Memories by Tom Kelly
You speak of love. What is love you ask? It is hard to know. I love my wife, my children, family, friends, and even old girl friends to an extent. How do you distinguish between Love and Lust? When does one become the other and vice versa. Is love always eternal? I don’t really know.
In the early 1970’s I owned a Rambler convertible and attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. In my junior year of college I would spend much of my time driving to Eden Park in downtown Cincinnati especially in the spring and fall. I would often go for walks or sit in the car with the top down doing homework and working on my studies. This post Woodstock Era was a time of peace and free love. The hippy community lived close by in Mt Adams next to the Park. There was an Art Museum where I took nude drawing classes in the evening rendering naked women on paper with pencils. I loved being at Eden Park.
One spring day while out walking, a young beautiful girl with jet black hair and sparkling blue eyes came up holding a small baby in her arms and a Frisbee in her hand. She yelled “catch!” Letting go of one of my crutches I reached in the air and caught the Frisbee, smiled and returned it. The young girl wearing blue jean shorts and a halter top with no bra caught it and threw it back again baby in hand.
Taking a break on the wall overlooking the Ohio River the girl walked up, sat down next to me on the stone structure, and introduced herself. Her name was Axxxxx. At least that is what she told me, a considerable amount she said was fabricated. She said she was only 16 years old. Her son was not even a year old. The father was in jail for heroin possession. As her story was told, Axxxxx was adopted. Her mother abandoned her in Arizona leaving Axxxxx with her grandmother. At the age of three her grandmother could not raise her anymore and they put her up for adoption. She ended up in Cincinnati. She told me she ran away from home at 13 and ended up hitchhiking to San Francisco in Height Ashbury doing drugs. Her parents that had adopted her but who Axxxxx claimed did not care for their daughter, found their teenage runaway and flew her back to Cincinnati. Now she had a baby boy and visited the father every day in the prison nearby. Hitchhiking where ever she went since she did not know how to drive, Axxxxx told all sorts of stories about the people that would pick up a pretty little girl. How much of all this is true I don’t know. But I did give her and the baby a ride to the jail that afternoon so that the father could see his daughter. I told her I’d wait but she insisted she would be OK and would find a ride. Figuring it would be the last time I saw the girl I watch her scramble out of the car and walk toward the entrance of the prison with a little baby girl riding on her hip. I thought what a strange little individual.
But a few days later there was a message that there was someone waiting for me downstairs at my college dorm. It was Axxxxx. She had hitchhiked over to see me, so we drove to Eden Park and I learned more about her and we became friends. Axxxxx was born to parents of Italian decent. She weighed only 100 pounds or so, but the weight was well distributed over that little body resulting in quite a striking figure. She was truly a beauty if not in looks then in character and attitude. When we would go places men would turn their heads or make some comment. We often could drink for free because they would buy both of us drinks.
There were two sides to Axxxxx. One was crazy and wild which dominated her personality, the other was stable and caring longing for the peace and comfort she never had early in life. There was not much that scared her or things she would not do. She would continue to show up at the weirdest time. I listened and talked to her. Since we both were in a relationship, we just enjoyed being friends and doing all sorts of things together. At my youthful age having someone pop in and unexpectedly announce that we had to go down to Fountain Square in Cincinnati just to lie down and stare at the tall buildings was new and exciting to me. Axxxxx was completely random. One never knew what to expect next. My personality was mostly pragmatic with a wild side, Axxxxx was the other way around and for a short period we fit together. When I went away for the summer back to Fort Wayne we would write and call each other and I loved hearing from her.
After returning for my senior year I learned that her baby girl had been giving up for adoption, something she regretted later on. Her new boyfriend and husband to be thought it would be for the best. We continued our platonic friendship even though my girlfriend became jealous whenever she heard that Axxxxx had been around. The year passed quickly and I graduated. Our friendship continued in letters. One day she wrote that she was getting married. I was both glad and sad. I was unable to attend because I was traveling the USA as a “hippie”. I would continue to receive letters that were treasured.
