I probably should be telling you about Chris and Charley separate from the boyfriends I had in high school. Yet, these two young men meant and still mean so much to me. Sure, I kissed both of them, but they weren’t the kisses I’d give a boyfriend.
Chris was in my band class. He played clarinet. He wasn’t terrific at it but he wasn’t a failure either. I think he took it as a fill-in class. His passion was visual arts. He was seventeen and a senior back then while I was sixteen and a junior. It stared out with both of us having lunch at the same time. Both of us smoked so we’d trot outside at that time to have a cigarette. One of us (can’t remember if it was Chris or me) asked the other one for a light. We sat on the dead grass of last January, eating our sack lunches, smoking a second cigarette, and talked about our band teacher, Rolie.
This exchange went on until May when Chris came over to my house for the first time. He didn’t come alone. He had his soon to be college roommate with him, Charley. These two guys were different in so many way. Chris was the tall, dark and handsome one. Charley, although tall and had brown hair, was, I’m sorry to say, not handsome. Chris’s hair was dark brown, almost black. It was thick, wavy and went down to his shoulders, just barely that is. Charley’s hair was so thin, curled in just the wrong places, and his hair was as long as Chris’s was. Chris had a choirboy face where Charley had the face of Fagan in the musical, Oliver.
Charley had a few good points about himself that Chris didn’t have though. Charley was smart, way smarter than he would ever need to be. He was a wiz at math and could play the piano as if he were a professional pianist. Moreover, he could play jazz and rock as well as classical. He seemed to have no problems with his grades because of his high level of intelligence. He could carry on a conversation with anyone no matter what his or her age or the subject. He was an amazing young man.
Chris was nice enough and was fun to be with, but he was naive. His life had been sheltered quite a bit more that Charley’s had. He also had a tendency to see things in only black and white. This made him feel terribly guilty when the three of us would go out to the foothills to smoke a couple of joints. For Charley and me, we felt that marijuana should be legalized and we figured we were just getting the jump on it.
These two men were my close friends for two years and our relationship with one other would have gone on longer if it is could. They taught me how to play the card games Hearts and Spades. I learned about the different strategies in the game of Risk. I learned how to do the waltz and the Foxtrot.
Chris and Charley weren’t this versatile by accident. Chris’s family had money. No, he wasn’t filthy rich, but there was enough so that his parents could make sure he was primed to be a successful adult. Charley’s family wasn’t quite as influential with money but did have some. Charley’s family lived in the Netherlands. They were an American family with the father’s career being in Europe. To say it in a few words, Charley got an intentional education.
I will always be grateful to these two for how they helped me discover the world that was outside my “backyard”. What I had to endure after high school is something I don’t think I could have handled with out what I learned from Chris and Charley.