Friday, September 28, 2012

When I Kissed Teresa

a mid-90's song, with the short story that grew out of it.....

(editor's note; This blog and the previous entry, If All My Heroes Are Losers, contain songs.  Readers who subscribe to this blog by e-mail should go to Growing Old With Rock & Roll to hear the tunes.) 


When I Kissed Teresa

Teresa was an actress
Junior Theater Of The Arts
I was a scruffy West Side boy
In from unknown guitar parts
We were both 18 years old, the world was clear and plain
When I kissed Teresa at the corner of Front & Main

Teresa and I started to go out in the winter of 1971.  We had met the previous summer when she was co-starring in a play with my best friend Dave.  I would tag along to help with the music and lights.  It was the summer between senior year of high school and the beginning of college, that summer when anything can happen, when everything seems possible.  Dave and I would hitchhike to the play rehearsals, then walk across a big field to the convent where the outdoor production was being staged.  Teresa would catch sight of us and run across the field to meet me, throw her arms around my neck.  There was a commercial back then, I cannot for the life of me remember for what product, where a young couple would run across a field of flowers in slow motion and embrace in the center.  I thought Teresa was just joking around, spoofing that commercial.  Later, I realized it was no joke to her.  I was a prime recruit in the army of the clueless.

Teresa was a tiny girl
She was just one breath of air
Orphan smile, sad behind her eyes
From another time, Renaissance fair
We were waiting on her bus for home in an on and off drizzling rain
When I kissed Teresa at the corner of Front & Main

I wrote Teresa a letter on a lonely, murky Saturday night sometime the next winter.  The letter wove a convoluted set of circumstances that would result in us getting together the next week on the Oval of the Ohio State University campus, running across the green grass to meet, just like the summer before.  I tended to do things like that back then.  I knew where Teresa lived, I could easily have looked up her telephone number and simply asked her to meet me, but I never did anything simply in those days.  Teresa called me the next week.  She had quit college, was working at a doctor’s office downtown, couldn’t make the romantic rendezvous.  She completely called me out on the over-the-top machinations in my letter, asked me to meet her at the Junior Theater Of The Arts building the next Sunday afternoon.  She was helping with a children’s show there. I hung out at the rehearsal, marveling at Teresa’s smooth grace with the kids.  I walked her to her bus stop.  It was on the corner of Front & Main.  We kissed on that freezing afternoon, in a cold rain that was more like sleet.  Teresa had to put her arms around my neck and pull herself up to kiss me.  She was just shy of five feet tall, weighed maybe 96 pounds.  She should have been a ballerina.  Just as the bus doors opened and the kiss ended, Teresa looked straight up into my eyes, grinned “Thank you,” wheeled, and bounded up the bus steps.  It was a heartbreakingly charming exit.  Teresa was a born actress.

Teresa did a lot of drugs
From hurt too deep in soul
She asked me why I never did any
All I needed back then was rock & roll
We were watching the bad end of the 60’s spiraling down the drain
When I kissed Teresa at the corner of Front & Main

Teresa was possibly the saddest person I have ever met, that kind of deep-seated sadness that music, love and/or drugs just couldn’t touch.  She was the adopted daughter of an incredibly well-to-do family in Bexley, a swank suburb of Columbus.  I could show you the house sometime.  I never actually entered that house, but we drove by it one night on our way to a movie at the Drexel, the local art house theater.  I was a West Side boy from a solid lower-middle class, blue-collar neighborhood.  I don’t think Teresa was in any great hurry to introduce me to her adoptive parents.  I am not in any way suggesting that Teresa was slumming, or that she was ashamed of me, I'm just saying I don’t think she thought the meeting would go well. For my part, I wasn’t that crazy about meeting any parents.  The year before, in high school, a girl I’d had one date with introduced me to her father.  He happened to be the chief of police in the small town west of Columbus where they lived.  He took me aside in the kitchen, showed me his service revolver and told me he’d kill me if he ever saw me with his daughter again.  He told me that he would make it look like an accident and that no one would ever be the wiser.  It was the end of the 1960’s, just after the Manson Family murders.  I had long hair.  I played in a rock & roll band.  I took him at his word.  Those were different times.

