notquiteold

Nancy Roman

The Boy Who Broke My Heart

I did not have a lot of boyfriends when I was young. I was a little self-conscious and nerdy, and could not figure out how to connect with boys, although I wanted to. But now and then, in my teens and twenties, I managed somehow to find myself with a boyfriend.

I met Lee when I was 19.

He broke my heart.

But not in the way you imagine.

We met twice before we connected. The first time I saw him – or rather, he saw me – was in the parking lot of the local movie theater. It was pretty late at night, because it had been a double feature – “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” Both those films had been released many months before, and that’s why they were paired up as a bargain – but can you imagine a better double feature ever? Can you even imagine a double feature? But that’s what you still got occasionally in 1970.

But I digress. (Yes, I know… so what else is new?)

I was at the movies with my mother and my sister. And afterwards, as we went to our car, a couple of kids came over –  not from the movie theater, they were walking from the other direction – and asked for a ride. We turned them down.

A few days later, I went for a walk in the park. I never walked in the park to visit with nature. No, I always went looking for a boy. From the time I was 15 until I was 35, I strolled the park in search of a boyfriend. I thought that would be a nice place to find a nice man. I only succeeded one time in all those 20 years.

There was a bunch of kids hanging around by the pond. One boy came over to me. He had long, rather stringy hair and ancient jeans that were raggedy where they dragged on the ground. Just like my jeans.

He said, “I know you. Outside the movie theater. You wouldn’t give me a ride.”

“I was with my mother. Do you think I would let my mother think I pick up strangers at midnight?” I replied.

“If your mother wasn’t there, would you have picked me up?” He asked.

“Nope.”

He laughed.”Okay. How about now? I am not a stranger any more, since now we’ve met twice. I could use a ride home.”

And so I gave him a ride. Only it wasn’t exactly to his home. I dropped him off at a group home, a big falling-down Victorian house only a few blocks from the theater.

“So you didn’t really need a ride the other day,” I commented.

“Not really. I just wanted to see if you would.”

And we started hanging out together.

Lee.

His real name was Leon, but he thought that was an old man’s name, and he wanted to be groovier than that.

Lee didn’t really live at the group home – they just let him sleep there once in a while when he was on the outs with his mother. His mother was from Poland; I had the impression that she was a war bride, but I’m not sure that’s true. What’s true is that Lee’s mother was a very angry woman. I only saw his dad once or twice; he had an apartment in a not-so-nice part of town, having moved out of their middle-class ranch home a few years before.

Now that I am older, I try to see the situation from his mother’s point of view. But it’s difficult. Everything Lee did was terrible/bad/wrong. His mother seemed to do nothing but yell in her broken English for him to get the hell out of her house. When I was with him, she’d yell the same thing at me. And once, when she came home unexpectedly and caught us mildly fooling around in his bedroom, she chased me out of the house, brandishing scissors.

Then there was Lee’s dad. Lee told me about a time when his mom had kicked Lee out of the house, and he went to his father’s place and asked if he could stay there for a while. His father gave him a fifty and told him to go to a motel for the night. That’s how he ended up sleeping at the group home once in a while.

My own parents were always very nice to my rare boyfriends, including Lee. My mother would make Lee tea with honey, which he loved. My father liked to talk sports, and although Lee didn’t seem to know a lot about sports, we’d sit and watch a game once in a while with my Dad.

I’m not sure what drew me to Lee. He was not handsome. At best, he resembled Neil Young, and I thought that was nice, but certainly not good-looking. He didn’t wash his hair enough. He wore the same clothes for days on end. He never had any money.

He was passingly smart – we both ended up attending night classes at a nearby college  – but he was no great genius either. He rarely did any school work, and didn’t take the same courses I did. But he talked about the world with some knowledge. And he spoke very sweetly to me.

He didn’t ask much from me. Not money, not sex, not drugs. Mostly he liked to come over to my house and hang out. (Young people then did a lot of ‘hanging out’ – I think they still do.)

We had met at the very end of the summer of 1970, and mostly  just ‘hung out,’ often with a small group of other long-haired hippie kids, throughout the fall and the beginning of winter.

My birthday is in early February. My parents were on a well-deserved vacation, and I was staying with my sister in her roommate-filled apartment. So I planned myself a little 20th birthday party. Nothing crazy. About 10 friends in my parent’s basement. Soda and snacks and just a little bit of cheap wine. It felt stupendously exciting though, because I was breaking the rules.

And Lee showed up that night  – with another girl in tow. Yeah, just like the old song, “It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To.” I had had no suspicion that he was seeing anyone else. I was mortified. The party ended early, and I threw away all the food in a dumpster behind the supermarket the next morning.

My parents returned a few days later. When I told my mother that Lee and I had broken up, she said, “Well, then, why is he here?” And there he was, standing at the kitchen door.

I let him in, and my mother put the water on for tea, and then disappeared upstairs.

Lee and I sat at the kitchen table, both staring at our mugs.

After a long while, I said, “Why did you do that? In front of everyone like that?”

And Lee said, “I didn’t have the courage to break up with you – so I needed to make you hate me.”

“But why do you even want to break up? What’s wrong?”

And he said something pretty amazing.

“I knew because it was your birthday, you were thinking about having sex with me. You hinted about it. And I didn’t want to. I’m still a virgin,” he admitted. “And it’s stupid, but I want to be really in love before I do that.”

