I remember my first puppy love plain as day. His name was Brian and he was an older man (by a whopping year). He was from out of state; he came to our little Michigan town each summer for two weeks of sheer boredom, that is, until he met ME! Brian’s grandmother, whom coincidentally, I shared a birthday with, was a member of our church and introduced us. I think I was 11 and I was instantly smitten. He was so worldly and knowledgeable, after all, he’d taken a PLANE to get to Michigan from the ultra cool state of Arizona. I looked forward to those two weeks of the year all year long. As soon as he left, I’d start counting down the days until he returned. We wrote lengthy letters to one another all through the year, mostly about nonsense. He’d write about the music I should listen to and send photos of his always changing looks-purple hair and piercing in one, black hair and make up in another. He was so deliciously weird that I couldn’t help but feel special every time I got a thick packet from him or he came to visit. We got into all sorts of stupid trouble together, all of it harmless, but most definitely the things memories were made of. He played the electric guitar, loudly, to announce his presence in town (his grandma lived relatively close to our house) and we’d walk and talk and talk and talk.
He came every summer without fail until the summer of my senior year. As I slaved away making pizzas in the only “chain” restaurant in town, I started to hear people talk about the weirdo with purple hair and chains they’d seen in town earlier that day. One of my coworkers came in and excitedly told everyone about this guy he’d seen; he was pierced and tattooed and was so odd looking. He was so exotic (at least in our little town that is) he was the topic of conversation…and he was looking for ME! ME! I’m not sure if I’ve ever worked that quickly to get shift work done so I could go find him. Our last visit, however, was marred with some ugliness. Ugliness that for years has bothered me and I think, bothered the people involved.
You have to remember this was in the mid 90’s. Fag was a common insult, being gay was considered weird, bad, and wrong and looking differently than the people in my town immediately made you all of those things (which doesn’t make any sense, but I suppose it did in 17 year old boys’ minds) Brian and I were harassed by some of my classmates who thought it would be hilarious to make fun of him. They’d followed him around and later proceeded to follow us and threaten violence against him because he was, in their mind, gay. I know that the people involved were incredibly ashamed of their behavior, but it didn’t matter at that point, Brian never came back and eventually we lost touch as we went our separate ways. A few years ago, I found him online and we reconnected but neither of us was the person we were when we were young. The carefree, exotic, worldly boy he was had turned into a weary man, downtrodden by addiction and life choices that turned out to have massive negative repercussions. The small town girl turned into a big city girl, one who gained massive confidence at college and went onto to teach and have a family and be exotic herself to those she came in contact with from “the old days”.
Oh but those summers were something wonderful; thinking about them always makes me smile. We were carefree and having fun and didn’t think about anything else but those two weeks every year. Occasionally when I go home, I pass his grandmother’s house (she’s long gone by now, almost 20 years now) and think of those days. If I try hard enough I can even hear Brian’s rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” being played on the electric guitar and I have the urge to throw on flip flops, run down the alley and just start talking, talking, talking to someone who truly understood me.