What would I really say if I could? That your face, on the edge of sadness always--even through a supremely goofy smile--never left my mind? That I can still feel the damp press of your hand on my back, slow-dancing to the Beatles? I can still feel the belly-whop in my stomach, the times when I thought that maybe now, now was the time, tonight was the night that you would turn to me and look in my eyes, and instead of a fond smile, it would be a knowing gaze. We would connect, and all the imaginings would be more than that, and better than that too. Maybe I never realized that your need was probably deeper than mine. Mine was all over my sleeve, yeah, and scary enough to send legions running--but yours was an unanswered call, a lock without a key. All my trying was never going to open that door and relieve that tinged sadness.
I wanted to make you happy because I knew it would make me happy. And it was a bob-and-weave proposition--couldn't get too close; you'd go the other way. But when I lessened up on the tension, when I just gave in and danced those wild dances at your high school with you--the Doors, the Beatles, the Stones (how can they say these songs aren't danceable?!)--we were electric together. Afterwards, we'd all walk in a teenage clump towards our NYC bar-hangout, and you'd pull an icicle off an awning and give it to me, and I'd just naturally suck on it, the greatest gift I ever got. Or in the bar, our crowd commanding the jukebox and the laughs and hoots swirling around us, you'd lean in and say to me, "Come here often?" in a low tone.
(Never, ever often enough.)
How sensible is it that sixteen years later, I still wonder what it would have been like to kiss you. We touched plenty...one night your hand rested on my neck for a long time, massaging while I cried--still wrestling my home demons, and the insecurity ones too. You were there when I lost my boyfriend, too, hugging me and encouraging me. "Turn It On Again" always makes me think of you and that night--because his action made me persona non grata with everyone else, yet you didn't drop me that easily.
But we never kissed. That might have turned the tides--either that, or you still would not have wanted to get involved with me, and I would have been destroyed.
That may well be why you never followed up. But I remain unconvinced that we were hopeless. I am nothing if not faithful to a dream.
You were that: a dream. Blond wavy hair, wry smile, amazing sarcastic wit, rich dramatic talent--but unassuming. Lankier than anyone else I can think of. And teenage-hot when we danced close, chests just-touching, to "Because" and "Sun King".
A kiss would have been unbelievably intimate between us. I have to believe, dear one, that doors would have flown open. That's why I replay this memory record sometimes--not because I've never known such intimacy; no, truly, I have been blessed to know and love deeply in the intervening years. But because we just will never know.
So the only other thing I can say that I didn't say is thank you. Thank you for the fruit and the walk through Central Park when my speech contest bombed, and the yearbook signings that made my heart sing, and your opening monologue in "Godspell"--riveting and moving; our quiet moments during teenage wild parties; sharing the Chartreuse buzz with me; the touch of your hand on my neck; and finally, all the Italian ices in lower Manhattan, summer of 1983, when we both worked at the base of the great city. Cool and sweet, tasty and tactile, they gave me a great excuse to hang around with you while you sold them from your white-cold cart. Because even when I had someone else in my life (and that summer, I juggled two in desperate, ecstatic misery), you represented a swooping hope, a purer thing.
Here's how I wrote it in December of 1981, after watching dusk glow in the sky over Central Park with you, seeing a diamond-chip star:
you flicker ever, a Paschal candle in my heart...
yet still ever now