“And you are not in love with me?” I asked.

“I’m really sorry. I feel like a rat. I am a rat,” Lee said.

“Yes, you are.”

“But I want to tell you the truth… why I’m a rat.” Lee started to cry. “I mostly like you because I like your house and your family. It’s so nice here. Sometimes when I’m here, I pretend like I live here. I pretend like I’m your brother and your mother and father are my mom and dad.”

**

And that’s how he broke my heart.

**

tea &honey

36 Comments

  1. Oh, dear. Poor Lee. Poor young Nancy. But what a heart he had. It IS so much easier to break up with someone you hate!

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    • I wish now that I had asked my parents to take him in. Maybe they would have.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t really think that any of us with relatively happy families understand what it’s like to not have one. It’s like oxygen. How can you not have it? Poor Lee. I hope he found his way.

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        • My childhood, or nor having one, was not far from Lee’s. I have survived and found happiness now. I hope Lee too.

          Liked by 1 person

          • So glad you did. And like you, I hope Lee did too

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          • Thanks Elyse, sometimes when life is hard, all we have is hope a better day will come one day.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Poor sweet couple.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aw…..how sad for him. I hope Lee found happiness.
    And, oh boy, do I remember the summer of ’70……

    Liked by 1 person

  4. O my. My 24 yr old son always brought these kids home. The ones from broken homes, no homes, crazy homes. And I always did what your mom did…fed them, told them “anytime, come” and basically was a surrogate mommy. There are SO MANY kids like that out here. You would be amazed. And we lived in a nice master planned upper middle class community. It’s heartbreaking.
    Any idea what happened to him?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I ran into him about 6 months later. He had cut his hair… which at that time I usually hated, but he looked rather cute, it was a little curly and angelic. He said he cut it because he was “trying it out” – he’d gotten his draft notice. He said he hadn’t made up his mind whether he would go, or whether he would run away to Canada. I never saw him again.

      Like

  5. Sue J

    Have u Googled him? I’m so curious now to know what became of him… Very sweet story. Thank you for sharing!

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    • I tried this week to see if I could find him through google and facebook. I found a couple of men who were maybe the right age, but in other ways didn’t seem to fit.

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  6. Aww, seems a matter of, “It’s complicated.”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. What a sweet and salty story. Somehow reminds me of my life when I was very young. Thanks for the lovely read!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I usually think back on those days as very sweet, but there was a sweet sadness too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Although he broke your heart, I think it took some courage for him to tell you the truth. I hope he eventually found a family to love him in the way deserved to be loved.

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    • I hope so too. I forgave him at that very minute, and I only wish now that I had asked my parents to take him in. Maybe they would have. Maybe he could have been my brother.

      Like

  9. He broke yours, but you helped him find his… What a sweet tale and what a blessing you and your family were in his life. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I had been able to help him more. I hope he is well and happy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Encountering people is like throwing a pebble into a pond – ripples you didn’t plan or control extend out. You probably did more than you know. People come in and out of our lives for a reason -usually ones we haven’t a clue about.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. He just broke my heart, too. I hope his life has turned out well.

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    • So do I. I like to think that he is a good father and maybe even a grandfather now… treating his kids with more kindness than he was shown.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Meg

    Sometimes we don’t realize how lucky we are, those of us with loving families. What a sad but sweet story. What a nice guy, to think along those lines and be so honest with you. A rarity.

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    • Yes.. there was no way I could hate him after he told me how he dreamed that my parents were his.

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  12. mercyn620

    Great almost-love story. I think you hurt at the time more than you hint in the story. Too bad you can’t find him now and find out how life treated him.

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    • Yes, I was hurt that he couldn’t love me. But I couldn’t hate him either… he was just looking for a family.

      Like

  13. What a lovely, heart-breaking story. The best part about it? You’re better for have known him, and he made a difference in your life and how you see the world. And you did that for him too. What effects we have on each other.

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    • He definitely had a positive impact on me. I’ve always loved my family, but to see them through his eyes made me see how fortunate I was to have them.

      Like

  14. So heartbreaking. All of us have known children like that who cry out for attention in all the wrong ways. I’ve heard it said that any attention is better than no attention. I’m glad you were able for a time to show him your family and their love and affection for you. Even though I know it broke your heart, I believe good came from that experience, both for you and Lee.

    Like

    • I do hope that seeing our family showed him that happy families do exist and that perhaps he would find it someday.

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  15. OMG. What a story. What a heart-breaking story (!) I sure hope Lee found his own family at last. Gosh.

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    • I hope so too. I hope he’s got a great family and has been a sweet dad, to make up for his own dad’s shortcomings.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. its so nicely written piece, the narratives are just …. well, wonderful.

    Like

  17. Ohhhhhhh 😢 that was so beautifully written. Thank you!

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  18. Pam

    Oh, that story is heartbreaking! Everyone here has already said everything I feel.
    Thanks for sharing so beautifully, Nancy!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. How wonderful that Lee could see what life could be like with a wonderful family. Thank you for sharing this story with us, Nancy. As someone who spent time in foster care I can relate to Lee and how he felt about your family. I’m sorry you got hurt and I hope you know how much your family embracing him meant to him. You made that happen.

    Like

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