It was a brand new neighborhood in the suburbs in the early 60’s. The “suburbs” was a new concept then, and my family had just moved to what my parents thought of as their dream house. To my 6 year old self, the neighborhood seemed like a vast place compared to our previously tight-knit, narrow, row-housed one. The move seemed huge at the time and whether I was conscious of it or not, it meant navigating a new lifestyle, new school, new friends.
On one of the first days there, I was hanging around outside the house trying to imagine where all the people were. It seemed this neighborhood’s people kept themselves indoors quite a bit more. I was probably digging in the dirt with a stick, when I looked up and saw a boy about my age riding his bicycle. He was coming towards me. I surely can not recall our conversation, but what I do remember is that he confidently introduced himself, said he lived on the next block, and then boldly asked me if I wanted a ride on his handlebars. I decided right then and there, that he was the cutest thing I had ever seen with his tow-headed buzz cut and cowlick, and sparkly blue eyes. And, of course, I wanted a ride on his handlebars. This isolated exchange was the beginning of an unrequited love that lasted almost through high school.
He grew up to be the boy every girl in town wanted. With his all American looks, tight body and football star status, he was a natural Romeo. Since we lived in the same neighborhood, as we grew, we often saw each other on Lawrence Drive where all the kids met nightly for games of dodge ball and ring-up. I was so quiet and shy in those days and felt I could never let on how much I liked him even though he was the first boy with whom I discovered that stomach-in-your-mouth feeling followed by a head to toe shiver when you are in the presence of your beloved. Alas, to him, I was just one of the neighborhood gang.
When I was around 11 or 12, his parents hired me to take care of their sweet collie dog, Bonnie, while they were away on vacation. I remember the first day I let myself in with the key, I did what any 12 year old in love would do. I went into his bedroom. I remember feeling like I had entered some kind of sanctuary as I inspected his things. It felt as though I was doing something forbidden and of course, therefore exhilarating. As much as I hoped I would, I can’t say I discovered anything secret or exciting in there, but to my adolescent self, it felt somehow privileged, and in that sense it was a secret. Something he would never know, but I would.
I saw less and less of him as we aged especially since he transferred to a different school, but I would occasionally hear some news about him, or see him at a party. My shyness around him never wavered though, as I tried to gain control of my stomach whenever I was in his presence.
Later in life, as an adult, I found him. It may have been a mistake to tamper with my memory. My bicycle Romeo had become a Jesus freak. His boyish “cuteness” had aged well into rugged good looks, yet as I recalled that long ago memory of childhood romance, I still saw the same face that stole my heart.
Childhood breeds the
longing for other
Romeos on bikes
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
Linda Laino is an artist and teacher living in Mexico. An occasional writer and poet, she enjoys playing with words as much as form and color. Finding beautiful things on the ground is a favorite pastime. Her paintings and jewelry can be viewed at her web page www.lindalaino.com and https://www.etsy.com/shop/lindalaino. Additional essays can be found athttp://www.elephantjournal.com/?s=Linda+Laino