Way we Were
Susan Van Allen
Sorrentino knew every word to every song of every musical comedy.
Throw out a word: "If," and he'd launch into: "IF
ever I would leave you, it wouldn't be in springtime
Or you could just name a letter: "O" and David would blast
out: "O...klahoma, where the wind comes rushing down the
" If it was a dance number, like "I Want
to Be Happy," David would be on his feet shuffling off to Buffalo,
his arms chopping the air for the grand finale.
We were both fourteen. I knew someday I would marry him. He was
the perfect man.
My mother, my Nana, all my aunts loved David. He'd pitch in at family
parties, passing salami, praising Mom's baked ziti, while my dad
and the uncles sat silently puffing cigars, trying to sneak peaks
at the ballgame. David wasn't like them. He was sensitive. And caring.
After school we'd go back to his house. To his bedroom off the basement.
Just the two of us in that little room covered with posters of HER:
Barbra Streisand. He'd shut the door. We'd lie on the bed together.
He'd roll over, click on the stereo and blast Barbra wailing, "Don't
Rain On My Parade." We listened all afternoon as I stared across
the room at my favorite poster: Barbara and Robert Redford in The
Way We Were.
We saw The Way We Were three times. Barbra was great in that.
I loved how she said to Robert Redford, "Hubbell, I know I'm
" and he kissed her anyway. And then she'd
push his hair away from his forehead with those big Barbra fingers
and say, "Hubbell, Hubbell Gardner
" In the movie
theatre, tears streamed down our faces
David and I, the way
we were so much like Hubbell and Katie.
But David looked more like Joel Gray than Robert Redford. He didn't
wear those big cardigan sweaters. David wore shiny Hukapoo shirts
with paintings of sunsets and ladies faces on them. Me, I was glad
I didn't look like Barbra. But I wanted to grow up and be passionate
like her. I could see it all happening. David and I would go to
the same college. I'd get very serious and smart and passionate
something important. I'd get angry with David, challenge
him, and he'd love me for that. But in the end, he wouldn't leave
me for some girl like J.J. No. We'd be together forever.
Lying on the bed next to David, as Barbra sang "People,"
I'd wait for him to kiss me. I knew someday he would. I kept my
lips coated with strawberry gloss to be ready for it.
Did David know if he did try to kiss me, I'd let him? In Seventeen
Magazine it said you're not supposed to let the boy get higher
than the knee or lower than your waist. You were supposed to wait
until it felt right. Move his hand away. Gently tell him, "I'm
not ready." Why? I knew I was ready for David. I knew with
him it was different. There was nobody else for me. There would
never be anyone else. David read Seventeen Magazine too and
maybe he thought if he did try to kiss me I wouldn't like him anymore.
How could I tell him it would be okay? I couldn't just blurt out,
"Kiss me." I tried to get closer to him on the bed, but
"I'm The Greatest Star" blared on and he jumped up to
Afternoons in the bedroom with David and Barbra stopped when rehearsals
for the spring musical began. It was Hello Dolly. Of course
we'd seen Barbra in the movie. We thought our version would be almost
as good. David and I made chorus.
Joanne Palucci, a senior, got the part of Dolly Levi. Our director,
Mr. Marotti, called Joanne "An Ethel Merman in the Making."
She was large and loud and everyone knew someday she'd be a big
star on Broadway. She could do a shake thing with her voice. David
told me it was called a vibrato. Everyone stopped whatever they
were doing when she started to sing. "Be-e-e-fo-o-ore the
pa-a-rade pa-a-assee-es by
" No matter what song she
sang she could do the vibrato thing.
The other senior with a big part was Ray Hoagland. Ray was tall
and skinny and had hair like Barry Manilow. He could sing loud but
everybody said he couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. Mr. Marotti
would yell, "For chrissake Ray, RELAX!" That didn't help.
Every time Ray had to talk instead of sing you couldn't hear him
and he'd stand there like somebody just touched him in freeze tag.
Believe it or not, rehearsals for Hello Dolly were even better
than lying on the bed with David. Now every afternoon we had to
practice waltzing. We had to hold hands, it was part of rehearsing.
I figured if I could just tilt a certain way, maybe we'd accidentally
bump heads, brush cheeks, then lips and
it would just happen.
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