Stary, Stary Night
I experienced my first love/infatuation when I was in the fifth grade. This was no idle matter, nothing to be dismissed lightly -- despite my young age. I was a shrimp at the time so never did anything other than give Renee (the object of my affections) an extra large Valentine card.
I knew nothing at all about how to introduce myself to her or give an inkling of the powerful projection she represented to me. There were nights when I would cry silently because I knew that there was nothing to be done about the matter. I observed her closely (but discreetly) every day.
She always wore her golden-brown hair in a pony tail. Like every girl in my class she was taller than myself. She had blue eyes, a sprinkling of freckles, and a wonderfully sincere smile. Renee could become embarrassed easily (I noticed), and I loved this about her (because I was much the same). As a big plus she wasn't teased/chased as much by the hoodlums in my class. Overall, she was quiet/shy -- again much as myself. What is a shrimpy fifth grader really supposed to do with such poignant, lofty feelings toward another? What are you supposed to do/say?
Now, the feelings have a bitter-sweet quality. They contained the first stirrings of love and the impossibility of creating heaven on earth.
I went on to have other "crushes." For me the feelings were monumental, very real, very genuine and deep ... though I knew nothing of the girls themselves. From fifth grade I went on to endure 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th grade. From a child/teenage perspective these were interminable years in a gulag. Nothing changed in high school (only the number of crushes I experienced).
It wasn't until my second year of college that I experienced my first kiss and fell head-over-heels in love. All my admiration and tender feelings were cut short when my beloved told me that our relationship could go nowhere because she was seeing an "older man."
Franco Zefferlli's Romeo and Juliet
When I viewed "Romeo and Juliet" during my teens, I sat through that last fourth of film with tears streaming out of my eyes. I sought composure and worried how I would be able to gain it in my condition. I had already read the play, but seeing it come alive in such a vivid, heart-shattering fashion really undermined any sense of composure. The film remains the single most stinging portrayal of the boundlessness of love, its tenacity and fragility. Somehow, it sucked up all my latent emotions and forced me to deal with them -- I failed. I walked out of the theater glassy-eyed, and with a voice I dared not allow to speak because of its obvious tremulousness.
A Tramp Shining
When my would-be paramour left for another part of the world, I was inconsolable. I played the few records created by Richard Harris and Jim Webb -- and wallowed in their mournful sense of futility, of loss, of missed chances. The girl and I exchanged a few letters, and, as expected when time passes, she ceased sending me any word about her state of mind or happiness. The experience was over.
I did not hang my heart out there again for several years. I graduated from college -- still a virgin. Then I began employment as a mere clerk and found a vast "picking ground" from which to focus my attentions -- and focus them I did. Though still living at home, I began dating and really enjoyed it (if I were to subtract my anxiety). The boundaries remained within the petting/kissing zone, but this felt like no compromise. One girl taught me how to kiss with a jaw-breaking force. What a long-awaited joy that was.
The Intoxication of Ivory Soap
Another girl smelled of Ivory soap, and I had never smelled anything so wonderful in my life. None of these relationships lasted for very long, but when they ended I suffered. I cried big, genuine tears.
Then I met the young woman who would soon become my first wife. Our desire for love, companionship and intimacy were at the same level, and my experience of love transcended to a realm I thought I'd never reach. Although our personalities were polar opposites, at first it different matter. Experiencing closeness with another human being obliterated any reflection or analysis.
It didn't last.
The Depths of Despair
Afterward, I began to sense a deepness of woe that bordered on the hopeless. I graduated from Richard Harris to the works of Gustav Mahler. I began to learn that these feelings of utter despair were not unique to me -- that men (and women) had been experiencing them for as long as recorded history. The loss of love is so painful because the experience is so tender, so sweet. Going from a synergism to complete loneliness again was so painful that at times I howled, not unlike some animal who experienced being caught in a man-made, steel trap in the grasp of which it could only offer its misery in a wordless sound of agony to the star-studded heavens.