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First Love

By Timothy E JonesPublished 2 months ago 13 min read

I was born in May of 1969, the moon landing and Woodstock were still a few months away, the Manson trials were at full speed and the mega song "Age of Aquarius" had come out just a few weeks before my birth. But in my little corner of the world, we knew of none of that. I was the youngest of five, born to a sickly mother with the first one older than me being close to 10 years older, with the oldest being 16 years older. As a result, despite having siblings, I was raised as an only child, with my siblings resenting the fact that I was even born, as if I had a choice in the matter.

I grew up on the 5400 block of 12th street in the Logan section of Philadelphia, behind Einstein Hospital, which I mention because it plays a big part in the outcome of this story, only not in the way you may think.

OK. Fast forward to early February 1977. It was not memorable for me because of the first Star Wars movie that was about to be released in the theaters, but it was the end of a massive blizzard that took place in that city between Jan 28 & Feb 1. The street were just plowed and shoveled, which caused cars that were already buried under the snow to be further buried and the parents of the neighbor-hood kids had deemed it was safe for the neighborhood kids to go out and play in the snow, and literally blocked off the ends of the street, as if they needed to, as that particular block was basically local traffic only to begin with.

I was one of the first to go out, just under 8 years old, and a few others began to appear, Nichole, the Horton twins... until finally, 8 of us converged in the middle of the street.

"So," I said, "what are we going to do?"

"I have an idea," Nichole, a girl who I would later find out was almost exactly my age to within a few weeks said as she scooped up a bunch of snow in her hand and playfully threw it at me.

"I do too," I held my hand behind my back, as if I were hiding something, which in fact I was.

"Really?" Nichole asked.

I pulled the snowball out of its hiding place and flung it in her direction, it hit her hard on the back of the head with a hard plop.

"OW!" Nichole yelped.

"Are you OK?" I said with a hint of concern.

"Yeah," Nichole felt where I hit her with the snowball, "I think."

"Sorry," I muttered.

"We'll form up teams, for my safety," Nichole smiled, "Tim and I are on the same team."

I looked at the other 6, to make the teams even, I needed to select two, I looked at the Horton twins, who lived around the corner on Summerville Ave. "We've got to have Billy and Cindy."

"They'll be OK I guess," Nichole frowned, they had both just turned six, and were bundled up to the hilt, "but I don't think either one of them can throw very far,"

"But they can make the snowballs, and pile them up," I looked at the twins, "right?"

The two nodded in agreement.

"That way," Nichole got the idea, "you and I can just run around firing snowballs at the other team."

"That's the idea."

"I like it," Nichole leaned in close and smiled, "and I'm beginning to like you!"

"Me too," I smiled back. I looked at the twins, they had a few snowballs ready, I picked one and examined it, it was a little small, about the size of a golf ball but would do for starters, "OK, make them a little bigger from now on."

"How big?" one of them asked.

"About the size of a tennis ball," Nichole piped in, then added to the existing snowball until it was the proper size, "like this?"

"Hey," someone on the other team cried out, "are you guys going to fight us, or what?"

"Let's get 'em!" Nichole threw one of the golf ball sized snowballs at the kid who made the remark, it hit the player rather unimpressively.

"Ha!" Came the mocking tone. "Is that all you got?"

"Admittedly, that was a dud," Nichole sighed.

"But better's coming," while Nichole had launched the dud, as if it were intentional; I was helping the twins reform their snowballs and packed them tightly.

Nichole held her hand out for one, which I gave her. She weighed it in her hand; while it was the proper size, it had some weight to it. She threw it at the loudmouth on the other team, it smacked him on the side of the head hard.

"Now we've got a proper fight on our hands!"

For the next hour, the snowballs came flying back and forth across the street. And for the lot of us, at the aftereffects of a snowstorm that caused major damage and deaths in places further north like New York, Buffalo and Ontario, we struck it lucky. Especially for Nichole and I, who had the beginnings of a friendship that was going to last us for a good decade.

12:00 came around, and my mother was calling me in for lunch, she was in her very late 40's at that time, and was already sickly even when I was born, and the fact that she had me under those conditions only made matters worse. Her demeanor was not always the greatest, and the fact that my four siblings had already left home almost en-mass while they were still in their mid to late teens said a lot about their relationship with my mother.

Judy, my oldest sister had gone off to college, only as a way to move out of the house and someone else paid her way. She only went through one year though and was deemed it was best she didn't return, besides, during the school break, she had experimented with a sexual encounter with a family she was babysitting for on her 21'st birthday and had a 3-year-old daughter as a result. She didn't marry the father of the child and married someone else, almost at random.

By this time, she was living in an apartment on Broad Street just a few blocks away. Alice, the next on down, was a frequent visitor to one of the sheriffs in Cape May and married him because she had to. Morgan, my only brother was the one who hated me the most, simply because he was no longer the only boy and blamed me for my mother's sickness which existed long before any activities that caused my existence. Finally, Linda while had no ill feelings towards me, never really bonded with me either, and was the only one who stayed home for a while longer, but her departure was only months away.

Needless to say, I needed someone my age to associate with, and Nichole was the perfect choice. She and I had removed our snow-covered snowsuits and left them on the porch, and I lead her by the hand through the house into the kitchen.

"Mom," I said, not knowing how she would react, "you know Nichole from down the street."

She didn't even turn around, otherwise her reaction would have been much different even for her.

"I know, the bossy little bitch from down the street," my mother said with disdain.

