When I started liking girls I noticed that I liked dark girls. The first girl I really noticed being attracted to when it counted was a girl in seventh grade with the unfortunate name of Mangie. (As in Angie). Mangie Jones. Mangie was tall, skinny, dark, and gorgeous. Her smile lit up a room, like sunshine.
We had no classes together. I saw her in the halls. At lunch in the cafeteria, guys talked about who they liked. I said Mangie. “Mangie? What? You mean, Mange-y? Hudgins likes Mange-y! The tall black girl? “Yeah.” “Ha ha ha! Hudgins, something’s wrong with you.”
Something was wrong with my desire. There was something wrong about my desire. There was something wrong with me, that was the message. It was not a suggestion. It wasn’t symbolic or roundabout. It was a flat, straight statement: There is something wrong with you.
That was something that I was to know. It was something that I had to wonder about, given my environment. It was something that I had to deal with without much help or the necessary tools.
Near the end of eighth grade, a very dark, very pretty, popular girl named Charmaine asked me to “go with her”. I didn’t know where we were going, but I said yes. She was my first love. We fell in love. We talked on the phone for hours. She was a good kisser. We thought we were each other’s soul mate. Then the problems began.
My mother told me “You can be friends, but we don’t get romantic with them.” I vaguely remember a phone conversation with my mother’s mother in the coach’s office in the locker room at Kirkwood High some months later. Same sort of message. “We don’t do that.”
Her parents were worse. They simply wouldn’t countenance it. Her mother was rude. She did not like me coming over to her daughter’s house. I think her parents were telling her she had to cut it off. Between our immaturity, her disposition, and the inability for us to truly make concrete decisions at that age, things just got rocky. I was ready to make a go of it, no matter what, but it didn’t work out. We tried all through high school to make it work, but we just couldn’t.
I moved on to Sandra in tenth grade. Sandra was a cheerleader two years older than me. She was very dark. She had an incredible physique with thick, muscular, chocolate thighs and a capacious ass like nothing I had ever seen. She was supposed to be going with Conrad, a bodybuilding football player a year older than I was.
Neither of us was on the school council, but for some reason we were both asked to attend their meetings. We found ourselves sitting next to each other. She would tease me. We would laugh. We became inseparable on campus.
She began calling me every day. I mean every day. “Hi,” she would say in a breathy whisper that made me melt. The phone would ring. She wouldn’t say, “This is Sandra.” Just, “Hi.”
One Friday night that fall I was at home alone. Sandra came over and bounded down the stairs, where I was sitting watching TV. We started to kiss, and she unbuttoned my shirt. This was the first time any girl had gone for my clothes. When my shirt was off, she said she had to go. Why? I don’t remember.
Another time, I went to her house. We sat there, listening to “Fantastic Voyage” by Lakeside, the song Coolio used about 15 years later as the basis for “Gangster’s Paradise”. She showed me a photo album. Her mother was puttering around and nothing happened.
In the winter, I got sick. I had a cold or flu, I can’t recall, and my parents held me out of school for a day or two. Again, I was home alone in the middle of the day. Sandra had a work/study job at a bank one mile south of my house at the time. She came to the door. We backed into the kitchen. I told her, “I’m sick, you should probably stay away.” She said, “I don’t care,” and we started to kiss. I liked that she went for what she wanted. It turned me on. I realized that I liked this girl, a lot.
When Sandra graduated she didn’t call me anymore. There was no hanging on campus together. She had moved on. It was over, and she gave me no preparation, no warning that I hadn’t a chance to try to extend the relationship. What happened?
We didn’t really formally date. I have a photo of her from prom, but we were there with other dates. She is who I wanted to take to the event. My arm is around her in the picture, and we both look very happy.
She didn’t tell me she loved me. I never told her, “I love you.” I know that we did love each other. I know she loved me, and couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me. I was 16. I let her take the lead. She was older. I respected her. I didn’t want to do anything wrong.
I don’t believe I even knew what was involved or grasped the concept, but this was my first unrequited love. I had a longing for Sandra that went unfulfilled. I couldn’t understand how she could let this powerful thing between us slip away, like it was nothing.
About seven years later I attended a Kirkwood-Webster Groves Thanksgiving Day football game at Webster. It’s the big Turkey Day Game, pitting the Pioneers against the Statesmen. It might be the oldest high school rivalry west of the Mississippi.
Someone who knew Sandra came up to me. I inquired about her. The guy said she was twice divorced, with two kids. I don’t know if that was exactly right, but she was divorced, and she was a mother.
WHY? I got a lump in my throat and I looked at the sky. Why hadn’t she given me a chance? We could have done better than this, I was sure of it.