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Iron Range View: Love in the best of times and the worst of times

The long black minute hand on Tick Tock, the study hall clock, slowly made its way from Roman numeral to Roman numeral as it measured the minutes to the end of first hour.

The long black minute hand on Tick Tock, the study hall clock, slowly made its way from Roman numeral to Roman numeral as it measured the minutes to the end of first hour.

I sat there plotting how our team could crush the Keewatin Tigers in our upcoming track meet. The rivalry between Nashwauk and Keewatin in the late 1950s was very strong. I had no other concerns and few other responsibilities. It was spring, I was 14, and everything was new.

For no particular reason, my eyes lingered on a girl sitting in the next row, three seats ahead of me. For a reason I didn't understand, something left me and was replaced by an overpowering, hollow, achy feeling in my stomach and chest. Realizing for the first time how beautiful she was, I was smitten so hard it was almost too much to bear.

I thought maybe the feeling would go away if I could talk to her just after the bell rang. But as we passed into the hallway, she started talking to another boy. Even though he and I had been friends for years, I suddenly hated him.

That afternoon I caught up to her "accidentally" and walked her home from school. When I was with her, I had a feeling of completeness; it felt as if we were the only two people in the world.

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I tried to meet her every day after school, but she almost always was surrounded by her girlfriends, and there was nothing I could do about it. I hated those other girls.

The first thing in the morning I thought about her. "Jenny!" I thought about her all day. "Jenny!" I thought about her until I fell into a fitful sleep each night. "Jenny!"

Many days later I "accidentally" caught up to her walking home without her girlfriends. I made a silent vow that when we got to the end of the block I would ask her to the dance. When we stepped into the intersection, I tried, but I couldn't do it. I vowed that by the end of the next block I would ask for sure. But the end of the next block came, and the question remained locked up in my brain.

That evening as I walked past her house for my "Jenny fix," she and her mother were sitting on lawn chairs in the front yard. My knees got so weak I could hardly walk. I skittishly approached, greeted her mother, and asked Jenny if she'd like to walk with me.

I think she was going to say no, but her beautiful, wonderful mother said, "Why don't you go with him, Jen? I'll wait here until you get back."

So Jenny walked by my side. Suddenly the familiar streets and houses of my old mining town became enchanted. Everything took on a glow that I had never noticed before. Everybody we met seemed to be so friendly and happy that I loved them all. I floated above the sidewalk for about

25 blissful minutes before she said, "I'd better get back home and start my homework."

Once again, I vowed to ask her to the dance before we came to the end of the block. Once again I couldn't do it. We were in sight of her mother when I finally blurted out, "W-w-would you go to the d-d-dance with m-me on the 25th?"

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I think she was going to say no, but when she looked at me, my face must have been so pathetic she stammered out a hesitant, "Yes."

Her answer made my brain go numb. I don't remember dropping her off by her house, and even though I had lived in the same little mining town for 14 years, I couldn't remember my way home.

The next thing I do remember, it was totally dark and my dad stopped his car on the street beside me. "Whatcha doin' wanderin' round out here all by yerself?" he asked.

I understand why adolescents have to experience such feelings. The creator is not-so-gently nudging them into producing the next generation of human beings.

What I don't understand is why these same feelings can recur with undiminished intensity later in life. And I have noticed that many already committed adults are no better at dealing with these feelings than are adolescents. For those committed adults who aren't strong enough to overpower these feelings, broken marriages, broken families and broken hearts wait right around the corner.

How can this process be at one time so beautiful and at another time so distressing for so many? Why can't these feelings be like Tick Tock? The big, old, Roman-numeraled clock served its purpose then disappeared -- remembered but never to return.

Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a writer and a lifelong resident of the Iron Range.

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