Waiting For A Proper Good Bye

Waiting For A Proper Good Bye Waiting For A Proper Good Bye

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Summary

Waiting forty years for a college romance to end.

Summary

Waiting forty years for a college romance to end.

Content

Submitted: February 20, 2015

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Content

Submitted: February 20, 2015

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Our Beginning

 

One pleasant spring morning, with the sun streaming in, the curtains dancing in the breeze, and the first robin of spring hopping outside my ground level window, I sensed a change in her breathing as she awoke.  I asked,

 

“Can you remember when we first meet?” 

“Don’t you remember?” 

“Well, yeah, but I wanted to see what you remembered.”

“Sure, sure,” she said knowingly.  “You were walking past the library with Greg Jones, and you said, ‘Have a pleasant day, ladies’ as you walked past us.”

“Us?”

“My sister, Paula and I.”

“Oh yeah, I remember that.  But I don’t remember you having blond hair.”

“Don’t tell me you were really interested in my sister?”

“No, no I wasn’t interested in her, but probably her gigantic boobs were hiding your head and I didn’t notice your hair color.  Hey...that scratch hurt.”

“You deserve worst you know.”

 

I remembered that day vividly.  It was after a two-a-day practice session and Hess and I were walking from the Student Union past the library and these three girls were walking from the library. The campus was a virtual ghost town as registration was at least two weeks away.  I remember the conversation that Hess and I were having--about North Dakota coeds, of all things.  He was telling me I was too quiet and reserved and I’d have to be more outgoing to make an impression in order to find a girlfriend among those North Dakota farm girls.  I told him my priorities were making the starting unit and graduating and that trying to find a white girlfriend was not on my agenda.  It’s certainly ironic that his advice turned out to be so timely.  I had no idea that was the first time I saw the woman with whom I would have a life long connection.  I would have bet a considerable amount of money that the first time we met was when she served me in the dining hall.She asked me if I wanted toast, and I said

“No thank you, but I’d like you on a plate with a couple of pats of butter.”

Just to think, I had her at “good afternoon” and never even knew it.

 

My guess is that, if we were married she would’ve come after me with more than a toenail, and there would probably be more questions about what I did, or did not remember.  But since we were lovers—no harm, no foul.  She simply rolled over, pressed as close to me as she could, pulled my arms tightly around her, and went back to sleep.  I started to fall back asleep too, flush with the knowledge of how we first met.  Amazed, actually, that a great romance was built on such a small and insignificant event--a chance encounter that I had to be prompted to remember.

 

 

 

Our End

 

I have truly tried to ignore and forget those crystal clear vignettes that link me to a time--a place--a person, so many years past and so many miles away.  But try as I might—a certain sunset, a certain sound, like walking through ice-crusted snow, the chill of a certain wind, the sound of a trickling stream—can all transform my here into my yesterday.  I once went about a dozen years without thinking about her.  And one day I opened the door and stepped outside, and the feel of that crisp fall day—the angle of the sun, the wind on my skin, the temperature, and I think even the barometric pressure, transported me back to the chilly June day when I last saw her.  I felt as if I had lost my mind.  Here I am leaving an urban row house to run an errand, but suddenly it seemed as if I were standing in a rural country road next to a Greyhound Bus.  I immediately turned and went back into the house to rid myself of the thoughts.  But when I opened the door and stepped outside again there was no shaking the feeling.  This time Mother Nature had conspired to put me with her on our last day together.  Instead of fighting it, I went with the feeling and standing there with my eyes wide open I relived that afternoon.

 

Our classes had been over for two weeks, but instead of rushing home we stayed on campus for a long, lingering goodbye.  In the end we weren’t even making love that much, just spending as much time as we possibly could with each other every day.  We went for long walks and picnics during the day, and stargazed at night, looking for shooting stars and the Northern Lights in the pitch-black sky.

