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What's That Feeling?


Michael Russo

   What is life if not love?

   We spend our entire lives looking for it. From the time we’re born, we search for someone to take care of us. When we’re children, It comes without us actually asking for it. If we’re fortunate, we are given parents that naturally shower us with love. It’s the nature of life itself. As we grow as children, it surrounds us further - family and friends. However, maternal security and childhood social interactions finally give way to curiosity and the urge to step-out and discover our own meaning of the word love. Sometimes, that’s where the trouble begins.

  I was out running the other day in my neighborhood and as I was suffering through the heat, I noticed a boy and a girl sitting on the roof of a truck in someone’s driveway. They looked to be somewhere around 10 or 11 years old I guess. They were just sitting there, feet dangling against the windshield. I’m surprised the parents let them sit up that high. But they seemed to be perfectly content. As I ran by, they were both smiling from ear-to-ear and as I ran further and turned my head even farther to see them, they both simply raised their hands, smiled even brighter and waved at me. I couldn’t help but wave back and give a smile of recognition. They were really cute. But what seemed to be unusual, was the fact that they were holding hands with the other ones they weren’t waving with.

   The simple fact that they looked so cute up on the roof of the truck, smiling and waving to me seemed to give me a little more faith in mankind. However, the hand-holding got me to thinking the rest of the run. Were they brother and sister? I didn’t think that was possible, since I was well aware of sibling rivalries and by that age brothers and sisters are usually on the edge of killing each other. It just didn’t make sense. It certainly made me happy to think that brothers and sisters could get along that well. Were they friends..boyfriend and girlfriend? That would have been cute. But what is a boyfriend and girlfriend at 10 years old? What do they know about love?

  What do they know about love? Well, I imagined for a moment…they might have known everything. Their minds were absolutely clear, untainted with past emotions or existing emotions for that matter. Little minds just reveling in the here and now. It seemed to be a shame that they’re going to grow up and carry around emotional scares of one relationship or another. Clouded fragments of love and lust, trying to piece together some relationship they hate to be in. Then, eventually despising all members of the opposite sex because of two or three of the bad ones. Sad and lonely maybe. At least that is my stereotype of the basic adult relationship lately. I see it all too often. I see it in my neighborhood. The faint sounds of yelling inside of a neighbor’s house. The couple at the store, reaching a fever pitch of evil towards one another over the fact that she forgot her checkbook at home. Maybe it’s the argument over the children, money or trivial matters that destroy the strong!

 est love in the end. The rumor that your best friends may be separating and that he’s moved in with a woman ten years younger than he is. She’s decided to take him for all he’s worth.

   “He won’t be able to lick a stamp, much less know where his next meal is coming from when I get through with him!” she’ll say. “That pig!” 
    Life’s a hard pill to swallow, when you’ve been down Heartbreak Boulevard in both directions – twice.

   My motivation for innocence and my search for it’s existence often takes me back to when I was 11 years old. We’d just moved back down to Illinois from our farm in Wisconsin. I joined a little league baseball team and the first day we met was over at the coach’s house for a meeting, a picnic and pool party. There were about fifteen of us boys on the team and we were ready to get started with summer full of baseball. As we all started to gather around at the coach’s house, he came up and introduced himself. He started laying out the ground-rules, etc. But we were all anxious to get in what looked to be at the time, an Olympic-size swimming pool. He then introduced his son and his daughter Kelly who was going to be on the team.

   “Hello..what’s this? A girl on the team? Yuck!!” we thought to ourselves.
    They had just started to let girls on the teams with boys that year. Well, as the meeting progressed and the coach gave us a few fundamentals that I was well aware of…I obviously couldn’t help staring at the female. The only complication to that endeavor was the fact that she was staring directly back at me!!  Anyway, that feeling started to overcome my mind and my body and I started freakin’ out…in a good way. You know that feeling, don’t you? There is a name for it, but I’m not sure what it’s called. Most would say it’s certainly not love or lust at 11 years old. Sometimes, you hear it in songs but I really don’t think there’s a name for it. Some call it puppy love. I like to think of it as just love. But again, some adults would argue. Maybe they know best.

