Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Time After Time

Tonight, with my significant other taking care of her mother for a week, I went to see a movie here in Burbank called, “Hell Or High Water,” which was a well-written film.  After I left the theater, I turned on my car’s XM Radio, which had already been set to the eighties channel. I normally listen to the Highway Country on channel fifty-six, but just before arriving at the movies, I had switched it the channel feeling like a little taste of the eighties.  As I drove away, Cindi Lauper’s,“Time After Time” started to play. I was never a huge fan of the song, but for some reason tonight it hit me hard in taking me back to my high school days, and specifically, to memories of my high school girlfriend, Trish.  I don’t know why this was.  I previously wrote about my experience of having a high school girlfriend in “High School Girlfriend.”  I allude to that article because having her in my life at that time was very significant to me.

When I heard Lauper’s song, it was neither her voice, nor the lyrics per se, that whisked me away.  I am a very auditory person in the way of musical instruments.  In fact, if I’m not listening to a song carefully, I usually digest the melody, the chord structure, and the general “sound” of the song faster than I notice the lyrics.  With many songs, I could hear a song once or twice and then play the general chords and melody on the piano.  It’s only when I focus my attention onto a song that I really hear what the story is about.  

In order to leave downtown Burbank and towards my house, I drove west over the Olive Avenue bridge that spans Interstate 5 freeway, and suddenly it was the flanger guitar, which backs the song, that arrested me and brought me back to the 1980s.  Immediately, I felt the desire, like a homing pigeon that suddenly got his bearings, to drive to the front of Trish’s family house, which was 7.7 miles away from where I was.  I went west on Victory out of Burbank, turned left onto Fulton Avenue.  As I rounded the corner onto Oxnard Street making a right turn, being that it was nighttime and not that well lit around there, I tried to make out the first visible residential street sign to my left…Nagle Avenue.  “Nope, that’s not it!”  It was always the second street.  “Ah, there’s Varna Ave.”  I turned left, past another high school friend’s house, Christine, a blonde who hung out with the stoners and who later posed nude in "Hustler Magazine," which, by the way, I had no qualms about investigating while at university.  She had a body that rocked. 

Finally, I arrived at Trish’s house, which still sat unchanged to my left as I drove up.  It was weird.  Sitting there with my headlights on and looking at the house where so many of my high school memories occurred.  Marilyn, her mom, was always in the kitchen cooking or cleaning the counters.  She liked to clean a lot and vacuumed the carpet, always seemingly near the entryway where I’d feel that I was interrupting her house-work as I entered each time.  Her dad, Dugan, was generally either inside the living room watching television, or out in the driveway, which ran along the north side of the house, running fresh water through his boat engine with a hose.  Sitting there tonight, these memories were so fresh in my mind that my heart panged with a sort of pain that was a mixture of glee and loss.

The glee was from the vibrant and seemingly still existing experiences that I had out of the good fortune of knowing this family.  The glee was from the various parties that Trish had in the house, always with her parents’ permission, which is still amazing to me to this day.  I think that her parents felt as though as long as they knew about her parties and gave permission to have them, Trish wouldn't let them get out of control.  And I never remember any of them going in that direction, although I know I ended up swimming naked in her pool one night with a bunch of other schoolmates. The glee was from my having a beautiful brunette high school girlfriend that was a cheerleader, and someone who I really loved.

It’s such an exciting phenomenon, after years of having crushes in school, to fall in love with somebody who reciprocally loves you.  When you are young, this is very novel.  I remember this to be the most exhilarating feeling.  I would hold Trish close to me during our morning school breaks, back when the winters were actually cold in Los Angeles.  I would feel her warm, perfect body and squeeze her into me.  And then I would kiss her.  There's just nothing that can equal that. I sincerely mean it when I write that I have no idea how I was ever able to concentrate on my studies and keep a regular, and even aggressive scholastic schedule operating for myself given that God had given me Trish.

A short time after going steady with Trish, or “going” as we then called it to be less anachronistic in the eighties, she invited me over to meet her parents, and then shortly after that, the family invited me to one of their favorite summer retreats in the Sierra Nevada Mountains; Bass Lake, where they waterskied and frolicked around the lake on an annual basis.  As an adult now, I see how kind it was for this family to invite me into such a private part of their lives.  That closeness helped me see that most families are similar in many ways.

Sitting out in my Jeep at 9:45pm on this Holiday evening, I thought of all of these things. The images flashed through my mind, and though it’s several songs later on XM radio, the flanger guitar of, “Time After Time,” still echoed through my mind and helped unearth more sweet memories.

I recall the bright lights of our Grant High School football games on Friday nights.  I wouldn’t have seen Trish for a few hours after school as she prepared for game time and I’d miss her.  I often went to the football Friday nights with any number of my friends, Dave, Robert, and Steve.  I would grab a seat in the bleachers, and would watch football game, and I would get to see my Trish cheerleading with the marching band.  At some point, she often looked up from the field into the stands and would find me and wave to me, temporarily separated by our school band/non-band statuses.  How proud I was.  Few of my friends had girlfriends in high school.

