A Sweet Kennebunkport Crush by
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(53 Stories)

Prompted By The Crush

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The ocean was sparkling, with tentacles of white foam reaching into the fresh air before the water crashed on the rocky shore. Kennebunkport was a change for our family that summer, when I was 15. Instead of going down the shore in New Jersey, we headed north for a trip to Maine. For a week we stayed at a small hotel, with white walls and green trim. I don’t remember much from that week, except for Tony.

I don't remember much from that week, except for Tony ... Every time his eyes connected with mine, my heart gave a squeeze and then a leap.

He was about the same age as I, with dark hair, large dark eyes, and smooth tanned skin. I watched him for what seemed like hours as he dived into the hotel swimming pool. Every time his eyes connected with mine, my heart gave a squeeze and then a leap. His parents and sister lounged around the pool’s perimeter, chatting with my family.

Tony seemed shy; so was I. My case of extreme adolescent physical awkwardness, which I’d begun to think was terminal, seemed to be improving. So when Tony came out of the pool, I took a deep breath, walked over to him, and introduced myself. He responded politely, and eventually we sat on the side of the pool, legs dangling in the water, chatting for a short while. He wanted to go to Villanova University in Pennsylvania. I intended to be somewhere near Boston. There was something sensitive, almost sweet, about Tony. But, while he was cordial, he also was reserved, often glancing at me sideways. I was confused and didn’t know how to proceed.

For the following couple of days, we didn’t speak, but I continued to watch, and yearn, from across the pool. My mother, who had old school ideas about the age at which girls were supposed to be interested in boys, had given me looks indicating that this was nonsense and I should give it a rest. So, I pined inside, nothing further happened, and soon the week was over.

I remembered Tony in the ensuing years but didn’t give him much thought until one day, in the early 1990s, when I opened the San Jose Mercury News to find an obituary for someone who had to be Tony. Indeed it was–he was the right age and had gone to Villanova. There he’d studied interior design and then moved to San Francisco, where he’d become nationally known in that field for his exceptional and compassionate work in designing spaces for children: rooms in their homes, day care centers, and even pediatric hospitals. Awards in interior design, and scholarships, were established in his name. While it wasn’t spelled out, it was clear that Tony had died of AIDS.

So, Tony’s reticence was explained, and his fundamental sweetness and kindness confirmed. How sad that in the 1960s Tony couldn’t articulate who he was, and I didn’t have the perceptive ability to understand. It would have been wonderful to have been able to transform that crush into a friendship between two human beings. I was so sad in learning of his death but glad to have learned what happened, and to know he made a valuable contribution to the lives of children.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. Marian, thanx for sharing your memories of Tony with us. His death by AIDS and that painful twist gives it a moral dimension.
    Brava.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    What a poignant story, Marian. Back in the day, I’m sure neither of you had a clue about what was happening between you and the only option for a boy-girl relationship was framed as a dating scenario. It’s a blessing that now friendship is possible and that kids are so much more open to and understanding about these relationships.

  3. Such a sad, sweet story, Marian…I particularly like your excerpt phrase “Every time his eyes connected with mine, my heart gave a squeeze and then a leap.” A perfect expression of how it feels! If only we could have second chance, do-overs…now that society is finally catching up to humanity (despite some people’s cruelest intentions).

    • Marian says:

      Right you are, Barbara. It felt good to learn what happened to Tony and realize that some part of my attraction to him might have had something to do with the sensitivity and kindness I had picked up intuitively.

  4. Suzy says:

    Beautiful, sad story, Marian. Thanks for sharing Tony with us. I had a similar experience with a guy in college, who sadly also died of AIDS, which I wrote about in Different Drum. I think, as others have said, it would be easier to be friends now, because people like Tony or my crush would understand themselves better, and could be open about who they were.

    • Marian says:

      How true, Suzy. By my second year in college I was in the Bay Area where people were more open, but it still was challenging. I am sorry that your crush ended up dying of AIDS as well. That was a terrible era.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Lovely story, told very well, Marian. Tony probably didn’t quite understand his own sexuality at that point in his life (I have many gay friends who were closeted and dated girls, either to please their parents, or just to “fit in” for a time). Tony’s sweetness and beauty rightly attracted you. Probably neither of you understood your differences, though Tony may have suspected. It is heartbreaking that he died young, but as you point out, he accomplished much in his shortened life. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

    • Marian says:

      Thanks, Betsy. We will never know if Tony was aware of his sexuality that summer or just experiencing the awkwardness of not fitting in. It is good that, even though his life was too short, he was able to live it as his authentic self in adulthood.

  6. You had me with “down the shore”. I suppose adding “New Jersey” is redundant but what the hey? A very well-told tale, and tragic to be sure. It’s a curious thing that with the advances in treatment we seem to hear about fewer Tonys, but the poignance of their lives remains vivid. One of my workout music regimes is Springsteen. Every time I hear Streets of Philadelphia I think about the Tonys of the world.

    • Marian says:

      Yes, Tom, NJ is redundant but I used it in case there was someone on the site who didn’t know about down the shore. It’s a relief that we have AIDS treatments today that, alas, didn’t exist for Tony. It was rewarding that, in my career, I worked for companies that were involved in HIV diagnosis and treatment, so I feel I made a very small contribution there.

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