Just got out of my chair. Meditating. Inhaling, exhaling. Trying not to think about anything. The hamster-on-the-wheel between my ears didn’t want to sleep today. She kept asking, “So, whatcha’ gonna’ write about? What’s fun to say? Who’s your audience? Do you write for that wee teeny audience or for just us?” Then she said, “What about Greg? He occupied five years of your life. Wanna’ write about him?” I’ve no idea how she manages to chatter on and on when her cheeks are so stuffed with food.
Okay, Hammy, I’ll write about Greg. He was my first boyfriend. He was a dreadful boyfriend, never-the-less I kept him on board for a very long time. So sure, let’s go dredge up memories of those five years.
First time I set eyes on Greg was outside the cafeteria. Six feet five inches and skinny as a rail, he was lounging against the wall. Curly hair, bedroom eyes, big nose, huge feet, not terribly attractive but for some reason he drew girls to him like bears to honey. It was my Sophomore year.
Our first date was on December 27th, 1967. We went to the Newark Country Club Belle’s Ball. I had been on the planning committee. I wore a ruffled white blouse from Braunstein’s with a long black velvet skirt my mother made. She also made me a wide gold silk belt. Greg brought me a corsage of gardenias. The scent of gardenias still takes me back to that night at the Belle’s Ball, standing in the receiving line, with Greg’s hand on the small of my back. It was cold walking to and from the car. I wore a white bunny fur stole.
Other dates I remember are going to the movies to see Romeo and Juliette. And going to the drive-in theater. I was forbidden to go the drive-in so every time we did I fibbed and said we were going to the Cinema Center to see “Thoroughly Modern Milly”. I must have had my parents convinced I saw Milly about six times. At the drive-in, we’d make out until the windows were too fogged to see though.
Our song was “La La Means I Love you” by the Delphonics.
The first time Greg told me he loved me, he gave me his class ring. I was forever wrapping different colors of yarn around it to make it fit. Sometimes I wore it on a chain around my neck.
Greg was a drummer in a band called “The Illusions of Soul”. The band members wore silver tuxedo jackets, white ruffled shirts, and black tux pants. The lead singer was a black guy named Larry. I remember going to one venue after another to hear them play. I hung around with another band members girlfriend. One night she and I went to the ladies room and swapped clothes.
Greg’s father was a Marine Corps Colonel. He kept his six kids on very short leashes. Greg had to time phone calls with a small hourglass and do loads of chores. I never had a chore in my life. Later Greg rebelled, letting his hair grow into a huge afro, smoking cigarettes and pot, and driving around in a battered VW van covered in peace sign stickers.
I am five feet four inches. Mother loathed my long drink of water boyfriend and was always recommending I hand him over to a tall girl. She disliked him because he consistently hurt me. He cheated on me constantly, breaking my heart over and over.
The first break-up was before Easter vacation. Greg dumped me for Kathy. In my high school yearbook, I drew horns and a beard on Kathy’s photo. I’d share that picture but my yearbook died a horrible death when our sump pump sprung a leak.
That spring break my parents and I drove to visit my grandparents. I curled up in the backseat of our silver Cadillac and cried all the way from Newark, Delaware to Tavares, Florida. My paternal Grandfather, Grandpa Jay, lived on a lake. He set me up with a fishing pole, showed me how to bait the hook and left me to my own devices. I sat on the pier and fished from morning until evening, day after day. I got terribly sunburned, but the crying finally stopped. Mother said she watched me heal with that fishing rod in my hand. I caught an enormous fish. Grandpa Jay was impressed.
After having my heart-broken wouldn’t you think I’d be done with that foolish boy? Nope. A glutton for punishment I returned to Newark, drove to McDonald’s where all the kids hung out, and circled the parking lot. Yay! There was Greg! Yay! We hooked up again.
Until the next girl. Debbie, who was and probably still is an awesome dancer and loads of fun. Then there was Ann. Followed by Susan. Those two had been my friends.