   Anyway, out of fifteen boys, she’s staring at me! I was diggin’ it. When the meeting broke up, she seemed to walk closer to me than she did anyone else. She was really cute. She had black, curly hair and a few freckles around her cheeks and her nose. Even though I’d only been there for twenty minutes, I was wrestling with this feeling. It felt good though. As we all changed clothes and jumped in the pool, she was like a magnet that was forced towards me. We played the whole afternoon in the pool and for the most part, she stayed near me. We sat together when we ate and when we were through swimming and I was waiting for my dad to pick me up, she came out and sat with me on the front porch. We didn’t say too much while sitting there. At least I can’t remember a great amount of conversation. But she liked me…that’s for sure…and I didn’t mind. When my dad got there and I jumped in the car, he winked at me and asked who the cute girl was since we were sitting alone. I said, “

 That’s the coach’s daughter” and the feeling hit me again like a rush of wind and I had the uncontrollable urge to just look away from my dad and smile out the window. One of those smiles that’s comin’ and there’s nothing you can do about it!! It’s that feeling that makes you feel capable of growing wings and soaring to the clouds. But, I don’t think there’s a name for it.

   I want to put a label on that feeling. But I can’t quite figure it out. It’s the glance across the classroom as she gets the note you wrote to meet her in the playground. It’s a little boy and girl holding hands on a truck. It’s the coach’s daughter giving you a stare. It’s in a song that takes you to a special place without really being there I guess.  It’s the feeling you go home with after watching a certain movie in the theater. It’s new. It’s innocent. It’s clean. It’s untarnished by years of jealousy, rage and regret.

   My wife and I have been married for 17 years and the fact that we have been together for so long qualifies us today as circus freaks or we may hold a place for us someday in the ancient marital record books uncovered by future generations. In today’s age of divorce, bitterness, doubt and suspicion it can bring a breath of sanity to one’s surroundings to actually experience fresh love once again. Often times, news of the next high-profile divorce case in Hollywood bombards us and leaves us with doubts of the future of mankind. Half the friends we have or the people we encounter are products of a failed marriage or two. They’re a virtual bevy of angry post-marital zombies looking to capture that feeling once again. It’s like they’re trapped between life and death.

    In our community, I believe we may hold the record for most divorced people in one location. The bitterness is written on their faces. Though they smile, it’s a mask that covers up the pain and desperation that often peak through their faint façade. The past infractions upon them or those they’ve inflicted stalk them and make them angry at the world, despite their cordial demeanor.

   The hatred of the opposite sex has become the mainstay of those in failed attempts at love or matrimony. Some of them on their third or fourth try at their first “true love.” They are in a constant search for more satisfaction – more love.

     Why, more than ever, does the search for the ultimate love lead to the ultimate heartbreak again and again? Instant gratification and selfishness has driven thoughtfulness and sincerity to the back seat and left us wondering where true love ran off to. We want it here and we want it now. In the end though for some reason, we end up ushering hate back into our lives. 

   Where is love we say? Maybe it’s in front of us. Maybe it’s all around us. We can stop and see it if we just believe it’s there - if we take it slow. We can hear it, if we stop and listen. But we don’t. We often than not, get in the car with a friend and run into the bar in search of our instant gratification. Is love between the sheets of a ruffled bed or in the hearts of little children, nestled up on top of a pick-up truck in my neighborhood. To some it might be in the sheets. I’d have to argue. For without the solid support of real love, methodically nurtured slowly, passion once again summons regret and we’re in the cold once more. 

   As I start to walk home, I inhale deeper and begin to catch my breath. My two-mile run is over and it feels good to just rest. I think much clearer when I’m alone. It gives me time to reflect. I look at the sunset in my face and watch the last of the birds getting ready for their night’s rest. A car rushes by and a siren calls out in the distance and reminds me where I’m at. A front door slams.

   “Go than!”, I hear screamed behind the door. I look over as the man of the house jumps down the stairs.

    “Witch”, he says under his breath and gets on his motorcycle and rides away.

    For that moment I smile and think of the boy and the girl on the truck. I’m comfortable enough to get it and I’m sure I know what that feeling is. It is true love.

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