Everyone has secrets. Some trivial. Others consequential. Most of us die with them. However, when coming onto 90, it may be reasonable to share some that might do some good. Presidents and Prime Ministers do that in autobiographies; the rest of us do that over late-night drinks.
Lets dispense with the drinks, and get right to it. But only if you find secrets other than your own worth your attention. Mine has to do with love, which immediately earns a shrug, because who doesn’t have some love-story secret? And yet, Octogenarians like to think their long-ago loves just may resonate with some here-and-now Millennials.
The plot to my secret is the adage: “In old age you won’t regret the things you did, as much as the things you didn’t.” Of all the girls I’ve loved before, there was only one I never kissed before. The reason I never kissed her? It was the Summer of ’52, and at our age we naturally assumed we had all the time in the world. Bonnie had been enragingly popular with every fella who fell in love with her. That included me.
But there’s a funny thing about young love; the parties often thrust and parry in order to be sure before daring that first open admission. It’s an ego thing for my gender. So while Bonnie knew I was besotted, Cool was the thing to be. Our first night out would be only the first of many; so Cool I would be.
That same year we were both on the edge of leaping into college, and into the rest of our all-American lives. It all seemed so right. But something went so wrong. In life something always goes wrong. I was suddenly called up into military service; she was suddenly forced to forgo school for work.
In a Byzantine torture of little Fates, that fantasied first night was to be our last night. While I was soon languishing at Langley Field in Virginia, she was soon flying United as a Stewardess. There is not a doubt in my mind perky fight-foot-two-eyes-of-blue Bonnie was earning her salary; while this PFC was probably not mine.
And so it was, in that Summer of ’52.
Oh, the epilogue is perhaps the real lesson to my secret. You see, while I regret never kissing Bonnie, I regret even more another cruelty of Fate. She died the following year. Not only un-kissed, but unseen since that first magical night. Until, that is, her body was brought back for burial. Seeing Bonnie lying there in such elegant repose, with those fragile lips now sealed forever at the insanely young age of 26….it was quite simply incomprehensible.
The youngest person I had ever — or ever want to — see in a coffin. I often wonder if Bonnie, wherever she is, ever regrets that unfulfilled kiss like I do.
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