The loves of my childhood and youth were romantic obsessions which fuel and inspire me to this day.
The most magical of my loves were the earliest, and the most sublimated.
♣ Peggy was fifteen in 1979, a freshman at our prep school. Sephardic soul in a tawny body, she had a mane of frizzy dark hair which usually reeked of cigarette smoke. I learned to love that magic smell. Sometimes she wore Candies™ high-heels and encased herself in tight jeans.
She did interesting things with her hair: some days in a bun pinned with massive hairpins, long oriental tendrils trailing; other days a Pre-Raphaelite look, locks beatifically bound at her shoulders. I recall twin pigtails of dark delight as well as a massive Pocahontas braid once. Her eyebrows sloped at a dizzying angle. They made her look like an enraged dakini-goddess, but the fearsome brows only accentuated her inherent kindness. I don’t know if she plucked them that way or if it was an exaggeration of the natural line, but they dazzled me to no end, those crazy eyebrows.
We were in Biology, Music Theory, and French together. In one math classroom she had scrawled ‘Planet Darvon’ on the desk. Peggy was somewhat extreme, for a 15 year-old . . .
As the year progressed we started sitting together in Biology. We passed notes and generally mocked the teacher and certain classmates. It amazed me that she seemed to enjoy our friendship. I felt privileged in her deigning to favor me. We got high in the woods a few times. Peggy drank and smoked somewhat. I remember one morning in music class she looked at me with her crazy-beautiful olive smile and said:
Hook, I woke up this morning and did 6 shots of poison before breakfast.
She meant Vodka. I could barely conceive of such a thing. The amazing aspect of it all was her effortless ability to live this way and get good grades. She was musical; she taught herself the piano solo in Skynyrd’s Call me the Breeze and played it for me like it was nothing. She had hard-rock albums by April Wine and Crack the Sky. The fact that I recall the names of these bands proves my infatuation with her. When Boston played at Boston Garden, she saw them first and told me about it. I saw them a show or two later. She also had Skeletons in the Closet, a collection of Grateful Dead hits. Years later, I learned to appreciate the Dead due to memories of her.
There was a dance that spring at a venue next to a country club with a golf course. I remember her mischievous smile when she informed me that she had scored a bottle of apricot brandy to drink together. We sneaked out of the dance and lay under the stars on an immaculately-trimmed putting green next to a sand-trap, partaking of the forbidden libation. Whenever I hear More Than a Feeling, I think of Peggy.
The fragrance of that amazing mass of hair impregnated with cigarette smoke overwhelms me once again. I see her semitic gray-green cat eyes and the arch of her brows, I recall how perfect she looked in her designer jeans, her laugh, her walk, her voice, sitting next to me in class passing notes. I didn’t deserve that she should even gaze at me.
She left my school after that spring to attend another, and as our romance faded, all she offered in parting was a bottle of vodka she was hiding from her parents and a nonchalant
well Hook I guess this is it—bye bye . . .
then she walked away into oblivion, through a corridor of trees lining Main Street in dazzling late spring light, just like Maryann in the Boston song. I never saw her again. I still think about her almost every day. It is strange what the feminine other can do to an impressionable mind. I am still stoned on memories of a girl who will always be perfectly fifteen in the spring of 1979.