By the look of it, love has evaded a lot of people.
Even those who had love—real, true, requited love, amazingly soul-rending yet somehow grounding and rejuvenating—lost it.
And still few people remind you that loss is part of the price of admission.
As an incorrigible romantic from as early as I can remember, I’ve never found it easy to find love. But once I’ve decided I’m attracted to someone, a strange sort of confidence seems to kick in. Not a puffed-up sort, more like a solid wait-and-see sense of detachment.
The last time that happened was nearly seven years ago.
Boom, that was it. I was in deep.
But now is not the time to write about that.
“I don’t want this journal to trail off into nothing,” a Jan. 8, 1984, entry reads. “I need to write when I’m able to write. Now I realize how pleasurable the simple scribbling and scratching of my pen on paper feels to me. It’s like playing a goddamn piano sometimes.”
Still living at the Family Project farm in Minnetrista, I was working at the print shop and spending my spare time with a local theater group, the Indianhead Players.
I was lonely and bored and tried dating again, but nothing seemed to stick.
Then, one Tuesday night, April 24, 1984, after watching one-act skit rehearsals at the Westonka Community Theater, “I ran out to Country Liquors in St. Boni for a six of Green Death,” the journal reports. There “I saw a young woman, blonde, whom I had seen working there months before. She looked at me curiously as I paid at the counter. I noticed not one ring on her fingers. If I were making a movie I’d cast Tatum O’Neal in her part at 25 [years old]. Was there mutual attraction? I don’t know. I want to find out more about her.”
That wouldn’t be until May 1st, when I was back at the same liquor store. I wavered outside the door, chickening out and dashing into a nearby convenience store.
When I finally went in to get the six-pack, the cans were lodged in the cooler, so she helped me free them. We chatted back at the register. “…I asked her her name. She said it was Monique. I [started to leave and] she said, See you later. She seemed cold and old. She excited me. I saw myself with my arm wrapped around her. I think she runs the Dance studio in the Community Center.”
Four days later, while watching rehearsals for the Indianhead Players, I discovered Monique’s dance school was at the community center.
“I heard a voice,” the journal continues, “instructing a class behind the door and decided it was the same Monique. …Around 7:30 I saw that her office door was open, so I went in to chat with her. At first she seemed surprised, but that quickly wore off and the general pace of the conversation slackened. She apparently went to the U of M and Arizona State in Dance. I told her about the theater and her interest seemed more intent.”
“Follow You Follow Me” wriggles out of stereo speakers like a glow worm of pure longing.
Once the light hits you on the face, once you’ve found her, or she you, then you’re It. You’re now the one with the flashlight, searching for the next It, out there hiding somewhere in the hedges, probably.
“The night is long, but you are here.”
One evening, probably in 1977 and likely on a Sunday before a school week, I played Flashlight Tag with friends in a neighborhood far from our Casco Point home.
There was a mix of boys and girls. We probably started out playing Kick the Can. But after sunset someone suggested Flashlight Tag. It was probably at the home of my one-time date Connie Conklin’s house, since I remember she was friends with the lovely Cindy Dorn, who (as best my memory serves) was also there. Both girls were in the class just a year after mine.
I was frantic to find a diary entry with even the slightest mention of that night—just to confirm that it actually happened. I wondered who might’ve been there, too. Whether we played the “team version” of the game, or one person was “It” and had the flashlight to tag the others, I can’t recall. We played outside, in their spacious yard, well after dark.
The diary entry still evades me. I know it’s out there—a glimmer in the distance, something from the past pointing straight into a dusky future.
Monique is never mentioned in the 1984 journal again.
In May ’84 I’d planned to return to college that fall. Sights were set on the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, and the undergraduate writing program there.
I was really nervous about the future: quitting my job at the print shop, packing up what little I owned in my stripped-down bedroom at the farmhouse, and finally, finally, leaving town.
I’ve thought about that tiny bedroom a lot lately, especially given the “confinement” of the past three years. It’s tough to be searching and not finding “It.” You know it’s out there, expecting you. But you just can’t see it.
Yet, they say, there’s a time for everything. Whoever they are, I wish they’d just shut the hell up already.
Back in 1984, love would have to wait, again. Twenty-four years later.