To the best of my knowledge John never finished high school. I don’t know if he even started but I didn’t care. He looked me square in the eyes, unlike most boys who still struggled with the concept of girls being people. He was edgy and hot-tempered but to me he was protective and warm. He told me things I know he never told anyone else. He told me he loved me everyday. The connection we shared was beyond that of any I had prior to knowing John.
Our first meeting consisted of him throwing himself on the hood of Lisa’s car as we caroused Cornwall St. looking for my wayward friends. At first we thought we had run down some poor soul who was trying to make his way across the street until he sprung to his feet, laughing like a lunatic and ran off.
It was love at first collision. I was an instant, faithful follower; a stalker before stalking was fashionable. He behaved badly from day one. I forgave his every indiscretion to my own peril. I spent hours composing perfectly written letters describing every nuance of the on goings in my high school world. He would spend hours sifting through them. I doubt he read them. I suspected he couldn’t. He said he liked to look at my handwriting it looked like art to him.
Soon after we met he started to call me Heather. At first I was offended that he had forgotten my name. I mean, really? When I finally mustered the courage to remind him of my actual name he said he decided I needed a change. Erin was not a pretty name and Heather suited me better. Did he say I was pretty twice removed? He said I could change his name if it would make me feel better. I hopped on the opportunity. I called him George. Not for any reason except it set me apart from the others. There were many others.
They came in many forms these “others”. Cheap looking, smelling of strong perfume or booze, older, tattooed, some didn’t have teeth and they all had bad dye jobs. I always felt that he was kind to show these otherwise unlovable women friendship until I found him having sex with Karen Heifer on a bathroom floor during a house party. I was devastated. John was too. He struggled with the disappointment he caused me. I convinced myself he had too much respect for me to have sex with me in virtual public, let alone on a filthy bathroom floor. His lack of private interest I attributed to an affection that surpassed tawdry liaisons. I was not like the “others”. It didn’t occur to me that his lack of interest was exactly that: a lack of interest. It wasn’t cool to be in love with a fat girl, even if he was. I realized, in his world, I was the one who was unlovable and I was forever changed.
As my prom quickly approached, I abandoned any fantasy of my knight in shining armor, or a Black Sabbath t-shirt, swooping to my dateless rescue. John surprised me. When the passing mention of my prom came up he insisted on being my date. I was thrilled.
My prom memories consist of primping all day, putting on a massive royal blue dress, and trying to convince myself that I was pretty, only to have him tell me I looked like Martha Washington. His mother slapped him on the back of his head. Until that moment she was so proud to see John, dressed in a tuxedo, with a nice girl. Let me clarify that if I am, in fact, "the nice girl", something is radically wrong.
It didn’t take long to realize the prom was really just an opportunity for John to peacock around. He posed for as many pictures as he could. I was happy for him. I remember. He had lived a difficult life and he was entitled to feel good about himself even if it was at my expense.
After the prom we arrived at the traditional prom night motel. I was sick with anxiety and hope. I opened the door to find it crawling with fifty of his closest and drunkest friends. They had written Cornwall Rocks on the wall in red paint. I think it was paint. I hope it was paint. I was so overwhelmed by the tight quarters, the drinking and the fighting that I eventually went home.
John walked me out to the car, held my face in his hands. He sweetly kissed me on the lips and told me he loved me. Only me. Just like always. It was all worth it. As I piled my huge blue dress into the car I saw Karen Heifer arrive. Prom night was over for me. Johnny, on the other hand, was going to get some more use out of his tux.