My Dad...

My Dad...
Herbie "Pompeii" Pilato

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Words Kissed Her Eyes

In the late 1970s, my family and I moved from our red-brick house in the inner-city of Rochester, New York to a rented town-house in a surrounding suburb. This particular town-house rental community had a pool and a tennis court, and was close to the beach, as well as the area's best hamburger resturant and the original Abbott's Ice Cream parlor.

What more could anyone want, right?

It was a tough time growing up in the city. I was a cute and artistic little boy, and as a result, all the little girls were after me.

Also consequently, though unfortuately, not all, but most of the little boys in the neighborhood were jealous of me. So they frequently beat me up or called me names - horrible, hurtful names.

But when I was 17, and in the year that I graduated from high school, which was an equally tough time for me - filled with continuous bullying, my family and I moved to that rented town-house in the suburbs - which ultimately proved to be somewhat of a paradise, at least for a little while.

For during that entire summer - of 1978 - by the pool and the tennis courts, I ever-enjoyed the sun. It was the war-less era of Grease at the movies, and Three's Company was on TV. I was planning for college for the coming Fall, though not sure which college it was to be. I wasn't working yet, but also that Fall, I would get a job at the local supermarket (cleaning the meat department, and later, as the "Head of Maintenance").

But before any of that transpired - there was the carefree spirit of the pool...and the sun...and the laughter of new friendships.

And there was also "Diana" - a beautiful young woman who can only be described now as an ideal cross between Farrah Fawcett and Christie Brinkley.

It's important to note, too, that, by this time in my life, most of the "bullies" were gone - and I had found a new confidence. Not only did John Travolta's performance in Grease echoe in a new era, but his character named "Tony Minero," in that year's release of Saturday Night Fever, had given me an "identity." All the kids who once laughed at my dancing, when I was a young kid in the city, now wished they had my "moves."

I recall the Senior Ball, only months before my first visit to "the pool." A few "bully classmates" (I guess that's what you could call them) tried to "pull one over on me." They went up to the band, and asked the lead vocalist to call my name to the dance floor, because, "apparently," she said, "this Herbie-J-person can dance."

"Well," she went on to say, "let's see what Herbie J can do."

So, my name was called, and the band started to play a disco version of "I Love NY."

Instead of turning away from the request, I went into the dance, full-throttle. As I started toward the center of the dance floor, which was cleared and waiting for me, I turned to those certain "class bullies," who were laughing and pointing, and calling me names, each with their girlfriends standing beside them, in unison.

Instead of snearing towards their way, I ignored them - and said to myself, "They want to see a dance? Well, they're gonna' get a dance."

And the music played on - and I danced...mimicking nearly every move Travolta performed in the solo sequence of Saturday Night Fever.

When I was done - the bullies were silent - though with their jaws dropped. And each of their girlfriends ran from their side - and rushed up to me - and adorned me with non-stop kisses and hugs.

It was pretty awesome - a moment in time that almost compensated for the four-years of high-school trauma that each of their boyfriends put me through. But it was also an awesome moment because it prepared for my dance for Diana.

Because again, a month or two after my prom, there I was - at the pool, laying in the sun. And there, only a few yards away, was Diana.

Somehow, I knew had to meet her. So, after about an hour of trying to figure out how I was going to do that, and what I was going to say, she started to gather her towel to leave.

I was like, "Oh, great! Now what?"

She then started walking passed the lifeguards to the exit, and paced over to the lawn, between the pool and the tennis courts.

I had to move - and I had to move quickly.

So I got up off my towel, and ran over to the black rail fence that now stood between us, she on the outside of the pool, and me on the inside - and I called out to her, saying, "Excuse me - but what's it like to have blue eyes?"

She stopped, turned, and smiled, and said, "I dunno. What's it like to have brown eyes?"

We both laughed and talked a little more, and then she left.

I'm not sure how many other times I saw her again. But somehow, a few days later, I was dancing for her in her family's townhouse.

We never dated. We never went up the street to the beach, to get a hamburger or an ice-cream. I don't think we ever even sat at the pool together again or played tennis. And we certainly never kissed or even embraced.

But somehow, in that simpler, happy summer of '78, Diana made me smile - and I made her smile a little bit, too.

I went on to college (Nazareth) that Fall, and never saw or heard from her again.

That is, until last week...when I received a message from her, "out of the blue," on Facebook.

She remembered how I asked about her blue eyes, and she reminded me of how I gifted her with a plaque with spiritual words upon it that defined true friendship. We messaged one another a few more times, back and forth - and she expressed so many kind thoughts about how I made an impression on her that impression that I thought only I remembered.

But in fact, I finally realized what it's "like to have blue eyes"...and how Diana and I had really "kissed" after all - on that first moment we met.

For her eyes were kissed by my words...words from the past that somehow spoke back to me in the present with a loving-kind vision of an immortal moment in time.

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