The Modern-Day Valentine Mix – Side Two

vday 2015-2

The relatively dark ending of Side One now over (there should always be a dramatic finish to the first act) we turn now to a Valentine’s reprieve in the form of fantasy. When real life doesn’t work out, and more often than not it doesn’t (at least not to the perfect extent that some of us would like) there’s only one thing to do: escape. I’m not talking the well-practiced acceptance speech after winning an Oscar/Grammy/Tony/Emmy award, or the imagined thunderous applause after performing a sell-out concert in Madison Square Garden, or even the perfectly-executed dance routine at a wedding that has all guests gasping in thrilled adoration and awe, I’m talking something more subtle yet just as seemingly unattainable: the perfect guy.



I get lost in your eyes, then I feel my spirit rise

And soar like the wind, is it love that I am in?

I get weak in a glance, isn’t this what’s called romance?

And now I know, cause when I’m lost I can’t let go…

He watches me in the brief moments between classes. Our lockers are across from each other, and out of the corner of my eye I can tell he is pausing, waiting until I catch him staring, at which point he’ll look away or rush off or, on those happiest of days, look back and give a brief smile. He is older than me, but I like that. There is something protective about the way he behaves toward me, something I never felt even from my own parents. His protection was absolute, unwavering, and unconditional. It was simply in his nature.

After school one day he found me sitting by the curb, waiting for my ride. He sat down next to me. The brush of his denim was soft but firm, and he smelled vaguely of warmth – of toast on a cold morning, of apple pie on a cold night, of hot chocolate on a winter day – and of something dirtier.

He makes a bit of small talk, asks about a class I’m in that he took a couple of years ago, then squeezes my shoulder as a way of saying good-bye. I look up at him as he rises, and he has that smile again. And those eyes. And suddenly I am lost.

That night, I lie in bed unable to sleep. The feel of his hand on my shoulder had thrilled me, and I put my own hand on the bony area trying to determine what he might have felt. It is thin and slight beneath my hand, and I wonder at how it would compare to his own broadness and muscles. I feel embarrassed and ashamed, and my heart is in riot and rapture. I try to conjure his scent, try to recall the brief brush of his leg against mine, and only end up pulling a pillow close to myself for comfort. I want to cry.

I don’t mind not knowing what I’m headed for

You can take me to the skies

It’s like being lost in heaven

when I’m lost in your eyes. 

I just fell… 

The days pass slowly, filled with the agonizing distractions of school work and classes between which I live in the brief moments that I’m near him. I write his name on scraps of paper that I quickly tear into tiny pieces with less than a letter on each lest anyone piece together the secret wishes of my heart. Alone in my bedroom, I write more than his name.

Love letters and dreams and fantasies of a life together. I write him my darkest fears, tell him my most daring desires, and explain how in the moment he touched my shoulder my whole world changed. I fold it up, seal and date it, and hide it deep in the bottom drawer of my desk. One day I will present it to him ~ maybe when we get married, maybe when we buy our first home, maybe when we celebrate our 50th anniversary – but some way and somehow he must know.




I’ll lift you up when you’re feeling down

Make your whole world turn around

Give my heart and soul to you

Let you know this love is true…

He says hello to me in the hallway, whenever we pass. Sometimes it seems like he goes out of his way to do so, pushing through a throng of students just to get closer to me, then I think it’s all in my head. Why would anyone bother, especially someone as beautiful as him? But then I’m sure of it, certain that he looks frustrated if he can’t reach me before the sea of classmates swirls me away from him. On those days when we both linger after classes are done, I wonder if he too feels shy and excited and reluctant to leave. We begin walking out together, and I admit that I wait if he’s running late, or hurry if some teacher keeps class a little longer than usual. After a few days, it feels like old habit, and soon it is my favorite part of the day. There is a decent trek from our lockers to the parking lot where his car is and where my ride arrives, and I want to believe we both slow a bit near the end, anything to prolong our time together.

One day he tells me he should just drop me off to save my parents the drive. I’m not far out of his way. The excitement of the prospect of being alone in a car with him is matched only by the realization that he knows where I live. In those pre-internet days, before FaceBook and social media left us all transparently visible on a Google map, he managed to find out something about me. That someone cared enough to research where I lived, or at least to ask, touched me more than anything. Most of the time the world – at least my world – didn’t bother to care. Then, just like that, he was driving me home every day. Away from the prying eyes of classmates and the boundaries of school, he was different.

It’s hard to explain – he was a little less guarded, more ready to laugh, and somehow happier. I thought it was just being out of school that produced the giddiness, but a small part of me – the part that struggled to believe whether I was worthy of love – peeked out from years of hiding and allowed myself the possible realization that he was happier because I was with him. No amount of therapy or self-help books would ever surpass what that single moment accomplished. There is nothing quite as nourishing as feeling loved.

One day he doesn’t stop at my house, but glides past and around the block again. I challenge him with a quizzical glare, but his look and subsequent tone are so serious I don’t make a sarcastic comment. He tells me that he has something for me but that it’s not a big deal, just something he made because he saw how I liked certain songs on our rides home. With a trembling hand, he reaches into the glove compartment and pulls out a cassette tape. On the side he has written, “Alan’s Melancholy Mix” and then a listing of all the songs. Most are ones we’d listened to on our brief rides, when he’d briefly sing along and give me a side smile, knowing I was too shy to ever join in.

There were a couple of classic rock songs, some power ballads from the likes of Journey and Chicago, and a few New Wave dance ditties that we both guiltily admired. The smile-inducing if infuriating inclusion of ‘You Can Call Me Al’ (because he knows that you absolutely can’t) rounds out the tape, but the best part is what he writes within the liner notes:

“For a guy who always seems a little sadder than he should be.”




Highway run into the midnight sun,

Wheels go round and round

You’re on my mind

Restless hearts sleep alone tonight

Sending all my love along the wire…

I wear the tape out, getting out of bed multiple times in the night to flip it over and begin it again. I replay the moment he gave it to me, the way his hand touched mine and lingered, as if there was more to be done. Years later, I would reassemble that mix of songs into a playlist and present it to him on an iPod. His eyes would light up as he played each song and we remembered those rides together. Our first kiss, the way he held my hand before it, and the ensuing lifetime of love played out amid the pop songs of the 80′s. We were in a different car, in a different city, and a completely different world, but we’d managed to stay together.

I’m still yours…


You don’t need the whole world to love you, you just need the one.

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