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Oh man, to be a teenager in love again, with all of these emotions and physical stirrings that are so new and groundbreaking that you truly think that no one has ever felt these things before. Every stirring is so intense… And everything becomes a sign that your life has been leading to this point, that you and your new love are meant to be together.
Or at least it was for me, during my first summer away from home in a co-ed environment at a summer program in Connecticut. Kinda like how Bryan Adams crooned in Summer of ’69, “Oh, when I look back now/ That summer seemed to last forever…” Curfews were routinely broken. Double entendres were just hysterical. And you could really, really smell a girl’s shampoo in the morning. Details that went unnoticed in school, were, in these woods and suburban classrooms, apparent and blossoming.
And so, of course, I fell madly and hopelessly—and certainly unlike anybody else in the history of mankind ever ever ever—in love with a girl. She was from West Virginia, a place as foreign to me as New York City was to her. West Virginia, to me, was coal, farms, mountains, a token bracket NCAA basketball team and a piece of trivia out of Civil War History. New York City to her was crime, subways, pollution, and this mysterious “bagel” phenomenon. She had a twang and her father owned guns. I knew the going rate for a dimebag of pot on 97th street.
Soon there were clandestine encounters at night, after class, in closets, and assorted places around summer school facilities. I…wrote poetry. In letters to a female friend of mine, I actually, actually, actually included the words from the Madonna song “Cherish:” Romeo and Juliet, they never felt this way I bet.
Of course, straddling that strange moment of adolescence is not a comfortable place to be. Like when she and I played one-on-one basketball and I resorted to fouling her to win. Or when she talked with another guy once and I was convinced she was hooking up with him. Or when her father came to pick her up at the end of the program’s five weeks—yes, we had been “dating” for two weeks—and as she drove off, tears manfully rolled down my cheeks as I waved goodbye to her. Oh yes, this is wonderful to look back on.
All so embarrassing, but I won’t trade those cringeworthy months for anything, because it was all part of being a teenager. Though, I will sincerely apologize to a couple of my buddies who had to put up with me for the subsequent two months when I got back to the city. I was convinced a UB40 song had the hidden message in it, “Spend the night in West Virginia” (in actuality, it was just gibberish) and I forced these guys to listen to it on loop whenever we hung out. Uh, sorry guys. My bad.