Maria’s Secret Crush

Double Dare
December 2013 I found myself on the dance floor,live band taking up a third of the living room, at a New Years house party, covered in sweat, surrounded by others, who were proportionately sweaty, doing a combination dancing, and shouting out lyrics to classic songs.  Good times.
 
During the song “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen, I bumped into a writer friend, Maria Mcleod.  “Ready Freddy!” she shouted, “Freddy! That was the name of my secret crush!”  This comment got my attention.  I too had a secret crush in school.   She shared her story, I shared her mine.  We each had a long lasting crush on someone for years, never told anyone. 
 
The Challenge
“I dare you to blog about your crush.  To tell the world that you loved that guy all those years!” I shouted over the music.  She agreed to the challenge. My story, as promised, is ready and will post this Wednesday.  
-Shannon P Laws
 

Please welcome, first time guest blogger to Madrona Grove, Maria McLeod

 

 
 
Dreams of Freddy Ingles
 
By Maria McLeod
 
In second grade I met a boy I would love forever from afar: Freddy Ingles. My first erotic dream, before I even knew what sex was, would feature the two of us, rolling around together, naked atop a billowy cloud.  I was nine years old.  Forty-one years later, Freddy still visits my dreams, as if we’ve claimed a corner of an alternate universe to continue our would-be relationship. My adult dreams, however, are less fantastical, uneventfully realistic.  I’m making my way through a crowded parking lot, or I’m in the grocery store, picking over produce.  Suddenly there’s Freddy, passing by pushing a shopping cart.  Most of the time, I’m too stunned to speak, but once, in a rare moment of bravery, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked the question I’d wanted to ask all those years ago, “Do you like me?” He began to smile, silently in a way I could not decode.  Then I woke up.
 
Freddy died in the 1992 at the age of 30.  He still lived in the area where we had grown up, in southeast Michigan about 50 miles north of Detroit.  He was driving a UPS truck.  He had married and had a toddler, a little boy, at the time.  He didn’t make it across the tracks; his delivery truck collided with an oncoming train.  He was airlifted, flown to a hospital whose doctors could not save him.  I hadn’t seen him for over a decade, not since just after high school.  We were at mass and he was waiting in line to receive communion, passing by my pew, probably unaware I was there.  When I heard the news of his death, however, I was living in Pittsburgh and attending graduate school. I remember when my father called to tell me he’d assisted at the funeral – my father is a Deacon –  and Freddy (“Fred” by then) and his family had belonged to the same parish. 

Freddy’s mother, Janet, was a tall woman who seemed sure of herself, one of those kind and efficient mothers who always wore pants and seemed especially capable of raising boys who would grow to tower over her.  Her first husband, Fred senior, had died in 1973, the year before we entered junior high.  I remember this because Freddy became the star of the junior high basketball team.  From the stands, I cheered – as we all did – for every basket he made and every shot he blocked.  Freddy had been caught smoking marijuana in the year following his father’s death.  As a penalty, he’d been kicked off the basketball team, an action I still perceive as I did then: a poor decision by adults too caught up with the rules. 

My father – who has always known the contents of my heart – reported that he’d spoken to Freddy’s mom at the funeral.  He’d said, “Maria always loved Freddy.”  He told me that Janet had responded with a smile, “I know, Bob, I know.” 


I wondered how she knew? Had Freddy known?  Who else knew?  I thought, also, of his wife and child who survived him, the horror and the shock of the entirely unexpected. Death by collision with a train?  How terrible and ironic that this could be the demise of someone who drives for a living, in Michigan, on the roads he’d been driving all his life, in all manner of weather.  And of all people, Freddy?  

I had never told him how I felt.  Not directly.  I never approached him at a junior high dance and asked him to dance with me, not even a fast song when we didn’t have to touch. There had, however, been a couple instances when my affection for Freddy had welled up in me, and I may have given myself away.
 
In second grade, I climbed up to the top of a snow mound on the playground of Saint Mary’s Catholic school where Freddy and I attended, me in my swish-swish, red snow pants, black rubber boots, and hooded red and pink coat with white piping – Michigan winter wear purchased by my parents at Sears.  When I made it to the top, I stood and peered out over the playground of kids throwing snowballs, playing on the swings, and attempting to traverse the monkey bars wearing mittens. The nuns in their black habits watched in a huddle near the red brick school building, just outside the teachers’ lounge. I scanned the area and thought of Freddy who lived nearby and who walked home for lunch, missing most of lunchtime recess.
  

