As I was browsing through my morning e-mails recently, I opened one that said the following: 'By chance are you Edwin Decker from Monroe, NY?' The e-mail was signed 'Jill M.'
I was stunned. I stared in disbelief at the e-mail for 10 minutes with my jaw resting on the keyboard.
Jill M. was my first true love from high school. I haven't heard from her since we broke up almost 30 years ago. She is also the subject of my greatest regret.
See, our love was a forbidden one. It was an age thing. When we met I was 17 and she was 14, which certainly raised several neighborhood eyebrows. In my defense, Jill was smoking-hot. She may have been one month shy of her 15th birthday, but the girl had the body of a 16-year-old. She looked like Farrah Fawcett Majors, the way Farrah did on that infamous poster, in the red bathing suit, smiling and beaming with her back arched and her nipples pushing through the fabric as though they had just spent the last two hours getting licked by Lee Majors' six-million-dollar tongue.
After my lower jaw resumed its normal position in the mandible, I e-mailed her back. She instantly returned volley. Soon we were talking on the phone. It was awkward at first. After the introduction pleasantries, I asked how she found me. Jill explained that she had recently done an Internet search on her name, and a column I'd written had magooglized. It was a freak accident, because the column in question wasn't even about her. It was about some totally different fictional female who, for fun, I gave the name of my long-lost first love, Jill M.
We had a good laugh at that, then we laughed about something else, and soon we were talking as though not even a month, let alone 30 years, had passed unspoken. We rehashed the old times, the good times and, oh yes, the bad times, too.
'One thing that really hurt,' she said, 'was how well you took our breakup. I figured you must not have loved me that much after all.'
I told her that wasn't the case. I was devastated when we split. I would go the bars and drink my face off, then drive to her house in the middle of the night, coast into the driveway with the headlights off, insert my Cars cassette and blast 'Since You're Gone' repeatedly until the house lights burst on and her father came out and chased me away. I must've done it a dozen times.
Eventually, the conversation turned to the elephant-or, should I say, the statutory rapist-in the room: our age difference. I asked Jill if my plucking her out of the cradle had damaged her psyche. She answered, 'Yes.'
That stung. I'd hoped she would laugh and say it was no big deal. But she did have some hard regrets, one of which was that she'd grown up too soon.
It's true. I did have a hand in prematurely maturing young Farrah. I was a major contributor toward her delinquency. We drank, smoked drugs and banged each other in all sorts of wrong and dangerous places using all sorts of wrong and dangerous positions.
In my defense, I was discovering this whole sex-and-drugs-and-rock-'n'-roll thing, too. For me, it was an entirely positive experience. I look back on all my bad influences: Tony P. got me on the beer. Dave R. got me on the pot. Bill H. got me on the mescaline. Flipper gave me cocaine behind the Monroe Tavern. And Betty C., an older woman of 20, unvirginized me at 16 down at Round Lake, where all us kids hung out, drank beer, took drugs and made adolescent fumble-love in our cars. I saw those influences as being positive in my life and simply assumed they'd be positive in Jill's life, too. I never even considered that it would be wrong to drag this innocent child queen into my sordid, youthful existence.
Wanna hear something really trippy?
After we split, Jill started seeing this guy, Peter Hipsman. It was brutal. I was always running into them at parties or the mall or wherever. One particularly desperate evening, after trying to kill the ache with an assembly line of various alcoholic beverages, I stumbled to my car and drove home.
As my car came down the hill toward the Round Lake parking lot, my headlights settled upon the vehicle of my arch-nemesis, Peter Hipsman. I remember thinking, Please, please, please don't let Jill be in there with him. When my headlights splashed the window, I saw Peter sitting in the driver's seat, alone, leaned back, with his eyes closed.
Thank Christ! I thought. I really couldn't bear seeing them together right now. At that moment, Jill's head popped up from Peter's lap. The shock caused me to lose control of the Mustang, crash into a fence, plummet into a ditch, blow out a tire and then bounce out of the ditch, where I regained control of the vehicle and drove the last quarter of a mile home drunk and on three tires.
It didn't take long to pass out that night, but just before I did, I sent a prayer request to God for the savage killing of that little prick Peter Hipsman.
Now here's the trippy part:
A few years later, Pete was shot and killed. The stupid bastard went and joined a religious cult called the Branch Davidians. Peter was shot thrice by ATF agents during the initial raid of the Koresh compound. There are several reports that claimed it took him three days to bleed out.
In my defense, I doubt I had enough pull with God that he would abide my hit on Peter. Nor did I take any joy at the news of his death, which has haunted me throughout the years. What it did was make me wonder about this strange, meandering life. Where will it lead next? What's in store? What e-mail will I open tomorrow? What new opportunity or ATF bullet awaits me next week?
No, no, don't tell me, I don't want to know.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org., and visit the newly remodeled www.edwindecker.com.