Intrepid Traveller: The Love Meter

I was cleaning out my dresser drawers the other day and stumbled upon my old silver charm bracelet, a Christmas present from my mom when I was 14.

Charm bracelets are like scrapbooks for the wrist…and mine, being no exception, holds a multitude of memories.

There is a sauna bucket from my trip to Finland, a bullfrog that takes me back to the summer my bad boy cousin “Frog” from Elliot Lake stayed with us, and a miniature clarinet from my days in the school orchestra.

There are others, too, but the charm that prompted this story is a love meter, given to me by my first sweetheart when I was 15.

In my adolescent mind, Robbie was one cool heart-stopping cat. He had sleek black hair and chocolate brown eyes that a girl could easily get lost in. He had full lips that just begged to be kissed.

And he had a way of moving – a nonchalant swagger. To watch him walk down the hall was about all my newly-discovered hormones could handle.

Our first foray into romance came at the end of Grade 9, when we were having a class party at my friend’s cottage. Robbie had a motorbike, and he and I snuck off for a ride.

Unfortunately, the bike broke down a few kilometres from the party and we had to walk back along the gravel road – me in bare feet. I didn’t mind, though. I think I would have gladly subjected my feet to a bed of hot coals spiked with rusty nails if it meant spending time with Robbie.

In Grade 10 we became an item, our fate sealed after a night of heavy petting under a black light at the school dance.

However, our romance was complicated by the fact that my mother had forbidden me to date until I was 16. Neither tears nor begging would change her mind.

Finally, my 16th birthday was approaching, and I was ecstatic. At last I could be with Robbie.

On the big day, I lured him out of one of his classes and we found an empty meeting room. I was feeling at the top of my game. I had never been so happy. And I suddenly needed to tell him how I felt about him.

“I love you,” I said. The words came out of my mouth with shyness and wonder; I had never said such a thing to a boy before.

I felt him stiffen in my arms. Oh-oh, what was this?

There was a period of silence – probably only a second or two but it felt like forever. Then he said, “Um, that’s pretty heavy. I don’t know what to say.”

I quickly piped up, “You don’t have to say anything. I just wanted you to know.” Shortly afterwards, he mumbled some excuse about having to get back to class and he left.

“OK,” I thought, feeling more than a little deflated. “I guess he just needs some time to digest this news.”

Wrong. That day after school, he broke up with me. Seems he was interested in Kim, a younger woman of 14. So there I was, on my 16th birthday, in more pain than I had ever been in my life.

Of course I healed eventually, although it did take some months and I was more cautious after that about wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Now, more than three decades later, finding that love meter charm made me smile.

Robbie may have been a schmuck, but those eyes! Those beautiful eyes!

Whitehorse writer Janet Patterson was runner-up in this year’s Foreign Correspondent competition. She and her son recently vacationed in Italy.

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