A Matter of Color
It was the happiest year of my childhood. I wasn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. I’m still not, for that matter, forty-one years later. That was the year I found my soulmate. Not in the sense you may be thinking. Not the male female spend forever together variety. No, this was the other soulmate. The one true friend, always there for you, got your back, mess with her and I’ll kick your ass, break her heart and I’ll break your face, kind of soulmate.
I loved that girl! Couldn’t wait to get to school each day. Could barely sit still waiting for those clock hands to signal time for recess! What a blast we had! We two divas, pop princesses, future famous girl band, dancing and singing our hearts out. Belting out the songs we heard on the radio in the good old year of 1975. Nevermind I had a terrible voice; I didn’t know it! We performed as if we were center stage. As if all the record companies in the world were watching and thousands of fans were right there in that moment. We twirled and sang for any and all kids curious enough to watch, but mostly for ourselves. That girl got me. She knew my dream! She knew it because she had it as well. She had that same fire that burned hot inside of me inside of her! She was the only person I had ever met who understood the passion, understood me. No one has since.
Naturally, there came a day when the short time we spent together at school just wasn’t enough. A sleepover was in order! Whose house? It didn’t really matter. I don’t remember how, but we ended up choosing hers. She asked and her parents agreed. I could spend the night the coming weekend. I rushed off the bus in a heightened state of excitement! I bolted through the door yelling, “Mom, Mom, can I stay all night with Cynthia Friday night.” She replied that she didn’t see why not, but we’d have to ask my dad. As soon as he got home, I didn’t waste a second. I remember well the strange look that came across his face. He hesitated for a moment and said, “We’ll see”. I didn’t make much of it. I knew my dad. He was a pushover where I was concerned. He would let me.
My excitement continued throughout the week. The plan was to ride Cynthia’s bus home with her the next day. It was all set. Then came the bad news. It was bedtime. I had barely settled in when my door opened and the light came on. There stood Dad, looking at me with that same expression, maybe even more intense. I waited for him to speak. The pause was much longer this time. I used the opportunity to study his face. He looked pained, somber, conflicted, but mostly distressed. This man, an honest and good man, born in 1928, raised in small-town, Kentucky (population ninety-nine percent a whiter shade of pale) at that moment appeared to be wrestling with some truly diabolical inner demons. At last, he spoke. “I don’t think it’s a good idea. I’d rather you stay home”. Devastated, I whined, “Why?” “I just do. She can spend the night with us.” Well that’s ok then, no big deal. Either way was fine. As long as we were together, where didn’t matter.
Cynthia never spent the night with me. Things changed after that. Sixth grade rolled around and we entered middle school. Fifth graders from three elementary schools merged into one grade. Students were placed in classes alphabetically and we never shared the same class again. For that reason, we drifted apart, lost to each other forever. At least that’s what I tell myself.