Every man must have a first love, and mine was Lisa. She was one of my friends down on Martha's Vineyard, and every summer she stayed with her great-grandmother in a little cottage at the end of Commonwealth Ave. For as long as I could remember, we were friends - as were Reed, Dailis, Jimmy and Eddy - we were quite the little band of comrades. According to our mothers, we all had the mumps together, chicken pox, and all the other childhood maladies. Fortunately, they took place when we were toddlers, so we didn't remember them - and they didn't cut into our summer fun! As it turned out, my bout of chicken pox wasn't quite good enough. I got them again years later, when my daughter had them, but that's another story.
Early on, we never saw Lisa as anything special; she was just one of "the gang". I even remember one time - we were coming home from the beach, Lisa and I in the backseat of my Mother's VW Bug, and her driving - and I (very innocently) asked if we could shower together. Neither one of us saw anything wrong with it. Fortunately, my mother handled it well.
"No," she said, "you can't do that."
Of course, us being wide-eyed and innocent seven-year-olds, we both asked, "Why?"
The answer she gave was perfect.
She said, "Boys can shower with boys, and girls can shower with girls, but they can't shower together."
And that was that.
We looked at each other; we shrugged and accepted it. After all, she was a mommy, so she had to know what she was talking about (this was the late 60's, early 70's). We said nothing more about it, and let it alone.
Over the years, we played many games together, all of them the sweet innocents of youth. Lisa particularly loved it when we played "King and Queen," and ruled wisely over our... domain (the playroom of my cottage). I got tired of that one; it wasn't an exciting game, but I knew she liked it - so I played.
And then, quite abruptly, she was gone.
Some change had taken place in her family - I think maybe her parents got divorced or her great-grandmother passed away, but I'm not sure - the point was, she stopped coming to the Island. It was a pity too, because we were both entering puberty, and I had finally noticed that she was a girl. I wanted to take her on a true date - maybe go to a movie at the Island or Strand Theater after dinner at Giordano's, but that was not to be. Oh, she came by a few times - for short visits - but it wasn't the same, and I was too shy to voice my true feelings.
By then, my parents had divorced, and I really wanted someone to talk to about it. That's when I realized what was so neat about Lisa - I could always talk to her. With Dailis or Reed or any one of my pals, it didn't work. Yeah, I know, it sounds so stereotypical: boys can't communicate, girls can. Maybe it had to do with the era that we grew up in, but it was true; when I needed to talk, she was always someone I could talk to.
Even more years later - when I was in college - Lisa returned; she and her friend Pam were on the Island for the summer, and needed a place to stay. So, they rented the front bedroom from my Dad. We got to spend the summer together, but where she had grown up, I still had not - still too immature. I spent the summer pining after her, but never worked up the nerve to talk to her.
In the years since then, I've never once seen Lisa - despite the fact that (I hear) she now lives on the Island. I have to wonder, should I look her up on my next visit? I'm married now, I have a family, I should be over her.
As I said, I should be over her.
Funny how a first love, even an innocent one of childhood, can stick with you over the decades.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.