WARM, LIGHT, KIND, COMFORTING, PERFECT... What I felt... I honestly don't remember when I began feeling that way. I can't say that "Today was the day", "Yesterday was the moment", or "Monday was when". I don't think it really happens like that. What I do remember was that everything was kinda' different from there on. Everything was just kinda' different. Infatuation would be an understatement. A seasonal preoccupation, whereby men and boys' feelings rise and fall with the changing condition of life. The heart that is filled with joy when the sun touches his lady loves' hair in the summer months. The accidental touch of her hand as coincidence finds him seated next to her on the way home. The way she wore her hair that one Winter Festival. No, infatuation isn't it. What I felt was different. What I felt, I knew would change my life forever. I wouldn't be able to use words like Beautiful, Pretty, Attractive or even Nice ever again. I would never be able to describe what she looked like without feeling that in some way I've failed her with my simple mind and tongue. She would only have a name... and that name would embody all things warm, light, kind, comforting, perfect. And this I do remember. Basketball season meant one thing only... I would see her on Saturdays. So, not only would we share Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday, Saturday would be there for us as well. Golden Dreams. Fifth Grade was so nice. And being that her Dad coached, or something like that, we would have two entire games. Again, Fifth Grade was so nice. The fact that we had a Basketball team held little value in my life until I realized the miracle of Saturday afternoon, with her. Now the plan was to be cool. Well, something like that. Cool really wasn't my thing. I mean some kids were Cool. Others were kinda' Cool, but kids like me never saw the value of "Prove It", so we left them alone. And then some were just way the hell on the other side of the street from Cool. Cool lived in a neighborhood they would never visit or take the bus through. I was seldom concerned about the concept of Cool though. Seemed to difficult a concept to describe, so Cool and I were never formally acquainted. If I shoulda' met Cool though I'm sure he woulda' said "Sup man." Just like that. Nice. "Sup"... right back at you Cool. Nice...the much appreciated acknowledgement of effort. My world was nice.... Just me in it.... But nice. The certainty... I couldn't wait to get to the game. Couldn't save my soul by remembering who played though. Not even today. What I do remember was the feeling that I had right before walking into the gym. The calm stillness of love. The warm anticipation of tomorrow. The cold emptiness of yesterdays' memories. It was almost like when my dear brother and I awakened too early on Christmas morning. We would sit up in bed and try to figure out how soon we wanted to walk toward the greatest day of the year, knowing that after we stopped walking, discovering, laughing, and playing, we would be another year away from the experience. That's what loving her was like. The best that each day had to offer. The certainty of yesterdays' beautiful memories, long after she was gone. Memories that create your perception of the ideal. And then I walked in the gym. And she was there. Just like I knew she would be. The very best that this day had to offer. ...one step ahead... It was way too early to start wondering how "The Day" would go. I mean, come on, I had at least 2-3 hours of sharing "Her" space... Well... The gymnasium. I just needed to get past the same old aroma of chewy popcorn, bland pizza, and those individuals who's sole purpose in life was to block a young brother's view of happiness. Without fail, there was always some tall, middle-aged, white guy who could not find comfort standing, walking, or being seated (and later working) anywhere else in the world accept directly in front of my black ***... Standing in line watching "Her" talk to friends... The white guy... No more staring for me. Seated in the bleachers watching "Her" define the art of "just walking by"... The white guy... No more day dreaming for me. Recording the last few precious seconds of "Her" driving away with family... The white guy... Big *** car blocking my view, trying to decide if today is a good day to obey the speed limit. This Cat & Mouse, or rather, Freedom / Slavery game would later become a constant reality of my life as a black man. Strategically planning my observations, timing, & just generally being one step ahead was the remedy though. I should have prayed for "Cool"... OK. It wasn't like I was just meeting her for the first time. Why is God's name was I so nervous? Every Monday & Saturday, same old feeling. I watched all of the old movies. How the guy would walk into the room and without saying a word capture her attention and 60 minutes later they were married. I wasn't necessarily expecting marriage here. A simple "Yes Ross, I will be your girlfriend" would be enough. I just couldn't pull off that "Walking in the room" thing that Cary Grant, Bogart and Rock Hudson seemed to master every single movie. I should have prayed for "Cool"... Too late now. As expected "Her" friends were all over the place. They were like freakin' locust. That's the only analogy I could imagine. Never mind that we spent the last six years in Catholic school... Any other points of reference would be impossible. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated my mother's gift of a "good education", but sometimes I just wanted to be able to formulate a purely evil analogy like the later learned, and personal favorite for many years, "flies on ****". You can't beat the picture that this analogy creates. You can only respond to the guy who offers this type of imagery with "****". But... Here we were, my "lady love" and I.... With the analogous flies of course. This eight day I prayed for... The first game was pretty much a warm up for me. A moment to gather the nerve necessary to look directly at "Her" without panicking. Without my lower jaw resembling that of caveman or one of the "special kids" in the class. I'll admit that she was in complete control of it all... Without even trying. Just being gave "Her" command of my feelings. Adding motion to "Her" being merely set my heart & soul upon an empty mantle, exposed and vulnerable to everyone's interpretation. So be it though. This was "Her" we were talking about here. Who cares if I wasn't the best dressed, best looking, couldn't dance very well, or look directly at a girl. I could love "Her", and be "Her" best friend. And from there everything was possible. Everyone knew about my adoration. It wasn't a big secret. After all, the caveman-like stares during the past several months and a few dropped hints via the rumor mill cemented my position as "Ross. The kid who likes "Her". If this position were a job, I would have been considered fully employed... 