After having fallen in love in the second grade, the fifth grade, and then with my fourth cousin after eighth grade, I was on a roll. I was certainly attracted to the opposite sex, and even had dreams about fantastic encounters, but found myself in high school never having dated anyone except my cousin, who had then run off to Texas with some older guy. My high school, unfortunately, was all male. Originally a ‘manual’ training school for ‘delinquent’ boys, the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute did not admit girls. It was an experiment at the time to separate boys and girls to facilitate learning – less distractions, more focus. There is a move these days to bring that back. It may help in grade school, but I think by the time most of us hit high school, you’re not going to get us to ignore biology just because of greater distance between the sexes.
Hell, beside cars, the main topic of conversation in that high school was sex. Personally, I wanted to fall in love again, but without any females around, the prospect was bleak. In fact, since I had zero social skills, I didn’t even have male friends, and didn’t know how to go about having friends. It’s hard to talk about cars or girlfriends if you don’t have either. It’s possible I had what is now recognized as Asperger’s Syndrome*, as I was oblivious to non-verbal cues and couldn’t understand how to have a conversation with anyone. Before High School, I walked to and from school with my eyes on the ground; if I saw people coming towards me I crossed the street to avoid them. I hated to look in people’s eyes, although it was probably more because my dad insisted, “Look at me when I’m talking to you,” and he was always angry when he said that, and often grabbed my face. High school was no better, and with puberty raging, it was a dark and dry time. However, by the time I was in my second try at my Junior year, the old school had been abandoned for a new one and the city built the new all-girls high school right next door so we could share some facilities. This opened up possibilities, but my complete lack of social skills left me high and dry throughout the rest of my high school days. I was one of those guys who did not go to any prom. After graduation I went to work, and took evening classes. I also volunteered time at the local Free Clinic, so there were lots of opportunities to meet women, but my social skills still sucked.
I met a guy from a nearby college while I was in high school, and we had common interests in politics. We met on a bus ride to Indiana to canvas people for Eugene McCarthy. Len had a group of friends, so after high school, I started hanging out with them, and I shared an apartment with Len. There were lots of parties. I tried weed, but found it didn’t have any effect until my fourth try. I had been ready to give up on it, but on an excruciatingly-long bus ride to Florida for a rock concert, I met some stoners who turned me on to some good stuff, and we took turns smoking in the bus’s crapper. That was nice. I felt much more at peace, and my stress levels fell off to near zero. I had missed out on Woodstock. Although I had made plans to go, there was this woman in Len’s group of friends that I’d fallen in love with. Kathy went to Woodstock with the guy she’d just started dating, the handsome, but nearly blind Chuck, so I decided I wasn’t going to share the car with them.
Ah! Kathy. Now there was a woman. Intelligent right off. She was four years older, as were the rest of the group I was hanging with, so there was a gap. She once told my roommate that I was just a snot-nosed kid, which was true enough, literally, as I had problems with hay fever then, now known as seasonal allergies. Len, who was gay, told Kathy once that I liked her, which is when the snot-nosed kid phrase got trotted out. However, we did occasionally go to a movie, and she lived nearby, so I often stopped by her place to listen to music, or discuss politics or economic theory with her. She was a fan of Ayn Rand capitalism, an overly-idealistic view of market economics that is blindly believed would create a better society. Always wanted to try out her silk sheets. She wrote poetry, and I still have one of her poems:
“COME, FOLLOW ME – Kathleen Norvell
You called to me but I could not follow.
You ran fleeting over fields of
forget-me-nots, asphodels, lotus.
I tripped, fell,
through meadows of hemp, poppies.
I could not remember what I chased
I lay down in the red fields of
Now I lay me down to sleep perchance to dream?
But you whispered to my slumbering self-seeker,
“Come, follow me.
I will take you to the liquid sky –
a sea you may walk upon.
You can turn cartwheels on a sickle moon.
Swim through seas of mustard seed waving.
Come, follow me.”
But I could not rise from my scarlet slumber.
You pleaded again.
“I will let you swing from lampposts
by your knees.
Paint the sky at night
in green and lavender.
Slide down the
Come, follow me.
We’ll build sand castles
in the Sahara
anthills on Everest.
See sun-up-and-down at once.”
Still you beckoned me.
“Come follow me.
Your raiment will be
of crystal webs and moonbeams.
Come, follow me!”
I shook the dust
of dreams from my eyes
I dragged myself away
from the ruby dell of dreams.
I leapt into the shimmering skies
following the sun rays
of your eyes.
I ascended beside the glittering voice
of you who summened,
the plains of the mind, seas of the psyche,
within me, without me.
I could not see your voice
only heard the beautiful
flowing streamers of gold you wore.
“Come, follow me!”
I reached up, I
struggled, stretched my
hand out. I touched the
glistening hem of your garment.
Closed my eyes.
I opened my eyes
She was a romantic like me. She wasn’t interested in me, however, as she was in love with someone else in the group, who eventually married the woman, also in the group, who he was in love with. I was fascinated with the whole dynamic from my outsider perspective. Kathy was in love with Brian, who was in love with Maggie. I was in love with Kathy, but the only person in love with me, or at least attracted to me, was my fat, foul-smelling roommate, and I wasn’t having any of that. For awhile, Brian moved in with me and Len, so Kathy found lots of excuses to drop by, and that was the only reason she went to movies with me. I tried to get her to go for a drink or get a bite to eat afterwards, but she always wanted to rush back to my apartment. She had these long, beautiful legs and she could really move. Brian, of course, was usually there. Only after his wedding did she back off. That’s when I thought my chances would improve, but then Chuck came into the picture, and I had no chance at all. Story of my life at this point.
Then I met Sue at a mixer. Someone intelligent, in college, and my age. Things were looking up.
*Asperger Syndrome Symptoms
- Specific forms of nonverbal communication, including lack of eye contact, limited range of facial expressions, awkward body language and gestures http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/aspergers-syndrome/DS00551/DSECTION=symptoms
- Extreme obsession with specific, narrow subjects that manifests as repetitive behavior patterns http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001549.htm
- Lack of empathy or sensitivity to others’ feelings http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/tc/aspergers-syndrome-topic-overview
- Monotonous, rigid or unusually fast speech patterns http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/aspergers-syndrome/DS00551/DSECTION=symptoms
- Clumsy movements and poor coordination http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001549.htm
- Singled out by other children as “weird” or “strange,” and frequently bullied http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001549.htm