I have driven up to New Jersey one weekend during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I am in love with a man, and I have been for most of freshman year. It has been an on-again/off-again relationship that has never progressed much beyond necking. But I've got the fever.
So I drive 95 North from Virginia, determined to see him. Determined to pop in and see him. Because it's been weeks and weeks and weeks and we had parted in an off-again phase. But I want it to be on. Again.
He is a paid tour guide for incoming freshmen and transfer students, a gig he had the summer before when he was my tour guide. All of the guides stay in the same dorm in between orientation sessions. During the sessions, they stay in the dorms the incoming students stay in, chaperoning them, as it were.
In those heady days of drinking ages just being raised to 21 but all of us young'uns being grandfathered in and in the days of dope seeming to be in everyone's hands, I wonder if the parents have any idea that the chaperones, or at least this one in particular, are possibly more in need of being watched than their own precious offspring are.
I arrive during a session, so he stays with the little ones while I stay in his room, alone in a deserted dorm. I get stoned, as is my usual state of mind when not working at the 7-11 or being forced to pull an all-nighter for an exam or getting drunk.
I am not a true Springsteen fan yet. Yeah, I'm going to college in Jersey, but I've not been won over.
Until that night when I am in bed listening to one side of the Born to Run album. I am in Paul's bed -- it will be the only time I am ever in Paul's bed and, alas, he is not in it -- and I am listening, intently, to "Thunder Road." And I am filled with bliss. I am being spoken to, sung to, caressed by Bruce Springsteen's words.
And I fall in love. Forever.
[I am sitting at my desk, paying bills and balancing the checkbook, when I pop my MP3 player into the docking station and crank up Springsteen. "Thunder Road" comes on and I ride a time machine of memories back too many years to count. And the above comes to mind. You know, Paul turned out to be a closeted gay. I turned out to be, unwittingly, his beard. I hate him for that. But I will never forget his Born to Run album and that night I fell in love for real. Okay, like my love for Paul was, my love for Bruce is unrequited. But I can live with that for the rest of my life. Now, back to bill paying.]