 

On June 10, 1969 she and I, her sister and her sister’s boyfriend rode to the greyhound bus station in his big, black 1967 Buick Roadmaster.  The girls bought their tickets and got on the bus--her sister to the right side and she to the left.  I stood in the street holding her hand as we made plans about how we would keep in touch.  Tumbleweeds were blowing across the street from left to right like a scene from a black and white western movie.  I actually don’t believe I saw tumbleweeds before that day or since.

 

And then the bus started to move before we were ready to say goodbye.  I began to jog and then run along side of the bus and as I began to loose ground, she began working her way towards the back of the bus, opening each window along the way.  I was still loosing ground as she opened the last window.  We held hands for as long as we could, and she yelled those faithful words, “We’ll see ya!”  And I yelled back, “That’s not goodbye, so I’m going to hold you to it.”  She blew a kiss, but never said goodbye.  Forty-six years, two wives, four children, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren later, I’m still holding her to it…and waiting for a proper goodbye.  A goodbye that I hope will finally close this recurring chapter of my life.

 

 

 

 

Our Middle

 

What an unlikely pair we were.  I was a junior from a city of nearly a million.  She was a freshman from a North Dakota town of about 400.  I was a 6’1”, 270 pound lineman on an athletic scholarship.  She was a 5’ 1½” (and if I ever forgot to mention that half of an inch I would hear about it for days), 109 pound Honors Program—academic scholarship student.  I only had a sister.  She was a twin and had seven other siblings—all girls, except for the baby.  My parents fought like cats and dogs.  Her parents were a living version of “Father Knows Best.”  I was black.  She was white. 

 

The world had gone mad and swirled around, but did not touch us: the RFK assassination, Vietnam, the King assassination, Apollo 7, urban riots, hippies, Ali stripped of his title for refusing to join the military, a sitting President deciding not to run for reelection, an economy gone to the dogs.  But for three magical years the thing that mattered most to us was, when would we see each other again.  We only had one disagreement in three years, and it was entirely my fault.

 

Hometown Event

 

Every year in the fall the university sponsored an event for students’ parents and friends to spend a weekend experiencing college life.  There were lots of activities and the various towns had spaces reserved for them at the university and various hotels for their annual meet and greet.  Since most of the students came from towns that only had a couple of hundred people being on a campus with seven thousand students was a really big deal.  I was more than a little surprised when May told me she wanted me to accompany her to her town’s weekend social event. 

On too many occasions before we became a couple I would arrive at the point of asking some coed out on a date only to hear them say how much they really liked me, and how much they really enjoyed talking to me and that they knew they would have an enjoyable time on a date, but although it didn’t matter to them I was a Kneeegrow (yes, it was always said as if I were some cancerous growth on someone’s leg).  Once people in their small town found out they were dating a Kneeegrow at the university their life would be forever hell in their town.  I would, of course, always suggest the obvious which was maybe you don’t need to go back to that place but no one ever considered that a viable option.

And now here was my sweetheart suggesting that I actually go to one of these events as her date.  I don’t know what she was thinking, but in my mind I could see no pleasant ending to this evening.  I tried mightily and without success to sway her course of action.  She insisted that if I would not go with her, she would not go.  I knew she very badly wanted to go, and in time I acquiesced to what I thought was not a very bright thing to do.  I convinced myself that maybe her townspeople were different; after all, she knew these people and I couldn’t see her setting her own self up for what I envisioned as a evening in hell with people looking at the both of us as if we had three heads.

So, off we went.  As we entered the room holding hands, all eyes turned towards us.  At first everything was somewhat comfortable as she, April, Paula, and I all stood in a little group and I was introduced to several polite but curious townfolk.  But as more females joined the group I sort of wandered away to the food table.  That was a bad move on my part.  As I smiled and ate cookies and drank punch, things started downhill after several dads and their sons joined me.

