Puppy Love Revisited
(names were changed to protect the guilty)
I was 11, she was much older, at 12. Nicole, her younger brother, Randy, my sister, and dumb, fat Victor would walk up the block to the old, abandoned cemetery and read the headstones. Most were from the 1800s or early 1900s. Weeds were growing tall around them, so we decided to be good citizens and chop down the tall grasses and thistles. One day, it was just me, Nicole, and Randy who went to the graveyard to do our duty. The weeds in some areas towered above our heads. We sent Randy back to their house to get a hoe, shovel, and hedge clippers. Randy, in his best whine said, “oh, you guys just want to kiss!” Randy left, Nicole and I looked at each other…” should we?” We did. That started a year-long affair. The Army had stationed my dad at Thule, Greenland for that year. Mom, sis, and I lived in San Bernardino to be close to mom’s brother and his family. Nicole and I would find every opportunity to kiss, without exposing our imprudence. After all, the risk was half the fun!
As the year drew to an end and dad had returned from Greenland, the Johnsons had a BBQ party and we were all invited across the street to take part in the festivities. The party had wound down, my family had gone back to our rented home across the street. But Nicole and I slipped silently into the small guest cottage next to the carport. We kissed and looked at the bed. “Do you think we’ll ever…,” I asked. She replied, “I don’t know, maybe.” So, we kissed some more, then laid down on the bed…nervous as two pre-teen lovers would be. We continued kissing, both wanting to take it to the next level. But then, I heard dad calling me from across the street. As an Army Brat, disobedience to that call would have meant time spent in the brig (then known as my room). We broke our embrace and I headed home.
We didn’t have many opportunities in the following month before my family moved to another assignment at Travis AFB. Thirty years later I was in San Bernardino to visit my Aunt and Uncle. I decided to drop by the Johnson house on North ‘D’ Street to relive some memories. When I knocked on the door Mrs. Johnson answered. I told her who I was, and she excitedly invited me inside. The obligatory questions and answers about family pursued. And then she said, “Do you remember Nicole?” My heart skipped a beat. She went on to tell me how Nicole had gone through some very troublesome times and spent time in a mental hospital. After recovery, she joined the Air Force.
I didn’t know it, but Nicole was resting in her room while I reminisced with her mother. And then, Nicole sauntered sleepily into the kitchen. “Do you remember Marc from across the street?” Nicole couldn’t remember, a result of the trauma she had suffered years before. Then I reminded her of the times we spent cleaning up the cemetery. Her eyes opened wide as an enthusiastic puppy, and the memory brought a very large, slightly embarrassed smile. “I remember now,” she said with a nod. We didn’t say anything else, because her mother was still there, unaware of the deeper meaning of our reunion.
Nicole said she would marry in a few months, so we didn’t revive the events of our childhood memoirs. The City turned the graveyard into a memorial park. Time changes all things, but our covert puppy love remains our special secret, a private memorial known only by two young hearts.
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