A Moment Never Shared

His name was Vincent. He may have entered Pine Elementary School when we were both in 5th grade or may have 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. It was his song about Vincent Van Gogh that 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 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 celebrities. 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 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 even though I knew that was not possible at school. The boys’ loud obliviousness and the girls’ sharp watchfulness kept any such thing from happening. 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. I wanted that with a longing more intense than I’d ever known.

Vincent kept me awake at night. His 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 eleven years old. Too young to have love taken seriously, 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 this secret love for a boy named Vincent.

Over summer vacation I painted my toenails, rode my bike, tried to write poetry, and wondered if God existed. What kept me awake now was worry over how I might make myself pretty enough for Vincent. But I was also dreading the prospect that he might reveal himself to be something less that 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. I hoped he might be at his own window. I no longer ached to hold his hand, I only wanted him to be happy.

I can still easily picture Vincent’s face even if I’ve forgotten his last name. My secret love for him taught me the first gentle lesson in becoming a woman. Unrequited love isn’t always painful. Sometimes it’s as tender as a moment never shared with a beautiful blue-eyed boy.

This piece appears in the new anthology Heartscapes: True Stories of Remembered Love, which features 150 tales of mystery, intimacy, and tenderness.  

11 thoughts on “A Moment Never Shared

  1. This is sweet, sweet sorrow. Ah, those first loves. Mine dumped me with lines from ‘The Doors’ in a Valentine’s Day card ‘This is the end beautiful friend…’ and then enigmatically wrote ‘Or just the beginning’. When I called from boarding school to ask him what the hell he meant, he said, “It’s the beginning of us being ‘just friends’. It will be great!”. Ahhhh, how every dumped person hates to hear that phrase! Needless to say, it wasn’t the start of anything, merely the end. We’d never done more than hold hands but the pain! But now I realize, at least I had that! Thanks for sharing this.


  2. Oh Laura, how lovely. My first love was even more elusive, since I invented him. But he gave me many of the same feelings Vincent gave you. Thanks for sharing this, and congratulations on being included in the anthology. : )


        • In my imagination I live a few parallel lives. Even though my imaginary family chats about philosophy at dinner, then practices concertos together in the evening I realize that I prefer my actual family, obscure conversations and fart jokes and all.


          • Laura, we really have to meet some day, because we’d stay up all night talking. I never reach a point of closure with you, i.e., my parents’ love of fart jokes was the bane of my childhood! Now, I shall try to avoid replying to every reply you make. Back to the original point, lovely post!


            • Just to destroy your effort to stop replying, I reply. How’s that for being contrary?

              We do have to meet up some day, maybe after you get that book of yours finished.

              As for the fart topic, I was brought up in an entirely fart-free zone. Body noises never happened in front of other people, even family members. I believe I once heard an unspeakable noise coming from the bathroom and my mother said politely, “Oh your poor father isn’t feeling well.” That may explain why my stomach was so often upset when I was a kid, holding in what apparently the rest of the world let fly. It also explains why I thought the boy I dated and man I married was so boorish, actually laughing about body noises, which he told me was far more common than the uptight super-politeness my family preferred. Now our kids are the gross ones, apparently like your parents…


  3. What a touching love story, Laura. I’m aware of this – “that spring he moved directly to the center of my awareness. ” How this happens, I wonder. The person may have been there all the while, right in front of your eyes or in your vicinity but how the energy and consciousness grows one fine moment that you start seeing that person in a new light!


    • It happens all the time doesn’t it? Our awareness surely is “tuned” although I’m not sure how. I know that I’m very aware of trees and sky, for example, while several of my children are much more tuned in to insects, rocks, and other items of interest on a smaller scale. Because our awareness is drawn in different directions we actually seem to see our surroundings differently. This makes being together outside that much more interesting!

      I think it may be a more subtle process in regard to becoming more conscious of another person. I wrote a bit in my book about the heart’s intelligence and the way it’s energy can be perceived by those around us. Maybe this has something to do with it. But I like that there are mysteries unknown about why we feel a pull for one person. Life remains a beautiful mystery that way.


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