To start, I will give them their just due.  No one ever said the n-word, which most people up there threw around like confetti.  But there were a lot of pointed questions about why was I there and couldn’t I find some nice Kneeegrow girls on campus to spend my time with instead of one of their townfolk.  They did not relent when I said there were only two of them, and they chose to spend their time with white guys instead of me.  So as far as I could see I had no choice.  They let me know that the appropriate choice was that I should just be playing ball and studying and leave their fine blond women alone.  After moving to several different places in the room only to have another group of males start the idiotic conversation over, I decided I should leave before I said something really nasty which would probably lead to an altercation.

I tracked down May and told her I was leaving because things were going from bad to worse for me and I would meet her back at the dorm.  She asked me to wait a few moments while she said her goodbyes and she would leave with me.  I encouraged her to stay and enjoy her people, but she insisted on leaving with me.  May reminded me that she said she would only go if I came with her, and if I was leaving so was she.

Once we left the building I just went a little berserk, well actually, a lot berserk.  I could not control myself.  I was yelling at her at the top of my voice and gesturing so wildly it was a minor miracle that I did not hit her.  I was outraged over the mini inquisition I had gone through for the sake of her having a good evening.  It just seemed that every step I took made me madder and madder.  She never said a word, just looked at me trying to fathom whom this person was beside her.

I walked her to her door and turned away without even saying goodnight.  It was about half a football field from her dorm door to mine and I walked those fifty yards just consumed in anger.  I went into my room on the ground floor and closed the door.  In that moment I realized what a complete ass I had just been, and I immediately dialed her number in the dark.

“Hello.”

“Please, don’t hang up the phone.  You have every reason to, but please, don’t.  I know what I just did was terribly wrong and hurtful.  I realize I need to explain myself to you tonight and not tomorrow.  I think there might not be an ‘us’ tomorrow if I don’t see you again for just a few minutes tonight.”

“It can’t wait until tomorrow?”

“No, you can’t go to sleep with the memory of that ignorant performance on your mind.”

“I’m really tired.”

“I know, but please, just give me five or six minutes.  I’ll start over right now and meet you at the door.  OK?”

She paused for what seemed like an eternity and then said,

“OK.”

A few moments earlier I had crossed the quad filled with anger, this time I crossed it filled with fear.  I got to her dorm door before she did from her third floor room and stood there waiting for her.  She arrived a few seconds later and just stood there looking at me through the glass panels of the door.  I backed about ten or twelve feet from the door and she opened it a little and stuck her head out.

“Do I need to move further from the door?”

“Are you calm?”

“Yes.”

“Are you going to yell at me?”

“No.”

 

She fully opened the door, came outside and closed the door behind her.  Then she looked at her watch.

“Everything I did tonight was wrong.  I did not want to go to the event, but instead of sticking to my guns and not going. I went, and then when things starting going wrong I elected to blame you for it.  Why?  You did all you could do, and then sent them a very powerful message by leaving with me.  But for some asinine reason I got madder and madder at you for my mistake.  When I started yelling at you, I could see and sense your confusion, and your fear, and that just made me want to be even more abusive.  Your fear was empowering me.  I have never in my life done and felt what I did tonight.  At first I couldn’t even understand where it came from, and then in the darkness of my room I realized what it was.  That yelling and anger is how my dad treats my mom, so for a time tonight I was simply imitating my father.  I hate him when he does it to my mother and I hate myself for doing it to you.  I will never again let my father’s ignorance consume me.  I needed to tell you this tonight, in the moment, and not wait for the sun to rise and for you to do the smart thing tomorrow, which would be to end our relationship.  I would be haunted forever if our relationship ended because I caused you pain by imitating my stupid and abusive father.”

 

By then I had tears rolling down my face and she was crying too.  We quickly closed that ten-foot gap, and it felt so good to have her in my arms again.  We went back to my room and got in bed with our clothes on, and held each other the rest of the night.When the sun came up I still had my girl, and I never raised my voice or mentioned a cross word to her again.

