Colleen was the sister of one of my friends, Ross. She was a couple of years behind me in high school and she had long, blond hair, and a relaxed manner. Ross and I hung out together during High School. We shared common interests: football, marijuana, lack of interest in conformity and the rat-race. I remember the way Ross loped when he walked, like his legs needed to be coaxed to move ahead, and I can see in my mind’s eye when he was suited up for football, with a helmut wedged under his armpit as he walked, often solitary, to and from the practice field. When I moved from O’Fallon, I arrived experienced in playing team football, which for someone as small as me, didn’t make a lot of sense. I remember one incident in a football game at the O’Fallon City park where the team played a group that was obviously bigger and older than we were. On one play, this halfback came around the end and, because I had escaped all the blockers, I was between him and the goal. He put his head down to run over me, and I put my head down to stop him, and I woke up with the coaches hovering over me: “Are you ok?” But, I’m digressing.
Back to McLean High football, when I played football with Ross, I started as a defensive roving linebacker, and even was named co-captan of the team. My only explanation is that I was fearless against guys much bigger than me, and I was quick (hard to block out). The crowd that Ross and I hung out with were not respectable types, but they were not criminals either (unless you count smoking weed as a criminal activity, in which case nearly everyone I knew fit into that category). Ross’ family was Irish Catholic, lots of children, and his father was a Marine officer. If I wasn’t so young, and thus stupid, that should have served as a warning about what would happen after events to come.
Ross showed up one evening for a typical evening, to find some quiet, lonely spot, to get high and laugh. Except this evening Colleen was along. I had seen her around and knew she was Ross’ sister, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge of her. Yet, from such beginnings, she is destined to play a major role in my life. Even more; with her I started a pattern of behaviour that repeated often during the course of my life.
So we are sitting in the car. Ross and I in the front seat, and Colleen in the back. Grooving, listening to music, and we see a car approaching. Smoking grass was a felony at that time, a serious crime, so we checked out the car and— it was a cop. I was holding, and so was Ross. I stuffed my packet down my pants quietly, without moving around, but Ross tossed the remains of the pipe out the window and threw his stash under his seat. Cop shows up at the window, immediately asking Ross what he threw out the window. They took note of our stonned expressions, and told us to get out of the car. We did, the cop found Ross’ weed, we were packed into the police cars, and off we went to the police station— busted.
In the police station, the three of us were separated in different rooms, parents were called, and we were booked. I couldn’t see Ross, or hear anything, but I could see and talk to Colleen. Love blooms in the strangest places and circumstances, but love happened that night in the police station.
Of course, given her father the Marine, and the bust, we were not exactly free to see each other and express our love. But that never stopped any of my friends (and future children for that matter), and it didn’t stop us either. We found ways to meet, as our houses were not that far from each other. The bust happened in early summer, so we had a summer romance.
All this happened, about a year after Bev exited from my life, or should I more accurately say, a year after her parents sent her into exile in Sweden to get me out of her life. Fifteen years later, Bev’s mother decided I wasn’t so bad after all, tracked me down, and suggested I get in touch with Bev. But, that story comes later.
I remember the times that Colleen and I spent together, how she talked, and dressed in classical hippy style but without the artificiality that so often such a style brings with it. Since that time I have seen generations go by, displaying jeans and t-shirts and colorful clothes— but without the social statement against materialism and the status quo— many just wear the clothes as a fashion. Much of the history of Colleen, our togetherness, has been overwhelmed by huge events. What happened to us during the course of the summer dwarf the simpler memories. Colleen and I were too young to express ourselves clearly, we were frightened by the arrest, but we were joined in some mysterious way with the need to be different— or at least it seems mysterious to me nearly 50 years later. Our brief time together sent both of us off, in different directions, but in a sense we have both remained true to the reasons we fell in love and risked the Marine (i.e., her father).
