It was a long, long time ago when disco was beginning, I was young, painfully inexperienced, and working at the local hospital. I was thin then – 150 pounds with a 33 inch waist. (200 and 38 inches now). She drifted gracefully into my life by accident. She who resembled a young Kim Darby (then my favorite actress from True Grit) and who had a graceful, gliding walk, was petite in stature, serene and lovely of face, soft and gentle of voice with her glossy, dark hair cut in a pageboy, cute pixie nose and gentle, laughing eyes. (There was more, but I don’t want to bore the audience.)
I fell madly for her within two minutes of her first saying hi to me in the corridors of the third floor med/surg section. She worked in Intensive Care and I was the roving orderly. She was a nurses aide and I a nursing assistant. She wore her green uniform down just below her shapely knees and I wore my whites with the Ben Casey smock and tight, flared pants.
Her voice was beautiful, gentle and mysterious. So began a desperate pursuit of her that legends should be written of by a guy so shy and inexperienced but determined enough to move mountains. She looked to be an innocent angel, but as I got to know her, discovered she had been married at 16 and divorced by 17. We were both 19. I, who had never been in a bar, could not dance and who was almost terminally girl shy, found that she loved to party down after work, had been through a lot of boy friends, liked a little pot, loved to dance, could drink me under the table (it didn’t take much back then) and had strange friends. She, who appeared so sweet and petite, soft of voice, shy of demeanor, was a wild child who lived with her folks in the next city.
I should have given up then, for I was outmatched, out classed and out experienced. She would not date me, but we became good friends. I discovered that she had a pitifully low self opinion and spent hours boosting it up. Heard all about her cruel husband – who had later suicided after the divorce – which a picture of her in one hand. I heard about her previous boyfriends, including the one who beat her senseless and left her on her doorstep for her parents to discover hours later. (I secretly hunted for him at night for weeks with a can of mace and a billy club but never found him.) I learned of her promiscuity – a whole lot of past promiscuity. Much more than I wanted to know.
I battled her friends who decided they did not like me. I battled her fat, nasty roommate coworker (a smart RN in ICU) who liked her because the cute hunks in bars and the apartment complex drifted by to woo her and she got the leftovers. (She had moved out of her parents home then.) I gritted my teeth and met and got along with several of her ‘friends’. When he drank to much at a party we were all at and freaked out and I though she was dying, I scooped her up, said she was going back to her folks and challenged the huge guys there to stop me. We took her home. My friend drove my hot car while I cradled her semiconscious form in the back seat with her fat roomie grousing and looking pissed next to me. Others followed in a car.
She threw up all over me, but I bore it because I was so damn in love with her. I carried her into her surprised parent home – slipping on their hardwood floors and falling but twisting to as not to drop her, landed on one knee and screwed it up for over 10 years. I got her home safe and sound. Her friends left. I stayed, spending the night on the couch, concerned. In the morning, I took her and her mother to a gentle lake in the woods and let her recover in the peace and beauty of the solitary place.
She took a few days off of work. Her mother contacted me secretly and said this vision of abused loveliness had decided to marry me! I was ecstatic! By the next day, though, after her fat, nasty friend got to her as she moved out of their apartment and back home, she changed her mind. I was devastated.
I started all over again. We remained friends and I watched her date other guys and visited her at her home and was always there for her, complimenting, letting her cry on my shoulders, defending, praising, and loving her. On and off for years, even after she left the hospital, spent some time in a mental institution after an accident and came home to go to nursing school. When we could not see each other, we wrote letters. I left the hospital and took up other work. I dated other girls, but never forgot her (which cost me some other girls). We had a spat and did not talk to each other for a time, then she contacted me and I started working my way back to her.
Then one day, she wrote me a letter to tell me she was to be married. She had met a guy in a billiards room and she was in love with him. I thought my world was going to end. I had been after her for 5 years! We had never slept together, but I knew more about her than anyone else.
She married, but after a major drinking binge, I lurked in the background, watching and waiting. Her folk let me know when her husband, a big, redneck construction worker, popped her one night because he was having hard times and she promptly tossed him in jail. I eagerly awaited the divorce that never came.
Three kids did instead. 3 boys.
As the years passed, they all did very well together. I had not talked to or gotten a letter from her since the marriage. I drove by her home twice a year and heard from her folks, who lived next door. I dated other women but never found one who hit my heart like she did. I became experienced and world wise and she stayed a nurse in her local hospital and one of good standing and respect. I spotted her once or twice as she drove around town. She never recognized me (no longer a skinny guy, my hot car sold long ago) but seeing her sent the old thrills through my gut. I almost married twice, but never did and 20 years after she did, I saw her walking on her deck as I passed her house for the first time in 4 years. I was in a work truck. She did not see me, but she looked like she had 10 years previously and my heart hurt.
I’ve not been by her place in 6 years, my job having changed and I no longer work in her city – but she still lives there. Her parents passed on. Her kids are in college or married. She might even be a grandmother by now. I would assume she is happy. I live 24 miles away.
I have one good picture of her, taken at the nurses station desk in ICU in 1971, and she looks so beautiful! It’s well worn now. It’s a Polaroid. It’s locked in my lock box along with other treasures and valuable of mine.
Sometimes, when I’m alone and feeling nostalgic, I might take it out and those old, old feelings come surging back for a time. Then, I carefully put it away and get on with my life.