His name was Eugene Dudley.
He was an urbane, older twelve to my shy, awkward nine and he was my first crush. At nine, I lived for the moment he would just glance in my direction. I'd go home and feverishly fill page after page of my diary with the story of how our eyes met across a crowded room--er, gym--during a particularly fierce game of kickball. And when that ball sailed through the air in my direction...well, of course that was his passive-aggressive way of declaring his undying love for me. After all, he could've kicked it in Tammy Taylor's direction. But, he didn't. He chose me! Me! Sigh.
Twenty-four years ago, love could make me soar to the highest rafters of that YWCA gymnasium. And it could also make me sink to the lowest depths of the ruthlessly bleached locker rooms. And that pre-teen isn't much different from the thirty-plus woman of today. Only instead of a brace-filled smile, it's the boisterous laugh and rock-hard calves of my husband that has me completely enamored.
Love. The heart-pounding joy of looking into that certain person's eyes and knowing, you are the one who will make me a better me. The exciting wrench of lust tempered by something tender and sweet. The fear of vulnerability and opening yourself to someone who now has the power to hurt as well as protect you. The anguish of gritty eyes and sleepless nights after that first fight. The delight and wonder of having your best friend and lover rolled into one special person...and knowing beyond all doubt that they belong to you.
Love transcends age, race, religion sex and even time. It's the giddy feeling that keeps you on the phone past one o'clock in the morning just listening to each other breathe. It's the habit you sometimes wish you could kick. It's the same precious, perfect gift that makes a nine year-old girl swoon over a connection of souls just before she's beaned in the head with a flying kickball that has a thirty-three year old woman drooling over a pair of legs that looks just as good today as they did ten years ago...and thirty years from now.