Dad and the Emo GirlbyRomantic1©
A surprising romance across generations
I asked my father to write the story about how he met Colly, the pretty girl who has been his loving consort for the past decade. The following is the recollection the two of them put together with a loving daughter's editing.
The mall is a place to see people -- mostly happy people. I put them into five categories. First were the speed shoppers; they knew exactly what they wanted and where to get it, and time was of the essence. Next were the window shoppers, probably with some money burning a hole in their pocket; they hit every store until they found the perfect 'thing' to take home. Third was comparison shoppers; they'd have a specific item in mind, and they'd go to each store that carried it and compared deals. The fourth group comprised kids who wanted to meet other kids and hang out. The mall was better for them because they could talk and even occasionally scream at each other and not have some librarian go ballistic.
I'm in the fifth group -- people that need to get out of their homes just to remember that there is a civilization 'out there,' and that they're not the only ones on the planet. I needed to see people, and maybe interact with a few. Were it not for the mall and a few shopping trips I could probably go a month or more without conversing with a single individual. I'm an old fart and a widower. I've been in this sad state for eight months since my Alice died from the Big 'C'. I've had time to get used to the idea that she's gone, although we'd been together nearly forty years -- getting married in our mid-twenties, and thinking we knew everything there was to know.
Alice was the social one. Her friends became 'our' friends, but after her passing, there was no 'her,' so I became superfluous. Oh, a few called for a while 'to see how I was getting on,' but after my one word answers -- 'fine' -- they gradually gave up and the calls almost stopped. Oddly, I didn't miss seeing a single one of them maybe because they all now seemed to think they had to fix me up with some other widow or divorcee. My dates were pleasant, but I had no chemistry with any of them. More than that though, I looked for a spiritual connection with love deep inside it, the same kind of connection I'd had with Alice. I knew when I met the 'right' person that I'd soon see that connection between our souls -- mind, body, and spirit.
The best bench in the mall sat at the bottom of an escalator just outside J. C. Penny. On one side was a music store with everything from CD's to instruments, and even lessons for the inspired, beside that store there were a Radio Shack and a Brookstones gadget shop. On the other side of the wide concourse were a small food court and a Victoria's Secret. From 'my' bench, I could watch people come down the escalator, select their store, read the look in their eye, and categorize them.
I commanded my bench. The general rule seemed to be that if you had a bench you got all of it; no one would join you. No one would come and pass the day, or ask whether they could glance at your newspaper, or inquire where the computer store was, or complain about how long their wife or girlfriend was taking to shop.
I confess a lifelong affinity for girl watching. This mall had the prettiest women in town; a point my careful research had confirmed after only a few weeks of study. My ogling had amused Alice. She not only tolerated it, but as I got older she'd nudge her elbow into my ribs to be sure I saw some 'Babe' walking by, usually with a pair of unnatural tits; she was nice like that. I liked big tits. Alice didn't have big tits. That one afternoon, however, things on the 'Babe' front were a little slow.
I had drifted into my mid-afternoon daze -- a glassy-eyed substitute for a nap for people my age -- when I felt my bench seat shift with someone's weight. I woke up.
Beside me sat a teenage girl. I tried to guess her age but gave up -- somewhere between fourteen and thirty was as close as I could get. I'd always been terrible about guessing women's ages. She was pretty but had done a dozen things to detract from her natural beauty. The most obvious detractors were her piercings: garish nose stud, eyebrow ring, lip ring, and a dozen ear piercings spread out on either ear. She wore makeup that made her skin look pale and pasty, almost like a cadaver. Her cropped brunette hair that dipped over her right eye had broad stripes of bright red and blue luminescent paint in it. Partly visible on her right shoulder was a tattoo of some kind. She had a dozen bracelets on her right wrist, and a large watch on her left. I could see a scroll letter 'C' tattooed on the back of her left hand.
She was dressed in black from head to toe, an oversized black t-shirt for a band I'd never heard of, atop black pants that overlay some kind of black ankle high boots. One silver waist chain offset the starkness of style. She had a black shoulder bag.
