I’ve got something different for you today. I’m still unsure whether to post it or not, but as it involves no stories of wild behavior (me? never), or gossip or politics, it’s probably all right. So far, I have not regretted this kind of vulnerability on the ol’ PG.
The post you’ll see below was written in May of last year but never finished (and therefore never posted.) Thus, it stayed in the Drafts folder in WordPress, the blogging platform used to make PaperGirl.
In May of 2016, Claus was staying with me. It was the time before he left Chicago to go back to Berlin indefinitely. We knew the end was near. Our days were tender, sweet. I’m not sure why I didn’t finish this post about the pictures he showed me. I think I felt bashful and, looking over the draft of the post, I didn’t know quite how to explain my emotions. I was feeling the same vulnerability I feel now, I suppose.
And if you’re wondering why I’m writing about Claus again, well, I’m wondering that, too. These things are confusing. Let’s just say that I’m doing some spring cleaning. Or maybe that I’m finishing up a UFO.*
Here’s the post. Remember, it wasn’t quite finished when I let it be and I don’t know that I should go back and finish it. I think the fragment is the point, today. Leaving things loose like this is not something I like, but we get used to things.
I saw a picture of the most handsome young man yesterday. It was a picture from the past. I recognized the face of the boy because the person who was showing me the picture was the person in the picture. I was looking at Claus. And the picture I was looking at was of Claus at age nineteen or so. The picture was taken of him in his hometown outside Hamburg sometime in the late 1980s.
Seeing someone who left his teenage years decades ago suddenly be nineteen is weird. And fun. And funny. (That hair!) And if like me you overthink everything and refuse to just let a picture be a picture, seeing such a picture is really uncomfortable. Because it confers a kind of sad, caged-animal feeling. I’ll explain.
The young man in the picture was really, really cute. He was an objectively, aesthetically cute teenage guy, the kind of guy seventeen-year-old (give or take a few years) girls freak out over. Athletic build. Strong jaw. Dirty blonde. Great smile — which, I learned, was close-lipped because Claus had braces at the time, and this makes it more perfect because the picture was then more real. Long story short: The boy I saw in the picture was essentially made in a lab for me to be in love with at age fifteen. Swoon. City.
Like most of us, the year that I was forced to be fifteen was not great. I was not cute. I was too talkative. I was having terrible trouble with math. I had a lot on my mind at home, too, including dealing with a mom who was gone a lot (out of necessity! I don’t blame her!) and a broken relationship with my dad. And on and on. Everyone is unhappy in their own ways throughout adolescence; I wasn’t special. Like anyone that age going through whatever they go through, I would’ve given anything for a cute, nice boy to look my way. I would’ve given anything to be asked to the dance. It might’ve made all the other stuff not seem so bad. But with a couple rare exceptions, I was not asked to dances.
If you had come to me back then and showed me the picture of young Claus and said, “Hey, Fons. What do you think of this guy?” I would have pushed my big glasses up my nose and straightened my cloth headband before I took a look, almost as if he could see me from inside the photo and I could do something to look my best. Upon seeing the picture of the cutie-patootie, I would’ve smiled like a dweeb and rolled my eyes like, “Duh, he’s hot??” If you would’ve told me then that the boy was German and that the picture was taken in Germany, you would’ve had to peel me off the ceiling because what could possibly be more hot and amazing and dreamy than a cute boy who was from Germany??
And then, if you would’ve told me that the guy in the picture would care for me deeply someday, that he would kiss me most passionately, invite me to go on a journey across America with him and tell me — he, a bona fide philosopher! — that I was one of the most brilliant people he had ever met… Well, this is where the sad, caged-animal thing comes in.
Why must we live life in the straight line we’re given? Why are we forced to plod along, day, night, day, night, day, night, in this linear way? Why couldn’t my fifteen-year-old-self just get a hint that what seemed absolutely impossible (being liked by someone like that) was in the cards? It would’ve helped so much. It would’ve been so great, just a little “Chin up, kiddo, you’ve got a great family and moxie to spare — and there’s gonna be a lot of love in your life. Just… Standby.”
I guess I just
*An “unfinished object.” A “UFO” is quilter parlance for any quilt project you’ve started but not yet finished.