The Time? February. The Place? New England.
It's not just cold, it's freezing your ass off cold with mountains of snow everywhere. I am in the cafeteria of Deerfield Academy, an all-boys prep school. My school's Glee Club has traveled by bus to give a concert; a gaggle of 20 girls screaming and shouting for five hours from Manhattan. Now we are all huddled at different tables while the Deerfield boys observe us; the only females in the huge dining area; proverbial goldfish in a bowl. We are about to eat our questionable nosh when a figure swaggers over, in a tweed coat and school tie, to stand over me.
"Pilar?" he sticks out his hand. "I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Jamie Atkinson. If there's anything you need, let me know. I'll be around all weekend." With a smile, he saunters off.
The Person? Jamie
The day before, my mother mysteriously alluded to a friend's son but conveniently left out details. Our parents are good friends and he's been instructed to watch out for me. Jamie is not only hot, he's OLDER. As in three years older, a senior. I am a mere freshman. This is a mic drop moment. The other girls at the table stare at me with a newfound respect.
The Circumstance? My First Crush
I immediately develop a huge crush on Jamie. The problem is, I don't see him the rest of the weekend. The concert is a success and we are back on the bus to go home the next day. Surprisingly, I get a letter from him in the mail. Now I am convinced I'm in the middle of a Barbara Cartland novel. I become obsessed with seeing him again. The question is: how? Turns out, my grade is putting on a prom. I still don't understand, all these years later, why my school did this. Aren't proms for seniors?
Jamie is my first draft pick, of course. I write a very formal invitation on my engraved stationery to his address at Deerfield. I'm hoping he's not turned off by the time: six in the evening. We are, after all, barely teenagers. He responds almost immediately. I go weak in the knees reading his letter.
The evening of the prom, I wear a sleeveless blue and green silk long dress. At precisely 6pm, the doorbell rings. Jamie looks gorgeous in black tie. He smiles and presents me with a single peach rose. Luckily I am leaning on the door because I feel faint from such a romantic gesture. We walk over to Spence and enter the assembly hall where the prom is being held. It is loud, with strobe lights, and no one is wearing a long dress or black tie. The popular girls watch me, snickering. I guess we don't look cool. Never mind the fact that I am with a young man, three years older than the snot nosed boys in front of me with their shirt tails hanging out. Jamie leans in and whispers "Let's get out of here." We scurry outside, he hails a checker with jump seats and we head south. The cab stops at 73rd and Second Avenue, home of Dr. Generosity's Saloon. Sawdust covers the floor of this dark, quirky bar. Needless to say I am underage but no one cards me as Jamie orders two rum and cokes. We talk about life, travel, and school. He's funny and smart and I am completely besotted. Two hours later, promptly before my curfew, he delivers me at the door, leans over and kisses me... on the cheek. He disappears into the night. I'm a little disappointed since I'm expecting this to be my first ever kiss but it doesn't happen. Maybe next time.
He smiles and presents me with a single peach rose. Luckily I am leaning on the door because I feel faint from such a romantic gesture.
The Outcome? Hmm
The next time I see Jamie, it is his birthday, February 13. Nine months have gone by. After exchanging a letter or two, he has stopped writing. Granted, he is busy in college so I can't blame him. I'm still a high school kid. I see his parents on weekends at a ski place in upstate New York. I write short stories and put myself in various scenarios of riding up the ski lift into the sunset with him. In reality, Jamie rarely shows up. Still, every weekend, I make sure and have something fabulous on in case I run into him.
On this particular day, I am wearing Lederhosen, authentic leather German shorts made for boys that my parents brought me from a trip. I think I look adorable; thank God there are no pictures from that era. The weekend before I find out from eavesdropping on a conversation with our collective parents that Jamie will be here for lunch. It's warm outside so the shorts are perfect. I've been dreaming about him for months. At precisely 1 o'clock, I go into the ski lodge, take off my boots to go into the special lounge where snow and mud filled shoes are verboten and casually walk over in socks. I see him sitting by himself, wearing a blue and white sweater that matches his eyes. I gulp.
"Hi Jamie", I say in my best adult voice.
He stands up, gives me a peck on the cheek. Darn it, I thought he might get fresh and catch my lip but no such luck. We start talking. He is fun and interesting, with a tinge of sexiness.
"By the way, you look great in those Lederhosen," he says. I can't believe it. He knows what Lederhosen are! I am about to sing happy birthday when two girls from my high school who also ski here suddenly materialize. They saunter over, ignoring me and start flirting with Jamie. 'Hey hey,' I want to scream, 'He's mine, I was here first!' But he is basking in the attention and a little tipsy, since he is, after all, celebrating, and he flirts back. I become the wobbly stool off to the side that no one wants to use.
"Well, happy birthday" I say, leaving. I steal one last glance at him; he is too busy chuckling with a girl on each side to say goodbye to the girl in Lederhosen.
The Next Time...
Years later, I run into Jamie at a friend's house near that same ski slope. A group of us are celebrating New Year's and we dance until 3am. At the end of the night the host drives us all home in his Jeep. I am sitting in the back seat and when it's my stop, Jamie, the proverbial gentleman, hops out and offers me his hand. I step down and go to kiss him on the cheek. Suddenly, he smacks a big one on my mouth. His lips are soft and full. Those warm feelings of the old crush come rushing back for an instant and then depart just as quickly. I am left smiling. The kiss I've always dreamed of only took ten years.
The last time I saw Jamie was at his wedding. He seemed happy and I was glad for him. I always remember his birthday, since it's the day before Valentine's.
Rest in Peace, Jamie.
I found his reply to my invite a few weeks ago and swooned all over again reading it.