It’s the 4th of July, the day we celebrate our independence. That’s an interesting concept…celebrating our independence. It can mean so many things really and it truly happens many times in life. We celebrate our independence from our parents, from boyfriends/girlfriends, from government aid, etc.
Well this morning I received a message from someone that I have not seen since I was about 12-13 years old, someone who once played such a vital role in my life. When we met I was in the fifth grade, his name was Chuck. Truth be told he was my first understanding of love…not like the love I had felt for Chris, but it was the first time I felt some semblance of love for another human being outside of my family. He was slightly older and the type of bad boy that young adult novels thrive on as a main character. He was incredible looking, better than a young Devon Sawa.
I met Chuck one Wednesday in the hot summer months at the YWCA near my house. My friend Amanda and I had gone swimming and in the water was this incredible specimen of a boy. There was something different about him, and something different stirred inside of me, but what was this? He was smiling at me…my friend Amanda was convinced he liked her instead and went out of her way to get his attention. It didn’t work and I coyly returned his smile. He gave me his phone number and by the time I reached the old Steak n Shake at Chippewa and Morganford I had to call him at the payphone. That was the start of an awkward young romance.
My mother loved him and he and I had a love/hate relationship. I realized that Chuck being older than I meant that he had had much more life experience. He knew people that were way older that he used to party with and my knowledge of people who were nearer my age bracket involved with having sex, doing drugs, and drinking went from something I saw on television to becoming a reality. I remember once I tried to break up with Chuck after my supposed friend and neighbor Trisha had been trying to get together with him, she too was older than I by a year or two. She kept coaxing him over to her apartment where her mother was frequently away at work. The fact that he went made me angry and heartbroken. I thought his loyalty and trust was to me. He promptly made a ridiculous display by standing in the middle of the street, which was a very high traffic one at that, and saying that if I broke up with him, he would kill himself. I pretended to not care.
One time we were walking to 7-11 and took the alley ways, a few blocks down there was a trash dumpster that was smoking pretty badly. He opened the lid and we didn’t see a fire so we continued to walk to 7-11, but upon our return there were firetrucks and a cop car. Earlier we had noticed some boys over at the school playground from where the dumpster had caught fire and figured they had done it, but they quickly pointed us out as the culprits. Chuck ran away saying that he couldn’t get in trouble, and there I stood to confront the law and proclaim our innocence on both our behalves. After I was searched they called my mother and she came to get me. Thank God she believed me. He however, had left me to fend for my own, and my mom started to dislike him a bit more.
In 1993 he did go with her to help sandbag at River Des Pere, I wanted to go too, but she was convinced that I was too young and weak to handle the demands of the job. Upon her arrival home she complained that perhaps he was too, as he had not done as much work as she expected. Her complaints became more frequent and I found that he and I were moving further and further away from one another emotionally, and eventually for some unknown reason he left his aunt’s apartment and stayed with my friends Mike and David, and their mom. That didn’t seem to last long and I stopped hearing from him all together. It wasn’t until I ran into him at a carnival near Shop N Save on Kingshighway and Chippewa, he avoided me most of the time until I demanded to speak with him, but that got me nowhere.
That’s when I found my independence from love and relationships. I never allowed myself to be so attached again, and if I was I never rarely let it show. Once upon a time I felt like if Chuck and I weren’t attached at the hip I would surely perish, but I didn’t…I lived, I moved on. So did he. I looked him up on Facebook and although it took him forever to actually get online and respond, he seemed happy and healthy. He has a lovely family. I’m happy for him but I can’t lie that he taught me a lot about relationships, about myself. I never forgot him or the role he played in my becoming independent…and all that it means. I know it took me awhile to make my point, but I’m sure many people have their version of Chuck and I…a lesson learned, an independence gained. It’s just one more thing to ponder when you think of why you are celebrating, because truthfully it’s so much more than the independence of this country…so much more.