Luv and Fish Eyes

originally featured in cul-de-sac issue #6, 2001


    “Rise and shine and bring out the glory glory.”  That was the way my dad woke us up when we went on family trips.  I don’t know where he got this crazy, biblical song because we’re Jewish, and that song has a nutty, Jesus-y feel.  It was annoying, but I always liked it.

    The summer before seventh grade, my dad came into my bedroom at 3:30 am, singing.  We were leaving for somewhere, Minnesota, for the annual, week-long fishing trip we took with my dad’s two sisters and their families.  I had just begun my Monkees obsession, and I listened to their 20th anniversary tape “That Was Then, This is Now” over and over again during the long, dark car ride.  Davy Jones was my true love, and I swayed to his swanky voice that sang only to me.  Of course, he was a 40-year-old, short man, but I hadn't seen that part of him as of yet.  (Recently, I saw him on the morning news, and he was discussing the fact that he has breasts now.  Eeeew.)

    Upon arrival, I discovered our cabin was inadequate: the television only got three channels!  Should I watch cheese or snow?  I settled on The Price is Right.  All day I watched TV, until I noticed a cluster of kids outside, standing around a barbecue.  My sister was out there, so I decided I would leave my Lay-Z-Ass chair and join them.

    The kids at the barbecue all seemed to know each other, as if they came to this fishin' hole every year.  I was just some city slickin' outsider.  One boy looked about my age (12-ish), had cute, mousy teeth and a blonde, extended bowl haircut.  He was Andy, a small town Iowa metalhead with a knack for gutting fish.  We began hanging out, along with my cousin Daniel, who was also the same age.

    Each day we met at the messhall-esque game room/bait shop.  Then we took out a canoe and some rods and spent the day fishing.  I was a surprisingly good fishergirl, and soon we had enough fish for a giant fish fry.

    Andy and I stood inside the fish gutting hut.  It was the size of two outhouses standing next to each other.  Andy taught me how to stick a knife into the fish's eye and pop out the eyeball.  I was in looooove.  One-sided, of course.  He seemed to be more in love with the eyeless fish carcass.

    Our last day arrived painfully too soon.  I had been planning for a dramatic, romantic goodbye.  We had already exchanged addresses (I put his in a little candy tin, which I still have), so I imagined our goodbye as a passionate (seventh grade) embrace.  I’ll miss you.  I'll write.  I’ll never forget you.  But my dad and mom and sister were waiting in a running car sitting right next to us.  And Andy didn’t try to hug me.  Or say he was going to miss me.  He said he’d write.  He said goodbye.  I watched Andy through the car window with my headphones on, tears streaming down my blotchy cheeks.

    The minute I got home, I wrote Andy a letter.  I told him I missed him and asked him what he wanted for his birthday.  I deliberated for hours about how to sign it.  From?  Love?  Sincerely?  I opted for luv; it’s cute, fun, yet expresses some romance.  A week or two later, a letter from Andy came on blue, Garfield stationery.  He said he wanted the new Dokken cassette for his birthday, but I read it as "Pokken," until a friend set me straight.  He signed the letter “lov.”  I wondered if that was because he misread my "luv" and thought that was how it should have been spelled or if he was making it just one letter closer to the real thing.

    Absence did not make the heart grow fonder, and I soon stopped caring about the whole love aspect of the letters.  Andy and I remained penpals for the next eight years.  It always struck me that some metalhead guy could be such a sweet penpal.  I still have a page of his yearbook photos in one of my photo albums.

    In my third year of college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I got a message on my answering machine from Andy.  He said he was coming to my town the next day, and he would call me so we could meet up.  I was so excited.  It would be so funny to see him again, this nice boy who wrote me letters.

    The next day, there was another message from Andy.  He was calling from a pay phone.  The message said he was in town, and he would call me later to hook up.  I waited by the phone.  Night came.  No call.  In fact, I never got a phone call.  I never got another letter.  Twice, over the span of several years, I tried sending Andy a letter, but I never knew which address he’d be at.  Nothing. 

    I worry that something bad happened to Andy, like he was abducted by aliens or a hippy drum circle.  Or maybe he got into an accident.  Because I cannot imagine why this nice boy from Iowa, who wrote me letters through the ugly years of our lives and kept on doing it into the lame years of college, would stop writing to me.  I wonder if I will ever know.copyright 2007 Julie Halpern

Copyright 2011 Julie Halpern