I loaned Teresa my Beau Brummels records
I loaned Teresa my Beau Brummels records
To say I miss Teresa, that would just be words
Would just be words

Teresa ached to find the birth mother who had given her away 18 years before.  Given that baggage she was an easy mark for that end-of-the-60’s/early 70’s cocktail of eastern mysticism, nascent new age philosophy, cheap highs, Jesus freaks, phony prophets, Rod McCuen poetry & The Grateful Dead.  Teresa was doing maybe five different kinds of drugs – pot, acid, prescription valium & painkillers she’d purloined from her adoptive mother, plus some speed just to balance the equation.  She was genuinely amazed that I didn’t do any.  At that juncture my viewpoint was that, from everything I could see, drug use led to listening to and actually enjoying the music of Santana, something I just could not abide.  I had my guitar and I had my records, and that was all I needed.  Teresa asked me to loan her one record that was better than drugs.  I gave her my all-time favorite record (of that week, at least), an album called Magic Hollow by The Beau Brummels.  It was folk-rock. It was lovely.  It wove spells.  It worked.  Teresa flushed the pills, for at least a week.  Things were great, for at least five minutes. We were poet/punk/hippie kids running the streets.  We went to arty movies.  She came to my halting solo gigs in church basements.  She would listen to me prattle about being a rock star.  Teresa read me her poetry.  In those moments there was a calm in her eyes I saw at no other time.  It didn’t last.

Teresa wrote me poetry
I keep it in my guitar case
To this day I can read her words
And I can see her lovely upturned face
I have a heart-memory portrait of her burned into my brain
From when I kissed Teresa at the corner of Front & Main

Over the course of those long winter weeks things went gradually, but steadily, downhill.  We were children, both still living in our parents’ homes.  Teresa started back on pills.  Teresa would phone in the middle of the night, mush-mouthed on downs, babbling about the problem of the day.  She took to showing up at my mother’s house on the West Side at all hours of the day and night.  Normally this would have been problematic but my mother, still reeling from the death of my dad the previous year, recognized in Teresa a crazed, kindred spirit and loved her.  Loved her certainly more than I did.  Sometime in March Teresa started talking about running away from home.  Every time something went wrong, big or small, she was going to run away from home.  One night it came up one too many times and I snapped, “Teresa, stop talking about running away and just do it, all right?  Stop talking and do something for a change.”  As she stared at me with tears in her eyes I thought of the way her eyes looked the afternoon of that first bus stop kiss.  How does moon-glow fade to grey, dead dawn?  How does the first morning in May turn become coldest winter midnight?  How fast can three months fly?  Teresa called me from the Greyhound bus station the next morning, crying, asking me to come with her to Boston.  I thought she was bluffing, told her to go home and call me that night, hung up and went to school.  She wasn’t bluffing.  The Bexley police were waiting at my house that evening to question me about her whereabouts.  My mom was not amused.  Have I ever been crueler to anyone who deserved it less than I was to Teresa?  Only once.

Teresa ran away from home
And I put my guitar to bed
I stand on this street corner tonight
And I watch the lights change from green to red

In 1995 a buddy of mine was playing an acoustic gig on a Saturday afternoon at a new cultural arts center in downtown Columbus.  It turned out that the center was in the same building as the old Junior Theater Of The Arts.  I bet I hadn't stood at the corner of Front & Main in the intervening 25 years.  It was still a bus stop.  As I put my hand on the bus stop sign the entire weight of the sky fell on me.  I could see Teresa's eyes glistening after the kiss.  I could taste her.  I could feel the ghosts of our 18 year old selves haunting that corner.  I pushed it all away, shook it all off and went to my friend's show.  It was dusk when I left.  The ghosts were waiting for me.  I stood with them on that corner for close to an hour, watching the traffic light change from green to red, until it was full dark.

song lyrics © 1995 Ricki C.
story © 2007 Ricki C.

© 2012 Ricki C.

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