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What is the most powerful force in the universe?  Is it atomic fusion, military might, volcanoes, tsunamis or any other natural disaster? No, they are not. None of them can create havoc and paranoia in man any more than love can.  Yes, love is the force that is the most omnipotent. And unrequited love can destroy a man, bring him to his knees and leave him barren of affectionate emotions.

    I was a bit of a late bloomer. I often stumbled and stammered my way through adolescence. I was tentative, never sure enough. The pretty girls always seemed to be just beyond my reach.  As I sat in the last row of senior English class, I would look for a feel good sign. Just a warm smile from any girl would be my hopeful morning greeting. At that time Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare’s King Lear weren’t relevant to me. 

    My studious attention was fleeting as I focused my energy on that one glowing beauty sitting in the front row next to the window.  Annie was more than just a schoolgirl, she was a blossoming woman with a bit of a sophisticated flair. Her soft skin and auburn hair accentuated a sweet and quiet charm.

    We were classmates, yet strangers without a voice. Our paths rarely crossed, eyes never met, surely not by design, not by choice. The girls in my class admired Annie’s true, friendly ways while every guy sought her warm embrace. Each morning, Annie stole my heart, my soul and my sense of self.  And each evening my fantasies bloomed from magical reflections as a spellbound allure sealed my timeless devotion.

    In the spring, I suddenly became more engaged in English literature when I discovered something that spoke to my heart. It was when my teacher brought in a recording of the Broadway show, Camelot. I can still remember Miss Grant’s initial words to us.

    “Good morning class, today we are going to explore through Lerner and Lowe’s music the legends of old England. The central theme of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have been cited in published works by such authors as Alfred Tennyson, Mark Twain and John Steinbeck.”

    As I listened to the storyline, I immediately imagined myself to be the charming, derring-do Sir Lancelot and Annie would be my Guinevere. What a long shot! Like an artist’s palette, Camelot colored my horizons in bright rainbow hues. Those enchanting tales certainly snagged my attention. However, I just couldn’t harness my emotions and squelch foolish fears. I only wish I could have found the courage to be like Lancelot and be able to speak those carefree, unforced romantic lines.

    I shared my emotional feelings with my best friend Phil. He was the one person that I could confide in without being ridiculed.

    “Phil, I think I’m in love with Annie.”

    “John, you’re crazy. You are not in love, you are just infatuated.”

    “Call it what you want but I know exactly how I feel.”

    “How the hell can you be in love with Annie if she doesn’t even know that you exist?”

    “I can’t concentrate on anything, I spend my whole day thinking about Annie.”

    “Snap out of it. Your fantasies are just stupid fantasies. If I didn’t know you better I would think you are tripping on some wacky drugs or were smoking weed with the Harrison Avenue boys behind the diner on Market Street.”

    “No drugs or weed for me, I’m hooked on her emerald green eyes and glossy, rose colored lips. Oh and another thing, I’m dazzled by Annie’s bright smile.”

    “You are hopeless. Let me give you some advice. Those green eyes may capture your soul with a sweet, gentle charm but they are cause for alarm and beware of those saccharine smiles of hers. They just might be attached to a sandpaper personality.”

    “You are all wrong about Annie. Have you seen her up close? Her eyes twinkle when she is smiling and she is always laughing with her friends.”

     “That’s just it. You are not in her circle of friends, you are in the outer limits. If high school were like the Modern Bakery on Sunday morning, you would be last in line. When we graduate in June you still won’t get to the front of the line.”

    “You are probably right, but I’m still holding out hope that we will meet.”

    “Look at it this way, Annie might seem sweet but she could be rough on the inside, maybe even a real bitch.  I think you should focus your attention on someone that will give you a chance.”

    “Oh, like fat Mary?”

    “Mary is not that fat, it’s just that she is not as slim as the other girls. She does have a pretty face and I heard that she is easy.”

    “You can have Mary, I want Annie.”

    Every succeeding day was a page in a book, the journal that I kept beside my bed.  I would put my frustrations aside, hopeful that buoyant themes would transcend.  My emerging chapters were short of bold orations, just life’s vignettes which I had hoped to someday comprehend. Reality became clouded as I engaged in dangling conversations with myself. I would become short of breath and in need of liberation’s fresh air.

    I was always the dreamer. I couldn’t marry emotions with actions, always wondering why a life that was colored with treasured, mirthful melodies would also be framed by regret’s hollow lows. I was always a bit hopeful that yesterday’s dreams could forge tomorrow’s memories.  It was my wish to savor contentment and bask in sunshine’s cheerful glows before my capricious thoughts slid precipitously away, fleeting like a cool breeze on a sweltering dog day.