Overwhelmed by my longing to see him, I shouted out his name from my would-be mountaintop:  “F-R-E-D-D-Y,” half expecting his name to echo back to me like in the Sound of Music when Maria frolicked in the Alps. It was then I experienced a sudden shove from behind, and went careening down the side of the snow pile on my back, marveling at the spectacle of sky on my descent.  When I slid to a stop, I turned and looked toward the top of the snow hill and, with the sun shining behind him,  there was a silhouette in a spray of white winter light.  It was Freddy, his coat flapping open, his hands bare of gloves. With the brightness behind him, I couldn’t clearly see his facial expression. I had no idea what he thought of my outburst, and I was dumbstruck as to how he could have suddenly appeared there behind me at the exact moment I could no longer contain myself. 

 
I was not a pretty or popular girl in school, which I realized as early as kindergarten, when social stratification begins to take shape.  I was gangly and clumsy and easily distracted.  I lived inside a series of daydreams.  I had oversized front teeth and a mouth too small to contain them.  I was tall, but shoestring slim.  Kids joked that if I turned sideways, I’d disappear from sight. My nickname was “skinny bones.” 
 

Freddy, at that age, was already athletic, the youngest boy from a family of handsome and popular older brothers and one older sister.  He was tall, like me, and he had blue/gray eyes and curly light brown hair.  He seemed smart, on the verge of misbehaving, but generally steering clear of the nuns’ wrath.  I could stare at him forever and ever.  In our second grade class, I sat in the front row and found every excuse to visit the back of the room, which was where the pencil sharpener was, next to Freddy’s desk.  After I’d sharpened my pencil one time too many, the teacher had enough and sent me to the “no-no box” as a punishment for repeatedly leaving my seat.  She was sure I was trying to look on other students’ papers for answers.  The no-no box was a panel, separated into four segments, hinged.  It stood about 4 and half feet high, about shoulder level for most adults.  Like the pencil sharpener, it was located at the back of the room, near Freddy, folded into the shape of a box with a chair in the middle.  Most often, it was occupied by the boy who couldn’t stop wetting his pants – a problem the teacher assumed required public punishment.  It was there I sat for God knows how long, crying, mortified.  

 
The next year my mother and father decided to switch me to public school because they didn’t care for the tactics of the no-no box instructor who carried a can of Lysol, spraying at invisible germs and the kids who spread them.  I couldn’t believe it when I realized that Freddy’s parents had decided to transfer him to my same third-grade class.  That was also the year our mothers had, by coincidence, bought us matching rust-colored turtlenecks.  I wore mine as often as possible, even digging it out of the dirty clothes hamper on the off chance that Freddy might wear his the same day, wedding us in matching fashion.   

  Eddy Elementary had a playground five times the size of Saint Mary’s, a vast open field that stretched well beyond the jungle gym and swing sets, perfect for kids who loved to run.  Freddy, who most often spent recess chasing the pretty, popular girls, would sometimes choose to chase me.  I would stand nearby, and when he began running toward me, I would turn my back to him and run as fast as I was able. 

My legs and arms buzzed and pulsed, and my wispy brown hair lifted and flew in the air.  One time, I tripped on a protruding root of the giant Oak tree, landing on my belly with an “oomph.”  I rolled over to look behind just as Freddy caught up, peering down at me.  We’d never spoken to each other before.  At a loss, I stated the obvious, “I think I tripped.”  He looked at me quizzically, and then stuck out his hand, offering to hoist me up.  We walked toward the school silently, side-by-side.  And, in walking next to him, I felt somehow older, that my world had taken on new weight and meaning. Then Freddy caught sight of another girl he liked to chase, and off he went.  I continued to the asphalt part of the playground where the kindergarteners typically gathered to play duck-duck-goose under the watchful eye of their sixth-grade aides. I put my back to the brick wall of the school and slide down it in a daze.  I was undaunted.  He had taken my hand and pulled me to my feet.  Freddy had touched me.

   Years later, at a school presentation ceremony for the student athletes, Freddy was called to the stage to receive a basketball award.  This was before he’d been kicked off the junior-high team, or perhaps he’d been reinstated.  I don’t recall.  I can only remember that my body shot up from my seat the moment I heard his name.  I stood in the auditorium of about 200 seated kids, momentarily oblivious to where I was, whom I was with, clapping and yelling, “Yay, Freddy.” A row of popular, prettier girls turned and stared at me, incredulous.
 
