A Valentine Story

By -

Even by the standards of the eighth grade, she was way out of my league. I was new there, having only moved to California in the summer of 1979. It was not an easy move for me. That’s a lousy age for most kids in the first place, and to be taken out of your life-long home and moved across the country to a totally alien environment makes it worse. Still, there was something mesmerizing about her. She was beautiful. She was intelligent. And she was kind.

I’ve written about that era years ago, and although the vast majority of people here won’t remember it, I won’t revisit that memory. This is about a few years later, after the break-up. She was gone but definitely not forgotten.

It was no longer 1979 when I was this awkward newcomer from Louisiana. It was January of 1983, and life was very, very different for me then. I was, in my own tiny way, famous. I was a trailblazer in computers. I started writing for national magazines when I was 15 and published my first book at 16. I had written software products. I bought myself a new car. There were articles in the paper, write-ups in national magazines, and segments on the television news about me. For a junior in high school, I was seriously hot shit. Of course, my interest in girls had never waned, although I always waited for them to come to me and not the other way around.

In January of 1983, utterly by chance, I saw her again. It had been a year and a half, but it seemed much longer. As the weeks went on, I probably mailed her a few little notes, and she did the same.

Monday, February 14th, 1983 came along: a school day. I had three girls in mind with whom I wanted to express some kind of affection. I barely remember the other two. The third one was the important one, and she was, just as she had been in the eighth grade, the real “reach.”

I drove my car to the first girl’s house and gave her some flowers. I did the same with the second. I don’t remember what was said, or how either of them reacted. Then I made the trek far across town and nervously walked up to the porch to ring the doorbell. She opened the door, and she gave me that smile that has never changed. The smile I never had in my own heart but so badly needed.

Being able to drive a car was novel for our age, so I asked if she wanted to go for a ride. We did, up into the Berkeley foothills. I wound up driving her back to my house – – by divine providence, it was empty – – and we wound up all over each other until she had to go home again. See, there’s a reason this scene in Forrest Gump makes me tear up every time I see it. That day felt EXACTLY like this. It was the happiest day of my life.

Things have never been perfect. My flaws are legion and my shortcomings devastating. Yet the belief of the ancient Greeks that the gods split us two-headed, four-armed, four-legged humans into two half creatures has always made a certain amount of sense to me, as we all struggle to find the half which we have lost.

I believe I re-discovered mine precisely forty years ago on this very day.