February 09, 2006

A Memorable Story

I noticed a number of bloggers mentioning fine memories this week. It got me thinking quite a bit. As it is down-right frigid here, I have been thinking of the beach.

It was the summer of my 14th year. That was the age when I started to look 18, even without makeup, and let people believe I was. I should stop here and explain, I was not a typical 14 year old. I didn't look 14 nor did I act 14. I had been taking advanced college classes for a couple years, and I had never had friends my own age. My boyfriend at the time was a senior in highschool - but that is a story for another day. . .

My family, for years, had traveled during the summer months to Assateague Island, Maryland to camp. It was on such a trip that I met "him".

He was a freshman at College Park. I met Paul on the first day of what was to be a two week trip. I was checking in at the service building and he was giggling with a pretty co-worker behind the counter. Though he was leaning across the counter and looking the other way, I could see his eyes lit up when ever he smiled. It made me smile to myself, but I was caught.

When he stood up, all 6 foot 4 inches of him towered over my 5 foot 4 frame. Yet his smile made me feel 10 feet tall. He slowly put his hand out and introduced himself in a sweet Eastern Shore drawl. "Hi! I'm Paul."

I extended mine and gave a fumbling introduction of myself. And then? He walked me to my campsite. On the 10 minute walk, he told me a bit about himself and his job. He was 19, lived nearby, wanted to be a oceanographer and worked summers at the park (but I had never seen him before). He knew that I was here every year (my mom is easily recognizable, ass-length hair and asian). He giggled and said, he watched me make tie-dye t-shirts with my little sister the year before, and that he laughed whenever we'd race to the beach to dunk them in the salt water. He asked me to teach him how for a park event. I was a bit flustered. Paul knew about me, remembered me, yet I'd never seen him here before. I was intrigued.

He worked as a naturalist at the park so he invited me to the evening's event. Ghost stories at a bonfire. I was hooked. The thought of sitting around a campfire in the dark with this charming 19 year old thrilled me.

Paul wasn't a buff beauty. He was tall, thin and kind of nerdy, but had a sweetness that drew me to him like a bee to honey.

Every day for the next two weeks, he spent his off hours with me. We walked, talked, swam, canoed and walked the board-walk. I even met his best friend and his parents. I was smitten. He was charming and funny, and there wasn't a day that I spent any measure of time with him that my sides didn't hurt from all the laughing.

Paul knew I was smitten and didn't discourage it. I think he thought it cute.

From the first day that I met him, we began to correspond. We wrote letters on days we'd see eachother. I'd write while on the beach and he while on a break. We'd exchange the letters later and laugh at everything that happened through the day. I grew fonder of him with each letter, and he of me. We had pet names for one another, and jokes that only the two of us would understand. It was sweet.

Over the next several years, we saw each other at the beach in the summer months. He and a group of friends drove the 9 hours from Maryland to my house to take me to a baseball game and to eat my mom's cooking. That same group came back when I graduated from highschool in order to attend my graduation party.

I was seriously in love with this man. But, and this is a big "but", I never told him! Not then, anyway. Sure, we signed our correspondence with love, but I was content to be his friend. I often wonder what might have happened if I had told him. Would we have remained friends?

I had serious boyfriends and he had serious girlfriends during this time, but it didn't stop our correspondence. I believe we even made one of those silly pacts about marrying one day if we didn't find the one we loved.

Then, everything changed. I was visiting him during college. My last relationship ended badly and I was invited to the home of a mutual friend for a party. I had gone to drown my sorrows and hug a friend. I succeeded in drowning my sorrows. So much so that I blurted out that I loved him and had since I was 14. He smiled a nervous smile and said he loved me too, but, another big "but", I was simply too young for him. I think I had the sense to fein passing out at that time and spent the remainder of the night thinking over that awkward situation.

We didn't correspond as much after that day. I was crushed. We were still friends but I almost felt betrayed in a way. He claimed he could never be serious with someone nearly 6 years his junior. Later, after some time passed, we'd joke about it, but it still stung.

When I married my husband almost 10 years ago, Paul was at our wedding. He told my husband he loved me and that my husband was getting a "gem". For one fleeting second, I was a little sad on the happiest day of my life because for years I'd imagined marrying Paul. But his happiness for me erased that moment of sadness.

Five years later, Paul married "Sarah." Guess what? She and I are the same age. Go figure. While I realize we weren't meant to be, that information hurt.

Paul and I don't talk much now. We exchange Christmas cards, birthday cards and the occassional email and that is all. I miss him now and then.

When I daydream I sometimes dream about the beach, I see him challenging the surf and losing. Or I dream of my first skiing lesson and the countless bottles of vodka that we drank to ease my aches and pains. But mostly, I remember laughing with a friend.

I think I'll go write my friend and catch up on our lives. I miss him.

Posted by Oddybobo at February 9, 2006 11:59 AM | TrackBack

If it makes you feel any better, 6 years difference in age when you are in your early 20's is a lot different then 6 years when you are in your 30's.

Posted by: Contagion at February 9, 2006 12:20 PM

It's all good. I married the love of my life!

Posted by: oddybobo at February 9, 2006 12:28 PM

Funny how things work out... had a story come to mind, but I don't think I'll post it.

Maybe I'll send it to ya.

Posted by: That 1 Guy at February 9, 2006 12:40 PM

I do believe things work out as they should.

; )

Posted by: Christina at February 9, 2006 01:28 PM

Great post, Oddy. What a wonderful story. And I agree with Christina, I am sure it all worked out the way it was supposed to... (Still, it's hard not to imagine the what ifs...)

Posted by: Richmond at February 9, 2006 02:32 PM

Some people come into your life for a reason, and then they're gone. It's good to have such meaningful memories though.

Posted by: Theresa at February 9, 2006 06:14 PM

What a wonderful story. It sounds like it all worked out for the best. Those are wonderful memories, are they not?

Posted by: Moogie at February 10, 2006 08:22 AM

Another entry into a Carnival sweetie

Posted by: armywifetoddlermom at February 10, 2006 10:34 AM

I'm with Theresa!

Posted by: Sissy at February 11, 2006 12:20 AM

Mrs. GTL and I weren't supposed to marry each other at all. I was a musician who was just passing thru town and she was on the rebound, and I was as well. We met in a bar and she and I fell in love while all of our friends were making bets against us. That was almost 17 years ago. ALL of the bettors against us have been either divorced, or never found their soulmates.

We were drunk when we met. My friends warned me against falling in love with her, her friends warned her about falling in love with me.

Good thing we never listened to any of 'em ;-)

Posted by: Gun-Toting Liberal at February 13, 2006 05:53 AM