 
 
 
Eventually Freddy’s mom remarried, and Freddy transferred school to a neighboring town.  I took driver’s ed., got braces,  my first period and my first job, working at a drug store – nearly all in the same week.  My life opened and reopened, and my daydreams grew to hopes for my adult self, some of which became a reality, like going to college, studying poetry, and becoming a writer.  Boys became men, and my love life see-sawed, until I came upon the man I married in my 30s, another writer, trying to realize his own dreams.  
 
As for the summer Freddy moved away, I met a boy from a town up river, experienced my first kiss, and forgot Freddy, except for in my dreams, where Freddy is immortal, and I’m still gearing up to say the words I’ve waited too long to speak.  





Guest Blogger: Maria McLeod
Maria McLeod writes poetry, short fiction, and monologues. She teaches for WWU’s Department of Journalism. She also is the author of “Body Talk: Sexual Triumphs, Trials, and Revelations,” a theatre performance produced in Bellingham, Wash. 2012-13.  Maria has performed poetry as part of the following reading series and/or at these venues,: Public Pool, Hamtramck, Mich.; Poet as Art, Lucia Douglass Gallery, Bellingham, Wash.; Poetry Night, Bellingham, Wash.; Parkplace Books, Kirkland; Pittsburgh City Theatre; the Ceres Gallery in New York City; and the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1995.
 
To learn more about Maria, her projects and writing, 
please visit her web sites:
 



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NEIGHBORS

Written: December 2009

This short story is based on a dream I had.

Seattle, Washington

It was mid afternoon and Heather should have been at work. Getting a mid day list of items to finish for her boss to be ready for tomorrow was the most she accomplished. She worked at an archives agency and spent most the day filing, organizing and sitting at a computer. Three times a week she went to the gym during her lunch break. Once in a while she would go for a jog after work around her Seattle neighborhood. Dogs would bark, crows would crow and the seagulls would squawk. It was very relaxing a beautiful. She loved to jog until she came around and saw her home. Her home was recently famous. A picture of her house had been taken from that very street corner by a reporter nine months ago, and plastered all over the papers. Her husband had lived here. And the arrest took place just on the sidewalk in front of the home. “How could he of done that?” she thought. She discovered after moving here with him that she was his 8th wife. That he wasn’t who he said he was. He was a liar. She didn’t know him after two years of marriage- she didn’t know him at all. She was living a lie, a player in play, and he was the director. Her identity was kept secrete but most people recognized her name. “Hey are you that lady…?” NO! I mean, not me. Just a strange coincidence. But that poor woman right?” “Oh ya – If that was me I would of beat the man to death I’m telling you! Eight wives!? I mean what the hell right?” *sigh*
And so it was. His identify was false, and now she told everyone that she was not the person whom she really was. Everything was upside down and backwards. But at least she got to keep the house. It was a fun little house nestled amongst the trees with a short little path to the front door. It used to make her feel happy to pull up in front of it. But lately it was just this strange BLANK. No feelings. No emotion. She stopped going to the bars with friends from work. Sometimes she wouldn’t go to the gym at all. The run was the best thing, and attending the local theater.
At least you know when you go to a play that you are entering a reality that is based on people pretending to be other people. It says so right on the ticket: “These people will be pretending to be these people tonight. Pretend costumes by this person and the pretend world was created by those people. Hope you enjoy it! Best play of the year!” So with eyes wide open she would enter the small theater and hope that the broken down walls and ceiling would somehow keep her in check. That the acting no matter how well it was that night would not transport her completely into another reality, but with a simple glance up at the water stained tile, she could be brought back to reality and breath a sigh of relief. Ahhh this is just a show and I’m really not in Kansas.
This is the condition that we find our Heather. Staying close to the ground, trying to find her feet again. Appreciating the support of friends and the city provided therapist, but somehow knowing that Heather will have to fix Heather. …Am I really broken? Did he break me? Perhaps I’m just in shock and all these feelings will go away soon. Melting like a lemon drop in your mouth. “It’s important to know that he was wrong. That it wasn’t my fault.” She would think to herself. And then just keep on jogging.

Jogging around the corner, and this time instead of looking at her home like a newspaper photographer, her eye was drawn to the street corner. She noticed a man on the corner… starring at her. He had that look like he wanted to ask her something. “Just keep jogging Heather. He’s not there”
“Excuse me…’”
Jogging in place “Yes?” She looked at him and it was as if for a brief moment he was lighting up the whole block. Shake it off girl. He just wants to ask directions.
“Yes what?”
“Hi. I’m new here and got lost. How do I get back to Magnolia?”
“Magnolia?! Magnolia. Well just turn left at any of these streets.”
“Any Street?”
“Yes. It’s the main street that runs parallel with the water. You know THAT water. (Using her head in a jerk to point to Puget Sound) Magnolia is the main drive on the water.”
“Oh yes. I was just a bit direction turned. So I could turn left here…”
“Yep- on Dravus.”
“Dravus. Ok. Thanks.”

