She always said "silver" when she wanted to say the word, "civil." Her name was Virginia, a pretty Irish girl, who I avidly pursued in Manhattan's Greenwich Village during the mid-'50s. I had seen her around the neighborhood and being an 18-year-old male, I was attracted to her. One late October night, I was walking with a friend when I saw her approaching with her girlfriend. Suddenly, I stepped forward and brashly stopped them on the corner of Bank and Hudson streets and started a conversation. My friend was amazed at my boldness, and he and her friend said nothing as I spoke with Virginia for the first time.
My campaign for Virginia had begun. Now anytime I saw her I could converse with her. After several meetings, I finally asked her for a date. I took her to the Loewe's Sheridan, a neighborhood movie house, and for an ice cream soda at a little coffee shop along Greenwich Avenue. When I brought her home we kissed goodnight in the vestibule of her apartment building. I can still visualize our first kiss, her standing there in a pink coat as I drew her toward me. Our lips met and remained so for a long time. When we withdrew from each other I could hardly say goodnight; I had completely lost my breath. As I walked home I experienced a huge emptiness in the pit of my stomach. The feeling remained throughout the night, and every time I thought of her after that, some of that extraordinary sensation returned.
We dated only on weekends, and I longed for the arrival of Saturday night when I would see her once more. Her dark brown naturally curly hair, blue eyes and freckled face were always on my mind. I wanted to be with her all the time, and when I asked her to be my girl, and she accepted, my wish was granted. We were going steady, and we could only date each other.
I saw her or spoke to her nearly every single day from 1955 through 1957 covering the two-and-one-half years that we were together. Our dates consisted mostly of long walks, going for pizza or ice cream, talking on her front stoop for hours, or going to movies that we did not see much of because we were too busy making out in the theater balcony. There was not much privacy in her apartment because it consisted of only four roach-infested rooms that she shared with her parents, sister and four brothers. Her father was involved in the numbers racket and the apartment was off limits every afternoon when he was busy counting betting slips. He had two legitimate jobs that enabled him to support his family and his gambling habit.
Virginia's mother did not work; she remained at home, and managed the household. Her particular addiction was betting on the numbers that she invariably always hit around Christmas time. Virginia and I had started a joint bank account, and her mother forced her to relinquish her share to purchase herself new dentures. Her father would rent a cheap bungalow at Midland Beach in Staten Island for the summer, and there her mother continued to cook and feed her own family as well as many visiting relatives. Virginia's mother was always tired, and it was reflected in her haggard appearance.
I was a college student during my romance with Virginia, and I had aspirations for a career in law. She had graduated from a two-year commercial high school and worked as a typist clerk in a metal company in the Village. Virginia longed to get married and escape from her unpleasant and depressing family situation. Marriage was not in my immediate plans at that time; I planned to attend law school after graduation from college.
My initial attraction to her, I eventually realized, was physical and when that urge dissipated I found that we had nothing else in common. She was averse to leaving the neighborhood, content to stay where she was without any aspirations for advancement.
Her favorite expression was, "If I smiled my face would crack." It was her usual response to my efforts to make up with her after one of our frequent arguments. Virginia had become extremely possessive, jealous, and unreasonable, and I realized there was no future in our relationship. Some of our disagreements lasted for days, but we would always make up, until I finally decided to end it. Her foolish refusal to attend my close friend's wedding with me at the last minute caused me to break off the relationship permanently.
The campaign for Virginia's affection was a kind of Pyrrhic victory. I saw her, I pursued her, and I won her, but in the end, I did not find true love. She was destroying me with her behavior, and I discovered that Virginia not only could not pronounce the word, civil, but she also did not understand the meaning of it. But in retrospect and in all fairness I have to realize that we were both just teenagers when we met.
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