She was a beautiful redhead with curly hair and laughing eyes. Her name was Sue and she was lovely. When I looked at her, I wanted to scoop her up and hug her. I wanted to stare into her blue eyes forever. I wanted to tangle my fingers through her hair. My heart raced when I saw her and was sad when she left. I was young and reckless and silly then.
A friend was pursuing her, as I recall, and I had to have a heart to heart with him before I moved towards her. It was peaceful enough – his advances had been rejected one too many times and he was done with the chase.
“Would you mind if I asked her out?” I remember the statement being awkward, but well accepted.
“No, man. Go for it. Really – I'm done with trying for that.” He laughed and wished me luck. It was a funny laugh, too – somewhat bitter and resigned.
I asked her out that very day and we met that weekend. The date itself was nice enough. Nothing too robust or intense. I think it was a simple lunch and wandering day. It was quiet and low key with plenty of time to get to know each other. I remember walking her home in the warm, summer sun and drinking lemonade with her.
Her house was big and open with sensible art on the walls and a rather plain feel to it. It was a warm, bright day and I was smitten with this freckled, sweet girl. We were young and awkward and interested in each other. We chattered on the sofa and got caught up in small silences where we would just stare into each others eyes until one of us would look away with a laugh.
Sue grew serious and looked like she was contemplating something grave. She looked down to the floor and said, “This is stupid, but...Well, my parents are a little...I don't know.” She wrestled with the words in her head. “Well, they have stupid ideas.” I remember seeing this sadness behind those laughing eyes. I knew something was lurking.
“Like,” I said, still trying to charm her. I wanted to kiss her, not talk about her parents.
“Well...they don't like...black people.” She swallowed the words like bitter medicine. Her face fell slightly and her brow furrowed as she waited for my response. Being a light skinned, African American person, I wasn't thrilled by the news to say the least.
“Oh, I see.” I smiled and shrugged. “Well, we can see how it goes.”
But, it wasn't going to go anywhere. I knew it. She knew it. Racist parents make it hard to date anyone but who they deem acceptable. I knew that I'd never be liked by her parents even though I was a well spoken, upper middle class and respectable person. This was all too clear when I met them later that afternoon.
I introduced myself and shook their hands. I smiled and was polite. I was the sweet kid most parents wanted their daughter to date.
They didn't smile. They just stared blankly. I could tell that they wanted to ask why I was there. They wanted to escort me out as quickly as they could. I left shortly after, excusing myself and walking out without making it look too desperate. Sue apologized and we hugged goodbye.
I called Sue, but she was never able to speak for long. She wasn't able to meet for dates. Wasn't able to arrange a time for meeting in the future. I wasn't able to continue the effort and gave up much like my friend had earlier.
A month or so passed and so did the heat of the summer. Leaves fell at my parents house and needed to be swept away. A perfect job for a teen living at home with a day off. As I worked the broom back and forth across the stained wood, a car drove up the street and pulled into my parents parking area. The engine stopped and I heard chatter and laughter coming from inside the vehicle as four girls bounced and shoved each other inside.
The door opened and Sue emerged. Her short, copper hair caught the sunlight and her pale, freckled skin looked like cream. She smiled, waved and made her way down to me as her friends laughed and stared down from the car.
“Hi,” she said as she descended the wooden stairs. She wore a loose blouse and tight jeans and my heart skipped in my chest for a moment as I struggled with something to say.
“Hi. What brings you down this way?” I leaned on the broom, keeping it between us.
“I just came by to say hello. See if you were around.” She smiled that ice melting smile of hers. Her freckles were more pronounced. Her eyes were bright and playful. “We were driving around.” We both looked up towards the car which sent the three girls inside into another bout of laughter.
“They are a happy group.” I chuckled and looked back into Sue's eyes. Something was different there. Something was less magical.
“Well..maybe we can hang out sometime? Go see a movie or something?” She reached out and pushed my shoulder softly. Her small hand felt like a bird landing on my shoulder before flittering off again. “You should call me,” she purred.
“Yeah.” She smiled a wide, scared little smile, moved towards me, and grabbed my shoulders. Leaning up on tiptoe, she pressed forward and kissed me gently on the lips. She blushed and smiled wider, before turning to head back up the stairs. “Call me, ok?” She made her way to the car, climbed in, and the car came to life again. As it passed, all four girls waved and laughed little squealing laughs – mission accomplished.
I never called.