Laura Grace Weldon
Pine Elementary School
North Olmsted, Ohio early 1970s
Vincent may have entered school when we were both in 6th grade or been in my classes all along, but that spring he moved directly to the center of my awareness. He had silky black hair that fell low over astonishingly blue eyes. Unlike other grubby, snickering elementary school boys he was quiet and attentive.
It was probably no coincidence that I fell for Vincent soon after hearing Don McLean’s classic American Pie album. The song about Vincent Van Gogh captivated me. The lyrics told of a misunderstood visionary, a man with “eyes of China blue” whose soul was too beautiful for an uncaring world.
Although I’d never really paid much attention to boys before, somehow I merged the intensity of those words with a look I was sure I saw in Vincent’s eyes. My girlfriends claimed to have crushes all the time over pop stars. The symptoms of their crushes included shrieking and silliness. I had none of these signs.
Once, as the teacher told us to line up at the door for music class, I found myself standing directly behind Vincent. I was sure he was aware of my presence. There could be no other explanation for the sudden frisson between us. Surely his skin prickled and his breath deepened as mine did. I wanted to touch his dark hair. I wanted him to turn and smile at me with causal ease.
But boys and girls were friends only in books. Together they wandered moors or solved crimes or dreamed up new inventions. They talked openly and sometimes held hands. This did not happen.
Vincent’s reserved nature made it easy to develop idealized concepts about him. I decided that he was smart and kind. I imagined that he was secretly drawn to me, but too shy to look my way. As I lay in bed, sleepless, I felt the injustice of being twelve years old and too young for anything.
Yet I felt old. Sorrows I’d carried for years became more intense because I’d lost the childhood distraction of play. I was on the verge of adolescence without sports or hobbies to keep me busy. All I had was my old anxious self and this new secret love.
That summer I painted my toenails, rode my bike, tried to write poetry, and wondered if God existed. I looked forward to school only to see Vincent yet also dreaded the prospect that he might reveal himself to be something less than the person I’d imagined.
Vincent didn’t come back to school for sixth grade.No one knew where he’d gone. That made him, in my mind, more mysteriously alluring than ever. Sometimes at night I opened my bedroom window to breathe in the night air and look at stars. Maybe, wherever he was, he might be at his window too.
Unrequited love isn’t always painful. Sometimes it’s as tender as a moment never shared with a beautiful blue-eyed boy. Or as the song says, with “the stranger that you’ve met.”