One year several girls went to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for a week of sun and fun. My friend Gina’s mother, Mrs. J, was our chaperone. Greg made the two-hour drive to visit me. Mrs. J allowed Greg to sleep on the sofa. The next morning she came after me, screaming and insisting she had seen me having sex with Greg in the middle of the night. Never happened. It was year’s before I put it together and realized the person with him must have been Susan. She had “peanut butter and jelly legs”–easy to spread and very sweet.
They went through a long period of Susan climbing out of her bedroom window and hooking up with him in the middle of the night. I consistently refused to play around. It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned most of the other women had long since given up their virginity.
Then there was Bryn. She and I swapped boyfriends for a short amount of time. She took Greg, I hooked up with her guy, Bob. Then we swapped them back again.
For Senior Prom I wore white lace. We doubled with my close friend Nora. Her date was Greg’s buddy John. Greg’s mother really would have preferred Greg date Nora. She considered me spoiled. She was right. I was spoiled rotten.
By the time of Senior Prom, he and I had broken up many times. Shortly before the Prom Greg severed his Achille’s tendon. He had to wear a cast that stretched from his toes to halfway up his thigh. He had kissed another girl the day his tendon got injured. He was clearly looking to dump me again and tried to squirm out of that date using the cast as his excuse. Probably he wanted to go to the dance with the tendon-day-kissee. Mother said, “Tell him it will be fun to go and have everyone sign the cast”. We went together, but it wasn’t much fun.
I broke up with Greg again before my sophomore year of college. I forget what girl it was about. To spite me he decided to join the army. Great move, eh? This was during the Viet Nam war. Naturally, as I always did I forgave him.
Before leaving for Viet Nam Greg was stationed in El Paso, Texas. He invited me to visit. My parents refused to allow it. Daddy and I had a terrible screaming match in the family room while Mother sat in a rocking chair crying and praying.
Ultimately they relented. That burning hot visit to El Paso, playing housewife while my man went off to work all day, cured me of wanting to get married anytime soon. I spent my afternoons with the young army wives, watching them chase their kids and do their laundry. No way I was giving up the fun of college for this. I suspect Greg was sleeping with one of those women, a petite long-haired brunette. We all went bowling one night. Sparks were flying between those two in spite of her husband being present.
While in Viet Nam Greg wrote to me, and regularly sent me a percentage of his income to save for when we were married. I remember spending the money on fudge, shoes, a cute plaid jacket from Lady Bug, and a trip to Florida with roommates. Not a penny got saved.
He somehow acquired Steve McQueen’s calling card number. He would phone, long distance from Viet Nam, using that number. He racked up hundreds of dollars in illegal charges. The calls came in the wee small hours of the morning. Roommate Tina would wake me, I’d stumble to the phone, mumble into the mouthpiece, sleepily listen to his Viet Nam experiences. I never remembered a word of our conversations in the morning. He should have saved Steve McQueen the money.
Having a boyfriend in Viet Nam was convenient. When no one was asking me on dates I could tell myself, “Well, I don’t want to date. I have a boyfriend.” I’d take his framed photo out of my dorm room desk drawer and display it during those dry spells. But if anyone did come sniffing around Greg was readily dropped back into his drawer.
When he returned from Viet Nam I ended the relationship for good. I had begun dating the man I married in 1974. The last time I saw Greg was at his friend John’s wedding in Rittenhouse Park. We were by the river where I had played as a child. I was wearing a green silk dress. No memory of his outfit. He kept giving me long sad looks.
Fast forward about twenty years and I got a call from my mother. She said,”Greg called me. I recognized his voice immediately. He said he wanted my recipe for chicken and dumplings, but I suspect what he really wanted was your phone number.”
Sure enough, he called. I was sitting in a parking lot when the phone rang. He hoped to reconnect. I was married. He was married. Naturally, I blew him off.