It's the evening of Valentine's Day and in spite of making promises to myself ("I promise to listen to myself") today not to comment or focus on romance/love/chocolates/greetings - all things Valentines - I've got fingers on the keyboard and sharing.
One of my earliest brushes with romance was at the age of eight...maybe younger. Although he lived on my street, he attended another elementary school but always dropped by on his bike every day to visit after school was out. Together we sat on the front steps and discussed life as viewed through the eyes of youngsters while watching the world go by. Although I liked him as a friend, romance was the furthest thing on my mind and I had no inkling that he had feelings for me. As was our usual daily habit we were sitting on a stair and suddenly, without any warning, he bent over and kissed me on the cheek. Horrified, instinctively I pulled back, whipped my hand behind me and as if in slow motion, brought it forward and slapped him smack accross the face. His expression of shock is as vivid now as it was back then. He grabbed his bike, got on and peddled away and out of my life, forever. Every day I sat on the steps waiting for him to appear but he never did, neither did he ever respond to numerous phone calls. Hurt feelings especially when we're young, aren't easily patched up.
As is the case with many teens, I had a crush on an "older" guy who was in his senior year, a.k.a. Mr. Popularity. From my perspective, he paraded his latest female conquests in front of my eyes since our lockers were accross from each other. Visually, he was good looking with dark eyes, thick black hair and a broad, warm smile. In retrospect and me being a mere 13 years of age, he didn't know I existed. After school and at home, I phoned his house to hear him say, "hello" and then hung up. In my eyes and head, we were destined to be together. This illusion ended when he focused his attention on one girl and the word was out that they were seeing each other.
Since he graduated before me, the romance was forgotten until a chance "meeting" at the airport years later, at the arrival gate. Waiting at the gate was a vaguely familiar face and my memory was suddenly jolted back to high school. The eyes were the same but that was the extent of the familiarity. His thick, wavy hair had all but disappeared, replaced by a bald, shiny scalp with some bits of grey hair at the back of his head. The lack of hair emphasized a long nose that I hadn't noticed when my love for him blurred any physical imperfections. For the first time our eyes met one-on-one and I remember smiling at him. He returned the gesture, assuming perhaps that we knew each other, but my smile was one of smug satisfaction.
Sometimes we have to wait until we're adults to fully savor the fruits of childhood romance - and clear vision.