Despite the detractions, I thought she was cute. A screwed up pixie with a pretty face and a curvy shape, I thought. I felt friendly, so I made eye contact and nodded with a smile. As usual, I gave her my brief but secret ogle, trying to assess her shape beneath the bulky clothing.
I got an insolent frown back, but didn't let that deter me.
"Care to look at the newspaper," I offered the well-read edition of the daily paper that I'd had with me since mid-morning. I smiled and held out the paper to her. "Sorry, but I've already done the crossword puzzle and the Sudoku."
'No," and after a long pause, "but thank you." The scowling behavior evaporated behind a friendly voice and a partial smile. The part grin made my whole day; a pretty girl had smiled at me and even talked to me.
I went back to minding my own business, and cataloged the young woman as belonging in my Category 4 -- kids coming to the mall to hang out, although she seemed a little on the old side. I remembered reading somewhere about 'emo girls' -- young women who jive on a certain kind of music derivative of punk, have that pixie haircut with dark hair, cover part of their face with a wave of their colored hair, use lots of dark eyeliner, and indulge in lots of pins, piercings, and jewelry. Their image verges on Goth, but they apparently don't like that descriptor. A few of them cut their wrists or post racy pictures of themselves on the Internet. Many have inferiority complexes. The article I'd read said most of them were misunderstood, and generally nice kids.
Emo Girl sat for a while, studied the other people, checked her large black and white watch several times, and appeared impatient. After ten minutes, she left without saying a word. I watched her stomp off, apparently angry. I guessed that a friend had not shown up as promised.
I saw Emo Girl the next day, and she came and sat with me again the day after that too.
The third time I saw her I was the paragon of conversationalists. I smiled at her and said, "Hi."
She nodded back and smiled. I didn't think emo girls were allowed to smile. She had a pretty smile with straight pearly teeth. She checked her watch, pulled out her cell phone, and did that magic typing with her two thumbs that probably would out pace a stenographer of old. After a minute, she uttered, "Shit!" She stood up and stomped away again.
Emo Girl became a regular at my bench at three o'clock every day. I got so that I eagerly awaited her appearance. On at least half her visits, she repeatedly appeared to have been stood up. I felt sorry for her, and that her friends thought so little of her. I never saw her meet anybody.
After a week of this, and having missed seeing her on the weekend, I expanded my witty conversation. "Hi. You still waiting for someone?"
"Yeah. I meet these guys on the Internet, and they're supposed to meet me here. I think they come by, take one look at me, gag, and then I'm toast. They won't even answer my texts after that."
"Sort of. It's just a way to meet people to see whether you like them. We swap instant messages around and decide if we want to meet." She posited, "Am I really that bad looking?" She looked at me as though she expected an answer.
I decided honesty was the best policy. "It's taken me a week to get used to your 'look.' I'm on the much older side of things from you, and I know it's a fashion statement, but I've never known anybody with so many piercings or such ... pretty body art. Show me your right arm."
Emo Girl held out her arm and pulled up the short sleeve to her shoulder. The arm had a colorful wrap-around design from her shoulder to just above her elbow -- reds, blacks, and greens. The more I looked; the more I deciphered what it was.
I exclaimed, "Ah, I've met the girl with the dragon tattoo." I said it in a nice way, not to tease but to acknowledge.
Emo Girl said, "Yeah. I couldn't afford the whole body dragon. I've got a couple of others too, but they're much smaller." She showed me her left hand. As if to read my mind, she said, "I've got a few other piercings too, but like the other tats, they don't show."
My mind made some lewd assumptions about the location of her other piercings and tattoos that I kept to myself. I wondered what I would have thought about Emo Girl forty years earlier. Would I have thought she was cute and dateable? Would I have wanted to kiss her with a lip ring? She was cute, and I decided that had I been forty years younger, I definitely would have shown up to meet this pixie.
I put a hand out. "My name's Doug."
Emo Girl studied my hand as though I'd just asked her to touch a spider. Finally, she shook it, "Hi, I'm Colette, but my friends call me 'Colly' because I'm so jolly."
"You're an emo girl? I've never met one before."