Making love and the sexual revolution was in full swing in 1970, and one thing led to another with Colleen. She had a dream to loose her virginity in a light filled room, with angels singing and slow music playing. She fulfilled her dream, in all places, in her bedroom in the Marine’s house. So, when the time was right, and the coast clear, we undressed and made love in a sun-lit room with our favorite music playing. Our song was the “Moody Blues” song: “Nights in White Satin”. I can still remember the softness of her Irish skin, and the energy of our illicit love. It wasn’t my first experience, but I remember it like it was my first experience. Colleen and I believed, perhaps it was true, that our spirits could communicate with each other non-verbally. Sometimes when we were talking on the phone, we would stop talking, and listen with our hearts, and then confirm that the communication was accurate.
In the months that Colleen and I were together, we made love 3 times. Each time, we used a condom. Once we made love in the home of her sister. Colleen wasn’t hiding her love from her family— just the Marine. But on one of those occasions, she became pregnant. Fast forward to September, and we are sitting in my car in front of my house. Colleen wanted to meet and talk. She told me she was pregnant. Without hesitation, I said we would marry. I informed my mother. My mother encouraged Colleen and I need to have a discussion with Father Schirk, the Episcopal Pastor of the Church I attended since childhood, and where I served in the Church as an altar boy. My mother always turned to Father Schirk when a father figure was needed.
Colleen and I showed up at St. Dunstan’s Church, and we were escorted into Father Shirk’s office. The office was simple, but very quiet and like you would expect if you visited a psychologist at his home. Father Shirk sat behind his desk, and Colleen and I sat across from him, together, as a couple. Somehow, Colleen’s parents must have agreed to the meeting. We asked Father Shirk to marry us. He replied by telling us about the spiritual bonds that are created by love-making, and the responsibilities they bring. He didn’t say anything like we should have thought about that before making love. And, then, unexpectedly, he refused to perform our marriage. He said if we wanted to go ahead, he would assign another priest to do it.
Keep in mind that I had known Father Shierk since grade school, and although I would not say that I was a devoted and knowledgeable Christian, I certainly believed and accepted the Church and its values. So, after dropping this bomb, he excused himself, and said: “Stay here as long as you want, and talk about it.”
I could not imagine anyone but Father Shierk performing the marriage. I was shocked. I believed his refusal to be a sign that we were not yet ready for marriage. I don’t think he said we should not marry, nor did he suggest that marriage was the right option. He didn’t ask us to think about the unborn child.
I don’t remember what Colleen said, but I do remember the intense emotions that flowed through me, and the thoughts and words that were generated. I told her that I could not live a normal life, and we had never talked about what we wanted. I said I didn’t really know what she wanted, or even what kind of life I wanted. So I asked her for time, that I would take a trip (the one I had been planning), and we would have time to think about our future, and how we would live and take care of the child.
After the meeting with Father Shierk, Colleen returns home, and the Marine officer takes over. There will be no more meetings or communications. And, within a short amount of time, without my knowledge or consent, he made arrangements at a Catholic Hospital at Dupont Circle to perform an abortion. I think Colleen was quite pregnant, and the abortion was performed by a saline injection, which kills the foetus. Since 1970, intrauterine instillation has fallen out of favour, due to its association with serious adverse effects. About 2 years after Colleen’s abortion, I was in the same hospital with another girl who was having the same procedure (she was a friend, it was not my baby). I saw with my own eyes the physical pain caused by this procedure.
Sometime after the meeting with Father Sheirk, I was walking in the area around my house, and then one afternoon, was riding my motorcycle, and I met Geoff, who told me about Baha’u’llah. I listened politely, and when he invited me to a meeting, I responded: “sure,” without much commitment. A couple of weeks later, I met the Huddlestons, soon thereafter I became Baha’i. After another year, Geoff helped me to get admitted to Virginia Tech, and to start studying Agronomy. But more about these events in another chapter.
As a post script, after my easy rider trip across America, I returned to McLean for a week or two before returning to Old Dominion University. I tried to talk to Colleen. I knew that her family would be against it, so I managed to learn where she was working and showed up. She was initially not unhappy to see me. But something happened after she returned home, and she made it clear that I should not show up unexpectedly again. So I didn’t, for about 20 years. I don’t give up easily.
