Originally Cont’d from Part I Mc572 – who are you & how can we talk?
Why are you following me?
Who are you, and where do you come from, my friend who shadows me? Silently, you visit this site, watching, and not saying a word, leaving hardly a trace, except for the Internet “name” containing the initials, “MC.” I welcome you. I believe you mean no harm. And I like to think I know who you really are.
“MC” could be a disguise for the girl I thought I’d eventually marry, Peggy McPeake. Her Baptismal name was “Margaret.” “MC” could stand for the “Mc” in McPeake.
Is it you?
We dated off and on for five years, starting April 11, 1963. I had that precise moment engraved in one of the rings I gave you. No, not my high school ring from Dobbins Technical High School, from the North Philadelphia neighborhood called “Swampoodle.” It might have been the black pearl I surprised you with as a ring on your sweet 16th birthday.
We had been “broken up” and were “seeing” others a good six months before I was drafted into the US Army. Was in the military a year and a half when I was devastated upon hearing the news from my mother on a call I made from Ft. Polk, Louisiana, to Pennsylvania. “Did you hear that Peggy got married?” I remember the words as if they were spoken yesterday.
You probably never knew it, but my world “shifted” on learning about your wedding. I felt the bottom of my very existence had fallen through. I did not know it, until that moment, how much I had depended on you being “there” for me. There back home, when I really did not have any good basis on which to believe you would be there. Other than, I don’t know, a hope you’d always be there; always be the “stability‘ in my life.
Someone told me that you got pregnant, had to get married. Some Armenian fellow who ran a pizza store. When I saw you some 10 years later, divorced from my first marriage, to a young woman I met in Mamou, Louisiana shortly after your marriage, I could not tell you how crushed I felt. How I took a train home, saw my reflection in the window and wondered for the first, but not the last, “Who Am I?” Definitely not the man to “live happily ever after” with you, Peggy. I never cried over it. But, deep inside I mourned for who we were, the childhood sweethearts, the senior prom dates. The innocent, even virgin, boy and girl, that we cherished.
Did your mother, Mary, tell you I came to see you while on leave as a Second Lieutenant? “How is she?” I asked as she opened the door to your row house on Poplar Street in our old neighborhood, Brewerytown. “Fine, the baby’s fine,” she said, directing my attention away from you and toward your new family member, a baby girl. I thought I was going to lose it then. I had just turned 21 a few weeks earlier. At that precise moment, I felt more like 61. My life seemingly over.
“OK,” I said, turning away to prevent anyone from seeing me full in the face. Did not know if I’d be able to control what I was feeling. “Tell here I said ‘hi,'” I think I said while walking down the steps and away from a “road not taken.”
What would it have been like? A life together. More predictable? Perhaps. More grounded? Probably. But this allowed both of us to fly in a different direction, one that, in the words of the poet describing a road not taken, “has made all the difference.”