Just then, while gazing from my Jeep, as I peered to the right side of the house where Trish’s bedroom was, a blonde woman, maybe just a few years younger than I, walked down the dark street with her little white dog on a leash.  She looked at me, I’m sure wondering why some man was idling in the middle of the road.  So, I turned on my dome lights inside my Jeep so that she could see my face and said to her, “I’m just looking at the house of my high school girlfiend.  I know I probably just seem like I’m just creeping around the neighborhood.”  She laughed and said, “It’s nice to be nostalgic.”  I was glad that she wasn't put off by the unshaven man loitering in his Jeep in the night.   I asked her if she knew the Jackmans, pointing to the house.  She answered, “no.”  She recounted that she moved to the neighborhood about twenty-five years ago from Washington, D.C.  I did the quick arithmetic calculus in my head realizing that Trish’s parents were still living there at the time, but it would have been unlikely because of the age differences that they would have known each other.  I wished her a good night as the dog that owned her led her up the street behind me, and then looked back towards Trish’s room.

The current residents had built a driveway into the curb and up the lawn, which simply ended at Trish’s window.  This perplexed me because, as I noted, the house had a long driveway to the left (to the north), so maybe the additional drive was the owner’s attempt to make a car port of some kind.  It’s too bad because one thing about their house was that it had such a deep, wide lawn.  I remember having to trek up it each time I approached the house.  I could see no justifiable reason to break up what had been a grand front lawn.

And Trish’s room…I made out with her all the time in there.  We often found evenings when her parents were gone, and I would visit and we would make out.  We never went all the way, particularly because Dugan didn’t want her to have sex before she was seventeen (which, unfortunately, she was bent on heeding), although I am sure that this age would have moved up as we got older.  We were sixteen when we dated.  One time, Dugan said to me, “If you get her pregnant, you’d better get out of town.”  I loved Dugan, and I know that he loved me, so I was none the bit worried about his standing threat.  It was more obligatory statement on his part. Her parents must have wondered if we had been doing it anyways.  

But I was an honorable teen for the most part; at least during that time.  I remember lying with her on her bed and kissing her for deliciously long periods of time.  And I remember sitting in her room talking to her when she was upset about various, now seemingly trite, family episodes.  She always spun the whirl-a-twirl mobile that her dad had hung for her from her ceiling to occupy her in her distracted thinking moments, and she wore her white puffy jacket when she was upset about things, as if her body would get cold with her increased distress.

There was something very special about being in a relationship at that age.  We were able to have time together that was ours, and then we could have our friends.  There wasn’t any static in the way of our respective people feeling that their time with us individually was being trampled on or anything like that, which is surprising if you think about it.  Teens are not known to be the best at time management.  But we did pretty well together.

And as for the loss that I felt sitting in my Jeep tonight; it was all of it.  All of the good stuff.  The getting to see each other quickly between the parking lot and the class buildings before school started.  The driving around Valley Vista in her dad’s black "Smokey And The Bandit" Trans Am, and then later, her 1967 Mustang.  The long conversations on the telephone at night that bonded us closer together and held us over until morning.  It was a wonderful, new time.  The air smelled fresher. The weekends were more significant, and rainy days evoked in me the vulnerability of losing her.  I felt alive in such a pure, youthful sense. The experience of having a romantic relationship for myself that was born from Grant High, but which had become a totally separate entity from school was uncharted for me.  The possibilities for the future; university, marriage, children; all undecided and not yet needing to be contended with.   

My heart panged again and my head felt like it was spinning with this flood of memories as if I had been holding it all within myself for some time, and then a dam collapsed all of the emotional adventures that I learned to allow myself to have, the highs and the lows, and the uncountable stories told as her family grew to love me, all stood unveiled before me like pleasantly haunting and unyielding apparitions.  Where did all of the time go?  How could all of these memories be so fresh and vibrant inside me, and yet, none of it exists anymore?  It almost seems impossible.  

I’m not much of an armchair physicist, but there’s got to be something about the time spectrum that is akin to spatial dimensions in which, were we creatures that had the capacity to sense it, we could see everything on the time continuum.  For instance, tonight, had I wanted to, I could have gone over, not to a house on Varna Avenue that is now inhabited by some imposter family and me peering in from the outside like a tormented man stricken with Capgras Syndrome, but rather, I could have parked my Jeep and joyfully watched my sixteen year old self in my Hughes Market box boy uniform sneaking up to Trish’s front bedroom window and tapping on the glass at about that hour of the evening.

I’d see her pull the curtains aside, and recognizing that it was me, and then quietly slide the window frame open making sure not to alert her parents, and we’d start to talk through the window for the next half hour; my work shoes sinking into the recently watered mud of Marilyn’s flower planters, me, absolutely freezing from standing out in the cold winter air, bare-armed in my short sleeved Hughes Market shirt, and she, toasty warm in her night clothes; all of it being worth ever second of my physical discomfort and suffering because I’m getting to talk to my “pookie” before she goes to bed.

It’s very strange, and almost unrealistic to me that it’s all no more.

It was probably time for me to leave, mostly to save the neighbors from having to call the authorities on the headless idling Jeep-man left disoriented and emotionally marooned in the middle of their avenue, so I drove south down Varna to a street that it dumps onto called Hillpark Avenue, made one more circle to Tiara Street, which t-bones back into the Jackman house, in order to give myself one last full frontal view of this house, and then I turned again down Varna and Hillpark to Fulton, as if I was driving to my parents’ old house south of Ventura Boulevard.

However, at Riverside Drive, I reluctantly turned left and shuttled myself eastward back into the city of Burbank as if I were being irreverent to, and maybe even flat out abandoning my cherished memories.  But what else could I do.  That special time is long gone.  

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick

And think of you

Caught up in circles

Confusion is nothing new

Flashback, warm nights

Almost left behind

Suitcases of memories
Time after…
(Cindi Lauper/Rob Hyman)