He was interested in her sister Angelica, really.
She was interesting. Vibrant, laughing all the time. Angelica always had something outrageous to say. And he, being the quiet introvert, was attracted to her. And they were in the same class together.
He was trying to figure out his approach when one day she whispered in his ear, during class. “Guess what?”
“I’ve got a boyfriend.” Her excited whisper was actually quite loud, and he was sure they’d be caught. Fortunately, they were at the back of the room, and the long-haired teacher seemed more interested in the sound of his own voice.
“Oh”, he said.
“Yeah, and he’s got this black Camaro that really rumbles loud, too.” She blathered on, oblivious to the damage he was feeling. “And it’s got a spoiler on the back, and oh boy does it ever go fast.” She sat back in her chair, bum slightly forward and her legs splayed beneath the desk. She glanced over at him. “You know him. It’s Rick.”
Rick. Yeah, he knew Rick all right. Kind of a wild guy. Didn’t talk much. Smoked. Definitely the black sheep of the church group. Rick seemed a little tense all the time. Like he was going to explode. Only he never did.
“Well” she said. “Whaddya think?”
He thought for a moment. “He’s ok. I guess.”
She frowned. “OK? He’s more than that! He’s got a job.” She leaned into him. “We have to sneak away to be together. My parents have no idea we’re dating.”
He shuffled in his chair and looked over at her. “Are you sure he’s a Christian?”
She shook her head. “Of course he’s a Christian! He comes to Young Peoples’ with us, doesn’t he?”
He didn’t know what to say. He knew Christians didn’t smoke. He didn’t want to argue with her. He decided to say nothing.
And she looked over at him again, this time with a slight calculation in her glance. She opened her textbook and said nothing more. He let out a breath.
Angelica’s sister Mercedes was one year younger. She wasn’t nearly as outgoing, and she wore dark rimmed glasses. Her dirty blonde hair was wild, unruly. The only thing he noticed during Young People’s bible meetings was her laugh. It was musical and infectious. And she burped her laughter out at inappropriate times, often startling him. He always grinned though – he couldn’t help it.
One bright sunny afternoon, she took the initiative. They had been walking and holding hands, but still, his painful shyness shackled him. So she stopped on the corner, and looked up at him. With a sigh of exasperation she pulled his head down and planted a first kiss on him. His heart pounded in amazement, and he felt his face go red. It felt surreal.
And oh so great.
From that moment on, they were inseparable.
One afternoon after classes, he went to the amphitheatre, to practice the piano. She joined him, and sat on the piano bench next to him, facing away from the piano. And as he played, she leaned over, breaking his line of sight to the music and leaned in to kiss him. He thought she was worse than his cat and that thought kept him grinning through the kiss.
He pulled away, smiling. “Stop. I have to get this done.”
“OK” she said. And as he started playing, she again interrupted his line of sight, and leaned in for another kiss.
So he gave up and spent the rest of the time making out with her, there in the empty amphitheatre.
As young, passionate loves go, they eventually split up. She wasn’t allowed to date anyone, and so the Christian ethic “honour thy father and mother” came into play. Mercedes was nothing if not devoted, so she reluctantly broke things off with him. He was young and kind of stupid, and this was his first real romance with anyone, so it took him a while to understand that things were over.
By the time they broke up, Angelica had also broken up with her boyfriend. She had suffered a possible pregnancy scare and this had sobered her intensely. It had also scared her boyfriend.
He was still holding out hope that Mercedes would rebel against her parents and go out with him again, when one day Angelica decided to talk with him. She said to him “let’s go for a walk, OK?”
It was sunny out, and warm, and he was miserable, so he said “OK”
As they walked along the dusty street, she started talking. “You know, you guys aren’t going to get back together, right? It’s not going to happen.”
He looked down, thinking. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. But….”
“It’s hard, I know. I’ve just gone through the same thing.”
“Look. You’re good looking and sweet. There’s no reason to feel so bad. There are all kinds of girls out there who want to go out with you.”
He looked at her, shocked. “There are?”
“Yeah”, she said. “There are.”
He couldn’t believe it. Didn’t believe it. “Oh yeah? Like who?”
“Girls!” she said. “Just girls. OK?”
“How do you know? Did they tell you?”
She ground her teeth. “Look. Forget I said anything OK?”
“I don’t understand.”
She rounded on him, her face red. “Can’t you just take my word for it? God! You’re amazing.”
His eyes were wide, as he looked her.
She shook her head and began walking again. He caught up to her.
“Look” he said. “I don’t understand….”
“Can we just stop talking about it? OK?” she barked at him.
And it wasn’t until a few years later, when he replayed all of this in his mind, that he finally understood.
Over the years, he never forgot the passion of that first romance with Mercedes. Eventually he married someone, and she married someone else, and they remained friends. They both remained church-going people, albeit in different denominations. Both remained zealous though. And their families occasionally got together for church outings.
He was sure she knew he carried a fondness for her, though neither of them ever said anything.
One day, a few years after he divorced his wife, he learned that her husband died.
And a few years after that, he swallowed his trepidation, and asked her out. And to his surprise, she accepted.
They met at a coffee shop near his home, and they ended up talking for hours. They compared notes about their families, and he explained why he no longer went to church, while she talked about nothing except her church.
At one point, after their third coffee, she sat back and looked at him. “Man” she said. “Back in high school, we were crazy about each other, weren’t we?”
He smiled at her. “Yeah, we really were.”
And they sat there, just smiling.
Eventually it was time to go, and so they walked out of the coffee shop toward her car.
“You know – it was really good to see you again” he said.
“I think so too. Maybe we can get together again. What do you think?”
He looked down at her. “I’d like that a lot.”
And then it happened.
After all of those years of occasionally thinking about her, he finally did it.
He kissed her. And she kissed him back.
She turned around, and got into her car. And then she drove away.
His thoughts were in turmoil, racing at a million miles an hour.
It wasn’t until later that night that he finally realized it.
Sometimes, the dreams and anticipation do not match the reality.
Sometimes, a time of passion is meant for that time only.
Sometimes, you just can’t go back.