So I was watching this news show on TV about teenagers and how stupidly mean and cruel they can be to one another, with all the online bullying and that kind of crap that goes on. Suddenly, I flashed back to Elaine. Hadn't thought about her for many a moon. On a whim, I thought I'd try to look her up online. I've had little success trying to find people with ordinary surnames...it's the proverbial needle in the haystack you'll never find unless it pokes you in the butt. But Elaine's last name was unique. I figured there couldn't be more than one of her out there, and I was right. I typed in her name and hit enter. And there it was. A whole extended family photo album from back in the day up to nearly present time had been transferred to the net, with captions identifying who was who. I began to scroll down...
We were both fourteen. Eighth graders in that tiny town. She was sort of cute, and I was attracted to her. One day I found myself walking her home. Somewhere along the way we stopped and engaged in a long, sweet, warm embrace. An innocent, but romantically charged kind of thing to be sure.
Then one night a bunch of us kids were out joyriding, and I ended up in the rear seat of the car as it wended its way along a dark Nebraska back road. Elaine was sandwiched in between me and one of my classmates...I'll call him him Buzz. I was thinking that this might be another opportunity for me and her to get cozy with one another.
I looked over and Buzz was making out with her. And he was feeling her up.
And she was letting him.
A myriad of emotions swirled around in my head. I was a bit behind on the learning curve, but it didn't take long to catch up. Elaine was the first "loose" girl that I had encountered at that tender age.
After a few minutes, there was a break in the action and Buzz looked over at me and said, "TAKE OVER."
And Elaine looked at me expectantly.
Now, had we all been ten years older, my response might have drawn some raised eyebrows, and likely some comment about me being a kinky kind of cat. But none of us were that hip at the time. I was nervous. And I think my sense of it was-- at that point--that she was already damaged goods. So I said...
"That's okay...I'd rather just watch."
A couple days later the phone rang and it was for me. Elaine was on the line. Before I could get a word out, she called me a few choice names. Then she said she was calling just to tell me that nobody liked me. In fact, everybody hated me. I was taken aback. Where was all this coming from? (As far as everyone hating me-- that's another story for another time.)
I couldn't believe that someone I was in the clinches with just a few days earlier could turn so hateful and mean. And it's quite likely that she started a one person crusade to turn most of my peers against me. It's taken me till now to grasp that Elaine must have felt rejected by me--in her dissolute sort of way-- in the back seat of the car that night. My first painful experience with a woman scorned.
So I'm scrolling down the family photo album, and there she is. Her high school graduation picture, taken just four years after the last time I ever spoke to her. She was dolled up and decked out, and even cuter looking than I remembered. But if you looked closely at her eyes, they looked sad.
Scrolling further down. There she is, at her sister's wedding. Older and...well...
It's incredible to watch someone you haven't seen since adolescence age before your eyes in a few minutes. And here we are--the new millennium arrived and we partied like it was 1999...and Elaine is a matronly, frumpy looking, somewhat overweight woman who didn't exactly hold her looks. Hey, it happens. I'll never criticize someone on that basis. Oh, and there's her husband. Uh-huh. Suffice it to say she stayed in that same rural area and married one of the local boys. They do look content together in that photo. They look like...well...they deserve each other.
I thought about what her life must have been like. I thought about what my life--alternately crazy, exciting, bizarre, the heights, the bottom, the travel, the glory, the faded glory, the women, the heartache...and, if nothing more, the fodder for writing--had been. There's no way to compare one life to another. In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. I heard that in a song somewhere.
But I will admit to what I felt for a small moment when I had finished looking at that photo album.
It was a feeling of triumph.