"MOM!" Linda let out a scream, she already knew Nichole was there, for she had helped us take off the snowsuits and probably should have warmed Mom up to Nichole's presence. "Play nice!"

"She's here, isn't she?" Mom mumbled out before turning around, when she spotted Nichole, she began to act as pleasant as can be, and began to talk in syrupy tones. "Oh, hi! How are you?"

"Oh fuc-rying out loud," Linda said, fully aware of the fact that our shared mother could switch moods as easily as one would flip a light switch on and off, which was why everybody was leaving.

"OK," I said, "Nichole and I are going to be friends."

"Oh, wonderful!" What Mom said came out as being syrupy sweet, almost as if it was obvious that the opposite was true in her mind.

"Is there anything wrong with me being friend with Tim?" Nichole finally asked. "Is there?"

"No," Mom said with a sigh, as she dropped the act. "I guess not."

"Just be glad that he found someone to be friends with," Linda had already made enough tomato soup to make an extra bowl, as with the grilled cheese sandwich, and already had plenty of hot chocolate made up and sitting on the table.

"True," Mom sighed.

"We'll be friends forever and ever," Nichole said.

1982 marked a lot of firsts in history. The first appearance of the Emoji, Sony launched the first CD player, and while it wouldn't be a household name for another 10 years, the groundwork for the Internet was taking shape for the January 1983 launch.

As for Nichole and me, we had our own firsts that year. During the previous five years, I learned which house she lived in, while it wasn't exactly the house next door, it was just a few houses down and across the street. It turned out that Nichole's parents owned 3 houses on the block, two of which her family lived in, and one in which Judy had moved into for a few years. We didn't go to the same schools, I went to one, and she went to another, but seemed to come home around the same time and spent time together then.

I also discovered we practically shared a birthday, where mine was May 8; hers was May 10, and we were both at one another's parties. My birthday was a little lack-luster, with simple cake and ice cream, but Nichole's was a bit more elaborate, but not so much that it was overwhelming. Most of the attendants gave her gifts that were appropriate for a 13-year-old, I didn't have one, at least not something that was wrapped in pretty paper.

"So, where's your gift," one of the Horton twins teased.

"I have something for her," I glanced over to Nichole, "but I'd rather give it to a little later, if that's OK?"

"What is it?" Nichole asked expectantly.

"Give it to her now!" the same Horton prodded.

"And it better be worth it," Nichole teased, although she was sure she already knew what it was going to be.

"Fine," I said, "I want to give her... her first kiss."

The Horton kids got their giggles in as I pecked Nichole on the side of the mouth.

"Oh, you can do better than that!" Nichole squawked, as she turned it into a "real" kiss.

"Oh my God in Heaven!" My mother (who was not supposed to be there) barked out as she swatted me hard on the back of the head. "Stop that!!"

"Stop what?" Nichole's own mother saw nothing wrong.

"The way he's kissing Nichole--." My mother gave a distasteful look.

"He's not forcing the kiss on her," Nichole's mother shrugged, "It's something she wanted to have happen, and they both seem to be enjoying the moment."

My mother stood there, mouth agape with incredulity as Nichole and I continued to kiss, now purposefully.

"And if you have a problem with two people who have a fondness for one another kissing, then you really do have a problem!"

Another five years, and 1987 was the year where everything changed. That was the year that Einstein attempted to buy up all of the houses on my side of the street to build some new structures for the Hospital property. There was this big town meeting where they presented the plan for some new wing; don't remember all of the details, and that part doesn't really matter, but it meant that all of the houses needed to be gone, at least on my side of the street. We weren't given a lot of time, just to the end of the year. My mom eventually complied, and we were given enough money to move to someplace new 12 blocks away. We would find out later that the plan would eventually have to be rethought because of one resident that refused to move.

Nichole and I stood practically in the same spot where we connected 10 years before, this time in an almost saddening rain. There was a lot about the two of us that we discovered about one another during that time, a lot we did with each other, both publicly and privately, very privately, and yes in later years, involving sex, but we both knew it was the end of the road. The moving van was there and was loaded.

"Please," Nichole said, "don't forget me."

"Hey, it's not like I'm moving to a different city, just 12 blocks away. I can come back for a visit any time I want."

"But you'll be in a new neighborhood making new friends, new places to explore--."

"True," I said, "but this isn't goodbye."

Sadly, it was goodbye. I tried going back to that little block several times, but I could never find Nichole, even though I went to her house in the first few of those visits. The final time, a different face opened the door than that of her or her parents, so I stopped going directly to her house. I heard conflicting stories about her fate, one that she committed suicide shortly after our final meeting, another that her family had moved away. Another that neither ever happened and she lives there still, and that strange face I saw was merely a visitor, a fact I never found out to be true or false.

I moved several times but not so far away that I don't go back. The house that I lived in stood for a few more years, first abandoned, then used for housing for the hospital staff for a short time, then abandoned again. It and the other houses (with the exception of that one stubborn family on my side of the street) were torn down completely, but not for the initial project which turned into a small park area. I still go back and stand on that spot where Nichole and I first connected in hopes that I would see her once more. But it has been 37 years since our departure but every few months I go back and look for her still. Maybe this time I'll see her, but I fear that like the house which I grew up in she exists only in memory, in a fractured memory where I am not aware of every detail that took place.


About the Creator

Timothy E Jones

What is there to say: I live in Philadelphia, but wish I lived somewhere else, anywhere else. I write as a means to escape the harsh realities of the city and share my stories here on Vocal, even if I don't get anything for my efforts.

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