Just Lunch

Last week, I had lunch with a young woman.

She was breathing and I really like that trait in a girl.

Only a simple thing prevented me from touching her — my faith in God and in the LAPD.

As our time together drew to a close, our conversation got serious.

“My therapist says I’m driven to marginalize myself wherever I go,” I said. “It doesn’t matter if it is Hollywood or Judaism or journalism. I either have to be the leader or in my grasping for leadership, I marginalize myself. I don’t relate to people in a normal way.”

“Why?” she asked.

“I could give you lots of good stories, lots of good reasons,” I said. “I’ve built them up over the years. I’ve accumulated them as self-defense. I could tell you it is because of my devotion to my craft, to writing and to art and to the transcendent. I could tell you it’s because I’m a heroic truth-seeker. And I’ve believed these things. I still do.

“I’ve thrown away my life. I’ve exchanged what was valuable for grandiose delusions.”

“Why do you marginalize yourself?”

“It’s because I’m afraid that if I were to relate to people with an open heart, if I did it without throwing up barriers between us, then people might reject me for who I am. I’ve thrown up so many obstacles to people getting to know the real me because I’m scared to death that I could not handle it if I was rejected for who I really am. So I write a blog and I do outrageous things and when people reject me for these externals, it is not nearly so painful if they chose to reject me after getting to know me.”

I had a shot at a normal life. I had one brief opportunity for happiness. And I let it slip through my fingers because I was afraid to be known for who I really was.

I moved to Pacific Union College in the Napa Valley with my parents in the summer of 1977. I entered sixth grade that September.

Here was my great opportunity to move up in social status. When you move to a new town, people don’t necessarily know that you were regarded as a loser where you came from. They don’t know you weren’t invited to the cool parties. They don’t know you’re not cool. They don’t know you’re insecure and needy. They might just think you’re interesting.

I think that’s what happened. Somehow, I must’ve made a good impression on the hottest girl in the class — Cindy Anderson. Or perhaps it was just a miracle of divine grace.

I’ve never been much interested in faith, hope, love, grace, faith and all that Christian crap, but perhaps this sparkling moment in time I’m about to describe is an argument for divine intervention in our daily lives.

So here I am the new kid at school. I don’t really know anyone in my class. I’m needy and insecure. What I’ve got going for me is a cool accent.

I’m eleven years old and increasingly interested in girls. I was fascinated by Lipsmacker. They were these tubes of lip gloss that the girls would rub on their lips and make them shiny and smelling of fruit.

I think Cindy used to diligently apply Strawberry Lipsmacker.

She might’ve been taller than me. She had a symmetrical face and clear skin. She had long shiny brown hair that flowed behind her when she ran. And she could run fast.

She was more subdued than me, more ladylike. I just loved to look at her and to dream about her. I yearned to be close to her.

Doesn’t the Torah talk about Isaac finding comfort in Rebekkah after his mother’s death? That’s what Cindy could’ve been for me — a chance to be normal, to reveal my true self, and to merge with another.

One afternoon, Cindy walked by my desk and dropped me a note. It read, “Will you go with me?”

It was the first note anyone had dropped on my desk at my new school. It might as well have been an atomic bomb. I was blown away. I blushed. My heart pounded. I had what I wanted, who I wanted, in my grasp and yet I was afraid to act. I was afraid to confess to Cindy that I wanted to go with her too.

(There was this time in second grade where I was swimming with a friend on a hot day and we were offered ice cream. I said no even though it was what I wanted most. I don’t know why I keep saying no to what I want most.)

I couldn’t look at her for a couple of days and then I started teasing her awfully. I was really mean. I was merciless. I kept it up day after day.

There was a guy in the grade above us who often walked home with Cindy. I think his name was Mark Friegal.

One day, he got tired of me teasing him about Cindy and he chased me. I ran away and I finally got tired and he caught up to me and explained that there was nothing going on between him and Cindy and I should stop teasing both of them.

I did.

After a few months, I came to my senses, and summoned the courage to drop a note on Cindy’s desk asking her, “Would you like to go with me?”

She quickly dropped a note back, “I don’t!!!!!”

I was devastated. All those exclamation marks. I told my closest friends about what had happened and swore I’d never love a girl again.

Cindy left town after sixth grade. I’ve never seen or heard from her since. I wonder if she’s still hot.

My favorite movie is Cinema Paradiso. It’s about a kid in a small town in Italy who falls in love with a girl and with the cinema. His mentor realizes he will never achieve great things if he settles down with the girl, and so he arranges to send the boy away.

He becomes a great movie director. He sleeps with a lot of hot chicks.

One day, he’s summoned to come home for his mother’s funeral. And there he meets the girl he once loved and has an opportunity to make peace with his past.

I want that opportunity too. I bollixed up so many chances. Cindy Anderson was mine for the taking and I was too scared to reach for her. Surely it’s not too late?

Over the past nine years, I’ve twice put myself back in Seventh-Day Adventist land. I have no belief in the distinctive beliefs of the church, but I have an eternal faith in the beauty of Adventist girls and smelling their Lipsmacker makes me feel young again. I feel like I am sitting in my desk in sixth grade and the most beautiful girl in the class has just dropped me a note asking me to go with her.

This time I’ll say yes.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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