The summer before I went into seventh grade, I fell in real love. Of course I was in love before. I loved Dale, the boy I never did get to kiss in kindergarten. I loved Warren in first grade; that is, until he got a buzz cut, and that was it for him and me. I always loved Georgie, he was my best boy-friend ever. But John. John was a whole new kind of love.
John lived about a mile away from me, but I never met him because he went to Catholic School. I don’t even remember how we did meet, but I do remember he was the shining memory of that summer. That summer when I knew I was going to the high school. I knew it. That was the best. Then I met John, and the best became better.
John had a two brothers; one the same age as Deanna and one the same age as Bonita, and a little sister the same age as Vickie. That’s the way Catholic families are: bunches of kids. But for some reason, God stopped there for John’s family, where God just kept on giving my mom and dad kids. Maybe it was account of John’s Mom, Mrs. G. was busy teaching girls how to be secretaries and have good manners, and never wear slacks to school. She was super strict and grumpy as all get out. My mom just stayed home and sewed and canned and handed out chores to all her kids and was mostly in a good mood, unless somebodies shoes got lost or she was late getting somewhere, or the house was a rip-snorting pigpen. If those things happened, she might have a screaming banshee fit, or she might just bite down hard and swallow a lot.
Anyways, somehow me and John met and fell in love. I should remember how we met, but I don’t. Almost everyday, he walked across the field one way, and I walked the other way, and we met somewhere in the middle. We didn’t have any streets to cross, or sidewalks, or backyards. Just fields. We talked a lot. I think we must have, cuz what else would we do? We were outside with no TV or radio or board games or even a bike. And no one else was around, so we must’ve talked and walked.
When we walked, we kept bumping into each other, like we never learned how to walk in a straight line. One minute, my feet were straight, and the next minute my shoulder bumped up against John’s. Once our hands brushed and it felt like I my heart hit up against the electric fence that kept the cows from running all over tarnation. I’m pretty sure John felt a jolt, too, cuz he and I jumped away a little. Still, I sorta liked that shocky feeling, so before long, we brushed together again, and after enough brushing of hands, John grabbed mine and didn’t let go. Tingles went all over me. That’s when I knew I was in love for real. Not the kind of Dale or Warren or Georgie kind of love. The love I had for John was the movie kind of love. I knew it on account of I had that same mushy feeling like when I saw those movie lovebirds kissing in the shower, or when that couple was smootching under the apple tree.
Finally, finally, John kissed me. We walked back across the field, with the shadows pulling long toward super-time. Right at the half-way point, John pulled my hand back so I turned to face him. He pressed his lips hard against mine and swiveled around like a compass drawing a half-circle. Somehow watching those movie kisses made me feel way more woozy than the real thing. We practiced a lot after that, but it never worked out like the movies. For one thing, our lips were flat and dry. Somehow, the movie peoples’ lips blended and smooshed together. We had the head turning part right, and maybe the hugging part right, but the rest was all wrong.
In another week or so, I found out I had to stay another year at my elementary school. A bunch of others kids, I never saw before had to come there, too, and nobody was sadder about it than me. Before John went back to the Catholic school, he gave me a real pearl necklace so I would be sure and remember him. The kind old ladies like our Moms wore. Mom said I had to give it back, because it was super valuable. I put it in my secret box, and just told her I gave it back. Sometimes I did some tinsy bit sneaky things like that. Like tell her I asked the doctor if it was okay to wear tampons, when I never did ask him. I never even felt bad enough about it to count it as a sin, so that kind of lie or disobedience never even got to the confessional. I might have had something broken in my guilt meter or something.
I didn’t see John again until the next year when we all went to the high school. When John answered a teacher’s question, he jumped out of his seat and stood at attention. That’s the way all the Catholic school kids did until they got used to regular teachers. John forgot all about me, and started loving Daylene. That’s okay, cuz I was already trying to decide if I loved Dave or Jim or Wayne.
Later on, when we were almost out of high school, John’s big brother died in a car accident. Mrs. G told him he and Daylene should break up because she might get diabetes and that would be bad on account of it was dangerous to have kids and God might forget not to give them more than they could handle. Daylene wanted to marry John anyways, but she never got the chance. John died in a motorcycle accident. Next thing you know his dad died getting hit by a train.
If I was Mrs. G, I would have stopped trusting God after losing all those people she loved so much. Either that, or I’d hold on tight to her last son and daughter. Instead, Mrs. G lost all her grumpiness and started letting girls wear slacks in school, and let up on the reins and stopped being strict. By the time Vickie got to high school, Mrs. G was a favorite teacher.
I bet those pearls belonged to Mrs. G’s and John took them from her. Maybe he had a faulty guilt meter too. Or maybe that’s what love does to a person. I’m an old lady now and those pearls are just perfect for me: Three strands of pearls with a rhinestone clasp. I think of John every time I put them on. I think of Mrs. G and Daylene, too. You never know where love will lead.