Story about teenage love and the Summer of 1977
Whenever I walk by a laundromat there is a distinct scent that comes from them. I don’t know what it is exactly, but t takes me back in time to the fall of 1976, when I was around 12 years old.
Each morning the school bus would pick me up on the corner of East 4th and Kings Highway. At around 730 I would leave my house.
I would walk up east 2nd Street, and turn right on Kings Highway. Then I would walk towards East 4th Street. On that corner there was a laundromat.
Next to the laundromat on the floor, was a vent that would shoot out warm air. On winter days the air would turn to white smoke as it would collide with the cold winter air. I would wait there with a couple of other kids – never really talking to most of them and trying to avoid one of them.
As the months passed and the weather would turn cold, I would stand on top of that vent to keep warm. There were some really cold windy days when the vent had no effect whatsoever. But more often than not, it would do its job.
That January, a new student joined us at the bus stop. She was an 8th grader. Most of the 8th graders wouldn’t acknowledge me. She did.
Of course, within 2 or 3 seconds I was intrigued. She was adorable, brown eyes, long blonde hair with a brown ski cap. She had a brown scarf and a light beige coat.
“Is this the bus stop for Ahi Ezer?” Which was the name of the school I went to.
I was caught by surprise and it took several seconds for my brain to respond. My voice had not caught up so I just nodded yes 3 or 4 times.
“Are you ok?” She asked
“Yeah, sorry, you just scared me, I mean surprised me.”
It was a chilly day and I was standing on the vent. She stared at me.
“Why are you standing in the smoke?”
“Try it, come here, there is room for you.”
She walked over and stood on the smoke vent.
“Ooh you are right this is great. I feel instantly warm and the smell is so nice.”
“My name is Freddy, by the way.” I smiled.
“I am Sara, nice to meet you.” She smiled and I was smitten.
As we stood there laughing I saw David, the kid I tried to avoid, walking our way.
Like most mornings, he had a piece of snot that covered his left nostril. It began in November and finally disappeared in March. He would sneeze frequently, but that snot just held firm as if affixed with crazy glue.
David came bouncing over, several books falling from his arm while the other arm carried his open backpack.
“You have,” she began to motion to him about his snot but I stopped her.
“Let it go, it’s an appendage he grows every winter.”
I was wearing a backpack with several patches. One was “The Six Million Dollar man, the Mets, the Jets and an Elton John one from the cover of his ” Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”album.
“Do you like Elton?” She asked.
“Yes, do you?” I responded.
This became our subject in common which would begin most conversations.
We quickly became good friends and I became kind of obsessed with spending time with her or speaking with her. We began to walk home from school together and those are memories I cherish even today. The feeling of innocence, exploring our vulnerability with each other and I loved to watch her lips turn up into a smile.
I also loved to make her laugh.
After walking her home, we would talk on the phone for hours. I would get really upset when one of my family members would use the phone and not get off until late. I was the youngest so I got less priority than they did.
One day in late May, she was walking down my block when I saw her.
“I wanted to talk to you and your phone line is always busy.”
“I know it sucks. Is everything ok?”
“My grandmother is sick and we are leaving for Mexico tomorrow morning. I won’t be back for graduation, we are just going to stay there for the summer.”
“Oh… I’m sorry.”
“I just wanted to let you know so you don’t think I didn’t care. You made my being the new kid in school easier for me. I wanted to tell you thank you for being my friend.”
“Come walk with me for a little while? OK?”
We walked to the back of my house, there was a narrow space between the house and the garage. I led her there and I asked her if I could kiss her.
“Yes.” I didn’t really know what to do, so I kissed her on the side of her lips. She smiled.
“I don’t want you to go…” I said.
“I don’t want to go…We can still see each other when I get back; even if I am in a different school.” She said
“Yeah, sure of course.” I didn’t believe her.
“Thank you.” She gave me a kiss on my lips and suddenly I felt her tongue and we kissed like that for a while. After a half-hour or so, she said she needed to leave.
