I attended high school in a small town in Southern Colorado. It was the early 90’s, but the place had a distinct feel of the idealized American 1950’s. It was a picturesque town. The college kept the place thriving, I think. At the very least, it maintained a population of young people that seemed to be missing from other small towns that I’ve lived in.
Downtown was a classic vision. Buildings lined both sides of Main street, lovely brick structures with storefronts. There were two movie theaters a mere block from one another: The Grove and the Rialto. Their neon signs and bright marquis lit up at night. There were a couple of department stores: one a JC Penney, the other a family owned store. Both had been in the same locations for decades. Little shops and restaurants filled the smaller storefronts, including a bookstore, a Hallmark and a Woolworth. The Woolworth was particularly fascinating, maintaining a stock of everything from hand cream to kitchen wares. It still had a functioning diner, too. I enjoyed several handmade milkshakes prior to the closure of the store.
It was ideal for two teenagers in love. Everything in town was within walking distance. I lived only a few blocks from downtown , and my first date was spent there.
I'd been working on getting his attention for what seemed an eternity. We’d talk and interact in class, sometimes after school. I signed up for the school play, just for the opportunity to be closer. I was cast as various extras, he was a lead role. I didn't really have the tenacity to shine on the stage, but he did. He was confident and comfortable, he could take on any role and make it convincing. When he entered a stage he commanded the attention of the entire audience.
I hung back late after school one day and he asked if we could do something together. phone numbers must have been exchanged. The details are fuzzy now. I remember most the way I felt. I was thrilled at the confirmation that he liked me, too.
The Autumn evening that he first met me at my house, we walked to one of the restaurants downtown. we walked and talked. I ate my burger sitting across from him. Nervous and elated.
Our days were spent together. He walked me home after school and we'd watch Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, and Batman. We’d eat lunch together, meet up at my locker between classes. We truly enjoyed one another's company. Laughing, talking, walking, and playing. Near The river's edge, through the seasons, we’d point out magpies as they’d take to flight. We’d go to A&W Root Beer Stand where we'd have root beer floats and listen to the jukebox, or peruse books and magazines at the bookstore downtown, watch movies at the Grove or Rialto, go to Dairy Queen or the Ace Inn, play at the Victorian Era Cole Park. We'd take my niece and nephew to the park sometimes, and play with them on the swings and slides. We'd listen to records and cassettes of oldies. We walked all over that town constantly, and it always felt safe. There was a sense of safety not only in our surroundings, but also each other’s company. We became the best of friends. It was ideal and picturesque, just like the town.