by Diane Buccheri

Leaving the skating rink, Mom said with a twinkle, “didn’t you leave something inside? A comb maybe?” “Oh yes! I must have.” Back in we went, my brother somewhat bewildered but diligently looking. Searching the area where skaters sit and put on their skates, we looked high and low, to no avail, Mom and I keeping our faces down, mirth ready to burst out.

“Can I help you?” asked a deep voice. Slowly, I looked up. “Oh yes! I’ve left my comb somewhere.” Now, the four of us searched.

In the car, Mom looked sideways at me while she drove. We got what we wanted. Not the comb but the good-looking skating rink attendant’s attention. Bravo! And he had said, come back, maybe he would come across the comb and he would keep it for me. Or come back to skate, anyway.

Back At the Rink
Back I went a few weeks later with three rather haphazard teenagers, school friends of mine. Really, I wasn’t thinking of the deep voice, the handsome face, and the strong body gliding across the ice, flying with ease and agility.

Laughing and chatting, we got onto the ice. The crowd was thick – it was a Saturday night. Rock music blared, my friends clumped and splattered. Not such good skaters, I stuck with them a while but moving so slowly in the crowd was oppressive. Breaking loose, just for a few laps, I thought, off I went – slowly then picking up speed, pushing with my legs – then flying. Flying in between the people, the rhythm in my smooth strides, music filled with energy.

And there he was. He circled in the crowd, helping fallen skaters up, urging others to keep moving, not to talk and dawdle, making sure the rink flowed smoothly.

My heart stopped beating, then it raced. My mind went blank. I panicked. What if . . . ?

Half blind, through the crowd I went, legs automatically pushing against the ice, the music slowly making its way back into my stride, again with the pulse of the music.

And he was next to me, skating along, matching my stride, my unspoken partner.

Bells went off in my head. I tingled all over. Rays of light must have come out of me! There was electric energy vibrating between us.

Around we went, making our way through the crowd, through the noise, the disco lights flashing, skaters slow, and skaters fast. My grandparents met while ice skating at Central Park on a snowy evening. That must have been lovely. I wish I could have seen them. What kind of dress did Grandma wear? Did Grandpa speak to her first, treating her as a proper gentleman did? Or maybe Grandma caught his eye and encouraged him to come over to meet her.

I felt someone grab my arm. Startled, it was him. He saved me from colliding with a group of stalled teenagers. On we went. In and out of the crowd, together side by side; apart, going around others. At times, he left my side to tend to his attendee duties. Sad, I went on alone, wondering, would he come back?

I passed my friends, scrambling, clutching each other, bashing uncontrollably into the walls of the rink. “Hi!” I felt badly about leaving them but didn’t want to be involved with all that crashing. Blades and ice, bodies falling. Besides, he was next to me and I wanted to keep him there.

Somehow we got to talking. He was from California (I knew he was different!) Snow was all right but he and his brother and two sisters used to slide down California’s long grassy hills with cardboard boxes in the hot sun. That was fun. His oldest sister was back in California now, in college. I’d been to California once and really liked it. Los Angeles was sunny and I couldn’t stop staring at the palm trees. San Francisco was really cold at night and the eucalyptus trees smelled great. Yes, he said he was from a town right near San Francisco and would be back there someday. He didn’t like the east coast. People are too uptight, unfriendly, and conservative.

“Oh! There’s my friend. I’d better go!” Off I skated to my friend who was jammed up against the wall, clutching the railing, ankles splayed out sideways, blades slipping under their skewed weight. He looked miserable and looked accusingly at me for deserting the group. “I’m sorry.”

They Were Upset
Putting our boots back on, the four of us were quiet. Evidently they hadn’t had a very good time and all were astonished and silent over my deserting them. Well, I couldn’t help it. Sorry. Over he came, wanting my number. Now they were more wide-eyed, silently shocked. Such a traitor and for a stranger! Scribbling my number, trying to keep my hands from shaking, I flashed him a red-faced smile, eyes shy and tentative.

No one said much during the ride home. My friends didn’t say much to me in school for quite a long time and I never told them how worthwhile the whole evening was. How much happiness it brought me and they were just friends, casual ones at that, anyway.

Two Different Families
“What do you want?” growled my Father and he slammed the front door shut. Who was at the front door? Mostly everyone knew to go the kitchen door off to the side. I heard my mother say something under her breath to Dad and then with sweetness say, “please come in. I’ll tell her you’re here.” Again, the front door closed, quietly this time.

