Tuesday, January 29, 2008

cringe along with me, if you please

For a few years in a row when I was in high school, my family went to a resort on St. John for winter break. One year, when I was sixteen, I became smitten with a guy named Roger who was on vacation there with his family. He was tall and handsome and in law school and I didn't have the nerve to talk to him; at that age, I didn't have the nerve to talk to anybody, really.

On New Year's Eve, there was free alcohol all over the place, and because the resort was contained enough, and because I never did anything impulsive or dangerous the way teenagers are supposed to, my parents trusted me to go have fun and stay out till I felt like coming home.

On that New Year's Eve, I drank lots of champagne, and so did Roger, and before I knew it we were making out on the beach, and then, because I was even more smitten after the kissing, I suggested we go for a swim, hoping he would realize that a spirited girl who could make such a suggestion--just totally off the cuff!--was surely a girl worth keeping.

He stripped down to his boxers and dove into the dark waves. As I watched him, I became suddenly stone cold sober, realizing that underneath my fetching, flowery, off-the-shoulder New Year's Eve dress, I was wearing really giant underpants.

Paralyzed, I yelled to him that I was too cold to swim, and after a bit he came out. We kissed good night and walked our separate paths back to our rooms, and I left with my family the next morning.

But the shame and embarrassment of that night didn't stop me from becoming still more smitten with Roger, whose address I got, when we returned home, from my parents, who had grown friendly with his parents over the course of the vacation, and to whom I wrote a letter professing my undying love for him.

Instead of blowing me off for the lunatic child that I was, he actually wrote back. I think I had some sense even then that this gesture was gracious beyond measure, even though all the letter did was dis me.

My mom visited last week and brought with her a manila envelope full of random things I had saved from that period of my life--postcards and photographs and matchbooks, and also the letter from Roger.

Part of it says this:

I thought I should write you. I won't even frame this as a response to your icky January note. You must have long since concluded that my silence was the only response you could expect.

I can't say I actually blocked out the Roger episode from my memory, but I also haven't thought about it in the intervening nearly 25 years either. I'm really glad I saved his note and have had a chance to review it now and allow all the painful details to come back to me with such clarity. I was starting to get just a wee bit full of myself, and it's helped knock me back down to size.

1 comment:

BrianJ said...

cringing (and squirming) right along with you...gives me the same feeling i get when i watch dating trainwreck scenes like those in superbad and swingers (put the phone DOWN!)...they completely take me back to the collective feeling of all awkwardly hobbled experiences of my early dating years. glad to be reminded that it wasn't just me.