ON THE REBOUND
I was 14 years old and my heart had already cracked into crumbs.
I was a too shy boy in my first year of Jr. High School and I had fallen with a loud "Thud!" The girl was from a snobby family, and her last name actually was"Rich," Terry Rich. This rhymes with "very rich."
She could be cast as the pretty girl in any Hollywood movie because she had a natural allure; sort of a cross between Tuesday Weld and Jean Seberg.
All the boys in school ever argued about centered on whetherTerry or Esther Wenger was the prettiest.
Esther was beautiful, no mistake about it. She was in my classroom too, but Esther was nice to me and I had no difficulty with my verdict. It was Terry Rich and only Terry Rich.
Why? Because Terry was impossible. She was unattainable. She was prickly, while Esther was easy to talk to and made everybody feel wonderful.
The boys who tried to court Terry were burned down to the ground inside of a minute's conversation. Terry Rich had a quick mind and she did not suffer fool's easily. Teen boys are let's face it, horny fools.
Teenage boys have an out-sized ego and a few hacks of Terry's machete were wound enough to send them scurrying with their tumescent tails between their legs.
(Cue my story)
I was reared as a child by a Mother possessing a sharp tongue who could eat men for breakfast in any arguments. I had trained with the Heavyweight Champion of the World Maneater. This would be identified by any Psychiatrist today as completely dysfunctional--and believe me--it was.
However, as an analytical person, I had broken down my Mother's strategy and tactics into little blocks of information. I saw how she marshaled her forces to keep her opponent off balance. Her key objective, you must realize, was not simply to win an argument or fight; it was to annihilate her adversary and reduce him to a gibbering blob of ectoplasm! Military tacticians would proudly tell you this was a "scorched Earth" policy. Win at any cost.
Mom was not afraid to destroy in order to win. She was the prototype of the Jihadist with the dynamite vest--with the sole exception--you were the one blown up and your relationship would come splattering out of the sky in trails of smoking shrapnel.
Guess who absorbed the lessons of her arsenal as he stood in a neutral corner, trembling with fear? Her little boy, of course.
MORNINGSIDE JR. HIGH
Terry Rich felt familiar. She was my Mom writ large. Creepy as it sounds, I could hardly find myself attracted to anybody easy-going or untroubled. I went for the magical, exotic and untameable of my species. Yes, I had become Co-Dependent. If I met an intelligent, quick, magnificent woman with a troubled soul, my eyes lit up and my eager heart quickened its beating. It was a mysterious telepathic bonding; a kind of tango; and I had learned the steps to perfection.
I obtained Terry Rich's phone number from her brother. I got him to tell me in advance when the best time of evening would be favorable for a phone call to his sister.
At first, I thought it would be an excellent idea if I crafted some kind of List of Topics to use as a cheat sheet. Then I reversed my decision. I am a counter-puncher. My talent is responsive. I suck at throwing the first punch. I'm not aggressive, but I am hell-on-wheels at giving as good as I get. I'd let the killer shrew throw the first haymaker and rely on my Mom-training to do the rest.
Monday Afternoon 1961
I smiled at Terry Rich today as she stood holding court with her "Me too" adoring worshippers. I let her lock on and load, but I turned away at exactly the right moment--before she could react negatively.
I wanted to be noticed but not yet judged.
She knew me from all of our classes at school. I was the Straight A student who had won the Spelling Bee for Tarrant County. I was the quiet one who had never spoken a word to her. She was the preening beauty in fierce competition with Esther Wenger for all the chips.
The telephone rang. My stomach twisted into a knot.
Her voice sounded like buttery Southern biscuits steaming under a honey crust: delicious and savory.
"Hi,Terry. This is Terry Walstrom. I'm in all your classes at school.
"I thought you might want to know something because it's about you."
"Um, what now? What do you mean?"
"The guys at Morningside are going to conduct a Straw Poll on Friday. You know what a Straw Poll is?"
"No--I mean, not exactly."
"Well, that's okay, you can ask somebody about it."
