After my first love left me, at the tender age of ten, I had a rough time. I made an oath to myself that I would never love again. That was the first of many such oaths I have broken in my life. For some strange reason, I just kept falling in love. I guess I felt that someday I’d get it right. Such must have been the case when I ventured forth two years later, at the ripe old age of twelve, and fell in love with another.
However, this time was different. This time I was the pursued, rather than the pursuer. You see, it was common practice for the girls at my elementary school to chase the boys, threatening to kiss them when, and if, they were caught. Eleven-year-old boys don’t like to be kissed, at least not initially, so they dutifully ran away from all pursuing girls. I say “dutifully” because most of them would run away from the girls only to the point where they felt their masculine pride had been satiated. Then, they would feign some dramatic fall or fake being out-of-breath, allowing the girl who was still pursuing them, the one that had kept at it while the others had fallen behind, to kiss them. Then, after granting the girl her reward for being the quickest, a small peck on the cheek, they would dash away again in hopes of luring another would-be-pursuer.
There was a certain girl, by the name of Toni Nielsen, who was always ahead of the pack when it came time to chase me in the kissing game. She had a determination for me that the others didn’t. At first, I felt she was a bit crazy in the head for always running after me. So, I never let her catch me. Eventually, the idea of her always chasing me made me feel good. Someone was actually accepting who I was and wanted to be close to me. My opinion of her lunacy soon changed to one of affection. There are few things better than feeling someone appreciates you. So, I began to slow down when Toni pursued me and gave her a chance to catch me.
Toni did catch me, often. After the obligatory peck on the cheek, she would hover around me for awhile exchanging pleasantries, before running back and joining the sisterhood. In on of those moments of pause, I learned where she lived, uptown. I was a boy from the farmland, on the other side of the tracks. We folk from the Westside didn’t mingle much with the uptown dwellers. In fact, I had no friends east of the railroad tracks. West Kaysville might as well have been its own city for all I was concerned. There was all a boy of my age could want there: fields to run through, horses to ride on, wooded areas to go duck hunting in, and plenty of adventurous pals.
As with many things this far from that time, I am sketchy with the details as to what transpired between Toni and me. I do know that I began walking her home after school on several occasions. I remember holding her books for her on the way and asking for a kiss or two for their safe return on our arrival at her house. Then, it was a long walk to my house, westward over the tracks, through a wooded area, and across several fields, a walk that was well worth it. Even though I almost made her do it, I still felt that Toni’s little kisses were a slice of heaven.
I don’t remember how it ended, our brief after-school rendezvous sessions, but they did. Toni and I remained friends through Junior High School and then drifted into mere acquaintances in high school. I haven’t seen nor heard from her since. Thank you Toni, wherever you are, for showing a disillusioned eleven year-old boy that he could still find love within him.