2012/06/03 Su – Dreams of the Past that Wasn’t

[This was posted as part of the last one, but it made it too long.]

…So, uh…

…It’s strange to relate that, these days…

Well, I should say, in early May, and middle May… less so in June…

…I’ve been haunted by repeated dreams of Claire Calvert.  They came unbidden and unwanted.  I couldn’t identify their cue, externally.

The dreams were nothing strange or special.  In them, she was simply kind to me.

Claire was a girl I knew as a kid, my same age.  She doesn’t know me; not well at all.  I really don’t know her either; she might be an absolute monster.  But as a kid, my head was full of her…

I hardly know how.  Probably just the constant, overwhelming beauty of her appearance.  I was eight at the youngest, or seven still.  We shared a third-grade class; I don’t remember if we’d met before that.  Even at that shrunken age, she quickly and easily redefined beauty in my mind, if I had had any notions before.  She has always shone brilliantly.  Mostly just the whims of genetics, I suppose…

But I got glued to her, not by any design of my own, just by proximity, at such an age, so near the beginning of my life.  That… awareness of her… has certainly been overshadowed… but has never left.  It’s as much a curse as anything else.

I had no business thinking upon her… but in later years, I would fill at least one notebook journal with my musings toward her, and my grief.  She herself was a muse.

We never talked.  I don’t know that I’ve said more than a sentence to her in my life, and her words to me, I could probably count.

“Steve Foster”, back in third grade, I believe near the end of the school year, “I need my pencil.”

Why did I have her pencil?  Who knows?  I needed to write something.

Maybe she said, “Where’s my pencil?”, but I think it was the first one.  Either way, it burned my tiny little brain, and I loved her for it.

Love?  No, something else.  Glue.  It just… stuck me to her.  There’s no love…  I don’t even know her.

I think in the same grade, she recited a poem; she said her dad helped her with it.  (I’ve written on this before, somewhere.)  “You may think it’s crass,” part of it went; and something like, “But the sun is a giant ball of gas.”

Such a darling… but, at the time, I didn’t like her use of the word “crass”, because I knew, or strongly suspected, that she didn’t know what it meant, because I was just barely comfortable with it myself.

That Todd, her dad, has always had a nice vocabulary.  He introduced me to the word “reticent” one day, when he used it with some business associate on the phone during a certain road trip.  He even used it correctly, modifying verbal instead of physical activity.  I guess that was on the way to Reid Ranch, however they spell it.  On that trip, I stupidly crashed my bike after somebody got the clever idea to pull it up the dirt road with a rope tried to the truck, and I carelessly let the rope fall down onto my wheel, get caught up, and throw me from the bike.  That scar on my right shoulder is… let’s see.  Still present.

The sun just rose with orange and some purple, but my camera wouldn’t get the true colours…

So, on that trip, she came up later.  It was a 9th ward thing for the youth, I guess.  I’d just start getting attached to that ward in my upper youth, feeling the necessity to prepare better for a later mission… but more than that, because it was Claire’s ward (in point of fact, it was my father’s family’s ward a lot more than hers, but to me it was just hers).  So, there was a pool up at that ranch, for which she unembarrassedly donned her swimming suit, which in my viewpoint connoted a regrettable immodesty and worldliness, to match the superficiality of her perfect smile.  I sorrowed after that, thinking that she cared for the outward, while my strengths tended to be inward.

But come to think of it, maybe that “reticent” phone call was on another ward trip to Moab or somewhere, for biking.  I kept up pretty well on my bike till a certain hill, atop which I suddenly convulsed and evacuated my upper digestive tract onto the ground, due to heat exhaustion.  Ah well…

There was also that one camp-out, earlier, where her dad came up and played the guitar with us.  I had few friends there, but at least she was there — but surrounded by friends the whole time.  A petty lad, I think I left a day early with some driver, despairing of ever talking to her, and finding little else to enjoy at that activity.  She had said things, but maybe not to me, so I don’t remember what.