One day about 6 months after she had married, I received a call. Axxxxx asked if I would come down to Cincinnati and get her. She needed a friend. I left immediately and picked her up at our favorite bar in Mt Adams and drove back to my apartment in Fort Wayne. I made love to my platonic friend that night quickly forgetting my college girlfriend of three years and her husband residing 150 miles away. It was wonderful. She was as crazy in bed as in her life.
We made love many times that week. During one of those times I noticed that there were black and blue marks stretched across her behind. I ask what happened. She said it was something to do with a transfusion when she was sick. It was a lie. Her husband had beaten her. It was the reason she called.
I don’t have but one or two pictures of Axxxxx and only one drawing. Ever since I knew Axxxxx I wanted to draw her portrait but she would not allow me. She didn’t like the thought of being permanently rendered on paper. But this week she announced I could draw her but only if I drew her while making love. I told her I could do that. She wagered me I could not. She lost. I did not stop drawing until I finished the portrait. I still have it hidden away today. It wasn’t very good though….I was distracted.
The week passed by too quickly as we went for walks past the big Oak in Foster Park and talked about anything and everything. Her imagination would explain stories and tales about whatever we saw in the park. Sitting by the river with her head on my shoulder I remember it to be a happy moment in time.
One day she just announced out of the clear blue that her husband was on his way to pick her up and would be there soon. I asked her why. She never said. But we both knew I was too boring and she was too wild. She packed and I watched from the window as she ran to the waiting car. A rare tear formed and rolled down my face. I received a letter shortly thereafter that told me she didn’t tell her husband anything, and that they were trying to have a baby. She told me she had a wonderful week. She said she missed me and signed the letter “I love you” for the first and last time.
After that week I didn’t hear much from Axxxxx for many months. Then one day I received a letter. She said she had given birth to a baby boy. She said it might be mine. With Axxxxx you have to wonder about the truth so I immediately called and talked to her. I determined the boy couldn’t have been from me because she had the boy 10 months after she left me that week. But she countered that the pregnancy was long and the baby was born way past their due date. She was satisfied with the situation. Her husband thought it was his and they were happy with their new baby. I didn’t really believe any of it. Knowing Axxxxx I just figured she liked the idea that I thought the baby was mine.
Years went by during which I would receive a phone call or a letter or two from my Axxxxx. Then one evening long after the first visit, Axxxxx showed up at my door with a three or four year old boy that she still claimed could be mine. I was relieved to see the little boy looked just like her husband. She arrived at night having driven straight through from Covington Kentucky and was physically and mentally exhausted. Her son had slept the whole way. We went upstairs and lay the boy down. The room was hot on this particular summer night since the air conditioning unit had broken. Axxxxx quickly stripped herself of all her clothes except for her panties then promptly fell asleep on her back as soon as her head hit the pillow. In my duplex I had put a large sky light that faces south into the roof. When there was a full moon the light would shine into the bedroom and give the room a soft light. This was one of those particular nights. I sat next to her for a long time, and looked at the peaceful expression on her face, and the glow of the moonlight on her breast and soft white skin. And I just watched her. Time seem to stand still. I’m not sure how long I stared at her before I finally reached out and caressed her face kissing her on the forehead. She didn’t move. My Axxxxx was still so beautiful.
But the Boy that she claimed could be mine that looked like her husband did not sleep at all. I was up all night with him. With no air conditioning, a head cold and no experience with little kids by morning I was the one exhausted. When Axxxxx woke up, the boy and I were finally asleep on the couch.
The boy did not listen very well while I fixed breakfast. And he smashed things and ran wild. Hot, tired and frustrated I finally yelled at the boy to stop. The mother did not like that. She packed up and left. I never saw her again.
It is funny. You ask what love is. When do you know? I can’t answer that but I had to chuckle when after all these years I sat with my computer typing her name in, searching for her, wondering what ever became of my Axxxxx. The person I always knew would never be mine, nor could I be hers.
I think Love is just moments in time.