In 1965-6 I played volleyball at state sectionals in Albany. It was there that I learned about an all-girls school, Emma Willard. This private school was not in our school's normal seasonal games. On this particular Saturday our Hudson team played and beat them.
During our brown bag lunch break, an Emma Willard player who I found myself smiling at, and she at me during our game walked over to me, and asked to eat her lunch with me.
I was pleased, but nervous. I had a hard time chewing and swallowing my food in her presence. Afterall, our smiles were overt flirts. Did she sense I liked girls? Did I grin that often at her as I spiked a ball? I barely understood deeper lesbian feelings. I wondered during our lunch if she could sense something different about me. Or how shy I truly was when she approached.
I no longer recall what we talked about other than the usual insignificant volleyball and high school facts, but by the end of lunch she asked me for my address. I was about to get a pen pal. I was flattered and excited.
We wrote to each other for several months, learning nothing profound about one another. I never could broach my growing crush on her. I was a coward at that age of fifteen. I was unsure how to even begin to convey what was my truth -- I felt closer to girls. On top of that, she seemed more mature than I was in my day to day life. She came across as worldlier. Looking back, I attribute that to the caliber of education she received at Emma Willard. Those young woman, in those years of women's transition, were being groomed to become perfect wives or successful in a chosen career.
To my utter glee, she started to send me photos of herself, some of her being silly with crossed-eyes in her dorm room, and another of her school pose. And she scented her letters with a fragrance similar to English Leather. I breathed in the aroma escaping her envelopes, even before I'd run to my bedroom to open them. I felt like I was living a secret of some unnamed notion, as I fell in a teen-crush with her perfume, her style of handwriting, and the greenness of the lined stationary she always used. No written word of liking girls ever came to paper. In one letter she asked if I'd like to visit her. I was both nervous and excited at this new adventure. Was this a date?
With my parents' permission, on one winter weekend, I rode a bus a short hour north to visit her. This was my bravest move to date. I stunned myself. It turned out she lived in her own apartment at this time, which surprised me at her age. I think she may have lived on campus prior to or after my visit, based on one of the photos she mailed to me. It clearly looked like a dorm room in the photo.
But on this day, I found myself getting off the bus, and following a map she had drawn to her apartment. I knocked, she let me in, and we chatted for mere minutes before there was another knock on her door. I remember standing there with my coat still on when this adult male walked in and barely hugged her. He was much taller than she was, and she was a couple inches taller than myself.
She took him by the hand, and disappeared in to what I assumed was her bedroom. She glanced back at me, and said to my bewildered look, "You don't mind, do you, I'll just be a little while." What could I say. "Sure. Okay." But in my head I was milling, 'Oh man, what was I thinking with all that letter writing? Yikes.' I debated to just leave as 30 minutes ticked by, when they finally came out of her bedroom.
I was befuddled. I think she said it was her boyfriend as he exited the apartment. He looked much older than her. He resembled the actor Lawrence Harvey in his heyday of the 1960's.
She went right in to asking me if I wanted lunch. I was hungry, and had to wait another hour or so for the next bus. She made us both a grilled cheese sandwich. I remember this well, because she made it with mustard. I never had it that way. She spread mustard on the bread, added the cheese, and then grilled it.
"How do you like it?"
Still feeling shy to eat in front of her, "It tastes good, different. I like mustard." The visit felt all together odd as hell.
I usually have a good memory for conversation but I felt so uncomfortable and unsure of myself, and completely baffled about her screwing her 'boyfriend' prior to lunch, that my brain seized up. I went numb. I was anxious to leave. I felt I was a wall she was talking to for the rest of my time there.
On my walk back to the bus, I thought, she knew I was coming. Why have her boyfriend, if he really was one, come to her apartment at the same time? I never did ask then or in any future letters, which became few to then none.
There went my crush. No more scented letters. Anyway, I didn't know how to behave near her except as a sports pal. And maybe she didn't know how to behave with me, thus the guy. Maybe she scared herself with those scented letters to another female.
There were not any role models for a young lesbian trying to figure out life in their teen years. I easily accepted that we barely wrote after that odd and disappointing visit. She was clearly out of my then juvenile league. Turns out she taught me she was much more worldlier, ready to go all-out in her male-female relationship. There was never a true bond formed between us -- only scented letters, long ago discarded.