Remembering and living again our pristine moments is part of what keeps us human. Here’s one of mine. Enjoy!
They had become more than the streets where I came of age, but a transport pad to that time when the world welcomed me and I it.
The lane that had felt my feet ten thousand times was new to me that evening, filled with a swelling joy that was imbued with more than nostalgia.
It was dusk, and I was searching for a place to roll out my blanket both unseen and comfortable. It was still not a neighborhood that received wanderers with anything more than suspicion, as dusty blinds lifted slightly and gazed on my fifty five years like a huge, doubting eyelid from the large and elegant homes. My pace quickened as it sought the nearby forest, and solitude.
But the joy struck me again, and involuntarily I stopped and stood outside the corroding mansion with a roof shaped like a German army helmet that my twelve year old mind had once convinced itself was haunted. This was the spot where I had discovered girls, and kissed one, on that Halloween so long ago.
Charlie Eliot had arranged the outing, swelled in his hormonal confidence that Pauline and Rachel would be forthcoming that night.
We had all met outside the dark dwelling after the sun was down, beneath the glow of the same Victorian-style street lamp that still stands there. I hadn’t bothered to don a costume, despite the date, nor had our two pubescent prospects, but Charlie was adorned in something he declared represented a “Carnaby Street swinger”, complete with a striped jacket and bowler hat. We all gazed at him with vague embarrassment, but not for long, for we were young.
Pauline had deep brown eyes that stayed on me as we all wondered what to do next.
“Let’s try trick or treating!” offered Rachel, smiling with oversize braces at Charlie, but not at me.
“We’re too old” I said, trying to catch her attention, for she was the cuter of the two.
“Ah, they won’t notice” Charlie offered, striding towards the house we’d been warned to avoid.
“I don’t got a bag …” Rachel was saying as she ran after him.
I turned to Pauline, and saw her russet orbs still fastened on mine, and she smiled for the first time. Her gaze was neither shy nor inviting. She seemed fascinated.
“Um, uh, what do you wanna do?” I remember saying to her awkwardly.
She shrugged calmly, and turned her head slightly as her long dark hair spilled across her shoulders. My heart hung there, like a swallow poised to fly.
“This is fine” she said quietly.
And it was.
We didn’t notice where our friends went. The haunted house sported a thick, low hedge made for our two novice hearts that welcomed us as we settled in to it, leaving a deep furrow in the bush. Her arm and then body rested against me, and she let out a little chuckle.
She made it easy for me to like her more than I had expected to, for I had never been adored before, my every word hung upon, my expression and gestures followed so carefully by Pauline’s soft gaze. It became natural to draw closer to her, and then to touch her, in the safety of our hedge.
Her kiss parted the waves and welcomed me to delight, and she laughed aloud with a deep happiness that surprised both of us, I think. Again and again we met like that, each time softer and more perfect than before, and soon we became a wave that soared and rippled past the moment to a distant shore in time where we would always stand and remember that moment with tearful thankfulness.
Our enchantment broke suddenly and forever on the rocks of Charlie’s harsh exclamation, pummeled at us through the darkness,
The garish laughter of our two erstwhile companions brought both of us to our feet, but we held on to one another’s hands even as Charlie continued his stupid comments and a light went on in the spectral home, and we all ran for it down the street as an adult yelled something at us.
And so all these years later, the tears spilled forth from me like my bliss of that distant night as I stood in front of the hedge, still there, and I traced its gnarled form with my hand, trying once more to touch Pauline.
We never kissed again after that night, and six months later she and her family moved away forever to Smithers.
But the indentation remains in the hedge, undiminished by the years, just as memory holds a small part of us forever young and enthralled.
Sleep came easy to me that night, even on the cold skin of the forest, for I had come home.