"Sort of ... well, trying to be, I guess; or I was. I'm about to change though; I'm getting too old, and I only like some of the music now. The few friends I have are deeper into it than I am. That's one of the reasons I thought I'd reach out and see whether I could expand my circle of friends."
I asked, "Did you put up a profile and picture of yourself?"
Colly blushed. "Sort of. My profile is pretty accurate, but the picture I put up is from a couple of years ago ... before I went emo."
I laughed, "So, no truth in advertising."
Colly sighed. "I know. When I had a picture of me up there like this no one, I mean no one, responded or wanted to IM with me in the chat rooms."
I shared my earlier thought, "I would. You're cute. Mind if I ask how old you are?"
"I turn nineteen next Wednesday. I'll have to stop being emo before I turn twenty; it's supposed to be a teen thing, but there are some oldsters that keep doing the emo thing, but they look silly. It's gross."
"You in school?"
"Art school, sort of. I signed up for a couple of courses at the college. I couldn't afford the full college tuition, so this is the best I can get -- a few courses. I got a job, based on the courses I'm taking. I work in the art and supply shop downtown. It's only part time, but I can live on it for now. I live at home with my mom."
I admitted college was expensive, and from there we had a nice conversation about her design and advertising courses, and that led her to ask what I did. Somewhat embarrassed, I explained that I'd just retired and was kicking around.
My own children were thirty-one -- twins. They lived a thousand miles away and had their own lives: one married and the other engaged, both with demanding jobs, and on good career tracks. Both were also Plain Janes -- no emo look to my kids, and that was their choice, not mine or Alice's. They were fine average looking, middle-class citizens who would start popping out grandchildren in a year or two.
Colly decided she had to go, but she told me that she again looked forward to seeing me the next day. I liked that she seemed to like me, so I reflected my genuine friendship back at her. At least, here was one sweet young thing I didn't scare off in some way, although she seemed to be scaring off some younger men. I felt as though I were coaxing a skittish baby bird into sitting next to me.
The next day, the two of us were back on my bench. This time I'd bought her a cup of black coffee. I figured if everything she wore was black, she wouldn't want cream in her coffee. She was pleased and grateful by my gesture. I got a smile for my thoughtfulness, and it warmed me to the core.
We talked for over an hour that day, really getting to know each other. We were animated, attentive, and enthusiastic about learning about each other. We asked each other a lot of questions that showed we'd been listening, and caring about what each other said and felt about various aspects of life. I felt Colly really thought I'd led an interesting life, and I found her life, with the twists and turns of her crazy family, also interesting. The first half of the conversation was what I call all the public stuff -- the parts of our lives that are public and that don't really reveal our inner selves. Where we live, grew up, went to school, traveled, worked, and such.
Colly lived at home with an alcoholic mother and 'some guy' her mother had latched onto as a boyfriend. She'd ignored Colly for the past ten years, and Colly had ignored her. Her father was long gone with no sign of him for over fifteen years. She'd made it through high school and got enough money from a job and taking routine trips to her mother's wallet to take a couple of art courses. She'd been 'trapped' -- her word -- in this suburban town all her life.
I, on the other hand, had traveled the world in connection with my work. I'd been in fifty-two countries, had a master's degree, went to two prestigious colleges, and lived in the nice part of town. I'd been a business executive, entrepreneur, the CEO of my own company, and then I sold that in order to retire and care for Alice in her last days.
The second half of our conversation that day got into the less public stuff that makes up the real us. Colly got me talking about Alice, her death, how I grieved and felt now, and what it was like to be married for 'that long.' I heard about her coping with alcoholism in her family -- how she got drunk for a while too, and then decided she didn't like that horrible feeling. She talked about how it affected her, and how it limited her life and whom she had as friends, and where she lived and went to school. Colly had made the best of a bad situation.
I felt little twinges deep inside me that announced to my inner self that I had found someone I had that special resonance with. I suppressed the feelings and surely didn't mention it aloud.
When we stopped that day, I regretted seeing her pace off towards the mall exit, and I felt some reluctance on her part to leave too. No excuses; just, 'it's time for me to go.' I went home too, and microwaved another cardboard dinner. I wondered what a nineteen-year-old emo girl ate for dinner. The dirty old man deep inside me also wondered what it would be like to have Colly as girlfriend -- something more than she was already. My God, I had feelings for this youngster.