Let’s see.  I have an idea in memory, if not in fact, that they quarrelled a lot at home in their younger years…  I seem to remember her shouting “Dad” and “Mike” (her younger brother) several times, I guess at their house.  I was a very infrequent guest; I went once for a carolling activity one winter, I think… and once while playing with Mike, lacrosse in his yard or something.  They seemed to have some kind of game downstairs.  I was kind of “friends” with Mike for a short time, but I think he’d been something of a teaser or tormenter when younger, even to me, a slightly older kid.  Anyway, it was all for Claire…

…Wasn’t it?  Maybe.

And that other time in their living room, with some missionary I was doing exchanges with.  We walked in all innocently, and BAM! — there was her beautiful high school picture, enlarged on the wall, smiling like a loaded gun aimed right at your face.  I averted my eyes and struggled vainly to keep them averted.  That poor elder mumbled something about it as he tried to get started with his visit.

I wonder if she knows… what that mask is, that she’s toting around.  Surely she’s aware of it.  I just have always wondered what’s beneath that wretched mask, that enslaves all who look at it.  Enslaved me, anyway.  But what is she inside?  What does she think?  I’ll never know…  The chance for friendship is over now.  For me, it never even really started…

Maybe lending me that pencil was our friendship.

What else?  She gave a talk in church once, shining as always.  It seemed decently articulated… though it was somehow hard for me to picture her as especially intelligent, because such unprocessable beauty and intellect didn’t easily mix, in my worldview.  But I have no way of knowing.  We were more strangers than friends.

What else?  I walked past her at church one time (this was after Hong Kong), and she asked how I was or something…  Oh, no.  She asked if I were back already… no.  She said she didn’t know I was back… or, I think it was, she asked, “When did you get back?”  Something like that…

Then, within the next six months as I went to the Family & Church History Mission, she got married to What’s-his-face Brown… some perfectly average-looking guy she met at BYU or wherever.  Me, I wouldn’t be at BYU for many years still…

So, she was a marrier.  That says something, doesn’t it?

…No, not really.  I still know nothing about her…

Is that all she ever said to me?  I think so.  Two or maybe three times…  Isn’t that stupid?  I don’t know her at all, but there she was, almost surgically inserted into my mind, from my tenderest years… to grow up with this awful dissonance of thinking that I liked and loved somebody, when I could never get to know them on any level, beyond borrowing a pencil one fateful day.

To always remember her…  It hasn’t been an easy burden.

As a kid, I walked home from Upland Terrace Elementary School every day, sometimes taking the short way, but frequently taking the long way, Craig Drive.  And on those times, I very frequently turned down Kimbary Way, because that was her street.  She lived right there, a house away from the corner.  Sometimes their old, big, red dog, Sam, was out there.  I remember once stopping and trying to talk with her tiny little sister or something, just a toddler, I guess, by their old tree there.  She didn’t want to talk… and never did since, either.  Their littler brother Brian also never seemed to like me much.  At least, he had no interest in talking…  I thought they were cute and nice, and they were her siblings… but, oh well.

It’s never been easy to walk past that house on Kimbary Way.  She’s gone; the kids are gone.  But I can only ever stare forward or at the ground as I go past, even now.  I don’t want to be seen looking over, remembering her, or hoping to catch some random glance…  Eyes forward, only.  It’s ridiculous…

I never dared to be forward or direct with her.  Something convinced me of that very long ago… and now, it’s practically ingrained in my nature.  Now I’ll flirt like an utter idiot with strangers or normals, none of whom I have any interest in… but no, never with those I seriously like.  They deserve better, something more deep, or more real… some kind of divine direction of their social destiny, not just random, disliked people talking to them out of self-interest.  Not flirting; they deserve love, sincerity… but not from me.  They don’t seem to want me.  They deserve their choice.

She was the first.  Claire Calvert Brown now, on Facebook.  After the dreams, I intentionally didn’t look her up on Facebook, but… was it on Friday, or Saturday?  I found some guy’s profile from Wasatch, my junior high school.  Unbelievably enough, though I’m totally detached socially from that period of time, he was still connected to all his old friends (and my old acquaintances) from junior high, almost as if he’d been trapped on some island since then.  I knew most of them.  Clicking through those webs of friends, she finally turned up, like I expected she would.

