Friday, December 09, 2005

Reaching Out...Part One

(I began writing this post in September 2004, coming up on the 20th anniversary of the events that follow. It rambled so much that I abandoned it. I decided to complete it and post it. We had a big snowstorm last night and it reminded me of something)

Admittedly, I possess certain pathologies when it comes to old girlfriends. I'm not talking about stalking here.

I don't think that I've ever had an acrimonious break-up. Sure, feelings got hurt, and someone may have got mad, but all in all, what started as friendship has continued as friendship over the years. I keep in contact with many of the women that broke my heart.

There are two notable exceptions. This is the first one.....

I transferred from a large southern university to a small midwestern university after my junior year. (The many reasons for this may someday be detailed, but let's just say I needed to re-focus on academics in a less distracting setting). I was lucky enough to have dated a few girls, and got somewhat intense with two. After graduation, I couldn't get out of town fast enough. The only friendship I've maintained from that 18 months of self-imposed exile is my best friend, James (then know as simply Jim). We shared many common interests, not limited to music, women, curriculum, beer, and the occasional foray into whatever wayward meds we could lay our hands on (much thanks goes out to James' galpal, who was perscribed all sorts of neat stuff that she didn't want to throw away).

James (Jim) and I were determined to not only make the Dean's List, but we also wanted to become big-time serious songwriters. Big-time serious songwriting appealed to our lazy nature. Write songs, collect royalty checks. This is why we are NOT big-time serious songwriters today. While we had lots of neat song ideas, we had some performance issues (we couldn't sing to save our lives) so we needed to recruit someone with vocal talent to sing on our demos.

Before long, we met Nancy, who was rumored to have a great voice. Nancy looked like a California Beach Girl. Nita was her cute friend. Gorgeous brown eyes. Although I was attracted to Nita, I asked Nancy on a date (out to dinner for my 22nd birthday) for the sole purpose of recruiting her to sing for Jim and me. Jim had the serious hots for Nancy, but had not worked up the courage to ask her out. I figured that I would recruit Nancy into our little cult of music, signal Jim's attraction, and see if Nancy would put a good word in for me to her best friend Nita.

Because I was not the most confident Romeo on campus, it took all my guile and wile to ask Nancy out. And while I assured Jim that my interests were strictly professional, I'm sure he wasn't buying it. Nancy said yes, she'd love to go to dinner, and so we went. I ate Lobster Bisque for the first time. Nancy was attractive, charming, and alluring. We went back to her room, and she sang along while I played guitar. We discovered a mutual affinity for Joni Mitchell, and I taught her OUR BIG SONG. She sang like an angel. It took a lot of self-control (or perhaps self denial) to keep Jim's interests in my thoughts (I was the ultimate wing-man). She was all set to sign up with Jim and I for life when Nita entered the room to say hi. Her brown eyes flashed at me, but I was busy recruiting, damn it. Nancy told me that she and Nita sang together, so maybe Jim and I should write a duet. I told her that we could write any kind of song ("Weddings, Funerals, Bar Mitzvahs" was our slogan) and we would get right to it. Nita soon left, and it was time for me to go, too. We shook hands, and I ran down the stairs to report to Jim that not only did we have one good singer, we had TWO!!. I also reported that dinner, singing, and a handshake was all that transpired. Oh yeah, and she thought Jim was cute.

Within 24 hours, I asked Nita out, and we seemed inseparable for the last 6 weeks of the semester. It turned out that she had a crush on me, and was upset that I asked Nancy out on a date. Nancy and Jim started hanging out, too. Nita and Nancy both graduated that term, and we never got around to recording any songs.

During Winter break, Nita and I wrote nearly daily. She lived in the Quad Cities, I lived in the Northwest Suburbs. We called long distance after 11pm to save money. She started looking for work, and I worked for my sister's boyfriend plowing snow. During break, Nita and Nancy visited a friend in the Western Suburbs, and conspired to see Jim and I as often as possible. We met downtown and spent the entire day sight seeing. We watched Steve and Garry do their radio show. We went to the Hancock at night and we went to Gino's East and we went to the bars on Rush Street. We spent New Year's Eve day downtown as well, and watched the late afternoon news from Arnies on State St. The forecast was for a lot of snow, so we decided to head to my parents house right away to avoid the storm. Jim had never been to my house, but he and Nancy took off in his car, and Nita and I took off in my car. At some point, the storm hit, and Nita and I finally made it home. This was in the days long before cell phones, so I had no way of reaching Jim and helping find the house. Magically, he and Nancy appeared in our driveway, and we celebrated New Years 1985 together. Ricky Nelson was killed that night in a plane crash. I promised Nita that 1985 would be our best year.

After 20+ years, whenever our region braces for a big snowstorm, I think of that night. It was a truly magical time.

While 1985 was a good year, it was not to be for Nita and me. As much as we tried to grow closer, I feared that I would become too distracted from my studies and decided I could not continue the romance. I was SO ready to marry her; but I had to finish college, I had to make the Dean's List, I had to make up for my earlier academic failures. I may have broke her heart. I know I broke mine.

I've always believed that if you've done something in your life that you regret, then you should try to redeem yourself.

Nita went on to get her Masters Degree, and in her late 30's decided to change careers and become a nurse. She was inspired by the nurses who cared for her mother while she was dying with Cancer. She doesn't know that I know this about her. I haven't spoken to her in over 20 years.

I've always believed that if you've done something in your life that you regret, then you should try to redeem yourself.

I'm mailing a letter to Nita today. Just to say hello and tell her that I've Googled her. I'm not looking to rekindle the lost flames of youth. I just want to let her know that she's been thought of, and thought of kindly.

Life is too short not to reach out to those you think kindly of.

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