All a-jitter, dressed with utmost care, there I was smiling nervously. He was quiet but looking calm enough. My mother talked incessantly, trying to smooth the way for me since this was my real first date. She must have been nervous too.

I don’t remember where we went or what we did. But we went to a lot more places and did a lot more things after that first time. I met his family. His house was the type where friends stopped by all the time and hung out. The doors were wide open.

I had to give him credit for facing my quiet, very much scrutinizing family. Whenever he came to my house, all eyes were on him and conversation concentrated about him. When I went to his, I just tried to quietly blend in with the crowd. All this was new to me and I was uncomfortable.

It was New Years’ Eve, my sixteenth one, with the snow coming down, windows frosted, my pink angora sweater trying to keep me warm but I was shivering bravely. We drove to one party after the next. I knew no one and he knew his older brother’s friends. He was Little Creature and his brother was Big Creature. Hmmm . . . where did that come from?

From A Long Time Ago
Their last name is Cretan. They are Greeks from the island of Crete and a really big old book in their living room traced their heritage through many, many generations back in time. The book fascinated me with its history, connections, faces, and names. His brother’s outlandish and brash behavior earned him the nickname of Creature. Rightly so for the entire family. They were creatures like none other. Entirely unique and a learning experience for me.

Several times a year the Cretan family took trips together to a place in Virginia. What did they do there? Attend week long seminars and conferences. About what? I’ll tell you someday, Chris kept telling me. I was burning to know. You wouldn’t understand right now, he kept saying. Someday . . .

Having been raised Catholic, he knew reincarnation was a foreign and preposterous idea to me. In time he would explain, he would teach me, and he would be surprised by my thoughts and what I had already learned by then.

In the meantime he suggested I try to remember my dreams and write them down daily. Dreams teach you of the present, the future, and the past, he very seriously informed me. The more I pay attention to their details, the more I will learn from them and be guided. Nodding in agreement, I tried but the dreams and their crazy, out-of-this-worldliness made no sense to me as I examined them morning after morning.

We were two innocents madly in love. He absolutely adored me and I thought the world of him. While we were supposed to be studying at the library, he drew one picture after the next of me, always as an angel with a halo of light around my head. To my expressed curiosity, he replied, “you are an angel. You are filled with light and are meant to enlighten and help people.” What did he mean? I was kind, always. I have very light hair – was that the halo he meant?

For hours and hours deep into the night we talked about all kinds of things. We kissed too. That was all brand new to me, and to him, and we glowed with happiness. He spray painted on the bridge by his school in big, bright colors, “Diane and Chris Forever”. How embarrassing! But I was thrilled and he meant it. He meant we had always loved each other and always would and that I was to never forget that. Since those sweet sixteen days I came across a photo of the wall dividing East and West Germany. Filled with all kinds of graffiti in plain English, standing out beyond all else reads: “Diane and Chris Forever.” I don’t buy much but I bought a 12″ by 24″ photo of that. Many years later, I found the same photo on display in his parents’ home.

I was a part of his family, he told me back then. Was that because I spent so much time with them, I wondered? No, not that. He would tell me some day. Now, please. Explain what you mean! Not yet, someday . . .

He gave me books to read. They were stories of friends and couples who knew each other in past lives and were drawn to one another without explanation, life after life. I stayed up late at night, devouring these new ideas. He didn’t believe I believed them but I did, despite my Catholic background.

Over and over he blurted out, at all the wrong times, that he wanted to marry me. Once, at his high school gym during a wrestling match, he went to the microphone and announced that we were getting married. A man quickly pulled him away and aside, saying, “now, now son, it’s too early to think about that,” patting him on the back as if to soothe and calm him.

I smiled and smiled but said nothing. Only, yes! inside. He was the one.

Then one day, he was very intent on speaking to me, alone. We went to a little stream in the woods surrounded by flowers and big pine trees, and with much anxiety and labor, he told me he needed a break. It was all too much. We were too young. He needed to spread his wings. Give him five years.

Shocked, I got into the car and drove home barely seeing the road, my eyes flooded with tears. My heart was squeezed tight. Five years! Five years apart is a long time. Who knows what would happen? I thought . . . I thought he meant forever. Oh yes, he did, just not right now. Not in the immediate but later.

Later . . . ?