Kalliope, a Muse then in Training

He’d met her in the apartment building where their families lived at the time, on Northern Boulevard adjacent to Flushing High School and down the block from a Horn & Hardart.  They’d bonded quickly.  Although she was one year younger than he was, she was vastly more experienced in things intimate and would explain, in intricate detail, what they were proscribed from doing, after which, they’d of course try it.  Her breasts were beautiful, large for a fifteen-year-old, with pretty, very sensitive nipples, but she was otherwise slender, at least then.  Her hair was auburn, and worn a bit shorter than he liked, and her eyes a piercing blue.

He’d seen her, walking with her mother in Manhattan, years later and she’d filled out quite bit.  But back then, in that magical summer and autumn of 1961, she was perfect and he’d immediately succumbed to a sixteen-year old’s addiction for his first love. 

He recalled a day at the beach, perhaps Rockaway but it could have been Jones, and listening to the Beach Boys “Surfing Safari” and to the Drifters singing “Under the Boardwalk”, and to the Four Seasons.  The Beatles had yet to arrive and turn the musical world upside down.

He couldn’t get enough of her back then and when they parted at the end of each day, one or the other would immediately call.  They’d spend what seemed like hours listening to the other’s breath over the phone, having already said everything they could think of, especially how much they loved each other.  He attended a boarding school to which he returned at the end of the summer but she visited him there several times and they talked on the phone every evening.  They made plans for a future together.  He’d attend Columbia University and study international relations, hoping for a diplomatic career, she’d be with him.

It was an ambivalent paradise of joy and pain, at least until it ended about eight months later.  Then only pain, intense and bitter remained.  A future very different than the one they’d briefly planned, although very full as well, at least for him.  He never knew what became of her although it may be that she eventually settled in California.

But perhaps, in a sense, their relationship never really ended, at least from his perspective, after all, he’s writing this reflection.  He doesn’t think of her often anymore.  Sometimes decades go by but then, of a sudden, while reading a book perhaps, or hearing a song, echoes come roaring back.  Bittersweet echoes faded a bit more each time.  Echoes tinted with scents.  Her scent, or perhaps the scent of an ocean, or a park.  Or of her parents’ apartment.  He wonders what she looks like now, where she is, what she’s doing, and whether her life has been happy and fulfilled.  He hopes that it has.  He remembers her parents too, very fondly.  He recalls the time they plied him with Ouzo to see what he’d be like when inebriated.  To be sure he’d not be an abusive husband.  They were, after all, of Hellenic descent.

He’s had many other relationships since those halcyon days.  Way too many in his own opinion.  Many were meaningful with wonderful women.  Endings were usually sad.  But perhaps no other relationship was as intense, for which, in hindsight, he’s now grateful. 

He’s never again experienced that bliss, nor has he experience that pain. A fair exchange, all things considered.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at https://guillermocalvo.com/.

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