When I was sixteen I was in love with a blonde boy with thin lips and pink cheeks. I really was in love and in those days it meant walks on the beach and kissing only. He’d pick me up after school in his white convertible with red leather upholstery. He was a senior, I was a sophomore, and I adored him. He made all the clichés come alive as in my heart would beat faster, I’d lose my breath. I sang. I was nice to my family. I cried when he didn’t call. I laughed a lot. My grades improved. I daydreamed. I prayed for us – all I wanted was to be Mrs. S. He was the only reason I’d get up and the face I’d see as I mooned over records. "To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him. Just to see him smile makes my life worthwhile," was my favorite. The depth of my feeling has never been surpassed and I have been in love often and deeply. He loved the word pamplemousse and would use it as his nickname for me – or his golden lab or his car. It was his term of endearment.
One day I woke up to find his whole family had disappeared, and, with my parents, we hounded the police. I was constant in my vigil and would not believe he wouldn’t contact me if he were safe. A man came to see me one evening to explain they were safe but were part of a government protection plan and I would not see him or hear from him ever again.
Thirty-two years later I was teaching acting at the New School on Thursday evenings in New York City. I walked into my classroom and the word Pamplemousse was written across the blackboard. I couldn’t breathe. My pulse clip-clapped. I felt sixteen again, with love and longing and fear.
Was he one of my students – no thin lips there. Where was he? Was he, God forbid, the janitor? Or another teacher? If he’d recognized me, he would expect the same from me. My name was the same. He had the advantage. Nothing. Nothing happened. Was it a coincidence? The class before mine a French one? Next Thursday, no Pamplemousse, so I let it go, a bad joke, a cosmic one. But I knew it was him since it came on December 2nd and that was the day he’d left town. Years went by. I went with a friend to a gallery on 57th Street and there they were – pamplemousses on every canvas – pale pink ones, yellow ones – beautiful ones – good enough to eat. I asked about the artist, J. Thames. I asked how old he was and if he had thin lips. Needless to say, I said he might be an old friend and asked where I might contact him. He had a beard now, so his thin lips were hidden. He still had pink cheeks and he still made my heart sing. He was married and had several children, but we still "made out" that night as we had when we were sixteen, and we still loved each other as we had at sixteen, and he still called me Pamplemousse.