 

Clearly we were different

 

I’m not sure when it started, but there came a point in time, when I realized we were different from other couples and different from people we had dated in the past.Of course, I’m sure she realized it long before I did.  You hear lots of stories about twins who know what the other one is thinking, and how they can finish sentences for each other.  Interestingly, May did not share that trait with her twin, but she shared it with me.  We spent a lot of time laughing and giggling without speaking and finishing each other’s sentences. 

The telephones were another adventure.  At any time either of us would start to walk to the phone in our room to answer it before it rang.  If we happen to have guests at the time, they would always ask, “where are you going?”  And we would say, “to answer the phone.”  They would say, “but the phone’s not….” And before they could say the word “ring” the phone would ring.  All we could do was shrug our shoulders and leave them wondering how we did the trick. 

Sometimes we would even pick up the phone before it rang, and the other one would be on the line.  Imagine picking up a phone that did not ring, did not have a dial tone, and just hearing your lover say “Hi.”  Of course, there was a bit of a downside to all this wonderful telepathy, in that you could never tell a lie.  No matter what came out of our mouths, the other one always knew what actually happened.  There were a couple of times when she or I told a story that did not actually happen the way we told it.  But with me staring blankly at her or her doing the same, in time we gave up telling fibs because it just wasn’t working. 

Once, before I realized how intertwined our psyches were, I concocted this elaborate scheme to spend the night with someone else.  Although I knew May had a major exam to study for, I asked her to accompany me to an off-campus party.  It was going to be a real live-wire of a party and she wanted to go, but she did as I thought and elected to study that night.  This extremely attractive girl named Jill was going to the party with a guy named Doug who couldn’t hold his liquor.  Jill and I figured that May couldn’t come and after a couple of beers Doug would be out of it and then we could spend the night together.  After he got drunk—me--being the good fellow that I am, drove him back to the dorm, put him in bed and proceeded back to the party in his car to spend the night with his girl--so far, so good. 

It was a large house that had five bedrooms and five couples had decided to spend the night.  After the partygoers had gone home, the five couples retired to their respective bedrooms.  Jill and I slipped into bed and started making out.  I was about to enter her when she said, “Tell me you love me.”  I really, hardly knew her name, and we had concocted this little plan while covertly eating in the dining hall and now she wanted me to tell her that I loved her.  At that point in my life, that was something I had never said just to have sex and I hesitated for a moment.  But I looked down at this absolutely gorgeous girl and said to myself, what the heck is one little lie?  But before I could speak, she added,

“Tell me you love me more than you love May.”

“But, baby, isn’t it enough that I love you?”

“I need to hear you say you love me more than you love May.”

“You’re telling me that before we can get it on, I have to tell you I love you more than I love May?”

“Yes.”

“We might have a problem here.  I don’t think I can tell you that on a first date.  I’m sure in time but not tonight.”  She slid out from under me, looked me in the eye and said, “Its what I need to hear.”  At that point in time, I invented Plan B.  I threw a pillow on the floor and one of the quilts.

“What’s that for?”

“If you don’t change your mind, that’s where you’ll be sleeping tonight.”

“But its cold down there.”  As I threw back the covers for her exit out of the bed I said, “Its your choice.”  She stuck to her guns, and I stuck to mine.  She spent the rest of the night on the floor and for some odd reason she held my hand the rest of the night.  In the morning she rode back to the dorm with another couple. 

May and I got together after her exam and as we walked across campus, she squeezed my hand really hard and asked me, “Who do you love more?”  How she knew about that dialogue from the night before was a mystery to me and I was too ashamed to ask how she knew. I simply smirked and responded, “I think you know the answer to that smarty pants.”  And that was the end of my trying to bed other coeds, I really didn’t want to risk losing her, and clearly I couldn’t hide anything from her.