Honestly, I was hoping for the early stages of obesity or something.  No luck; still stunningly, debilitatingly beautiful.

Maybe in thirty or forty years, I’ll see another picture of her, wrinkled and haggard… or, who knows, wrinkled but still shining… and finally cut myself free of this weird visual attachment, and wonder why I ever started to like her so resolutely at the beginning of this long pathway running from failed hopes into realistic acquiescence.

Her brother was also on Facebook… married now.  He had a picture of a certain little brown-haired kid that I thought must be Claire’s son.  Her little sister was there on Facebook too, a new mom.  Her littlest brother was there, next to some girl.

I went back to the 9th ward again today (yesterday, now).  There was Todd in the bishopric, tearily recounting his son Brian’s mission phone call on Mother’s Day, and giving a very nice testimony.  The boy’ll be in Mexico till September.

Later, in the hallway, Todd greeted me and asked how everything was… right in that same spot of hallway where Claire once inquired after me.  BYU and now Korea, I told him.  He paused and started thinking of the Korean he knew.  I suggested, “Annyeong haseyo?”  He seized the phrase and repeated it, then searched for another moment….  “Gom…” he said, and I filled in, “Gomapseumnida?”  Yes, that was it… but then he hesitated, as if it weren’t quite it.  “Gamsa hamnida?” I asked instead.  He seemed to like the first one better, returning to it.  Some Korean businessman on a plane had taught him, he said.  He needed no boost in my esteem, but knowing a bit of Korean obviously didn’t hurt.

Todd’s always been a straight-shooter…  He tries to be kind.

Oh; I asked him if all the kids were gone, then…  Oh, let’s see.  I first talked to him the chapel once about Brian, then a second time in the hallway.  So I asked if it were just them living on Kimbary Way, and he started talking some confusion about a “surprise” they’d been given in… Minnesota, was it?  Wisconsin?  Some little boy had been given to them?  The Korean was clearer; I had no idea what he was saying about this “surprise”.  I thought his relatives had let them adopt a nephew, or they’d found a stray child, or discovered a long-lost son, or who knows what…  He really had me weirded out, and it took me a few full seconds to piece together that he was saying that he and Janet had had another child themselves.  The boy was seven or something, Joshua.  Now I assume that was the same large-smiled kid from Mike’s pictures.

Great for them, anyway.  After church while searching for a sign-up guy, I saw the boy up close over by the north entrance, standing between them as they discussed who was going to take him.  I hated to interrupt, but finally tapped Janet and asked if this were Josh.  Affirmative.  “Hi,” I said to him, leaving before I annoyed Janet any further.  He was a darling child.

For a reason I just can’t explain, unless it be simple dislike, I can’t remember… the last time Janet (Claire’s mom) has smiled at me, even with all my memories of them…  I don’t say it’s never happened, just that I can’t remember it.  Actually, it really bothers me… but I just try to ignore it.  Maybe she has sorrows.  Maybe she doesn’t smile much to anyone.  Maybe I was just always there at a sedate moment in her life.

But, it’s the same sense of disinterest I used to get from her two young kids.  Somehow kind of sullen, around me…  Not friendly… and saddening to think back on.  I never meant them any ill.  I guess I just wasn’t their type…  Who knows?  More importantly, I wasn’t Claire’s type.

I remember Janet’s testimony one Sunday.  They have these relatives back east or wherever that are Catholic, or who-knows-what; they occasionally mentioned them in church.  Todd was a young convert.  Janet referred to them in her talk, I think, or else other relatives, or maybe friends of hers… I don’t know.  All I clearly remember is how she said she wasn’t sure it was respectful to talk about how this was “the true church”; it could offend others, or something.

At the time, I worried about the comment.  Scriptures leapt to mind in contradiction.  I wondered whether she was stumbling, or had any belief issues…

But I can respect her for it now.  I think I know what she was trying to convey.  Maybe she’d reached the point where she can fathom God’s hand in all his children’s lives and beliefs.

