It’s funny how a song that you haven’t heard since you were a teenager, can suddenly bring you back to a moment in time, good or bad. A while back, I was in Starbucks and I heard a haunting melody that sounded familiar. Upon listening more closely, I realized what I was hearing and I was suddenly transported back in time to the age of 16.
When I was a kid, my friends Janet, Mark, and Billy met the charismatic Richie M. hanging around Playground 12 in Stuyvesant Town. He had two friends, Pat and Tommy and the 6 of us somehow formed a sort of click. Richie was very tall (6’ 3”) and good looking, had dark hair and wore glasses. Conversely, his sidekick and best friend, Tommy was very short, had a pug nose, a big mouth, funny teeth, and was in general not very attractive, although he was a really nice guy who we all loved. I think they had a symbiotic relationship and he lived vicariously through Richie. It was such a contrast—kind of like Mutt and Jeff. But more than Richie’s appearance was his personality—he just had that special “something” that attracted people, mostly girls. The group eventually grew to include others, the sisters who Janet and I privately referred to as “The Bozo Girls” because of their bushy red hair, and a number of other peripherals who came and went. But there was no question who the leader was and that was Richie. I was a total innocent at that time, a good girl, and had never even had a boyfriend. So, naturally I was flattered that the fabulous Richie wanted to hang with us. At first, we were all platonic, but as always happens with males and females, sex gets into the mix. Every other day, it seemed that Richie had a new adoring girl on his arm and I just assumed that I was not “worthy” of Richie’s greatness—I had to be content to worship him on the sidelines like everyone else. So, one would think that since I was lacking a boyfriend, I would jump at the chance when asked to “go out” with someone. But I guess I was still selective, even at that stage in my life. One day, Tommy asked me out and I said I’d think about it—not a good sign. I remember going home and weighing the pros and cons: Pros-He had a part time job at a theater on Broadway and could get me into shows. He made some pretty good money, even at age 17 and could treat me. Cons: I just could not for the life of me picture myself remotely kissing him and unfortunately, that kind of goes with being somebody’s “girlfriend.” The next day I gave him my answer, “NO” and then said those dreaded words that nobody wants to hear, “But we can be friends.”
Then out of the blue, the next day, and unexpectedly for me, Richie asked me out. My answer was an immediate YES, YES! I remember being so shocked but feeling like I had reached the mountaintop and felt “on top of the world.” I literally looked in back of me to see who he was really talking to—it could not be me, of course. But it was and I drifted on top of a cloud when I went home that night and almost had to pinch myself to see if I was indeed awake. Of course, I had no idea what it even meant to be a girlfriend of anyone, let alone a girlfriend of the most sought after boy in Stuyvesant Town. I felt remotely guilty about turning Tommy down the day before, but the guilt didn’t last very long.
Since we lived near the East Village (of Greenwich Village), we would sometimes go over to a discotheque called the Electric Circus, which catered to the younger crowd because they did not serve liquor. One night I remember scrounging around to get the $4 admission fee and we arrived with Richie leading the way. We were all dancing together as a group, and having a great time while colorful amoebas splashed over the walls accompanied by the rhythmic psychedelic music of that time. Suddenly, a slow song came on, and Richie asked me to dance. The name of the song was, “I love you more than you’ll ever know” by Blood, Sweat, and Tears. I almost fell into a trance and for the duration of that song it felt as if there were only two people on the dance floor and in the world. Since he was so tall, I hung onto his waist, with my head leaning against his warm chest, feeling his heart beating, and was only aware of that haunting song and the flashing psychedelic lights across the ceiling and walls. At that moment, I loved him with all my heart and soul, just like the words of that song. Richie was indeed my first love, and my first broken heart because unfortunately that moment in time did not last. But for that night, my dreams came true.