December is both my most and least favorite month of the year. I was born at the end of this month, but only two days after Christmas. I’ve run away from home and been mugged, suicidal and inspired this month. Not to mention burned out and homesick and heartbroken. But I’ve found myself and experienced renewal on this least sunlit of months as well.
Twenty-eight years ago today was the day my crush on Phyllis, a.k.a. “Crush #2” began. It wasn’t a crush of epic love, but it would affect how I viewed myself and the young women in my life for the next two and a half years. As I wrote in Boy @ The Window:
It was the third of December, a cold and frosty Tuesday that would make someone think twice about going outside. It was after school, and I happened to be on my way to the library. I stopped home first to grab a bite to eat, to see if Mom wanted anything from the store after my time at the library, and to listen to some music. The last song I heard before walking out the door was Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels,” their third major hit in the US in ’85. The hard tones of their synthesized piano were hypnotic for me. “Head Over Heels” reminded me of my own failed attempts to get past myself when it came to saying more than “Hi” to any woman or girl whom I thought interesting. Besides having a family that I saw as an embarrassment, I simply didn’t have the tools of “cool” necessary to break through with any female. My voice usually cracked under the stress of not knowing what to say, and when it didn’t crack, the slow catch in my voice made everything I said sound like it was deliberately at half-speed. My ineptitude also included my automatically taking anything a girl did say about liking me as if it were a sick and twisted joke.
That’s what “Head Over Heels” had conjured up in my mind as I walked down East Lincoln toward Lorraine. For whatever reason my thoughts turned to Phyllis. I thought about her smile, her always-wearing-a-skirt style, her standing as a popular student at MVHS. She was always nice to me, always friendly, to the point of being coy about it. The brief flash of Phyllis’ face and smile put a smile on my own as I started singing to “Head Over Heels” out loud. “I wanted to be with you alone, and talk about the weather . . .” was coming out of my mouth in high falsetto as snow started to fall. My thoughts had turned to the cold, the snow flakes and the stark bareness of the wintry landscape as I reached the corner of East Lincoln and Darwood. I was singing “something happens and I’m head over heels . . . don’t break my heart, don’t take my heart, don’t, don’t, don’t throw it away.” Just as was I was about to cross the street, a black two-door Mercury Topaz, circa ’84 or ’85, pulled up, with Phyllis’ mother driving and Phyllis in the front passenger seat. Phyllis’ sister Claudia was in the back. Phyllis mouthed a “Hi” and waved at the same time as the light turned green for their car. What I remember as they pulled away was the smile that she flashed me. It didn’t seem fake. It looked like an I-really-like-you kind of smile to me. I was caught completely off guard!
I spent the rest of the walk to the library debating whether the smile was genuine or a nicety, what the smile meant for her, and how I felt about it. By the time I got to the library, I could only reach one conclusion. I liked Phyllis, and not in an “I like her but only as a friend way.” I liked the girl, simple as that. Those lips and that smile were worth at least a thousand kisses a day!
As I’ve noted in the book and here in the blog, my instincts about Phyllis’ smile turned about to be correct on both counts. Too bad I wasn’t listening to Alexander O’Neal’s “Fake” or Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” when I walked out the door to our 616 apartment at 4:30 that afternoon. Still, for that moment, at least, all seemed possible in my little world.