 

And then there were our little linked communications in the classroom.  We took a couple of English classes together that were taught by the same professor.  We always sat on opposite sides of the room but on the same row, she to my far right and I to her far left.  That way we could never see each other during class.  In time our little psychic connection would leave the instructor and our classmates shaking their heads in disbelief.  Neither of us was very talkative in class, however there would always come a time when we felt we needed to make a statement and add something to the discussion.  Without fail, we both wanted to make a comment at the same time and would raise our hands in unison.  The instructor would stop talking and look one way and then another, and then back again.  We would turn and look at each other and both of us would have our hands waving in the air.  All we could do was smile and one of us would say, “Oh, you go ahead this time.”  It reached the point that when the instructor would stop talking and look at us, our classmates would turn and look also.

 

 

 

The Chairs

 

For a while I had been truly mystified by the intensity of our lovemaking.  Although it was very enjoyable, there seemed to be a layer of feelings and sensitivities that I couldn’t quite identify nor explain.  One Friday evening while in a quasi-contemplative mood I thought up a little experiment that might serve to provide a clearer focus to what I had been feeling.  I wondered if all of our phone telepathy had somehow wandered into our sexual arena. 

On this fateful day when she came to my room I asked if she would be up for an experiment.  “Sure,” she said.  So I put two chairs facing back to back in the middle of the room.  She sat on the chair facing the window, and I sat facing the door.  We locked hands, which was the only part of our bodies touching.  I told her I wanted her to close her eyes and think or imagine us making love and I would do the same.  In my vision we lay on the bed and I kissed her eyes, her ears, her nose, her cheeks.  In a flash we were unclothed and she had rolled on top of me and we were kissing long, deep, and passionately.She worked her way up my body and soon I was sucking and kissing her pert, little breasts.  I began softly chewing her fully erect nipples.  I started squeezing her perfectly and incredibly round bottom as she began to moan.

It seemed so real I had to open my eyes to make sure we were still sitting in the chairs.  At about the fifteen minute mark I opened my eyes again and we were both wet with sweat and breathing heavily.  Again, I closed my eyes and this time in my vision I was on top of her and about to enter her unbelievably tight vagina.  I used to have an orgasm and ejaculate just to provide lubrication so I could enter her.  Her legs rested on my chest and her ankles were on my shoulders.  I kissed her knees and rubbed her legs. 

I grabbed her butt and started moving her up and down on my penis and then thrust myself into her.  As I began to work my way in to her deeper and deeper I was able for the first time to identify what I had been feeling when we actually made love.  In this imaginary loving making state I was able to feel what my penis felt like to her.  Trust me, being able to feel myself in her was a bit of a jarring revelation and one that I could have done without.  But at least I knew what it was I had been feeling when we were actually making love.

As she began to climax I could feel her vagina start to grip me even tighter and ripple up and down my shaft from the head of my dick to my balls and back down again.  And then after twenty minutes of sitting in chairs, fully clothed, holding hands, and thinking about lovemaking, we had simultaneous orgasms.  It goes without saying that was the most unusual sexual episode I have ever had in my life.  Many, many years later I finally told a trusted confidant about that day and she said it sounded like a really good science fiction story.Science fiction, huh, how about science fact; because I knew people would have difficulty believing my story I have never told another person.

I opened my eyes and she was just beaming her wonderful radiant smile.  And I said, “You dog, you knew all along and you never told me.”  She just laughed, and then, laughed some more.“Well, I’m going to make you pay for that.”  And boy, did I ever maker her pay.  We got out of our wet our clothes and jumped into bed and made love for the rest of the weekend.  We didn’t eat, we didn’t drink, we didn’t go to the bathroom, and I never came out of her.  We woke up Sunday evening with her sleeping on top of me, and me still inside her and we both had to go to the bathroom.

