BY SYD MAILBERG
A True Story
He first saw her at Lake Wilderness Park in the summer of Ď86. She was walking with friends, as was he, and he couldnít believe his eyes. He appealed to his friends to walk in their direction, and it wasnít long before they were all laughing and talking together, as if they had known each other forever.
His name was Johnnie, and hers was Aja. They met frequently all that long lovely summer. Mostly at the park, but occasionally at his house, too. They were close in age, (he was one month older) but they came from entirely different backgrounds. They spoke often of their families, and even talked tentatively of a future together when they were old enough, and out ofschool. She told him she came from a family with a very strong work ethic, and that her parents were immigrants from Germany. She seemed quite proud of that fact, and maybe a little arrogant. He shrugged off his uneasiness about it, deciding that was part of her charm. She was very proud that most of her cousins and one of her brothers were in law enforcement, and that both of her parents had degrees in tracking and police sciences. Her fatherís older sister was in service to the blind, and this was a source of great family pride. (None of his immediate familyhas ever done anything like that!) Being from Germany, they were determined. that Aja stay with her own kind.
Johnnieís family were originally from Germany,
(five generations back!) but he considered himself an American, and
he could not understand why her people were so snobbish, and had such a
haughty attitude. His family was in show business and the Arts, and were
known for their good looks. Many were models, and some had
even won local and national beauty contests. Johnnie was tall and
handsome, but he feared he would never be like his dad, whom he worshipped.
His dad also was very tall and well
built, actually quite a giant , and commanded a lot of respect
His mom didnít have many friends, and he believed her snooty attitude drove them away. It had actually been said of her that she was a bitch! His mom and dad got along OK, he supposed, but he suspected his dad of having an occasional affair. He never had the courage to talk to either one about it. He confided in Aja, and she thought her dad was unfaithful to her mom, too. Johnnie didnít think they were so ethical after that. So much for European superiority. He spent most of his time with his friends, and saw Aja whenever he could.
Johnnie didnít know it, but Aja was a bit of a flirt, and he assumed that since he wasnít seeing anyone else, she wasnít either. Actually she had quite a neighborhood full of admirers, and never lacked for male company. .Her other boyfriend was a husky young man from Siberia, but because he was a professional racer, she didnít foresee much of a future with him. She was very fond of his roommate, a young Asian fellow, who said he was from China, but Aja personally thought he had a rather Japanese looking chin, and he was rather cavalier about her relationship.with Johnnie.
Aja was a pretty thing; no model, of course , (those immigrant Germans didnít seem to be interested in improving their looks, only their minds, although she was not what youíd call a genius , either.) She was very energetic, however, and had a devil-may-care attitude that just drove Johnnie wild She was full of self-confidence, and was always the leader in their adventures. She tried to teach him how to to swim, but he didnít like it, and would only wade out to his knees, while she swam all around him and teased him mercilessly. On land, however, he always out performed her, moving with a grace and elegance she had never seen before. He wondered if his dad was right, if he wasnít a sissy. He forgot all about it when Aja looked at him with her lovely brown eyes, and told him he was so handsome. Their friends looked on fondly at all these activities and thought they were so cute. . Things were going badly at home for Johnnie, as he and his dad were arguing constantly. Johnnie move in with friends, and didnít get a chance to tell Aja he was leaving home. She heard disturbing rumors that he was really living with another girl, but she refused to believe it.
Johnnie was going to vocational school and was living with another girl, but it was strictly platonic. Actually he had had some romantic feelings for her at first, but she went to the hospital for ďfemale problemsĒ, and when she came home, she just wasnít attractive to him any more. He never could figure that one out. He himself had a great fear of hospitals. He remembered the family story of his Uncle Harry. He had gone to the hospital, and when he came home, he was his Aunt Harriet> He had heard that story as a kid, and it really scared him.
Meanwhile, he discovered he rather liked vocational school, and was good at it. (He had been told by Ajaís family that he would never be able to hold down a decent job. ) Johnnie thought about Ajaís family, and their contempt for him. (They said he would just be going in useless circles the rest of his life), He thought about his dad, who had waited too long to start his education, and who had to be content with a lesser degree. He thought of his friends, especially the one who had known him since his birth, and he knew what he had to do! He had to do it all! He was going to make them all proud of him, even his dad! He would get a good education, and be a professional model too. It would be hard work, but it would be worth it. He would make Aja proud of him, and even impress her friends and family. He would show everyone that you can have a work ethic and beauty both, if you only try hard enough. (Johnnie was too naive to know you had to be born with beauty). Johnnie knew now that his love for Aja was not just puppy love, that it was the real thing, and worth fighting for. He thought of the superior children he and Aja would have, with his looks, and her athletic ability and strong work ethic. Their friends were amused, but cynical. They knew the odds against such a union. Johnnie knew he and Aja could make a go of it, if only people would let them try. He knew in his heart that their backgrounds could combine and exceed all that had gone before. This was America and anything was possible!
( to be continued)