….Hot summer nights, mid July, when you and I were forever wild….Hot summer days, Rock n roll, the way you played for me at your show, and all the ways I got to know the pretty face and electric soul….(Young and Beautiful, Lana Del Rey)
I meet him in the summer of ’87. A world away in a time that has slipped through my mind’s fingers faster and faster as the years rolled by. He was a goofy looking guy pumping gas at a local station in St. Michaels. I was waiting tables in a tiny little tourist pub. Our friend Chris was the connection. We had met the summer before bussing tables at a great big giant tourist pub. The how and when we met escapes me. The challenge he issued never has. He called me dull and straight laced. He told me I couldn’t be wild and let my hair down. I countered that I could and he told me to prove it by going on a date with him. I accepted the challenge and showed up as he was getting off work, wearing turquoise jams with huge lotus flowers printed all over embarrassing places topped with a hot pink shirt with a tail that went down to my knees, and the hair of course – loose and wild and big. The look on his face was of total shock. He had never seen me outside of the constrains of the dull and straight laced waitress uniform I wore. So there I stood, clearly the winner of the challenge, grinning that crazy little grin while he took in the sight of this strange Freshman coed girl-woman. He smelled of petrol and was wearing his uniform over worn out jeans with no knees left, with his name stitched on the breast pocket – David – but I will forever know him as Fruit.
So began the summer romance. My friends Karen and Chris were already a tad attracted to each other and the natural course of a foursome was formed. Chris was a big 3 stooges fan and Fruit would follow suit with all the antics and “wise guy” skits. Like Larry and Moe without curly and two young girls home for summer break their only witnesses to the show. We’d get off work and hang out on the back of Chris’ truck in a corn field while the boys played guitars. Every once in a while, the boys would wander off to use the “facilities” and would loudly announce “ok evil Corn People. Stay away from our women while we’re gone. Don’t murder them with an ax. We got to get them home in one piece.” Some nights we spent at Fruit’s house, listening to Pink Floyd or any music with an impressive guitar solo or drum solo that could be played over and over again. Larry Chris and Moe Fruit going “hey, hey, listen to this part”. One night Chris fell over Fruit’s drum set. And I quote “if you need me . . . .boom bang crash clang…..I’ll be outside”. We laughed at him for what felt like hours. We came out of the movies in the pouring rain to find Karen’s Mach with a flat tire. Fruit and Chris jumped right in to fix it as we all stood around getting soaked to the bone. Karen turned to me and whispered “I think they’re putting it on backwards.” I agreed and we both pointed out the mechanical error. We were told we didn’t know what we were talking about. OK – we stood there in silence and watched the struggle until there was nothing dry on any of us. They turned it around and it slipped right on. More laughter except this time, only from the girls. All of us were so alive and young. Our world shimmered and sparkled. We didn’t have a care in the world.
To an 18 year old, time feels like it can stretch out forever. That summer seemed to never end. But summer became fall and back to school we went. Fruit and I still saw each other when we could and reconnected the next summer. People commented on our “quirky cuteness” and said we looked just like Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks. We fell in love, briefly. We’d challenge each other with our devotional statements. I love you most…. I love you more…..I love you to infinity……I love you to infinity X 2. Boom! Can’t top that, now can you? Fruit was first to coin the infinity X 2 phrase. It was his go to. Infinity doesn’t last as long as we want. Only as long as we need it to. We drifted away and the shimmering summers we had faded into distant memories.
Our paths crossed again in 2000. We were different people and a little harder around the edges with what life had handed us. But there was comfort it recalling our youth. A kind of magic in recounting tales of our carefree days. He had all but shaken the nickname of all those years ago until I rolled into town, shouting FRUIT! How ya been? My nieces took music lessons from him and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop calling him Fruit in front of them. They giggled at their little inside secret information about Mr. David.
I had just wrapped up attending my Mom Mom’s service. There was a little breathing room between family visits on Sunday. That’s when my brother gave me the news. David had died on Saturday evening. I was angry. I’m still angry. And yet we knew he had cancer. We knew it didn’t look good. I’m angry for selfish reasons. He was my youth. He was suppose to be invincible, shining in the summer sun before things like being worried about bills, and our health, and climbing those stairs with our old knees kicked in. Fruit was the promise of what was to come, and was not allowed to live long enough to see it. And his wife? I’ve seen that pain. It hurts like hell. I’m angry that she has to go through it.
I need to replace the anger with something else. Take a breath. Let myself make a promise. Or more accurately, a challenge. Let us always live our youth, no matter our age. Live like we’re on summer break and there are no cares in this shimmery shiny world. Challenge ourselves and our friends to step out of the dull box. Stop to laugh at the fall and the flat and the dark things in the corn field that scare us. Let us love to Infinity X 2.
The caption in my scrapbook for this picture reads “Nothing better than Pepsi and Fruit”