She’s in my fourth period English.”

Ray jumped, landed with both feet on his bike pedals, and spun gravel behind him as he shouted, “There they are!”

T.J. followed down the gravel alley in hot pursuit of a rendezvous that would never happen.

***

Friday night sock hop. The deal had gone down. Sally had been informed Ray wanted to “go with” Dawna. Sally confirmed Dawna wanted to “go with” Ray. T.J. and Sally commiserated at how shy the two of them were and that they’d never get together without help.

Ray’s jaw dropped when she walked into the lunchroom. Of course, tonight, this was no lunchroom. In fact, the room appeared to him as some ethereal manifestation of some other world. A world where he and Dawna would finally meet and talk. He had spent his entire summer chasing her.

And eluding her. He hated the fear and shyness within himself. He constantly felt as though he would burst each time he thought of her. Everything in life that was good reminded him of Dawna.

This night, though, he beheld an angel. Her long, stringy brown hair he was used to seeing flying in the wind from their bicycle chases now flowed majestically tied with the most feminine of ribbons. Her smile when she talked with Sally, caught sight of him, and the giggle which ensued fueled something so primal within Ray his fear became a raging dragon which must be slain before he could win her hand.

The music of the early 70’s paired with the strobe lights, and the darkened room with dancing bodies all around overwhelmed his senses. The “Theme from Shaft” rattled around the room followed by “Papa was a Rolling Stone.” Nick Johnson stole the dance floor with his gyrations and insane ability to move his muscular body to every rhythm and make it all look incredible.

Ray had no clue how to dance like that. He had no clue how to dance. He realized almost immediately if he went up and asked Dawna to dance, he would not know what to do. He went into the bike chase mode. He avoided Sally and Dawna throughout each song. Dawna appeared to be doing the same.

He steeled his will to go up to her on the “next song.” Then that song was either too fast or completely undanceable to him.

“C’mon man! You’ve got to do this!” T.J. gave Ray a nudge. “You’re going to run out of time! You can do it!”

“I know. I know!” Ray felt the wildness in his eyes and the alarming pounding in his chest. The clammy hands. The music. The strobes.

Dawna.

Someone announced through the speakers, “Next to last song everyone!”

Ray’s heart sank. He’d wasted the entire dance swimming in fear. Now the night was going to be the biggest disappointment in the history of mankind – all because he was such a scaredy-cat.

“I’m going to do it if you won’t,” T.J. stated emphatically. He strode away toward Sally and Dawna. Ray’s weak protest drowned in the lyrics of Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Candyman.”

Ray couldn’t look. Panic overwhelmed him. He thought about running for the door but instinctually he knew that would be the worst thing he could do. “Candyman” was winding down.

T.J. appeared out of nowhere, grabbed Ray by the shoulders, spun him around, and gave him a forceful, but gentle in its way, shove. Sally had just done the same thing with Dawna.

“Candyman” faded into the Stylistics’ “You Are Everything” just as the two pairs of eyes met. T.J. and Sally arranged four petrified arms together into “slow-dance” position and stepped back.

The entire universe ceased to exist. In a surreal bubble of Dawna and Ray and music and touch and emotion and joy inexplicable, the two bodies moved to the music. Ray noted how rigid they both felt and he did not care. Nothing mattered.

No joy known to man could ever top this moment. This breakthrough. This ecstasy. The most beautiful girl ever born was dancing with him. And yes, she was everything, and everything was her.

He lived an eternity in those three minutes and twenty-three seconds. He felt the song would never end and he would die the most glorious death, happy beyond all sense, dancing in the arms of this girl he loved.

When the song did end, the experience felt as though a bomb had dismantled everything and everyone into a chaotic mélange of lights and talking and exiting and abrupt separation from heaven.

He walked the nine blocks home underneath the stars of the autumn evening singing “You Are Everything” over and over and over…

For one moment in time, Ray knew love, wanderlust, joy, passion, exhilaration, and heaven. Truly, only one other time in his life would ever feel this combination of pure love and adoration and completion again.

Saturday and Sunday they went back to the bikes. Ray’s shyness ate him up. They’d barely spoken. He felt even more terrified even though Dawna was all he could think about. On Monday, Ray avoided Dawna at school. By the end of the school day, Sally informed T.J. who in turn informed Ray that Dawna was breaking up with him.

He knew why.

This is where he first learned, “You don’t get to say goodbye…”

Lifetimes

Lifetimes gained
Lifetimes lost
All within a song

Two hearts racing
Facing life and love and futures bright
Knowing so little
Yet learning so much

Her eyes and her hair,
Even her crooked teeth
Mona Lisa fell jealous and lost her smile

One heart broken by its very hand
One heart spoken only to the stars over the moonlit land
One moment cherished throughout lifetimes of trials
One special memory of love’s first blush

How many lifetimes do we live in a moment?
How many lifetimes may we live in a song?
One future path crumbled sadly into the sea of time
Yet, the joy, the pure, pure joy of first love

A lifetime relived too often and not enough
A pain billowed too often to life
Bittersweet melancholy to flavor his life
And a smile for the moments they soared…

You Don’t Get to Say Goodbye – Episode 2

October 15, 2019

The roads of life get experienced one moment at a time regardless of how cluelessly we traverse the journey. At times we see the grasshopper. The glinting dew-diamonds on early-morning grass. The butterfly, crocodile, whale chiffon clouds on stage with the azure background accenting their show.

Then there’s the walk home after an exhilarating evening of joy. Those moments come rapid-fire yet soft. Billowy. Unforgettable. All because you’ve set your heart free. All because you’ve connected to your higher self and you allow yourself to glory in all that is good and kind and fortunate in your life.

