Recalling a First Love
Across a Crowded Room
Outside the Pocono Manor Inn, snow fell. A ski weekend, sponsored by the ski club at my college, brought me there. For a city kid in the 1950s, college and ski weekends were a different world. I saw snow as piles of white that quickly turned gray while blocking traffic before becoming slop in the streets that froze every night.
I knew nothing about skiing, and I knew no one from my school — just a freshman trying to fit in while exploring new worlds. The hotel gave us a package deal. Even so, for me, very expensive. I was out of my comfort zone, socially and financially.
The ski club had arranged bus transportation to the resort, and we arrived just at dinner time on a Friday night. In the dining room, pretty fancy by my experience, the staff had set aside tables for the club. We were on one side of a room-size planter, which broke up the spaciousness of the room.
I don’t remember the meal, but I do remember painfully trying to make small talk with strangers, a skill that eludes me to this day. Dinner finished, we were having coffee, and the band had begun to play when it happened. Through the greenery, I saw her. I got up from the table, crossed the room, and asked her to dance — no matter that I couldn’t dance. I have never done anything like that before or since. Thus began the love of my life.
A long-distance romance followed. She lived on the other side of those Pocono Mountains, about 100 miles from me. We saw each other when we could, talked on the phone often, and wrote letters every night. That letter writing became the centerpiece of my life. No matter how much studying had to be done, nor the troubles of the day, every night I escaped by writing a letter to my love. Her letters in the mail pile each day kept me going.
We lasted about two years. Everything got in the way. College, money, family, distance, all conspired to break us. The bitter parting tore my heart out.
I saw her once more, several years later, between college and military service. We shared a cordial but restrained evening. We both kept our distance, no words or motions toward romance. How deeply I still loved her surprised me, but I said nothing.
I never saw her again.
Forty years later, through the internet (a long story in itself), I found her and made contact. On the telephone, we recounted the events of our lives. Hers much tougher than mine. We both had family obligations that we could not and would not abandon. Our few contacts were bittersweet for me, and I suspect for her too. Telephone contact stopped, and emails trickled off to nothing.
I still send an email on her birthday but there is no response. The emails don’t bounce, so I assume they reach her. At our age, it is always possibile that she has passed.
I remember that night and the song.
Some enchanted evening
you may see a stranger
across a crowded room
Then fly to her side
and make her your own
fools give you reasons, wise men never try
We were twenty, now eighty. I still think of her often, always with a smile and wonder ‘what if.’ She was my first love, the best. She has a special place in a corner of my heart, where I will keep her forever.
Word Count: 585