Colly had mentioned her birthday was the following week. I got her a humorous card with Snoopy on it and a gift certificate at a nearby spa for the 'works' -- massage, sauna, manicure, pedicure, and hair styling. I went a little overboard, but I was curious what an emo girl would do with the spa package. I felt she'd never been pampered, and I wanted her to learn, at least once, what that felt like, especially when she didn't have to think about the cost. In a humorous way, I felt as though I was sending a confirmed punker to the opera.
Just before the weekend, right on time, Colly showed up at our bench. I gave her a cup of coffee I'd bought for her, and then presented the card to her. I explained I wasn't sure what her schedule was, and I didn't want to miss her birthday in case she gave up coming to the mall.
Colly took the cards and looked into my eyes with such a questioning stare I wondered what was wrong. I nodded towards the envelope to encourage her to read the card. She tore open the envelope very carefully as though she wanted to preserve every shred of paper and scrap of even the envelope.
Colly read the card. I'd signed it, 'Happy Birthday to the nicest person in the world. Always your friend, Doug.' I even drew a little artistic heart next to my name. As she read the card, a tear rolled down her cheek, smearing some of her eyeliner. She opened the envelope that had been inside the card and read all the things I'd signed her up for at the spa.
Colly broke into a choked up sob. "Thank you." She threw herself against me, grabbed my jacket and buried her head into my chest. She started crying with huge racking sobs and sighs. I put my arms around her and tried to comfort her; I couldn't imagine what was wrong. I kept asking her what was wrong, but that just seemed to make her cry harder.
Sitting as we were, in the most conspicuous place in the mall, people coming down the escalator or walking by were looking at the little scene: an older man with salt and pepper hair, nicely dressed, and obviously in good physical shape, holding a pretty young emo girl who was crying her lungs out -- her sobs echoing down the mall corridor. I thought of all the situations and labels that must be running through people's minds, and only one of them was favorable to me.
I kept patting Colly's back, and finally she got control of herself. I had two napkins in my pocket from the coffee shop, so I passed those to her. She wiped her eyes and further smeared her makeup around her face. After blowing her nose, she sat up straight and looked at me. She sniffed a few times and took a large breath.
"I'm sorry for falling apart on you ... but no one has ever given me a card before -- a serious greeting card ... and a gift ... to a spa ... for all the things girls like to have done to them ... oh, you are such a darling man. You didn't have to do this. Thank you."
Colly kissed me on the lips. Someone with a lip ring had never kissed me. I could feel it, and I also found her kiss delightful. My God, here I was just past sixty, and a nineteen-year old had actually kissed me in friendship. That suppressed glimmer of a deeper connection reappeared, but I pushed it away again.
Before I could even react, she said, "I knew you were so nice the moment I saw you, but I didn't think you'd ever do anything like this for me. I didn't think you'd do anything for me other than say 'Hi,' and then you bought me some coffee ... and now this."
I admitted, "Well, I do think you're special. I've never known anybody like you. My own kids were ... are ... pretty conservative: no tattoos, no piercings, and no flashy hair colors. I like that you feel comfortable in being a little outrageous and flamboyant. I wish I'd been like you when I was younger."
Colly snuffled a little. "I'm not sure all these emo quirks are me either. I was just trying to fit in with one of the groups at school, and then since I graduated ... well, trying to find someone to hang out with."
I laughed, "So you come to the mall, and hang out with an old guy like me? You're so pretty, when your mascara's not running, and you have a delightful personality. I'm glad you hang out with me, but there's surely some handsome young prince out there waiting to sweep you off your feet."
"I don't need a young prince; I have you as my friend." Colly squeezed my hand.
"I'm deeply flattered."
Colly excused herself and ran off to the ladies room to fix her makeup, and when she came back she wore almost none. The bright blue hair with a few red streaks looked a little less pronounced too.
She sat down beside me and immediately took my right hand again, and held it in her two hands. She announced, "I feel better now. Your card and gift touched me so. I've never even been in a spa before. Have you?"