OK, this will be in three parts, using the prompt suggested by Michelle W. on the Daily Post yesterday. The subject is loss, and the twist is to make it a trilogy; so this is part one. Look for part two on Monday, and part three on Tuesday.
We were both little more than children in the late spring of 1972. I was a poor brown Mexican kid from the projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant and she was a middle class white girl from Bayside Queens. We were both 17.
The both of us had been offered spots in the Cooper Union Saturday art program, which was open to talented kids from all over the city, probably one of the few places where kids from such disparate backgrounds could ever meet.
I was in my senior year at Brooklyn Tech, an Industrial design student. She attended Bayside High.
I don’t even remember how it happened, and the first thing I remember about Elissa was that she was impossibly tall, taller than me; and she smiled back at me when I smiled at her. One day after our drawing class in the Foundation building of Cooper Union we decided to walk up the stairs together rather than down to the street and subway home. We were young and curious and wanted to spend a little more time together. We somehow ended up in the clock room, and I was surprised to see the back of the big clock that faced the street.
This room was also used as a classroom, and we sat down on a bench. She kept her eyes on me with a wide grin on her long, angular face. She looked like a Modigliani figure, long and slim and blond.
On impulse I kissed her, and rather than pulling away she kissed back. She did not close her eyes, staring at me the whole time. It was a little unsettling. We exchanged numbers and promised to call each other during the week.
And that’s how it started. The first time we agreed to meet each other outside of class was a disaster. We were supposed to meet on at the 53rd Street station of the E and F line, and I sat on a bench and waited for an hour. She never showed up and I went home. When I got home my mother told me some girl had called asking for me. When we saw each other in class Saturday we went through a flurry of apologies and explanations and agreed to try again.
Elissa wasn’t what I was used to in a girl; my first girlfriend was a half Irish half Lithuanian girl from my neighborhood who favored lots of makeup and five inch platform shoes. Then again she was only five-one. Anna also smoked Newport after Newport despite being under age.
Elissa was at least five-eleven, and she wore no makeup and very dorky looking flat canvas shoes, the kind elderly women favored. She wore long skirts and shawls, and peasant blouses, and I doubt she had ever smoked a cigarette in her life. Very artsy-fartsy, in my view, but she was beautiful and she had kissed me back.
On one of our first dates we went to see The Godfather, and when the scene where the man finds the horse’s head in his bed came on, for some reason the audience started laughing.
“That’s not funny!” Elissa shouted out, startling me.
“Why are you laughing? It’s an animal, it’s not funny!” I cringed inwardly, embarrassed by my date’s outburst.
“It’s only a movie, Elissa,” I whispered.
“It’s still not funny,” she said, calming down. I found out how sensitive and principled she was.
She told me she was a dancer and played the recorder, I had never even heard of a recorder. A couple of weeks after our first date she invited me to come out to Bayside to meet her parents. I was familiar with Queens, but I’d never been north of Flushing Meadows Park before. I wrote down the instructions on how to get there, take the number 7 train to the last stop, then find the Bell Boulevard bus to 36th Ave and Bell Boulevard. It would be the big stone house on the corner.