Those roads, less traveled, beckon to us. Always. For the most part, we not only ignore them, we grow into a refusal of their actual existence. Memory serves us well here if we could only grasp the importance of the fact that these moments of walking on air truly emanate from within rather than without…

Rachel

“She likes me!” Tingles shot an array of directionless explosions throughout his body. His brain. His arms. His legs. The tip of his nose. He likely glowed brighter than the most dominant star in the sky.

They’d danced. He actually danced with her! Seventh grade was becoming a bellwether time in his young life. The holidays had passed. Rachel had asked (through a friend) if he liked her. He appreciated her forwardness. After Dawna, he needed that.

He got to walk her home. What an amazing time to be alive! They held hands. They strolled Dunbar Avenue with its elongated shadows painting a surreal backdrop to their majestic victory over new love.

Ray noted the magnificence of her warm hand, the tapestry of stars winking their approval through the maple leaves overhanging the sidewalk by Jimmy Smith’s darkened house. The world slept. The entire world snoozed the night away allowing them their time and a complete run of everything everywhere. Nothing was denied the two young lovers, as best they knew to be, as they strolled in harmony.

When the time came to part, and she walked into her house, Ray felt blissfully lost. He remembered his favorite shortcut. He floated between two darkened houses. He imagined a narrow deer-trail from all the times he’d cut through these peoples’ lawns for a more direct route home.

In the daylight, he’d always felt the thrill of necessary caution. Caution because he must take care not to be seen as this trespass might not be welcomed by the homeowners. Tonight, the entire world bowed to him. He ruled the night as he’d never known he could.

As he approached the alley between Rachel’s street and his, he noted the darkness and how easily his feet found true purchase and how the crisp shapes of daylight blurred into gray-black marshmellowness at night. His gaze rose to the heavens, the stars all witnessing his primal victory as he waked with a lilt, a skip, and an unceremonious topple over a seldom closed gate.

He’d tumbled over the thigh-high obstruction and flipped onto his back in the gravel of the alley. There were the stars. Laughing. Not in derision. They giggled because they knew he did not feel the fall. He simply grinned back at them.

He had the sense to collect himself. He knew nothing could hurt him this night. Yet sometimes in life, he’d found it important to make sure he was ok. After a few moments of physical inventory, he took a moment to smile back at the heavens, lift himself and cut through the apartments, which was a daring move since he’d never really done that before, day or night.

Why not? He was indestructible. He ruled the heavens and the earth. He could still feel her hand in his. For the second time, he felt love engulf his entire being from the inside out.

***

Days and weeks of school passed by. They saw each other as much as two twelve-year-olds could. Summer began and he had not yet kissed her. Something about a kiss frightened him to his very core. He couldn’t understand it. T.J. was frustrated with him. He could not believe Ray could go this long with making “a move.”

It happened one day that Rachel had struck out to T.J.’s house in search of Ray because Ray and T.J. were best friends. Ray was not there. In T.J.’s backyard, underneath two broad canopy trees, sat a bench-swing.

Rachel was growing into her body. She proudly walked with her growing breasts accented with tight-fitting tops. Ray appreciated this. In fact, his internal self drew toward them like an emotional magnet huge as the Empire State Building. Those breasts called to him. Their siren song taunted him.

Intimidated him. This fateful day, filled with T.J., Rachel, and the swing, forever changed Ray in ways he would continue to discover decades later. T.J. lured her to the wooden ship. The one that sailed away with Ray’s dreams.

To his credit, T.J. told Ray about it the next day. Or was he bragging? He’d slipped his hand up under her tight blouse, and fondled the softness Ray had believed was his. T.J. even took the time to describe how soft they were in his Neanderthal vocabulary.

Rage tore through Ray, a voracious beast that threatened to devour everything and everyone. A hardness grew in a recess in his heart. That dark corner where Dawna and Rachel had erased the pain which resided there. They’d filled its emptiness with love, or so he’d believed for many, many years to come.

That pain had always been there. A casualty of two parents who fought too often and too loud. A small kid who could not understand why they could be so harsh at times. But that pain had always been a dark shadow within gelatinous darkness.

Now, that pain morphed into something hard. Something more rock-like. The dual betrayal of best friend and girlfriend washed over him like a black wave of dirty, oily goo. While Ray raged inside, he simply walked away from his friend, then ran to his pillow in his room and wailed into it all the pain of childhood which should never feel this dark.

A few days later, T.J., having apologized over and over and over again, found Ray and Rachel at T.J.’s cousin Harry’s house. The three were playing spin-the-bottle in Harry’s garage. The intent was to get Ray to kiss her. When the bottle pointed to her, he could not do it. He could not kiss her. He walked away.

The next day (it seemed), Rachel was seen walking arm-in-arm with some tall, stringy-haired guy from highschool. While Rachel was about to go into the eighth grade, Ray knew he could not compete with this guy. He looked dirty. He looked unscrupulous. Ray would never be like that. This dude looked like Ray’s moral-less father.

He knew she would give this guy whatever his needs demanded. For the second time, Ray learned the harsh lesson, “You don’t get to say goodbye…”

Memories

Choices float through our hearts,
Forever available in their invisible realm.
Not like objects in liquid dreams, but
Wispy clouds on high.

We choose where memory drives our soul
From open joy to blackened hole
Yet too often we choose one or the other
When both should live on.

Love always delivers the paradox of knife
One side ecstatic, the other strife
For love’s acquisition is the grail we hold dear
And its absence the darkness we fear.

Memory’s clouds too often envelop pain
Darkness its character, its definition, its reign
When joy and aspiration may be saddled as well
Our choice, slice of heaven or burning ember of hell

Balance lends credence to life and our love
That we may learn to be wary yet cherish
Our smiles and our foibles which never need perish
When we keep whole the memories of love…

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