There is an incident that has haunted me since it happened. Before becoming Baha’i, around the time of the abortion, I bought some grass from a local pusher. Without prompting, he started talking about Ross, a mutual friend, and his sister, Colleen. Like stupid men like to do, he made reference to the fact that she was easy to get into bed. This guy did not know that I was in love with Colleen. To my knowledge, he had no reason to hurt me by this reference. I searched my memory at the time, about the possibility that the pusher was repeating a true story or maybe he knew the history and wanted to hurt me. There was one beach trip, when Colleen was with her friends, and I did hear she was with another guy. But I never gave it much thought. Why does this incident bother me? I don’t want to believe that she deceived me, and lied to me about being the father of our unborn child. But this incident was so strange and unexpected I could not ignore it.
Finally, via Ross, I did try to find out from time to time about Colleen. If I visited DC, I would try to meet with Ross. He told me once he didn’t know where Colleen was, said he heard somewhere in New Mexico. From 1991-1993 I had a camper, and travelled between my father’s house in Santa Barbara, and my home in North Carolina. New Mexico was a stop during the trip, and of course, I got the idea to find Colleen.
I did the usual, phone books, etc., etc. Not a trace. And then, I was sitting in a country restaurant, and started talking to this guy, who, it turns out, was a private detective. He asked if he could help. I told him I couldn’t pay fees, so he said for $100 he would check some places. I agreed. About a day later, he called and said he found her.
She was living in on a remote farm (commune?), outside of town. He found her from a gas bill that she had signed, when purchasing gas for the farm. He gave me her phone and contact details, and said: “This girl is living under the radar. You should be careful. There is no other sign of her in any records, like a driver’s licence, etc. She is so invisible there is something wrong with it.”
Well, I’m not scared easily. I called her and talked to her. I asked to meet. She refused. End of story. Do we have a child somewhere in the next world? I dreamed once that we did, and that it was a girl and that she loved me. I liked that dream; and I love my children.
During my time at Old Dominion University, before I was introduced to the Bahá’í Faith, I experimented with drugs and life. It was a weird time. I remember a friend of mine, David Collins, and we spent a lot of time together. He turned out to be into Scientology, and maybe he told me some things, but none of them stuck. Other friends were into drugs, psychedelics and harder. My crowd was definately counterculture, not party types.
In the fog of this year I began to see Kim (Pedlar Stampone). I also had a friend names Myles Standish (this is not a joke). Somehow, Kim and Myles were touchstones for my sanity, when my sanity was on the line. During this year Kim was in my life and we have stayed in touch over the years. In recent years, I reflect that our time together left its mark, even if was only for a short period. What I have learned about her life makes me glad that I knew her, I believe these special events in our youth play a big role in our lives. We touched, and we only touch a few people in our lives. Our bodies and souls were united– if only for a short time.
Pictures at Kim’s senior prom make me laugh. My prom costume is a bit bizarre. A year earlier (when I was a senior at the HS) I “crashed” the senior prom with a friend (Kerry French), where one of us dressed up as the girl (was it me?). Kerry and I both thought that the prom is nonsense, and so we decided to crash it and only couples were admitted. The year before that I went to the prom with Bev at her high school. The only thing I remember is that we ate at “Trader Vics” in DC. We must have made an appearance at the prom but I remember nothing about it with Bev.
With Kim, after the prom dance we got in a car with another couple (Jack Hudson and …..can’t remember….) and drove to the beach.
A funny story to end. A number of years later, I met Kim when I was visiting DC and gave her a call. We met, and she reminded me that sex wasn’t so great with me back in HS. I told her it wasn’t my fault because I had no idea about the female organism at the time we were together. Not too much later, I met Trudy in San Antonio, a chicana-native American girl. She wasn’t shy about telling me how it all works. I was a good learner. I was ready to marry Trudy, but my mother talked me out of it. As my mother used to say, Gary’s problem is that he falls in love too easily.