That’s when we realized we had a little problem.  All of our bodily fluids had dried and we were glued together and it was too painful to try and pull ourselves apart.  Or maybe we just had low blood sugar and didn’t have the strength.  So now we have to get ourselves apart and we really need to go to the bathroom.  Luckily, my room was really two rooms and the second room had a small washbasin.  We managed to roll over and get out of the bed with her arms around my neck and my arms around her bottom.  I walked her into the second room and sat her on the edge of the washbasin.  We turned on the water and managed to get enough water on our pubic region to separate ourselves. 

We both lived in graduate dorms, but still you weren’t supposed to have visits from the opposite sex.  However, everyone did and there were informal rules which we broke that night.  You always checked the restroom first for your date and then you stood watch in the hall to make sure no one entered while she was using it.  So, if you had to use the restroom and someone was standing outside the door smiling you knew his date was inside.We both had to go so badly that night that once we got ourselves apart we went running down the hall and into the bathroom without checking.  Thankfully, no one was using the bathroom and no one came in while we were there.  And then we went back to the room and ordered some pizza.

 

 

Not the Ending We Had Expected

 

We lived in a fantastic little cocoon that only started to crumble as my last year in school began to come to an end. Looking toward the horizon that last year we began to think about the day when “we” might not be any more.  Neither of us wanted the relationship to end, but neither of us was sure how well we could negotiate that next level once we stepped outside of our comfortable little cocoon.  We both knew that working, paying rent, and raising children was a lot different from going to the dining hall, studying for tests, and holding hands under star-lit skies.  Could our wonderful little relationship withstand the rigors of the real world that we had so deftly avoided for three years?  After all, it was the sixties, and although we are still a long way from post-racial today, we were further away from it then.  I mean, what neighborhood could we even live in?

 

Would we live on the East coast to be near my family or stay in the Midwest to be near her family?  I once told my sister about our relationship and the fact that marriage was an option.  She told me she would never accept or speak to a white girl as her sister-in-law.  Shocked, I asked, what about the children?  Oh, they would be ok she said because they would be black.  I’m thinking she probably didn’t do well in biology because although they would be black, there’s a twenty-five percent chance they would look just like their mother.  Would May’s family react the same way as my sister?  Today with cute, little multi-racial family TV commercials it’s probably difficult to imagine what it was like back in the day. 

 

And then there were our little peculiar personalities.  Once we were walking down the street and she left my side and put her arms around this guy walking towards us and gave him a big, bear hug—well, as big a one as her little body could muster.  When she rejoined me and we continued down the street I asked if she knew the guy.

 

“No.”

“Then why did you go over there and hug him?”

“He looked like he needed a hug.”

 

He looked like he needed a hug.  He may have, and she may have made his day, but I was trying to imagine the possible ramifications if she did something like that in the city in which I lived.  Some sad looking weirdo would likely pull her little butt into some place dark and do unspeakable things to her.  Or someone’s girlfriend might take out a knife and teach her a lesson about touching the wrong man.  So how do you explain to someone if we move to a different place, you have to be a different person?  I had read a study that determined that the suicide rate for females was highest among women who left North Dakota and went to live in urban areas.  I was beginning to understand why that statistic might be right. 

 

And for me, I was used to the hum and vibrancy of a large metropolitan area.  There was no hum and vibrancy in North Dakota and in three years I never got used to that quiet, slower pace.  The thought of me buying into that life style forever was very scary.  Everything was so different—even the little things.  My first night in town I ordered a tossed salad with my meal.  When it finally came I had to call the waitress back and tell her she made a mistake.  She said no, I ordered a tossed salad and that’s what she gave me.  For me a tossed salad is lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, a bit of carrot, and sometimes has another veggie like radicchio.In North Dakota a tossed salad is lettuce and maybe a bit of shredded carrot.  It’s a small thing, but it takes getting used to.  But then again balance that salad with the fact that on that first night in town I saw the aurora borealis for the only time in my life.  It was a mesmerizing curtain of shimmering green and purple.  And who knows, maybe it portended the once in a lifetime relationship that awaited me on the Upper Midwestern plains.