    For me, happiness was a solitary walk along the river next to Rt. 80. While sitting under my favorite maple tree, the sounds of the traffic above were drowned out by the slow moving murky waters. It was just me, a few ducks and a school of carp enjoying a bit of peaceful coexistence. For that moment, no longer did I have to fight to keep my head above rejection’s line.

    My head was clear and temporarily free of mindless and disturbing graffiti. Some of those slick idioms were engraved on the school’s bathroom stalls and the walls of the vacant warehouses that stood end to end along the railroad tracks of my working class town. A mixed bag they were:

    “Sorry about your wall.”

    “Another wall ruined.”

    “The wind blows through the trees, but Mary blows best when she is on her knees.”

    “Tag this MF!”

    “Mary is easy”

    “Question everything.”

    “Why write when you can tag.”

    Rejection I feared the most. It often scared me out of my wits. My self-confidence was slow to develop.  Leaving for college was my reveille. No longer was I stuck in a stifling cocoon in the only house that I had called home.  Now on my own with no dreadful parental rules; to self-doubt I became immune.

    College gave me an opportunity to build a bridge to tomorrow and script a unique set of goals. Through the succeeding years I sometimes struggled to establish roles but still remained steadfast about my aspirations.

    The odyssey to genuine romance was always my chosen destination.  Searching for love was like learning the ballet, you could frequently fail at being graceful and fall down more than you thought possible. The aches and cramps in your feet and legs made it hard for you to get back up but you did it again and again. A combination of hot ice, Motrin, Tylenol or Advil helped to make the soreness go away. But the aches and pains in your heart from love affairs gone badly never seem to leave you. There are no over the counter cures for a broken heart. The key thing is not to be fenced in by heartbreak, convince yourself to get back up and leave despair in yesterday’s wake.

    Regretfully we dwell too much on mistakes we’ve made but life moves too fast and there is no time to snooze.  Experience helps us better understand what plays in our head.  Our crazy adventures helped to document the paths our feet have tread.

     I often wondered where Annie had traveled and what did she experience? Did she ever find her way to the crossroads of love and passion? Did she make the right choice, the one that was best for her?

    Thirty years later at our class reunion, our paths finally crossed. The room was crowded and there was a very warm, festive feeling in the air.  The hugs and handshakes all felt sincere. Most of us were content with our family life and settled into our careers.  We were at peace with ourselves and we didn’t have that competitive edge that we would have eagerly unveiled if this were a ten year reunion. Time truly does temper those energetic spirits we would have displayed in our younger years.

    After I snaked my way through the crowd, I walked up to Annie and introduced myself.

    “Annie, you might not remember me but we were in the same English class our senior year.”

    “Oh, I remember you. You were that cute guy who sat in the back of the room. You were always so quiet.”

    “The only person that ever told me I was cute was my mother but thank you anyway. I must say that you look fantastic.”

    “I think you need glasses, I have a few extra pounds and if you look close you might see a silver strand or two in my hair.”

    “I have to be honest with you, back in high school I had the biggest crush on you but I was too shy to approach you to even start a conversation.”

    “That is so sweet. Now it’s my turn to share something from those days. I was also very shy but I managed to get through it by surrounding myself with a clique of close friends. They helped me navigate that uncomfortable social maze.”

    “Annie, it took me years to gain confidence and develop some social skills and I’m still working at it.”

    “You’re doing fine. Once I left the safety net of high school I experienced pains of emptiness. I was so busy trying to taste all of the lush fruits of life that I never appreciated the gentle nature of people who really cared for me as a person. I just couldn’t find that one man who made me feel complete and give me a sense of self-worth.”

 

    Now was the time to take that chance and ask Annie to dance. As I held Annie in my arms she whispered to me, “Why did it take so long for you to ask me to dance?”

    Annie’s tender words tossed me into a reverie of poetic themes.  Together we spirited a moment as Chicago’s “Color My World” echoed in the hotel’s ballroom.

From my past, a wondrous friendship has been born. My cherished memories will no longer seem so forlorn.

    A lifetime of living has taught me that people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  Annie was a short but sweet season.

 

End

 

I began my serious writing in August of 1998 after having been a victim of a freak accident in which I had a near-death experience. A second chance at life has given me unique perspectives on family, spirituality and life which have all tinged my writing. I have published five books of poetry, Serendipitous Mindscapes; Barefoot Ballet; Hued Horizons; Dream-Hunters; and Fate's Haven. I am an active member of two Writers Groups in New Jersey and I am a graduate of Heidelberg University, BA and New York University, MA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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