Her name was Susan. She was my first “official” girl friend. I was 13. She was tall and shapely and smart with the sexiest braces I’d ever seen. Her reddish brown hair careened off her shoulders like a gentle waterfall. She, like me, was caught in that strange vortex of too-smart-to-be-cool-but-too-cool-to-be-a-nerd. It made her good company. Besides, she was as awkward as I at this whole “going steady” thing. Our conversations were peppered by silences and repeated questions, more silence, then making out. I mean, what better to fill a gaping Junior High School silence? Our romance lasted an epic five weeks.
His name was Rob. That’s where the commonalities ended. He and his family had moved from somewhere in South Dakota to Calgary, into a house a couple blocks from us. He was a rough and tumble kinda guy. I hated how he could always get me to do stuff I wouldn’t normally do. Egg houses. Give wedgies. Terrorize neighborhood pets. Pull out plants and bushes. All manner of man-boy evil. He holds the record for most days missed from any school year at our Junior High. In twelve years of public education, I skipped school, on purpose, twice. I was caught both times. Both times were with Rob. I kind of miss the silly bastard.
It was my first practice with the Beaumont Pipe Band in Calgary. I saw her from across the gymnasium among a crowd of her peers. Her blue-green eyes could have split atoms and her gentle curves, spiky blond hair, and pointy, Joe Jackson shoes (it was 1982) settled that this was a girl to know. I guess I had been staring a little too long and she looked up and saw me. A gleaming smile framed in blood red lipstick against her pale, white skin sealed the deal. I was smitten. We knew then we’d be close. Close enough that, four years later, we were engaged and poised to send out our wedding invitations.
We didn’t. Her name was Vanessa. She died of bone cancer in 1992.
I always thought he had the coolest name. Lazarus Cornelius was East Indian. He was a dapper ladies man and an amazing guitarist. We were friends at College where we sought to study both of the former along with regular classes we stuffed in the cracks of our busy social calendars. He came from numerous generations of pastors from Mussoorie in the northern Indian province of Uttarakhand. Even though he was thoroughly Canadianized (meaning primarily he was a hockey fan, knew the lingo, cared little for politics and bitched about Americans) I thought it cool to have an Indian friend. It made me feel…cosmopolitan and a little chic.
And when you lived in a cow town like Calgary, that was saying something.
Picture found here