“We’ll see each other again soon.”
I knew September would come and our relationship would not continue. This was in 1977, we had no idea about the changes that would happen during that summer which would change our lives.
I was thrown into a deep funk that May. Although she thanked me, it was me who should’ve thanked her. She was my only real friend. I was more of a loner and she understood the invisible boundaries I had put up and knew exactly how to maneuver around them. No one else had a clue and she was my first real friend. In June with more departures, the Mets traded my two favorite players, Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman.
Then the son of Sam, who was shooting and killing young couples around the 5 boroughs, dominated the newspapers and our whole lives, the temperature seemed to be 100 degrees each day and the night provided little or no respite. We didn’t have an air conditioner at the time.
Then on July 13th, there was a blackout which led to rioting and looting.
On August 10th they caught the son of Sam and there was a sigh of relief.
The heat continued, the fire hydrants were opened, we danced barefoot in the middle of the street, we had barbecues in Manhattan Beach, fried chicken and cotton candy from Coney Island and a block party.
My birthday was August 13th, I was 13 years old and I felt like I was a grown up. My teenage hormones were raging and I valued the time the house would be empty. I began to really miss Sara. I kept reliving our kissing between the house and the garage. I missed her something cruel.
I thought about writing to her, but I had no address. So I wrote a journal about that summer, I hid it away so no one ever would find it.
On August 16th, Elvis Presley died. I grew up in a home where music was extremely important. My brother had purchased an Elvis Presley greatest hits album several years before. I would listen and I was hooked. They called Elvis “the king.” I was a young kid at the time and had no idea about drugs or depression. When I heard he was found on the bathroom floor, it freaked me out. How could it be that a king was found dead on the bathroom floor?
August 19th Groucho Marx died and I heard someone say, “Groucho is part of a club I don’t think he would want to belong to.” I had no idea what they meant by that, who would want to belong to a club with dead people? Later on I heard what they were referring to.
The last week in August, I received a postcard from Sara. It was a picture of the mayan pyramids and she wrote on the back of it. “Missing standing on that vent with you and talking about Elton! Wish we were by the garage and your house! New York sounds scary, please take care of yourself!” It was dated July 17th.
No return address and no hint as to when she would be back. If there were 60 days that summer, I can say that I walked down her block 60 times hoping to see her even though I knew she wouldn’t be there.
School began in September and it was an empty bus ride each morning. I would think of her each day and smile. I didn’t call her because she didn’t call me. Maybe she didn’t want to be friends anymore? I mean now she was in high school, why would she want to talk to me or be my friend?
In October I received another postcard from her. This one was dated August 10th. “I hope you have a great birthday. I am going to be staying in Mexico for I don’t know how long. I miss you but this is ok because I have a lot of cousins my age with friends and I have actually become part of a group of girls who were good friends. Don’t forget about me.”
I was happy for her.
Sad for me.
“Don’t forget about me?” How could I forget? She was my first love, my first kiss and I felt a pain inside me which I thought would never heal.
So this was how our story would end?
Who knew at the time?
There were no home computers let alone social media. No cell phones and no return address on the post cards she had sent me. There was no way for me to contact her, no way I would walk down her street and see her smiling at me. All I had was the memory of the bus stop and the bus rides, phone calls lasting into the late nights and that last hour we spent together, between my garage and the house.
A week into school and feeling really sad and lonely. I looked up at lunch and I saw a smile. Her name was Brandy and suddenly the pain inside of me disappeared.
It’s not the end of the Freddy and Sara story, just the end of this chapter. I will see if she will permit me to use her real name in the coming posts. Maybe you care, maybe you don’t.
I don’t know what made me tell this story. Could be one of my sentimental journeys I take myself on from time to time. It’s a defense mechanism which distracts me from whatever situation I find myself in at the time. Right now I am feeling a pain inside of me which only some major change of circumstances can heal.
So I’ll permit myself these glorified reminders that just because things are hard right this moment, the next moment can be something magical, such as a smile, an opportunity or a dream come true.