Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Seed Begins to Sprout

In the fall of 1980 -- age 15 -- I began my sophomore year at Leigh High School. I was determined to excel at sports, and I did.

On the frosh-soph football team (I'm number 80 in the front row), I started at cornerback and led the team in interceptions. The team itself finished the season undefeated.

From football season, I went right into the wrestling season. Between the long practices after school and the equally long bus right back to my dad's house each night, I had little or no time with Charlie. And Brett, by this time, had made his fateful move to Alaska. Little did I know that I'd never see him again.

Wrestling season, like football, went well for me (I'm in the bottom row, third from the right). I won at least two frosh-soph tournaments outright and wrestled most of the year on the varsity team, earning my letter in that sport. Inexplicably, however, I still felt empty. The answer, I thought, must be sex (or the lack of it). My next opportunity for it -- one largely of my own making -- went badly though.
It started out much like my other encounters with girls did. A freshman girl whom I did not know asked me out. To be accurate, one of her girlfriends asked me if I liked this girl and whether I'd say "yes" if she asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance. I said, "sure." So, I had a date.

I remember little of the events leading up to that night. What I do remember causes me heartache still. I remember meeting up with Charlie before the dance and getting sloppy drunk. I remember the girl and some of her friends picking me and (maybe) Charlie up and taking us to dinner. I remember their first question to us both as we got into the car: "Are you guys drunk?" "No," we no doubt slurred in unison. And I remember getting to the dance and hating it -- I hated dancing and that was the first and last dance I ever attended during high school. So, I suggested to my date that we "go out to the bleachers."

The "bleachers" were just that -- the seats surrounding Leigh's football field. The poor girl. Nothing that happened from that point on could have been very pleasurable: not the cold bleachers where we started necking, and certainly not the new move I tried on her. When I came up for air, she registered her [embarrassment, disgust, fear, all of the above] by refusing to kiss me when I tried.

After she zipped up, we made our way back to the dance. The night was over for me and I left. The next Monday at school, the girl still seemed interested in me, but I was overcome by self-consciousness. Part of it was that as sophomore, I was embarrassed to be with a freshman -- I thought I should have been dating a girl my own age. Most of the problem, however, was the overwhelming sense of guilt I had for the way I had treated this nice girl.

So, I dealt with it in the only way I knew how: by not dealing with it. I just refused to acknowledge the girl at school (or her increasingly vocal friends). I gave her the silent treatment. All along, though, I knew my behavior was reprehensible and I truly hated myself for it, and I'm sorry still. Looking back, this was really the low point for me.

It was about at this time -- the fall of 1980 -- that the seed planted by Swami Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi two years earlier began to germinate. As it happened, my mom had seen a poster for a lecture that was going to be given at a universalist-type church in Los Gatos by a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda. She asked me if I'd like to go.

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