Dear old Boonton High School. The very setting for this true-life story
Remembering Lisa, Chapter 3
By Richard Mabey Jr.
There comes in the life of each and every one us, a hurt. A hurt so deep that time cannot heal the sting. From time to time, it will haunt us. It is as eerie as the sound of a squeaking hinge in the middle of the night. As empty and lonely a feeling as the cry of the sole whippoorwill at dusk. It is the echo of the hurt of the elderly man, sitting alone on a park bench in the middle of the day. It is that thing which, for some unknown reason, allows people to be cruel and mean to one another. It is as senseless as the deaths of all those men at the Battle of Gettysburg. For myself, nearly 48 years later, this moment of hurt still resonates a certain sting upon the chambers of my heart.
And so it was. I had been blessed to have the perfect timing, to come out of Mrs. K’s geometry class, in Room 210, the exact same moment in time that Lisa exited Room 209. I got the nerve to simply say hi to her. She said hi to me. She really didn’t know me, except as the kid who said hi to her when she left Room 209 and walked out to the hustle and scurry of the parade of students rapidly walking to their next class period.
And so it was. Lisa and I walked along the corridor of the second floor of dear old Boonton High School, to the staircase. I was so nervous. Butterflies rampaged my inner being. I trembled inside. My heart was beating like a big bass drum. My temples pounded. My palms were sweating. I made Barney Fife look cool, calm and collected.
As we climbed down the steps, I dug deep to find the courage to ask Lisa to the sock hop that was going to be held in the school gym that coming Saturday night. I remember glancing over at her long brown hair. Lisa was so incredibly cute. I fought an inner battle. A voice deep within myself kept echoing, “what the heck are you doing, Rich? This girl is way our to your league.”
I can’t remember what we talked about. I think it centered upon teachers, the weather, I struggled to find interesting conversation. Finally we reached the cafeteria doorway. I remember Lisa waved to one of her friends. Lisa’s friend came over to talk to Lisa and to walk with Lisa to the line to the cafeteria food service.
I remember struggling to keep the energy alive between Lisa and myself. But, alas it was fading. And fading fast. Lisa was lost in her conversation with her friend. They were talking about a boy they both knew. Don’t ask me why, but I remember Lisa’s friend saying this to Lisa.
“He’s a junior. I found out he’s a junior. And, I found out he’s Tom Sycamore’s cousin. I know Tom, he’s my neighbor. Maybe you’ll finally get to meet him.”
My heart sank. My heart sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. A sadness came over me that could never be put into words.
We finally got to the point in line, where you would grab a tray and tell one of the cafeteria staff members what you wanted for lunch. Lisa and her friend, grabbed their trays. I was right behind them. As if I wasn’t even there, Lisa’s friend whispered to Lisa, “who’s the kid you were talking to?”
“I don’t know just some kid,” Lisa replied.
“Oh. Lisa, I think he likes you,” Lisa’s friend whispered to Lisa, totally unconcerned that I may be able to hear their conversation.
“Oh, him. He’s a nerd,” Lisa replied.
Then both girls giggled. They laughed. And then they laughed some more. My heart sank. I nearly cried. Those words, “Oh him. He’s a nerd,” left me with the feeling that someone had just plunged a dagger into my heart. The pangs of young love.
The next day, I returned to geometry class. But no longer was I distracted with thoughts of Lisa being in the next classroom over. No longer was I thinking about something clever to say to Lisa, if I saw Lisa after class let out. My mind was now on geometry. My mind was fully focused on geometry.
Ron probably doesn’t remember this. But when we all sat down at the start of the class, that very day, Ron sat down and smiled and said to me, “hey Rich did you get problem seven? That was a doozy.”
I looked over to Ron and smiled, “I’m not sure if I got the right answer.”
Slowly but surely, as the days passed, then weeks passed, then months passed; I forgot that Lisa was in the classroom next to Room 210, during my geometry class. There came a time, a moment if you will, an awakening, a revelation that I had been using the principles of geometry for years and never realized it.
You see, when I was a kid, from about the age of eight, I loved to build tree forts. I built four tree forts in my backyard. My grand masterpiece tree fort had three levels to it. I also built five or six tree forts in the woods, in back of my house. Some of them I built along the tow path of the Morris Canal. And, in building all of them, I used the principles of geometry to build each and every one of them.
But, alas, here is the whole bottom line to this story. Before June of 1969 rolled around and geometry class was over. I developed a secret crush on someone else. No doubt you’ve guessed it. I don’t know if it was a crush, but a feeling of deep appreciation. And, of course that crush, that feeling of appreciation was for none other than Mrs. K.
It’s been brutally painful to write this story. You would think that after 47 years had passed, that would not be the case. But, what can I say? It was and still is.
And the final word would not be complete without a word of thank you to Ron G. Without his encouragement, sitting next to me in geometry class for that year, I am sure I would have flunked geometry for sure. I can still hear the echo of Ron’s voice, “hey Rich, did you get problem seven. Man, that was a doozy!” So better late than never. Thank you Ron G. for your words of encouragement in my struggle with geometry class!