 

The place is perfectly, perfectly, perfectly flat.  While I was there they started to build an interstate highway on the edge of town.  They had to build a bridge for the interstate to go over a local road.  Kids would go on dates and sit and look at the hills built for the overpass as if they were looking at the pyramids.  It’s a small thing, but in time all the small things add up. 

Who knows, if either of us had been more religious maybe we would have spent time praying that everything would work out.  Much later I did ask her to marry me, after she mentioned it first and I gutlessly told her I really needed time to think about it.  When I did ask her she cried and told me no and denied ever asking me—of course, we both knew she was lying, but there was no reason to get into that.  If only I hadn’t foolishly waited until I was 1,500 miles away to ask.  But I did wait.  I waited until I was absolutely positively sure that no matter what, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and by then she had turned the page.

When I was on campus and I thought about us being apart I tried to reconcile myself to the fact that I would no longer have access to our incredible sex.  I wondered how long it would take to get over that and stop thinking about it.I am sort of ashamed to say that our earth-shattering sex was not at all what I missed and longed for.  In movies women were always missing their men and holding onto pillows to take their place.  That was a feeling I could have never imagined--until we parted.  It was then that I discovered that what I missed most was going to sleep with her in my arms pressed tight to my body and waking up in her arms with her pressed tight to me.So, in time, I ended up buying two extra-long pillows that did a very poor job of imitating her—even when I put hot water bottles in them.  I bet that’s something you have never seen in the movies.  Obviously, in time, I slept with other women in my arms but it was never quite the same.

 

 

Epilogue

 

During early December 1993—actually during my birthday week—I had occasion to make a work-related trip to Chicago.After my work was concluded I decided to stay through the weekend.I always liked Chicago and tried to come back as often as possible, which ended up being about once a decade.  Spending some time reacquainting myself with the City and visiting the Sears Tower for the first time just seemed like a natural thing to do.  I was also toying with the idea of reaching out to April.  I knew she lived in downstate Illinois, and since Thanksgiving I had not been able to shake this weird desire to find out what she and her sister were doing.  After 20 some years and for no apparent reason I just became really, really curious to find out what her life was like.

After my meetings ended I spent all day exploring on Thursday and Friday.  I drove up and down Lake Shore drive and stopped and took pictures of the Lake and beachfront.  I tried to reconnect with an old college buddy who lived on Michigan Avenue.  I went to the Museum of Science and Industry, looked at the extraordinary exhibits and bought trinkets.  I drove through the River North Club District and meandered up the path of the L to the Northwestern campus for my first, and so far only, visit to Evanston.  And late in the day on Friday I drove due west out of town on North Avenue.  It was really marvelous watching the neighborhoods change as I drove into the setting sun, sort of a visit in miniature through ethnic America.  I still remember the different sounds, smells, and colors as I drove through the neighborhoods.

After it got dark, I decided I had had enough adventure for the day and began to drive back to my motel.  Although I didn’t know exactly where I was, I was certain the Interstate that would lead me back to the City was to my South, so I turned left at a busy intersection and after I made the turn I could see the Interstate signs off in the distance.  Using Google today I think I turned onto Mannheim Road, and I can see the trip up North Avenue was probably less than 20 miles and took about an hour, but back then it seemed to last half of the day.

So I turn onto I-290 for a quick and leisurely drive back to the City and after a few moments of driving, I notice something very odd.  The Chicago skyline had a weird orange glow hanging over it.  And as I continued to drive and stare at the skyline it dawned on me that I had seen that flickering orange glow before.  By now I was pretty spooked and my heart was racing.  I pulled onto the shoulder, closed my eyes, and tried to stop hyperventilating.  I slowly raised my head off of the steering wheel and opened my eyes.  The skyline now had its regular urban light-glow.

