So, this tall, lovely, lovely girl whom I’ve just now (and only just now for some reason), noticed standing around looking absolutely lovely by one of the school-room trailers—the northernmost one (one of four, as I recall); well, this angel of a girl is just about to cross the road by our new cinema building (named “Saga”—meaning fairy tale, appropriately enough) when I see a car not noticing her and about to run her over. It’s icy and I realize that the car will not be able to stop so I dash, Superman speed, and throw myself at her and push her away to safety and she does fall away (unhurt) to exactly that while I, not so fortunate, do not. My right leg is injured, though not so badly that I won’t walk again or anything, just badly (and heroically) enough, that this slim angel of a girl will finally notice me.
No, no, that’s no good.
So, this lovely, lovely girl whose name I don’t even know, and whom I’ve just noticed (why haven’t I seen her before today?) is just about to cross the street… No, I just did that one, what’s the matter with me?
So, this lovely, lovely girl, tall, sweet, brown hair falling to her shoulders but not farther, and I’d say a little shy, though she does have friends and she talks to them and I’ve just noticed that she does indeed exist and she is the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen and this angel of a girl has just caught a cramp in one of her legs, and she’s flailing in the deep and now choppy waters too far from land to make it back to safety. She’s going to drown, I realize that—and I don’t hesitate. Of course not. I’m a good swimmer, and in seconds I’m in my swimming trunks and in the water powering my way towards her and in just a flash or two I’ve towed her back to land and safety and she cannot believe how brave I am and she cannot thank me enough and she smiles at me whenever she sees me again and I’m invited to her house to meet her rich parents who thank me over and over and over and so does she and her sister and her brother, no she doesn’t have a brother, but she does have a kid sister who has very big admiring eyes that she looks at me with and she’s happy that I’ve rescued her sister, and my angel, well, she’s just amazingly amazing and cannot help but love me. The hero, the brave one. Shortish, but brave.
That’s better. Yes, much.
Not perfect though.
She’s tall, her brown hair barely reaching her shoulders, seems a little shy, but in a very delicate and understanding way—by which I mean that she will understand me like no other, better than anyone else in the whole world. And she stands there talking to her friends during first or second morning recess and then the bell rings for second or third class and she turns and goes back inside. She doesn’t notice me at all. But that, of course, is all about to change because within twenty-four hours she’ll be about to drown… no, I just did that; she’ll be just about to fall through the ice and if she does she’ll drown surely, in the freezing water. I’m quite some ways from where she is, but I see what’s about to happen for I can hear the ice beginning to crack and as I do I shout at her to stop and stand still but she doesn’t hear me so I—Superman speed, again—charge in her direction and dive and push her away from the now breaking and opening ice and onto a stronger section where she’s safe while I, bad luck but not really (all part of the plan, you see), fall through.
By now others have seen what’s going on and while I fight for my life (though not really, I knew I would survive) they manage to find a life line and throw it to me and then haul me up and out and to safety. I fall gravely ill, or course, from the freezing waters, and must spend days and touch-and-go days in bed, but she visits me, does this angel whose name I didn’t even know, for she knows that I’ve saved her life and now she wants nothing more than to marry me when we’re old enough.
Someone tells me that her name was Birgitta.
Birgitta what? Birgitta Andersson.
Yes, that’s her name. Was her name. Is her name? Though she’s probably married by now.
I was in seventh grade. Our classroom was housed in the last of a row of four temporary trailer-style buildings along the northern edge of the old school’s large, sandy yard. A similar row of four temporary classrooms edged the eastern side of the yard.
Our homeroom teacher, though married, had a reputation as a ladies’ man and had one glass eye which looked amazingly real. Some sort of accident. I never got that one quite figured out. And how his reputed infidelities had become topics of boy-teenage discussion, I don’t know. Scandal (especially of that variety) seem to clear its own, wide path through the jungle of every-day gossip.
There were three or four seventh grade classes at the school, I was part of the academic one.
Now, having already (from my previous school, I presume—I guess they document you and pass the experience on to the next set of teachers) been branded as a “talker,” I was asked to sit in the first row so that the teachers could keep an eye on me and, hopefully, keep me quiet. I don’t know what it was, I just liked to comment on things and apparently was deaf to the three words “please,” “be,” and “quiet.”
I really have no idea why I had not noticed this gorgeous girl before—it wasn’t until late during that fall semester that I saw her for the first time—well, for the first time that I’m aware and for the next few weeks, I dreamed myself her hero in a dozen different ways and scenarios. I had never been short of imagination, and here it came in very handy indeed. For there was no question of me walking up to her or anything, not me, not then. Short but smart, those were my call signs. Math-smart, not girl-smart. But heroes can be any size, at least in my universe, and this short but smart boy grew very heroic indeed over the next many days. I saved her (yes, Birgitta Andersson was her name, I think Lars found out, or already knew, and told me) from a host of precarious and dangerous situations, always getting hurt myself (though never fatally or with long-term effects) in the process: inviting, of course, her gratitude and admiration and, yes, yes, or course, love.
Here’s the strange thing, though. Fast forward about a month or so, or, say, to early spring semester and I don’t see her anymore. I don’t remember seeing her at all. She must have left town.
Or, perhaps she was run over by a car or drowned or something, this Birgitta Andersson.