“So this was the first time you met him?”
Her therapists sat there trying to show no emotion, but Heather could tell she was concerned.
“Yes, it was fall; lots of leaves on the ground. So perhaps October?”
“What was your first impression?”
She thought about that moment. How his faced shined in the light. How alive and happy he looked. How incredibly inviting of a man he was. Dressed nicely, clean, friendly; and just for a second her heart jumped.
“Well he was like just a guy on the street. Perhaps a guest staying with a neighbor somewhere… that got lost. or something.”
“Tell me about the second time you met.”
“I was downtown at the public library getting some micro files for a client. And I noticed him. Then I was at the market and we met at the same booth. Then I saw him next at a fund raiser for the theater.”
“Had you seen him before?”
“No. It was like he had just moved to the neighborhood. We talked that night. And he told me, “I’ve just moved here and can’t help how I keep bumping into you. What’s your name?”
“Was that the night you first started to have an affair with him?”
“An affair? I’m not…really married remember.”
“Oh I’m sorry Heather, I mean did your physical relationship start that evening? I’m just trying to establish a time line.”
Time line? Are you working with the police? Because I thought we had a confidentiality agreement. What are you trying to pull?
She looked to the ceiling to take her out of this horrible play.
“No worries Heather. I’m just trying to figure out what happened. I’m a little confused. We’ve been working for months to help you establish safe boundaries with others, and yet this man who you’ve only met twice…”
“Four times…”
“Ok, Four times just seems to walk into your life and completely seduce you. Much like you husband.”
“He was never my husband.”
“Right. Yes. I’m sorry. It’s just I thought we were making progress here. This stranger could have hurt you. And honestly I’m not sure WHAT he did to you. As soon as he’s found, perhaps we’ll get more information from him.”
“You’ll never find him.”

The therapists looked at Heather, over her glasses. Wondering how such a gullible little girl of a woman has ever made it this far. Again hiding her true feelings, the therapist’s started to concentrate… Heather is a very pretty woman- with or without make-up. She’s a trophy wife, no brains, just a body to hang on someone’s elbow. And yet a bit of a square. How can I help someone who isn’t even a real person? Someone who is this shallow?
“Why won’t the police find him Heather?”
“Because he’s gone home.”
“You said he lived in your neighborhood.”
“Well… I really don’t know where he’s from. Mt Olympus maybe?”
“Mt Olympus? You mean like the Olympic Mountains? Like in Port Angeles? Or are you talking Greece?”

Heather looked out the office window, and saw the Olympic mountain range in all its glory. Snow covered and the sun shinning on it. She was done. This woman would never understand what she went through; this was a waste of time. Somehow she knew she didn’t need her anymore. That Dravus cured her of her broken heart and healed her mind of anxiety over meeting new people. He helped her. But what did she do for him? …A smile crawled up her face and her feet twitched a bit.
“Thank you very much for your time. I’ve been very grateful for your help. But I think we’re done here.”
“Wha..? Heather wait we’ve just scratched the surface. You still need much more therapy.”
“Sorry, I don’t think so. I’m done with the pills, sleepless nights. You did help me to figure things out. And I’m ok now. Really.”
“Well the mandatory visits by the state ended 2 months ago. Of course you can leave at any time. I can’t force you to come here. But Heather, you need to look out for yourself and protect your inner space. Remember not just anyone can come in there, right. Call me anytime if you need to talk alright.”
“Ok”
“Protect yourself”
“Alright”
“Please- oh the police are meeting with you on Thursday. Would you like for me to come with you?”
“Ummm… sure. That would be fine. Perhaps we could have lunch afterwards? Don’t worry, I wont let you into my space.” –she laughs. “I’ll see you Thursday then.
Yes Thursday.”
Heather leaves. The therapist walks over to her desk and pushes a button.
“Stacey?”
“Yes?”
“Please open my schedule for Thursday morning. And get Josh from channel 5 on the phone please.”
“Yes.”
She sits down in her chair, swings around to her view of the mountains and scratches her head.
…How could one man, change a woman THAT much?

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