60 hours per week. Eight days per week. This eight day I prayed for, just to have more time to think about "Her". As fate would have it, I received a Top Secret Communique from one of the "flies". The message came quickly and subtly, "Meet Her on the stairwell in 15 minutes." "Meet Her on the stairwell in 15 minutes." What kinda game is this? Without negotiation, bargaining, pleads, or just plain luck, I was right at the beginning of what would be "A First". Why would she want to meet me in 15 minutes? I hadn't said anything a meeting. I was fine with the sad circumstance of staring from afar. It was just me and my mind. Nothing to stand in the way of reality and fantasy...until now. And the "fly" that delivered the communique knew well of my discomfort. She seemed to be the lucky winner of the "Let's Scare the **** Out Of Ross" contest. The straws were drawn and off she went, this winged creature with a lifespan of two freakin' days. Her mission was a simple two-parter... First. Deliver the communique. Second. Record my reaction, then return to Headquarters, where girls seem to hatch all of their evil plans. And stupid me, I fell for it. Why? Because I was then, and still now, a hopeless romantic at heart... I.e. A Dumb ***. Well. The next 15 minutes would be the longest quarter hour of my life. When my dear brother and I were younger, we found ourselves faced with a typical and similar childhood dilemma. Our neighbors, in my grandmother's community were free spirits, now commonly referred to as "Bad ***" kids. They were the kind of household where the front foor was always open... Day or night. These negroes never had to "Be Inside" at a particular time. I remember more than one occasion when they were on their front porch when we went to bed and again early the next morning, wearing the same clothes. Now I wasn't awake to check on them, but I could swear I heard some kids outside really late that night. But, the fact that they were wearing the same clothes wasn't enough, because this species of Negroe would wear the same stuff for like a week... Turning white into gray. Red into purple. Yellow into orange. Now the trip up the hill to the highway was easy. And the trip down the hill from the highway was easy. Selecting the branch that my grandmother used to whoop our ***** was a tough task. Not only did we have to select her weapon of choice, she told us that in 15 minutes the "*** whoopins" would begin. So it was no surprise that this communique from the "fly" brought about some anxiety. Suddenly I couldn't be certain, but it felt like everybody in the gym knew I was about to experience a life-changing moment. I couldn't be certain too, about how I was standing and moving toward the bottom of the bleachers. I couldn't be certain too too, about giving my legs permission to move in the direction of the stairwell. If I had to give this moment a word, it would be Fear. Kinda' like on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, when he would have the word for the day. You know, he would walk in, take off his shoes and put on those cheap *** sliders then look into the camera and announce the Word for the Day. Not that Mr. Rogers wasn't the man though. I'm sure, in hindsight, that it wasn't easy for a 50 year old man to talk to freakin' high-pitch voice, apparently gay *** puppets all day. But still, my Word for Today was Fear. I just couldn't figure out what this meant. My grandmother's 15 minutes meant ***-whoopin. Plain. Clear. Understood. After 14 minutes passed, it was 60 more seconds to our ***** being whooped. And the time in between was all preparation. Time to consider the last ***-whoopin'; How bad it stung; Would it hurt with these jeans on? But meeting "Her" in 15 minutes was way different. Truthfully, I couldn't even remember the last time I saw "Her" up close. Honestly, I would have been OK not seeing "Her" up close for the next three or four decades. Distant adoration worked just fine for me. Why change a good thing? Yeah. Let's just say this entire "15 minutes" episode didn't happen. I could find my way back to the bleachers, behind the white guy, and just settle in to my own little private fantasy. Done. But unfortunately I was now at the base of the stairwell. This is going to sound really crazy, but I couldn't tell you what we discussed on the stairwell. I couldn't tell you what she wore on the stairwell. I couldn't tell you how long we were on the stairwell. I could, however, remember that we were pushed towards each other by "Her" friends (the flies) until we were close enough to only see each others eyes. Brown eyes. Soulful. I saw and felt "Her" entire life move through me... "Her" best Birthday Party. The School Dance enjoyed last Fall. Christmas Day. The day her parents brought her little sister home from the hospital. Honor Roll. "Her" grandmother passing away. "Her" dream of a big wedding. "Her" saddest and happiest moments. And I couldn't breath or move beyond that moment. And before the moment passed, she kissed me. Suddenly. At the risk of torment from friends. She kissed me with a sobering and stern expression. Without regard for who or where she was. Without considering anything else but our shared affection for the other. Warm. Light. Kind. Comforting. Perfect. From that time on I looked at "Her" differently. I couldn't see "Her" anymore. I could only see Dana. I could only see the girl that I would one day marry and live with happily ever after. I could only hear her name, see her face, recognize her voice, and remember her eyes, everyday for the rest of my life. And "She", Dana, would see me as the boy who loved her then, and always would. ............................................................................................. Hampton Kennedy, an "author by surprise", captures his childhood lessons of love, compassion, humility, and redemption in humorous & touching short stories. He has written for the private entertainment of those loved for many years and has now been inspired to share. His short stories often begin quickly, casually wander, and end with a unique "full circle" of thought and feeling. Hampton Kennedy's short stories are written for the reader, filled with humorous cultural references of the time (70's & 80's), a child's sharp & aimless mind, and a never-ending sense of hope.