About twice a year I get blessed with a dream about my first boyfriend, Chuck Hart. Luckily last night was one of them.
Chuck died the Friday before Thanksgiving 1991 in Lake Mendota in Madison, WI. He had had a few beers at an off-campus party, walked to Memorial Union, saw a small rowboat docked there, climbed in and the boat sank after he rowed out into the lake a bit. He was found in late February 1992.
We began dating on January 28, 1988, meeting in a friend's basement over Lawrence University's Trivia Weekend. I had never met anyone like him before: he was sensitive, funny, smart, political, cultured and yet he played high school football passionately. He was voted most improved player for our high school football team our junior year. He had been to Paris and London and read the classics, including The Odyssey.
I was impressed, I was awe-struck, I thought I had found my soul mate.
Teen-age love is a funny thing. The feelings are SO intense, yet no teen-ager on Earth is equipped to deal with them. I loved him without restriction or question or reason. I wanted to be with him all the time. I wanted to hear his every thought, feel his every feeling. I longed for his touch when we were apart. Our relationship was firey and challenging. When we argued we yelled and threw things (not at each other, but just out of an intense anger.) We gave (lost?) our virginity to each other on April 23, 1988 after a friend's "Cheesey '70s" party. I'm always a little sad for people who say their first sexual experience was a disaster, because mine was sacred. There was no big orgasm on my part, but I didn't care. We were so in love, and now we had expressed it in the most intimate possible way.
Like all out of control fires, it was eventually extinguished. Our senior year started and he was back spending the majority of his time with the football team and he didn't think he had time for a relationship as needy as ours was becoming. I was devastated, but in youth is resilience and I got over it, moved on, slept with other high school boyfriends.
My one regret is that our relationship as friends ended with such animosity. We both went to UW-Madison and we went to a literary society meeting together once. I called him and asked him to go. It was the most uncomfortable hour of my life; why he agreed to go with me, I have no idea. After the meeting, we stumbled through a "good-bye" and that was the last time we saw each other alive.
I say "alive" because since his death, I've been privileged enough to have wonderful, reconcilatory dreams about him when we meet again. When he was first missing in that fall and winter of 1991/1992 I had them monthly. One ended with us swinging on a grade school playground. One ended with him walking down a long hallway away from me when he stopped, turned toward me and said, "It's ok with us." Last night's dream was about him and I going camping (which in real life would have been a disaster as I am not an outdoorsie girl.) But we were both 17 again, packing up his Chevette (the Chuck-Wagon he called it) and heading for God knows where. The last thing I remember about the dream was him putting duffel bags into the hatchback of the car and turning to me with a brilliant smile that so defined him.
I'm crying as I'm typing all of this, not because I miss that type of love or relationship, but I miss Chuck. I miss my friend.