First Meetings and Later Scenes
“This is my sister, Carrie”, said Stephen turning half around from the steering to look into the backseat. “Carrie, Marty” he said gesturing from his sister to his friend. “She’s at State”, he added. Marty had just climbed into the back of the four-door sedan, it was dark outside already, so, all he could really see was her half-lit profile and the highest wattage smile he had ever been blessed with. At least, no other smile had ever hit him quite like that.
Marty and Stephen shared a class at the high school, seated near each other, and each had taken an instant like of the other. That was a few months ago. Stephen was older by about four months, but the way the school board figured things, that had allowed a year’s head start many years ago. Marty was in a few classes that were supposed to be a year ahead academically because he had qualified for the college track program.
“So, Stephen tells me that you read a lot, and that you’re pretty smart”, Carrie said to Marty while turning around more fully to talk.
“Yeah, I read a lot, always have. As for smart, I don’t know” Marty replied
“Bullshit!” Stephen interjected. “He finishes a test before anyone else, then passes the thing around to help his friends.”
“That so? Sounds like cheating to me,” Carrie offered with another heart-melting smile.
Marty defended his actions by saying “It’s not cheating, it’s sharing the wealth. Those guys couldn’t give a damn less about learning any of that stuff. I come by it fairly easy.”
“So, you’re gaining favor by boosting their test scores?” asked Carrie.
“Let’s call it building good will and leave it at that.” Marty suggested.
They rode on into town, and Marty asked Carrie what she studied at State.
“Education and biology, so I can be a teacher. Right now, second flora section’s kicking by butt. I just can’t tell all of those little leaves apart. If I don’t pull a C in this, I’ll have to repeat it in the spring semester.”
Stephen chimed in, “Yeah, and pops will more than little upset with her. Probably take back the car, something.”
They parked and went into the movie, Easy Rider. It turned out to be even more exciting than bargained for, and the deaths of the three rebels at the hands of local rednecks left them fired up.
“Oh my God, can that actually happen? What kind of people do that?” Carrie asked.
“Hell, I hope not. I mean, I don’t think I know anybody who’d kill another person for being that different!” said Marty.
“Some of those older guys I work with at the mill talk like they might, but, I don’t know.” Stephen added. “Why don’t we go grab a beer?”
Carrie was older than either of the other two, so she volunteered to go into the 7-11 and get the beer. She came back with a six-pack of Budweiser, and passed over one each. They drove around the small town drinking and talking, swapping stories. Carrie told them about her classes and dorm life, and offered to help them get student tickets for the football games so they could sit with her and her friends. College football was a religion to rival the mainstream denominations, and remains just as revered today.
After a couple of hours, Carrie and Stephen dropped Marty off at his parent’s house.
“Hey, good meeting you, Carrie. Maybe we’ll see you at State soon.” said Marty.
“I hope so” Carrie replied.
At school on Monday, Stephen said “My sister really likes you. I think she wants to date you”
“What!?! But, she’s in college!”
“So what? “
“Man, I don’t know. Let me think about it”
“Think about what? Yes, she’s in college, don’t you know how many of us would jump at the chance?”
Marty didn’t say how much he had been thinking about her, about that dynamite smile, about how easy he felt around her, like he’d known her for years. He tended to focus on the difficulties at that stage of his life, not the possibilities. The difficulties included their age gap (read experience, especially sexually), the distance from State, and the fact that contemplation of a relationship with her both thrilled and terrified. The possibilities dangled in front like the proverbial carrot, so that even though they were not an official thing, they spent a lot of time together.
From 1969 through the Seventies was a time of change, good and bad, for them both. Carrie found herself attracted to another guy a few years older than her. Marty dated in his own age group, but began to develop a “secret life” around smoking dope, dropping acid, and drinking. His outward appearance with his preppy clothing remained in place. They met again at a party after a football game at State.
The house was where Carrie lived with three other friends, and he met Roman, her boyfriend who was regaling the entire party from his adopted throne in the small living room; plenty drunk, but with a few failed majors behind him, he had stories. And the party attendees loved them, hanging onto every word. When Marty saw Carrie, they quickly went out on the porch for fresh air and a quieter place to talk.
“Damn, if that Roman isn’t drunk! But, he tells his stories so well when he is”, observed Marty
“Well, that and being the center of attention sure doesn’t slow him down’ Carrie offered. “Anyway, how’ve you been? You gonna graduate next summer, so what then?”
“I really do not know. I’m not sure that I want to go to college anywhere, yet” sighed Marty
Carrie laughed, “As long as you don’t wind up like Roman with three near degrees and no diploma to show for any of it!”
“What does he do, anyway?”
“Right now, he works on carburetors and alternators. He has done it as a hobby for years and really likes it. I don’t think he’ll darken the door of a school any time soon.”
Marty did indeed graduate high school and promptly joined the USAF when his father relayed to him that college money was a no go. So, less than a month after walking the aisle and throwing his mortarboard in the air, Marty found himself on his hands and knees scrubbing part of the barracks floor with a toothbrush.
“Damn” he said to his partner, “If I were home, I’d be going to see the Rolling Stones.”
“Shut yer stupid hole and scrub” was the only response
Five months later, Marty was on leave when Stephen informed him they had tickets for football game at State and were supposed to meet Carrie and the rest there. When they had parked and started toward the stadium, they came up on Carrie, Roman, and a few other friends. Marty had beefed up a bit in training, plus still wore extremely short hair from basic.
“What have they done to my baby?” Carrie yelled.
Carrie married Roman. Marty married a girl from Texas he’d met on a blind date. As will happen sometimes, each had tied the knot for reasons that became less clear over the next several years. Marty and Carrie still ran in the same circles with their respective spouses; Marty and Carrie saw a lot of each other until new locations and some dislike from Elise caused their paths to diverge.
Two decades had slipped by, when Marty was idly poking around on the Internet and found a site for old classmates to reunite. Curious, he looked up Stephen, and there he was. Short emails later, they were catching up, glad to hear from one another.
“I might see Carrie this weekend. Okay if I give her your address?” Stephen queried.
“Yeah, sure, why not?” said Marty. About two weeks later, Marty received a handwritten note by mail. It read in part, ’Hey! I’m not on the Internet! I live near the college and work for the state. Can we get together? My number is…’
Marty flashed back to that million-dollar smile and how much fun they always had together. Jesus, he thought, what the hell was I thinking when she got away? He replied immediately in the affirmative.
They dated several times over a few months, bridging the distance between cities and states in turn. They spent Christmas night with some of those same old friends from the early days. The next day, they were to go back to their separate lives, so they stopped at an uptown bar and grill for a cup of coffee. Marty had decided on a course of action. The waitress had taken their order.
“Let me ask you something, Carrie.”
“Sure”, she replied a little nervously.
“Will you marry me?” He asked, taking her hands in his.
With tears in her eyes, she replied “Yes, of course”.
Story by: Robert McManus
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