The Young Man, The Young Woman.

posted in: Day In The Life, Luv 14
Portrait of a sixteen-year-old Franz Schubert by Leopold Kupelwieser, 1812. Image: Wikipedia
Portrait of a sixteen-year-old Franz Schubert by Leopold Kupelwieser, 1812. Image: Wikipedia.


I’ve got something different for you today. I’m still unsure whether to post it or not, but as it involves no stories of wild behavior (me? never), or gossip or politics, it’s probably all right. So far, I have not regretted this kind of vulnerability on the ol’ PG.

The post you’ll see below was written in May of last year but never finished (and therefore never posted.) Thus, it stayed in the Drafts folder in WordPress, the blogging platform used to make PaperGirl.

In May of 2016, Claus was staying with me. It was the time before he left Chicago to go back to Berlin indefinitely. We knew the end was near. Our days were tender, sweet. I’m not sure why I didn’t finish this post about the pictures he showed me. I think I felt bashful and, looking over the draft of the post, I didn’t know quite how to explain my emotions. I was feeling the same vulnerability I feel now, I suppose.

And if you’re wondering why I’m writing about Claus again, well, I’m wondering that, too. These things are confusing. Let’s just say that I’m doing some spring cleaning. Or maybe that I’m finishing up a UFO.*

Here’s the post. Remember, it wasn’t quite finished when I let it be and I don’t know that I should go back and finish it. I think the fragment is the point, today. Leaving things loose like this is not something I like, but we get used to things.

I saw a picture of the most handsome young man yesterday. It was a picture from the past. I recognized the face of the boy because the person who was showing me the picture was the person in the picture. I was looking at Claus. And the picture I was looking at was of Claus at age nineteen or so. The picture was taken of him in his hometown outside Hamburg sometime in the late 1980s.

Seeing someone who left his teenage years decades ago suddenly be nineteen is weird. And fun. And funny. (That hair!) And if like me you overthink everything and refuse to just let a picture be a picture, seeing such a picture is really uncomfortable. Because it confers a kind of sad, caged-animal feeling. I’ll explain.

The young man in the picture was really, really cute. He was an objectively, aesthetically cute teenage guy, the kind of guy seventeen-year-old (give or take a few years) girls freak out over. Athletic build. Strong jaw. Dirty blonde. Great smile — which, I learned, was close-lipped because Claus had braces at the time, and this makes it more perfect because the picture was then more real. Long story short: The boy I saw in the picture was essentially made in a lab for me to be in love with at age fifteen. Swoon. City.

Like most of us, the year that I was forced to be fifteen was not great. I was not cute. I was too talkative. I was having terrible trouble with math. I  had a lot on my mind at home, too, including dealing with a mom who was gone a lot (out of necessity! I don’t blame her!) and a broken relationship with my dad. And on and on. Everyone is unhappy in their own ways throughout adolescence; I wasn’t special. Like anyone that age going through whatever they go through, I would’ve given anything for a cute, nice boy to look my way. I would’ve given anything to be asked to the dance. It might’ve made all the other stuff not seem so bad. But with a couple rare exceptions, I was not asked to dances.

If you had come to me back then and showed me the picture of young Claus and said, “Hey, Fons. What do you think of this guy?” I would have pushed my big glasses up my nose and straightened my cloth headband before I took a look, almost as if he could see me from inside the photo and I could do something to look my best. Upon seeing the picture of the cutie-patootie, I would’ve smiled like a dweeb and rolled my eyes like, “Duh, he’s hot??” If you would’ve told me then that the boy was German and that the picture was taken in Germany, you would’ve had to peel me off the ceiling because what could possibly be more hot and amazing and dreamy than a cute boy who was from Germany??

And then, if you would’ve told me that the guy in the picture would care for me deeply someday, that he would kiss me most passionately, invite me to go on a journey across America with him and tell me — he, a bona fide philosopher! — that I was one of the most brilliant people he had ever met… Well, this is where the sad, caged-animal thing comes in.

Why must we live life in the straight line we’re given? Why are we forced to plod along, day, night, day, night, day, night, in this linear way? Why couldn’t my fifteen-year-old-self just get a hint that what seemed absolutely impossible (being liked by someone like that) was in the cards? It would’ve helped so much. It would’ve been so great, just a little “Chin up, kiddo, you’ve got a great family and moxie to spare — and there’s gonna be a lot of love in your life. Just… Standby.”

I guess I just

*An “unfinished object.” A “UFO” is quilter parlance for any quilt project you’ve started but not yet finished. 

14 Responses

  1. Melody A.
    | Reply

    it does make a person wonder, why do I have to travel the path I am on , a little insight would be very beneficial. so I agree with your premise. there are things if we could just see a bit further that would change so many other things in our lives. but maybe that is the point, it would change, we would change and not be that person who existed right then anymore. I love your insight. and feel for your heartbreak. Take care Mary, you are so brilliant !!!

  2. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    Awww–I really like Claus. He sounds like such a great guy. Maybe because I majored in German!

  3. Sherri McKnight
    | Reply

    Mary, to be honest, I am rooting for Claus. Through your writing, the way you de-“scribe” all things, yes I hope for a ClausenFons. This story was perfect and beautiful. As I read, my 15 year old self said “That’s what I’m talkin’ about.” (emphasis on “talkin”). Thank you.

    • Ivy
      | Reply

      Me, too! ClausenFons, ha! Love it!

  4. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    I completely understand the point you’re making.

  5. jean morton
    | Reply

    What a lovely unfinished post. I have always believed you have to trod through the bad stuff in life to appreciate the good stuff!

  6. Nadine donovan
    | Reply

    I understand your feelings and emotions. I recognize them from my own past. Going down memory lane- looking at pictures makes us humans feel wierd things. I think that is just life.

  7. Christine Houghton
    | Reply

    Growing in love and out of love is the hardest. I still have journals from teenage years about just that subject with similar stories as you have mentioned, only my guy was my next door neighbor who I rode the bus with and attended school with. Oh My! I could barely breathe around him. Writing about it always helped surrender my feelings. Hope it’s the same for you.

  8. Kris West Mimier
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing such a tender emotion that all of us formerly chubby 15 year olds have felt.

  9. linda schiffer
    | Reply

    Oh, yes, definitely!! This is why I think science should never, never invent time travel. NO ONE could resist the pull.

    🙂 Linda

  10. Ray Burke
    | Reply

    I lost my wife of 37 years 10 years ago. I was devastated. I was alone for a number of years and then met a lady I developed a crush on. WOW! I told a friend and she said “It must be great to feel 15 again”. So correct! I am with a new wonderful lady now who is sp special. Not the crush but wonderful.

  11. Diane
    | Reply

    I am enchanted with stories in which a photograph is involved because I know the author will most likely deal with a loop-de-loop of the heart. What effect will the evidence of time passing have on the characters? I tend to avoid the worm holes that digging deeply into photos tends to produce, but I’m not sure why. There are too many what-ifs involved, and I want to live in the here and now. Thank you for sharing such an interesting draft.

  12. […] was all Claus’s fault. A couple years ago, he started watching it and wouldn’t stop talking about how incredible it […]

  13. […] would you have […]

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