A Silent Romance : (A Youthful Romance, at Washington High School, 19 65, St. Paul, Minnesota)
Where in our High School was her equal? Heaven had willed otherwise, there was none. Surely many saw her beauty, Gayle Johnson’s, but none did I see, that she allowed wooing her. And she, when she saw me, grand with eyes for none save her, she gazed as none of that High School had ever gazed. Those girls who walked with her, watched were hushed as though they had looked briefly into the Temple of Ramses. It was as if both he and she were promised, but unmatched. Nonetheless soon this silent romance would dissipate; now each must pick the yellow rose and throw the red back. It was not then, and now the yellow rose is old and black and twisted. But back then it was green, fresh and young, if not wild.
Yes, I came from what the police called Donkeyland, down on Jackson Street, in St. Paul, Minnesota, not so unlike those moviemaker’s backyard Bowery Boys, who were hooligans in the eastern part of New York City. Where the guys were bold and tough and wild. And over by Indians Hill, each weekend, we’d all get drunk. How long? Ah, who knows? All weekend I suppose, I am very old now, it is hard to remember, I have forgotten much.
I followed my flock that is the gang, the Cayuga Street gang, the guys and gals in the neighborhood. As if I was one of the goats, moseying about the vineyard, slopes, drinking up the sun, with alcohol in the summers, and in the winters, finding some local, and turning on the radio to the Rock & Roll: the crucial music of those golden days.
But during my last year at Washington High School, 1965, when I saw Gayle walking down the hall, as I was the Hallway Monitor, near the cafeteria, her faint, but sweet smile was like the broken flight of a silver winged bird: I was liken to a lad who drowsed among the sun-swelled rocks of Mount Olympus awaiting her glance: the air and heat and silence, that filled her appearance, roused me to a spell; plus, neither can I forget how my eyes did follow her.
And she was young also, a year or so younger than I. Almost daily we met, among the so called bystanders and walkabouts going to and fro from the cafeteria, and the many goats of that high school, and for a moment it would seem that we both slipped away from the rest of the world, to idle in the sweet moment of one’s passing; that is, one passing one another. How like, a little goat she was, big leaping eyes, and I paused, taking what pleasure I could in the offered moment, knowing there was no more to it than that, or was there?
And ah, how she come into flower; how the eyes of young men did follow her, I took no labor in it, only that this one moment in the day was all arranged for us, although I would gladly have done more had I felt worthy, or more enticed.
To be more exact, I had never known even her name. Only once at a high school dance, did we dance-how I labored and saved that moment, wooed her that moment, can’t remember if she teased me or not. If she did it was fine, for where was her equal in that high school? There was none! And they who watched us dance were hushed. But I was told to leave, I had alcohol on my breath, so again I must say, I had now the yellow rose, only to throw away again the red, back to where I found it.
Looking back now: was there a promise? Was it all arranged?
After I left High School to go on to my many adventures and wanderings in life: the fiddles were silent and the sun had dropped over this dreaming purple romance, and I still did not know her name, even though I’d find out later on in life; find out that is, that she wrote in my yearbook “I love you!” and her name. Yes it was seen, but no one knew her, who knew me at the time she wrote it, and having missed that day in school, was not there to witness her signature, for I had asked, who Gayle Johnson was! And again I say: no one I knew, knew. Thus the saints had willed otherwise. Or was it a breeze of satire someone was playing on me, or real? For perhaps in those far-off days I was more flirtatious than I really thought I was, for I never thought I was, but some folks did think otherwise. Who’s to say?
I am old now, I forget easily, ah, there was one other moment, 1994, and she called me at my work, a proud voice, like a thin sword, being taken out of a velvet sheath; I had been ill for a long while, but was recovered when she had made that call. She wanted to meet me, and she said “I’m Gayle Johnson” but who was Gayle Johnson? Again we didn’t meet. Had I seen her eyes for none save her, she and I would have danced again, hushed by surely those old High School rivals, had there been any? For she was music like a hundred guitars.
That year, the year my mother passed away, 2003, amid the papers I had stored away in her apartment, were my yearbooks from Washington High School, I looked up the name Gayle Johnson, and her picture, loud as giant iron-silver plated bells, rang in my head, when I saw those Betty Davis eyes, but again the night had gone away, and the stars were gone, and youth had faded, and I had married a cute little Inca Princess. Yes, the saints are very good, but late if indeed we were to cause anymore hush!
Romance, What? Was I sad? I do not know. I have known joy and sorrow, but now I do not remember, I do know I was curious. And yes, I have kept that yellow rose, mentally anyhow, ever since that discover.
Yes, I have kept it. And if we ever are to meet again, she will doubtless desire me to have kept it, those retentions, and recapitulations; had I not, or should I not, -she surely would be saddened. And it has well repaid me, in that I have this little layer of romance for you to read, of those far-off days of Aquarius.