I got out of the car, ran to the trunk and retrieved my road atlas so I could find out where the hell I was.  Once I got myself oriented, I realized the orange skyline I had seen moments before, I had seen in April 1968 traveling down that very same highway headed towards Chicago—as I was currently doing.  Myself, the twins and three other kids were traveling to the east coast that year for spring break.  We happened to be traveling the week that Martin Luther King had been assassinated.  The Chicago skyline was flickering orange as the City burned and the news reports on the radio said to be extra careful on the Interstates because people were throwing manhole covers onto vehicles from over-passes. 

Needless to say, I needed a few moments to compose myself before driving on that Friday night.  I have no explanation for how or why that orange glow presented itself.  I managed to drive back to my Hyde Park motel without further incident and for the first time in my life, drank something out of the mini-bar—actually, several somethings.  But I considered that flickering orange sky a sign that I should definitely reach out to April.

In the morning, continuing my decadent mini-bar behavior from the night before, I placed two breakfast orders from room service.  I always wondered if they thought I was just a pig, or did they think I had a breakfast guest.  Well, whatever, on a full stomach I dialed back twenty years in time.

“Hello.”

“Hi, are you April’s daughter?”

“Yes.”

“Is she in?”

“Yes.”

“Could you tell her an old college friend from the East Coast is calling?”

She puts the phone down, and I can hear her yell, “Mom, someone you know from college is on the phone.”  Although they were fraternal twins and looked nothing alike, I had forgotten that they sounded identical.  When she said, “Hello,” for a moment I thought I was talking to the wrong person.

If I had known our conversation would have been so easy, I would not have waited twenty years to make the call.  It was as if I had just seen her a couple of days ago.  For thirty minutes we talked breathlessly about spouses and ex-spouses, children and grandchildren, where we’ve been and where we want to go, our jobs and our work responsibilities.  And then I said,

“Well, you know I have to ask, how is your sister?”

“Oh, she’s fine, she’s doing very well back home.  But its strange that you called when you did.”

“You mean just calling out of the blue after twenty odd years?”

“No it’s not that.  I almost never go home and neither does Paula who lives in LA.  But at Thanksgiving the both of us went back home and the three of us spent all weekend talking and laughing about the old days, old friends, and wondering what had become of people.  And, of course, your name came up, and we wondered what you might be doing with your life.”

“Really? I felt an overwhelming curiosity at Thanksgiving to find out about what her life has been like.  There must have been something in those turkeys, so tell me more.  The last time I spoke with her she said she was getting married.  Did she?”

“Yes, and she has 10 kids, no twins.”

“Wow, she always said she wanted to be an earth-mother and have a lot of children, so I guess she got her wish.  What does she do?”

Laughing, “She takes care of her 10 kids and her husband.  She has a degree in elementary education but she’s never taught.”

“With 10 kids I guess she’s gained a few pounds over the years like all of us.”

“Oh, no, I just hate her.  She looks better than she did in college.  I don’t know how she does it.”

“Hey, just stick a stake in the heart of the old boyfriend.”

“Sorry, but she really looks good.  By the way, I’m going back to campus next year for an event.”

“Really?  The 1966 football team is having a reunion during homecoming week next year and I was thinking about going, even though I swore that once I left campus I was never coming back.”

“That’s the same time as my event.  Forget that silly pledge and go back and we can all meet up again.”

“Is May coming?”

“She hasn’t committed yet, but I can’t imagine her not coming.”

“OK, I’ll give it some serious thought.  It would be nice to see you guys again and there’s this one thing she forgot to tell me in 1969.”

“What was that?”

“Its just something silly.  She can tell me next year,”

“Well, I have to go take the kids to a recital but it was great talking to you and I can’t wait to tell May the next time we talk.  Bye.”

“Bye.”

 

The next year April, Paula, and I did go back to campus.  May never came, and so, I’m still waiting for my proper good-bye.  It pains me to think that I will have to go to my grave with, “We’ll see ya!”

 


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