A shorter version of this story is in my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant." I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the near future.
In the winter of 1955 when I sped toward the ripe age of sixteen, I mustered up enough courage to call a girl one evening from the place of work. We did not have a phone at home. I had seen the girl only once, briefly, at a gathering of the folks Mom cleaned for.
Of course, I thought she was lovely with blond hair flowing, rosy cheeks, and a coy little smile. I lost sleep over her. I realized that I would never be good enough for her, but maybe . . . we could see each other once and just talk, well, try to talk.
I have long forgotten her name, but I clearly remember the ache in my heart whenever I thought of her. One evening, at the shop I worked at after school, I could hardly do my assigned jobs for thinking about her. I had her phone number in my wallet. Until then, it was that number in my pocket that made me feel close to her. That night a tremendous longing welled up in me. I needed to hear her voice for the first time. I practiced all evening the line I would say to her father or mother when they answered the phone. I was confident that I would be able to express myself well enough to introduce myself and then ask to speak to their daughter.
The lights in the shop were on full brightness, except the front office, which was dark. I mustered up the nerve to sit in the boss’s chair, in the dark office. My heart pounded. In the shadows of the streetlight outside, with a lump in my throat, I stared at the black telephone in front of me. Was I man enough to make the call? Make a call that might round out my life. Possibly include a new part in my life, a part outside my immediate family. A new part in my life that until now had been taken up with nothing but an all-boy school and an every day job. Yes, I was man enough to make the call!
I picked up the phone and dialed. A voice on the other end said, “Hello.” It was a sweet young voice, obviously not the mother. It was her—the girl of my dreams! The shock of her answering the phone totally scrambled my much rehearsed lines. I was speechless, literally. My heart pounded so hard, and my breathing became so labored as the seconds ticked on. I could not utter a word. All I could do was hang up. Such was the world of a young man in love.