"It is very stupid and childish. The guys are voting on who is the prettiest girl in our school. It has come down to either Esther Wenger or Terry Rich."
"Nuh-uhhhh. That's crazy."
"Of course it is. Public opinion always is. I mean, "Who cares" what all the boys in school think?"
"So far, opinion is about fifty-fifty. It could go either way."
"Who is behind this? Somebody must be jerking everybody's chain."
"Yes, you're right. There is somebody. But, we're all sworn to secrecy. By the way, are you going to the school Carnival on Friday? If you are, and you don't have a date, I'd like to take you."
"Say what? I can't think about that right now."
"This is Monday. The Carnival is Friday. I guess I'll ask Esther, maybe she can make her mind up."
(At this point, it should be pretty obvious what I'm doing. I don't think it was obvious to the voice on the other end.)
"Why would I want to go on a date? I hardly know you."
"Ha-ha-ha. That's funny, Terry. A date is how you get to know somebody. You've got it backward. I just thought it would be fun, and that you could use some moral support in case the vote didn't go your way."
"What do you mean?"
"As you say, we don't know each other, but you don't strike me as a person who has grown accustomed to being in second place, or as a runner up."
"Second place? No! Not hardly."
"Well, stop and think about it. You've developed a reputation at school as being a bit of a snob and it---"
"What? I'm not a snob! Who says that?"
"It doesn't matter. Perception is reality to a lot of people. Guys talk. The consensus is out there: you're hard to talk to and you don't cut anybody any slack--but Hey! I don't believe it, or else, why would I be calling you for a date? I'm shy. I'm not anxious to have my head handed to me by some snobby girl--am I? No."
"That's ridiculous, calling me a snob. That makes me very angry."
"Don't shoot the messenger. I'm giving you 'head's up' and that's all there is to it. If you'd like to have moral support on Friday, I'll be there right beside you. If you don't, that's okay too. It's your choice."
"Oh--you know what--if you can keep a secret, I'll tell you whose idea this Straw Poll is, but you have to promise not to divulge who told you. Not ever."
"Okay. Yes, tell me!"
"It's your brother, Jay. You know him better than I do. He seems to enjoy stirring the pot. For example; recently our first black family moved into my neighborhood. I've become friends. Your brother Jay has been telling everybody in school something hateful. He calls me a "Ni**er Lover." I don't appreciate it. He likes to turn people against each other. I guess it all starts at home, eh?"
"I don't want to talk about this. He's a little shit. I'm going to have his guts for garters."
"I don't blame you. So listen up. I'll be at the Carnival on Friday. If you see me there and you want to hang-out, that'll be great. If not, well--it's been nice talking to you. Good Luck with the Straw Poll."
I didn't run into Terry rich at the Carnival. The scuttlebutt was that she had left early after the Straw Poll results had been announced. Esther Wenger won by a landslide. Terry Rich had made too many enemies with the same mean spirit her brother Jay used to make enemies for life.
My phone conversation with that girl lingers in my memory for two reasons.
First of all, I took the initiative. I drove the topic. I kept her off balance, and I didn't feel nervous. All of this from a shy kid with no life experience.
Second, I had set myself up to fail. There was no way Terry Rich was going out on a date with me. No way. I was proving to myself I was not afraid to fail or prove myself equal to the task of enduring her sharp tongue.
I felt badly for days.
I couldn't get a handle on why I was so depressed. Only many years later did it become clear. The depressing part of this puppy love for Terry Rich came down to one thing: I CHOSE BADLY.
I was attracted to misfortune, failure, misery, conflict--but for a purpose!
I was determined to rise above it--crack the code--win the day, and turn lemons into lemonade.
Dammit--I AM A COCKEYED OPTIMIST!
ON THE REBOUND (Floyd Cramer)
Floyd Cramer was a Nashville piano player. He developed a quirky style with
originality in his music compositions and performance.
Floyd brought originality to his music AND becoming the world-famous originator of the NASHVILLE SOUND.
ON THE REBOUND is perhaps my favorite piece of music from the early 60's.