You really can’t go back…can you?
They say you never forget your first love. I didn’t. But maybe I should have. Sometimes when you play with fire, you get burned.
He stood across from me and I wondered why we were in this strange, smoky place with all these odd people milling aimlessly around murmuring words but not really saying anything.
He had his usual self-confident, self-assured smile on his face. I loved that smile. As he leaned toward me, perhaps to kiss me, someone in the suddenly silent room whispered for all to hear. “She’s departed from her mind, you know.”
He hesitated then, tilting his head to the side, placing his hands lightly on my shoulders.
“I guess there will be no romancing tonight…” His smile had disappeared from his face.
“Not me. Not me,” I said softly.
Then he drew me to him, holding me so close…and safe…just like before…all those years ago.
“It’s not too late then?” He asked with a wondering that lingered in the air. His words brushing my ear so only I could hear.
“No,” I said quietly. “I’ve dreamed about you for so long. I thought I would never see you again.”
He pulled back a little, those dark eyes searching mine, and then…pausing slightly as he had always done…kissed me gently on my lips.
And then I woke up…cheeks wet with tears.
A long time ago…
Go back to a Minnesota cold November day. I am standing in the lunch line at Portland High School, waiting for my favorite hot lunch…roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes…giggling not too loudly with my best friend, Melanie Taylor. We were checking out all the cute, older boys surrounding us in line.
Mel and I had been best friends since 3rd grade and we had been looking forward to our entrance into 9th grade for every single moment of the whole, long, boring summer.
We were both fourteen and still too young for real summer jobs. I wouldn’t turn fifteen until December. Mel’s birthday was next week.
Baby sitting and walking back and forth to each other’s houses were the sum total of our summer. We were gloriously tanned but impressively bored.
I hung out more at Mel’s house than she did at mine. Unfortunately, it was neighborhood knowledge that my father Victor Jones drank too often and too much…that his beautiful wife, Kathy Jones deserved so much better and “Oh, that sweet, sweet Sam…it must be so hard for her.”
From age eleven on, I never knew a day when there wasn’t a lost, lonely feeling in the pit of my stomach and a thin veil of sadness around me that never quite lifted.
But that was about to change…
Even now as I look back on those two summers, now with older…perhaps slightly jaded eyes, I can still…even now…feel the thrill, the excitement that Bobby brought to me…to my life.
Bobby became my life. I loved him without measure.
Were we having sex? Maybe…I don’t know for sure…I was so incredibly innocent back then. We all were. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but something was and I liked it and wasn’t saying no.
His boyish, irresistible charm reassured me every dark night or sunny afternoon when we were alone together, that all would be fine. He made it all so easy. But then…everything was easy with Bobby.
“Don’t worry, Sammy. It’s okay, it’ll be fine. I love you. You know I love you, don’t you?”
And he would look at me with those intense brown eyes that always held a little laughter in them…and then…and then…of course, I knew he did.
But there were other times when Bobby’s words of love were flippant and breezy.
And then, that lost, lonely feeling in the pit of my stomach would return.
I would wonder why did he want me? What was so special about me…Samantha Jones.
There were many other girls in high school that he could have chosen…prettier than me by far…more sophisticated and certainly less innocent.
Sometimes I would wonder if I was just a little toy for Bobby…a toy to play with for a while…a toy he would keep until someone else came along.
But Samantha Jones was very, very wrong.
Go back again to that cold November day. That was the day Samantha Jones stole Bobby Flanagan’s heart and she didn’t even know it.
That was the day when he saw her shy, lop-sided smile, and sensed the lonely, sweet sadness that she had successfully hidden from everyone…even from her best friend Mel.
That was the day when Bobby fell completely in love with Sam…not yet even knowing her name…just knowing somehow that loving her and making her happy was more important to him than anything else he would ever do.
But he was so young…only 16…too young then to understand completely such powerful feelings…much less able to share them, even with the one he loved so much.
Easier to set them aside for the moment…easier to smile…and so he did.
Bobby often hid his true feelings behind a mask of brashness and cockiness that came easy to a wickedly handsome Irish boy whose charm unsettled all the girls who met him.
Yes…Bobby loved Sam, perhaps more even than she loved him…bu he never really told her…never shared with her how much he needed her…how much of his happiness depended on hers…how much her laughter and sweet innocence brightened his every day…how much joy he felt whenever he was near her.
He never let her know how necessary she was to the simple existence of his every day. Had she only known, Sam would have been bound to him forever…but he never told her.
I was entering my junior year of high school and I had started to think ahead to college. There were meetings with counselors and applications and forms to fill out.
I had always dreamed of becoming an elementary school teacher.
Bobby, who was actually very smart, was causing his teachers a lot of worry. They knew there was a good chance he would not graduate unless he buckled down and hit some good grades this…his senior year.
He was well liked by his teachers and they were all too willing to bend the rules a little for him. It wouldn’t have been the first time.
“Bobby, you have such potential, you shouldn’t waste it,” they would tell him. They had even talked to me…knowing and understanding the strong bond we shared.
But Bobby hated the word potential. He had heard it too often from his father who had wanted him to start working in the family hardware store immediately after graduation from high school.
For most young boys at that time, that would have been an easy, golden career path…but not for Bobby.
Bobby wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after high school.
“I just want a choice, Sammy.” he had told me so many times. “I just need a little time to think and decide what I want to do.”
But…Bobby needed to graduate from high school…to not do so would reflect badly on the Flanagan name. And his proud father, Jack, was having none of that.
Jack’s plan for Bobby’s future had been decided years ago…his charming son was not going to change it.
And yet… Bobby did just that.
Without warning…on a beautiful sunny October day, with Fall shadows still a few weeks away, Bobby shook the ground I stood on.
Without telling me what he was going to do…Bobby Flanagan walked away from me…walked away from us.
He signed up for a six-year enlistment in the U.S. Navy, two days after he had turned seventeen.
He was certain that the Navy would offer him so many more opportunities than the life his father his planned for him.
After days and nights filled with my tears that wouldn’t stop, Bobby’s words were of little comfort.
“It’ll be okay,” he said after wiping my tears away. “We can do this, Sammy. You know we can.”
And yet he had never asked me what I thought.
In my heart and in my head, I knew how much this meant to him. I knew how important this was for him.
I only wished that I also knew that I was just as important to him…that he loved me as much as he loved his new, shiny-bright future.
What Samantha didn’t know…what would have changed everything…was how many tears Bobby had cried when the reality of his decision, the reality of his leaving her set in…even though he was sure it was the best solution for their future together. But…he never told her.
What Samantha didn’t know…was that leaving her was the hardest thing Bobby had ever had to do. And it was breaking his heart. But…he never told her.
He was seventeen and she was yet to turn sixteen.
It all happened so fast. Two weeks later Bobby was gone…gone from my life…seemingly forever…because that’s how you feel when you’re fifteen.
That lost, lonely feeling was back, causing more hurt than before.
I didn’t have Bobby there to know without me saying…why I had dark shadows under my eyes.
It’s hard to sleep when angry shouts and the sounds of broken glass are cutting through your dreams.
I had no Bobby to gently take my hand and softly give it a squeeze…silently telling me that he understood…and how much he cared…while the morning chatter of sleepy students was echoing around us in the halls.
There was no Bobby to sling a comforting arm of support around my shoulders…making me feel I could get through this. No Bobby to tell me…we would get through this…together.
Together was gone.