So, the above post was really just to lay the groundwork for this one, because the following is what has been going on recently. It seemed important to explain that I have always been up for time travel. I like to be taken out of the present, and go as deeply into the past as possible.
Or I thought I did. And then my high school boyfriend—my first love—ambushed me on Facebook last week. And suddenly, I've found myself zapped into time travel, a little bit against my will. And I've found that when it's not an intellectual game, it's also a different story.
I haven’t seen or spoken to him in 25 years. And recently, when I've been chatting with him, or digging out pictures of us and our high school friends to send him, I sometimes lose track of exactly where I am in time. Minutes pass, and I find I've been 15 years old during them. Yesterday, walking down my Arlington, Virginia street, my mind was walking down a street in Maumee, Ohio in 1980.
In the end, I think this will be a useful exercise, for the writing in particular. I’m working on a memoir, and all this digging around in my memory banks is turning up interesting stuff.
I find myself remembering things with a physical clarity I didn’t think possible: Landmarks along the roughly four blocks that separated my house from his, the October chill in the air at Friday-night football games, where I hung along the fence with Kathy and Amy and Kim and tried to catch glimpses of him in his purple-and-gold uniform. (And the way I tried so hard to pay attention to the game, so that I would know what the hell he was talking about later, at McDonald’s.)
And the green army jacket he wore, the sound of his voice on the telephone, the butterflies in my stomach, the Old Spice scent of him, and the spidery crawl of his handwriting in the notes he wrote me.
And, before all of that, perhaps the most glorious making-lemons-into-lemonade day of my life: I was playing football with him and some friends at a park, on a late summer day, just before freshman year began. There was another girl playing, my best friend, Kathy. It had been decided that each team would take one girl, and that only the girls could tackle each other. We wouldn’t get hurt this way, it was thought.
Eventually I got the ball, and I was making for the end zone at a pretty good clip. Kathy was running toward me, but she didn’t have the right angle or speed or something for making the tackle, so she did the only thing she could think of: She reached out with her arm and hooked it around my throat. Uh, foul. I was lying on the ground, suddenly unable to breathe. I remember looking up at the faces gathering around me, and Mikey Fleck began waving everybody back: "Give her room. Give her room. She’s just got the wind knocked out of her. She’ll be okay."
He then knelt down beside me and advised me to breathe. Mikey was a year ahead of me, all ready a year of high school under his belt, and I was relieved that he had a diagnosis, and that he apparently thought I’d survive this. And I’d always thought he was cute, so I was a little flattered that he was looking down into my face with such concern. He was gorgeously tanned, and he had a little gold chain around his neck. I was starting to forget that I couldn't breathe.
After a minute or two, fearing that the boys would never let us play with them again if I was a baby about it, I got up and tried to shake it off. I participated in another play or two, but I wasn't feeling so hot, and I was getting over the idea of football pretty quickly. Kathy must have noticed, because she announced that she didn’t really feel like playing anymore, which meant that I couldn’t either.
So she and I walked over to the shelter in the park to sit down, and as soon as I was out of sight of the boys, the tears began. I was still wiping them away when this boy who had been on my team, a boy I knew only as one of the neighborhood pack—I’m not sure I’d even spoken directly to him before—came over to the shelter. He'd suffered his own injury earlier in the game (groin hit), but was apparently only now feeling the effects of it. So he sat down, and the three of us talked. Eventually, Kathy had somewhere else to be. But he and I didn't, so we kept talking. And by the time I left the park that day, I had forgotten that Mikey Fleck existed.