Friday, May 31, 2013
The Matron can't pinpoint when Dan Fogelberg slipped into her psyche (again) but there he was: "I'll be in love with you." Over the past week, she's been humming and singing and slurping through all that syrup that is Longer.
Which means she's been thinking about Eddie.
When the Matron was but a Young Miss, she took on Eddie Schryer as her first boyfriend. "Took on" is the best phrase, perhaps, because Young Miss was acutely aware that she acquired Eddie on the rebound--a gift, as it were, from her prettier, savvier friend Bonnie, who was through with him. As events unfolded, Young Miss understood that her proximity to Bonnie -- as one of Bonnie's best friends -- was no small part of Young Miss's original appeal.
Still, at 17 and a high school senior, the young yours truly believed "boyfriend" to be the next appropriate step and -- happily -- she truly liked Eddie, a popular student from the 'other side' of the educational tracks: he attended Catholic school, she public.
Eddie liked Young Miss too. He wanted her around him as much as possible -- football games, family dinners, driving, movies, parties -- even at his job. She spent hours sitting on the counter of the gas station where he worked, eating licorice, listening to the radio as they talked, talked, and talked about . . . well, absolutely nothing, like teenagers are prone to do (at least they were).
Eddie's family was long-rooted in this small middle-of-Minnesota town where his father owned a plumbing business. It was understood that Eddie --as the oldest son of many -- would take over his father's plunger someday. Eddie didn't question this as he was very busy enjoying the moment: it was he who introduced Young Miss to alcohol and parties. Young Miss was simultaneously terrified and enthralled. She partook of said alcohol just once (held no appeal for her ) and existed mostly as "Eddie's girlfriend," a bystander to drunken mayhem,, lying to one's parents, and dangerous driving.
She remembers that year -- the year of Eddie --as standing on the edge of a dream, a world separate from hers were 15 year old boys kept vodka in their trunks and girls carried condoms. These were also all kids from a different school, completely out of her day-to-day high school existence. There was a faint hint of something dangerous always, forever around the corner -- and Young Miss, not indulging in anything requiring vodka or condoms -- was never quite certain what it was, but the scent seduced her.
One of the marvels of the Matron's life is that -- with one staggering exception -- she has had remarkable luck with men. While the Universe-Oprah-God-Allah-Buddha handed her some personal challenges, Bad Men has not been one of them. Yes, Eddie liked to party. But in this small town, so did the grown-ups. You went to a job you more-or-less tolerated and drank beer as your reward. Same for high school, with this set. Eddie was just doing what was expected in small-town Minnesota; it didn't mean he wasn't a kind and decent boyfriend.
Every night -- no matter what -- that kind and decent boyfriend phoned Young Miss around bedtime. She'd be in her room with its purple walls and pink bedspread, with the white telephone by her side: waiting for her song.
Because Eddie called to say good-night by playing Longer.
Eddie: "Just thought I'd say good-night."
Young Miss: "I'm so glad you called!"
Eddie: "Here's how I feel, you know. It's not just a song."
And the violins would begin and Dan Fogelberg would fill Young Miss's heart (and perhaps a few other burgeoning body parts) and Eddie would hang up as soon as the song ended so his girlfriend could go to sleep with their enduring love carrying her away. Every night. For nearly a year. Longer.
As the school year wound down, though, so did love. It seemed that Longer was just that -- a little longish, thought Young Miss, who would rather read or sleep. It seemed that Eddie was just a little less adorable with his greasy gas station uniform, cigarettes, and beer breath. Drunk people - and the problems that accompanied them -- were no longer an instructive, anthropological exercise but, well, boring. She tried to return to those heady days of new love -- all thrill and enchantment -- but found very little there.
One afternoon, as Young Miss chatted from her perch on the counter while Eddie rang up gas and washed windows, he paused in between customers.
Eddie: "You're getting out of here, you know. It's not just that you're going to college-- lots of people do that. But you're leaving this place -- who we are. And you're never coming back. I just wanted you to know that I know."
And he trotted outside in the rain to help a young woman figure out the gas pump. Young Miss knew he was right --and she understands now that he was smarter than she was.
That night, Eddie called Young Miss at bedtime.
Eddie: "Can we listen to it one more time?"
Young Miss: "Of course."
Eddie: "It's okay with me if this is the last time we do this. Is that okay with you?"
Young Miss: "It's okay with me too, Eddie."
And they listened to Longer, one last time.