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Monday March 27th 2023

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That's what she said

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The Purest Stuff of Boulder


photo by Gordon Wickstrom

We lived up on Fifth Street, just off Pearl, in the house with the green steel roof. We were close to Red Rocks and near the creek — a fine neighborhood for kids. Half of it was still in vacant lots where, on fine evenings after supper, we ganged up to run our games.

When I was maybe fourteen the Douglas family moved in next door, Adventists, with their two kids, a son my age and his younger sister — dear God, the dream of a younger sister!  Just next door!

Those were the turbulent years of discovery. We were discovering ourselves, each other, and the world — all of it laden heavy with that new and strange, inescapable desire pounding, hurting, inside us.

To complicate things, I had discovered and grown obsessed with the trout in the creek, and now here was that girl next door! I hardly knew how or which way to turn.

I see now, on this far side of life, that, for a boy so besotted, the trout and the girl were much alike — both uncatchable. A dual fantasy of impossible desire.

One autumn night, after supper, playing our games, running through those vacant lots and streets, I caught a glimpse of that stick-slender, black haired, happy eyed girl next door running behind me. And alone!

In my desperate craving, I thought there was just a chance that… if I’d drop down in the leaves between those old maples still there at Fourth and Pearl and pretend to be knocked out, badly injured or something like that, she’d find me and be frightened, and then, so very sorry — and drop to her knees and love me! Surely she would!

So down I went among the deep and acrid leaves to lie motionless, one eye squinting up to see her coming, find me lying there, puzzle a moment, and, blithely looking the other way, run on — leaving me alone and desolate.

I could no more lure that girl with my kid’s love in those holy leaves of autumn than I could those trout in the creek with my crudely tied flies. I could only watch and yearn and stumble on as they each disappeared into their ancient, secret elements.

The broken heart, I learned, is a required condition of being.

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