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“Come grow old with me….”
“You’re an idiot,” she said “we’re only sixteen.”
Marly had secretly been in love with the love story of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She had almost been in love with Matt, but her girlfriends made so much fun of him. He studied too much. He really was an Eagle Scout. Boys liked him, but Marly knew girls really cared about impressing other girls.
Marly had been as shocked as anybody when she heard that he dropped out of Yale to live on a commune. She had heard many stories about Matt’s life, and hoped that they weren’t true. Then she stopped hearing stories.
Her high school reunion was at an ocean resort in the Bahamas. Marly found it vaguely amusing that the organizers assumed everybody had done well enough to come. Elly, the organizer was personally insulted that so many people hadn’t come. She had spent endless hours trying to track down Matt.
Nobody they knew just disappeared. It wasn’t the East Hills Harbor High way. Everybody could be Googled or found through a friend. Not Matt. His parents had died years ago. He had no siblings. His best friends would toast him at frequent then infrequent now more frequent gatherings.
Marly was standing at the sea letting the broken waves touch her feet. It was paradise, though fortunately not Paradise Island. She could look at the blue/green waves forever.
Marly felt rather than saw a presence next to her. She turned to her side. Marly had never before looked at a person, and saw not the deeply lined face of the present, but the enthustatic teen age face.
“Matt, my god, where have you been?…”
He had changed his name and owned a store on the Island. It had taken him a long time to get over the late 60’s to mid 70’s when he had done every drug he could find. His “lost” years he called them. But then he had come to the Island, met a woman and began a new life. Matt’s wife had died, but his daughter had married a local and he had grandchildren.
Marly tried to process this. She felt lost in memories, lost in what could have beens. She don’t know how long they stood there when she heard Jonathon’s voice:
“Marly, we’ve been waiting for you. Who are you talking to? My god, Matt, what…”
Matt and Jonathon had been best friends since they could walk. Jonathon had taken Matt’s departure to the commune and subsequent “disappearance” hard. As she looked at Jonathon’s chiseled barely lined face, she knew the what could have beens were just that.
Standing next to Jonathon she no longer felt lost. Before she could say anything she knew Matt noticed the watching wedding rings.
OK. I’m an incurable romantic. When I was nine I had my first crush. He was thirteen and my cousin’s best friend. I saw him through the years. My cousin died at 28. Years after that I was with my family at a large Catskills resort for the first time in decades. Before we went into the restaurant the first night I looked at the photographer, and saw the face of a 22 year old. He had been “the perfect 22 year old male.” He and my cousin often stayed at our house.
The rest of my family saw a prematurely aged 45 year old. My father of course asked him if he was….He denied it. But I have about 200 key chain photo’s of me somewhere, that he would have an assistant give me. Finally one of my cousins came to visit. It was him. His life had been filled with true tragedies. It hurt him to see my family. We reminded him of promises not filled.
My sister and I had come along reluctantly but are forever grateful we went as it was to be our father’s last Mother’s Day weekend. My father got his revenge on me when he told the photographer he was “Pia’s first crush.” It shouldn’t have been embarrassing but…
And my father lived to embarrass me.
I think I needed to put in this overly long explanation of how I arrived at this post because I never saw the world quite the same way after I saw through the photographer’s face.