Well, who knows?  I’m so dang tired…

Maybe, I thought, the dreams were triggered after Myeong-Seon left because… there I was, left to walk around this beautiful neighbourhood, trained and awakened by Myeong-Seon to see its beauty… only now I walked alone.  Maybe it brought back those many long walks through the neighbourhood 12 or 13 years ago, locked in a sort of melancholy over Claire.

Or, all along, maybe it wasn’t exactly her, but her blessed family that I looked up to, and yearned to participate in.

Maybe, somehow, I knew them all a little better than I thought I did…

Pity we couldn’t be friends.  If I’m going to miss her and them anyway without a reason, there might as well have been some benefit or some connection behind it… more than my unilateral one.

Maybe the dreams were to drag me back to the ninth ward, where I went so often in those preparatory years…

Maybe random.

Maybe she represents KHJ, or even M.S..

Maybe she does have some personal exigency, perish the thought, and I should pray for her.  If she’s happy now, I’m glad for it.  If she’s not happy now, I’m still glad she’s had her free choices; I wouldn’t interfere with her.  Bless her, and him.

Just wish I knew what good it was to have gotten so permanently stuck on her…   How pointless.  Anyway, being part of me doesn’t make her mine in any way.  I have far better plans than some totally abstract and superficial childhood infatuation forever pulling me to and fro here in my own neighbourhood, my own piece of the world…

Go ahead, have many chubby, big-grinned kids… stay married… stay happy… stay out of my dreams… and set my waking thoughts forever free.

Good to get it off my chest…  I know it’s not her fault.  With luck, I’ll be able to distract myself from it for another decade after I leave.

Oh well; it’s 8:28.  I can scarcely think straight any longer.

-Steve

[6/7 – I thought all the next day about some silly t.v. commercial I saw her in once; I guess they snagged her while producing it, or something.

There I was, watching t.v., maybe 17 years ago.  It was an advertisement for some sports park out west where they had, uh… those go-cart racers and a fun little track.  My dad took us there frequently…

There at the end of the commercial, it zoomed in on some girl’s face…  It was Claire Calvert…!  Ugh…  Maybe my eyes tricked me, but I’m pretty sure it was her.  It was scripted as a daydream of the kid narrating the commercial, or something like that.  She had a line that I can’t quite recover; “Hi, Brad,” or “I love you, Brad,” or something dreamy, with some kind of echo effect.

I was amazed and even a bit triumphant when I first saw her in that dang kid’s dream — suddenly my own life was there being portrayed on t.v., and everybody could agree how right I was about how beautiful she was — but ever after that, my heart sank when that stupid commercial replayed.  Now the whole world was going to be interested in her, and my chances had gone from zero to sub-zero.  Dang it…

Ah… well…  It was nothing in the end, was it?

They’re good, innocent memories.  She was always my dearest and longest wish, as long as I had a right to wish.  The others came from nowhere, bled out my tears, and, finally, went.  But she, as part of my home and history, as part of my beginning, as part of the force that molded me into personhood, and as a vision through hazy glass that was right beside me but forever opaque — she cannot go… not from my feelings.

She was my brightest vision ever…

I’m not the first one to have liked and loved somebody as a kid — to have chanced on perfection early, and carried the hope of it throughout life.  I may never be over it, but I will certainly set it aside.  The easy antidote for infatuation is a boost of self-regard, and I can conjure up more than my share of that.

Yes, she was my angel, even at three or four feet tall.  Her name always had a magical ring to it (but a little less so now, with this new, average surname blunting its original delicate sharpness).  How contenting and relieving it would have been, to have at least been friends somehow…

But we both have a common path of age and a common destination of the grave.  In heaven, with any luck, I will find my cure… for this chronic disease, this uneroding longing and cherishing.  There, I will see…

…That we were all angels, we all shone, not just her.

But today, I thank her for existing.  There are only my good hopes for her and her old family… and her new family, whatever it is.  Beside Mike’s pictures of that small, grinning character of uncertain parentage, Facebook betrayed no public sign of children, though she surely must have several by now.  It’s been a decade…

She was my hope once, and my hope is still for her.  May every blessing attend her and those concerning her, with every rest and renewed strength in time of fatigue.  May her many fellow angels never stray far.

Me, I’m fine.]

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