A Real Memory, Unwelcome but Unchallenged

I’m not sure which of the two of us were more guilty. I suspect it was me, though she could have made the first move. That’s always been the case though, hasn’t it?

I was the one who felt unloved and unworthy of love. Patty McClung and I met in geology class. We spent very little time together. One geology field trip that I remember and one long afternoon in my studio apartment, listening to B.W. Stevenson albums on my cheap turntable. We sprawled across my bed, both feeling deeply awkward I think, and talked about the music. And then, at some point, I learned she was on a woman’s baseball team and that she would play in Houston. I went to Houston. But I opted, at the last minute, not to go to the game in which she played. I think I was embarrassed. I didn’t know what we meant to each other. Or, more importantly, I didn’t know whether I meant anything to her. And so I told my buddy, Ray Woodman, that we ought to skip the game. And we did. And I’ve never had any contact with Patty McClung since. It’s not like I lost a lover, but I lost quite a lot of respect for myself for simply walking away from that game. I’ve never regained it, either. I never kissed Patty McClung. I never touched her, save any incidental brushes of hand against hand that might have occurred as we listened to B.W. Stevenson. Damn it. Was I as void of decency and conscience and empathy and caring as I think I must have been?

I wish I could apologize to her for simply disappearing from her life. Though, in reality, she also disappeared from mine. We were both “guilty” for failing to pursue possibilities that, realistically, might have turned into nothing but anger and pettiness. But, maybe…maybe.

Patty McClung might have taught me lessons in humanity that, if I learned, I learned late. But I allowed  a twenty-something’s coldness to crush that lesson beneath my feet. Tonight, I feel sad that I let my youth be guided by things that never mattered, but I thought they did. Tonight, I feel sad that the world isn’t more assertive when it witnesses young people being stupid and unfeeling.  I think there’s a permanent sadness inside me now, an unrestrained weeping, that lives within me simply because I can’t erase the mistakes of my youth. I guess what makes it worse is that I realize, now, I could have erased those mistakes but chose the easy way out and just didn’t do it. And I suffer now because of that ugly, inexcusable choice.

It seems fitting that, in the background, I listen to Danko, Fjeld, and Andersen perform “When Morning Comes to America.” Except ‘morning’ is, in fact, ‘mourning.” Truly.

This may be too close to reality to be pure fiction. But it will fit into a story one day, regardless. I feel it will.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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