Thursday, May 7, 2015

Turn Around, Look at Me

Like many teenagers back in the day, I was a misfit in the world I inhabited. As such, one of the pop songs of the era expressed my longings, my wants, my hopes almost perfectly. Jerry Capehart wrote Turn Around, Look at Me in 1961. It was a popular hit back then and apparently remains so today. I wove a little tale around it. Hope it tickles your fancy.


What was the matter with me? Why wasn’t I like other guys? Well, I was. Yet I wasn’t, either. I could talk my way around the National Football League or the basketball circuit as adroitly as anyone. I got my quota of invitations for beer with the boys, but something was missing.
What was missing was thirty feet in front of me walking down the stairs and out the apartment building. Her name was Gilda, which she pronounced Jillda, and I was desperately in lonely with her. I say “in lonely” because I’m not sure what love felt like. But that pitiful term fit when my heart reached out to her. And it seemed appropriate when I sat alone at my cramped kitchen's tiny fold-up table holding imaginary conversations with her. Or lying in bed at night throbbing for her. Or losing the ability to draw a breath at the first sight of her every day. It was a lovely, miserable condition.
I started leaving my apartment thirty minutes early in order to avoid her on the way to CNM, the Albuquerque community college we both attended. That worked okay, but then I missed seeing her so much that I went back to trailing her down the stairs, silently begging her to turn around and look at me. That’s what I meant about being different. Anybody else would have struck up a conversation. Not me. Not tongue-tied, bashful Louis Pastoria. She might tell me to go take a hike. What would I do then? Bray like a jackass? Shrivel up and die?
Right in the midst of this heartache … bellyache … headache … whatever it was, I was sitting at my  table munching tasteless cold cereal when I heard something on the radio that nearly tore the heart right out of my chest. It was a song. An oldie from the '60s that expressed exactly what I was feeling.
“There is someone walking behind you.
“Turn around, look at me.”
Oh, my Lord! My plaintive cry word-for-word.
“There is someone watching your footsteps.
“Turn around, look at me.”
Thank God I was alone at the time because before the Vogues finished singing that love song, my mouth went dry while my eyes went wet. I swallowed hard and struggled with emotions I couldn’t even name.
Later that morning, I trailed Gilda and her roommate down the steps again, this time with the Lettermen crooning those wonderful lyrics through ear buds from my big brother's ancient Walkman. Surely, she would sense this storm of emotional turmoil behind her and … well, turn around and look at me. But she didn’t.
For the next week, I followed the object of my adoration with that song ringing in my ears. Sometimes it was the Bachelors singing away. At other times, Glen Campbell’s solo made it hauntingly personal. That said, I preferred the final refrain by the Lettermen. It left me breathless. Like she did.
I walked out of my apartment one day just as Gilda was passing, so I ended up closer behind her than usual. She was alone – as was I. Of course, I was always alone. On the top step of the stairway, a book slipped from my fingers. While performing a juggling act to keep from dropping the thing, I accidentally jerked the ear plugs out of the Walkman. Immediately, the plaintive notes of that beautiful song rang pure and clear in the stairway.
Gilda halted in her tracks. Then she turned around and looked at me. She wrinkled a pert nose finely sprinkled with freckles. My heart dropped into my sneakers … both of them, so it must have broken in half.
“Oh, that’s my favorite song,” she said. Her voice was soft and silky and exciting.
“M-m-me, too. Favorite.” Had I developed a stammer?
“It’s a beautiful song, but I prefer the Bee Gees rendition.”
“M-me, too.” Dumb ass! Say something besides “me, too.” I drew a shuddering breath and delivered. “Like the way they open with strings … I do.” My God! Now I was Yoda.
She laughed, a sound like a sterling silver bell struck with a tuning fork encrusted with diamonds and rubies and pearls. “Exactly. Violins are more romantic than drums and brass.”
Was she mocking me? I guess not because she went on.
“They’re mellower, more intimate. At least that’s the way I feel. You’re Louis from 23B, aren’t you? I’ve seen you around.” Her eyes were so green they were spots of colored light suspended in the air before me. She smelled like lilacs, which instantly became my favorite flower. Provided I could remember what they looked like, that is.
She seemed to be waiting, so I lunged down the steps and walked out the front door with her.
She continued talking like this was any common, ordinary day. “I have the Bee Gees’ recording of the song. Would you like to come over tonight and listen to it together?”
My knees failed, nearly dumping me on my face. But I recovered and cleared my throat.
“That would be way cool.”

As always, thanks for reading. A little different from last week’s quirky post, wasn’t it?

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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