Thursday, August 20, 2015

To Brazil and Back

When I was 17 years old, I gave my varsity home football jersey to my girlfriend at the time so she could wear it and I could be extra cool, showing off that not only was I a varsity football player, but I also had a really cute cheerleader for a girlfriend who liked wearing my name on her back.  But as high school romances sometimes go, it was short-lived, and I was faced with the task of somehow getting my jersey back from an ex-girlfriend.

She seemingly moved on quickly, whereas I was troubled.  I had high-standards for who might qualify to be my girlfriend.  I only had crushes on about eighty percent of the student body.  But the names changed daily.  Naomi, Kim, Jan, Carrie, Heather, Jenny, Jill.  Michelle, Missy, Theresa, Dawn.  So many beautiful flowers, and me buzzing quietly, scheming to slurp their nectar.

But that was high school.  Which, looking back now, went very quickly.  Didn't seem like it at the time-- I hadn't witnessed the speed of a workday at a job that I hated.  Talk about eternity.  Made those econ classes seem like bad commercials.

The perspective was different because the experience was different.  The chemistry was different.  There were lots of firsts going down-- first kiss; first "tongue," "first time." And everyone's was different.

I wasn't able to communicate the importance of that football jersey to my ex.  So even though I asked her several times, I didn't get it back.

She had living with her that year that we dated (for all of three weeks) a foreign exchange student from Brazil.  Flavia was her name.  And though I never really felt attracted to her, I knew people that were.  That doesn't mean by some mathematical transitive property I was actually attracted to her.  But I noted that she was, well, feminine. 

She was very different from the kind of girls I liked to "fall" for-- how she did her hair, and what she wore.  It just wasn't my thing at the time.

But Ang had seen me in the hallway between classes, and she had come up to me and hugged me, and she smelled so good, and everything was so good from that point on.  She was my first love, and she taught me how to kiss with tongue.  It was exhilarating!

So I had started, almost immediately, about planning the rest of our lives together.  Where would we be married?  What will I do for a living?  Where will we live?  Ang was adamant.  "Um, slow down!" she told me.  "Let's enjoy right now."

In our free time we'd find some privacy and make out for what seemed like hours, just reveling in the emotion.  It felt like time would never end, that we'd always be together loving each other in eternally renewing, freshly exhilarating now-ity.

I experienced significant growth and emotion then, and looking back it seems like there are strands connecting me back to those few weeks that stretch out over times throughout the rest of my life.  I'm still so connected to those threads.

Nowadays threads take on different meanings.  There are conceptual thoughts strung together in social media, conversational threads that string thoughts along.  And there are so many thoughts out there, it's easy to think that it's all a mangled mess of knots and chaos.

I had felt an obligation to get that jersey back, not just because it was of much sentimental value to me, but also because it had cost my parents a lot of money and I felt guilt to that end.  But most of all, I kind of saw it as the final stitch in the relationship. 

Over the years, a lot happened.  I fell in love many times, got hurt many times, made some bad decisions, failed some classes in college, struggled with drinking too much and not studying enough.  And some nights, when I was particularly lonely, I thought about Ang, and how maybe we were meant to be together again someday.

Many years have passed.  It's been almost 30 years since I was on the varsity football team.  I've been married over 17 years to a real hotty.  And we're very happy.  It ain't perfect, but we're doing good. 

I've reconnected with Ang through Facebook.  She's married, got a kid or two.  We exchanged a couple friendly messages when we first reconnected.  But it's not like we're pen pals.

I still have those moments when I'm feeling particularly lonely.  Especially because my wife is living away, with her mother, during the week, working in Santa Clara, and I'm here in Escalon.  Weekends just don't last very long.

So I've been known to get on social media and try and drum up some entertainment.  Always looking for conversations.  Funny, how it's usually when everybody else is sleeping.

So on a total whim I looked up the exchange student.  I had heard over the years that she had taken my football jersey when she had returned home to Brazil.  And my mind just couldn't and wouldn't let it go.  So I sent Flavia a note, asking if she knew what had happened to the jersey.

And she responded.

Yes, she did.  In fact, her brother had it.  She sent a picture, and there it was, looking like it had been frozen in time.  29 years-- had her brother worn it at all, or just kept in in cold storage?

She sent it to me and I received it earlier this week.  My number 81, the same as Oakland Raider great Tim Brown, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier this summer.

What an honorable thing, to preserve this jersey.  Thank you.  It brings me much pride.

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