And that was how I came to know Phyllis M. Phyllis was attractive, with green eyes and dark, almost black hair. She was slightly fleshy for my taste, although by no means “fat.” Had she been I wouldn’t have looked twice since I’ve always been drawn to petite girls. But Phyllis caught my attention and roiled my hormones, so despite my lack of confidence with girls and preference for smaller girls, I “rolled the dice” and “came up with a “7.” She agreed to go on a date with me. It’s been far too long ago to know where we went or what we did, but it must have been enjoyable because we continued dating on weekends when I could get home, and exchanged letters when we were apart. There was “chemistry” there, but as things happened, she must have felt it more than I.
You see, women aren’t the only side of the gender equation that can be fickle. Man, “the hunter,” craves the thrill of “the chase:” the stalking and the taking. When the quarry is too easy to “bag,” the thrill of the hunt becomes no more than a visit to the grocery store. Such is the fickleness of the male animal, especially the young male animal.
When Spring Break came I went home, where a couple of my friends who were still in high school asked me to find the band that had played at my high school classes’ prom and see if they were available for theirs. I was flattered and readily agreed to help. The following day was a beautiful spring day in Kansas, and since I had nothing special to do I thought it would be a good day to go for a drive and track down the band leader. We all know what a young man's fancy turns to on a nice Spring day, so it’s no surprise that I decided it would be a pleasure to have the company of a young lady as I looked for the bandleader.
While I was a footloose college student Phyliss was a working girl, employed as an office assistant in a small retail store in Coffeyville. Nonetheless, I craved her company, so I went to the store where she worked, turned on whatever charm I had, and asked if she would like to come with me. She readily agreed - provided her boss would let her leave work. Was she a little too eager? At that moment I didn’t feel that question, but in hindsight, maybe somewhere down deep I felt I had “bagged the trophy” just a little too easily. Her boss must have had a warm spot for what he considered to be “young lovers” because he, without hesitation, said “Yes.” With Phyllis alongside me we set out happily to enjoy the day. It was a lovely drive, with her sitting close to me, as lovers could do in the older cars with their bench seats, I was "living in tall cotton." We found the bandleader without much effort, since I knew where he worked. He agreed to play for my friends’ prom and that was that. I don’t recall how we spent the rest of the afternoon.
That afternoon was the high point of our romance. We dated a few more time, but I lost interest and the budding relationship died. Sinatra described my feelings at the end of our relationship with music and these words: “It was just one of those things. Just one of those crazy flings. One of those bells that now and then rings. Just one of those things.” I have no idea how Phyllis felt about it and, shamefully, didn’t give it much thought. Such is the narcissism of a young man looking for “love.”
I have discovered in my long life that while the wheels of fate grind slowly, they grind relentlessly. Two years later I met Phylllis' little sister, “Margie,” at another church affair. By this time Phyllis may have already been married. In any case she was out of the picture and was not in my thoughts in the slightest when I asked for and was granted a date with Margie. Although she and Phyllis were sisters, they were not cut from the same cloth. Phyllis was my age, Margie was three years younger. Phyllis projected an air of propriety; more controlled than exuberant, and she was affectionate, but reserved. Conversely, the “air” around Margie crackled with possibility. She was given more to impulse than to control and was “forthcoming” with her affections.
We began dating, although they were few and far between because I was still attending the university in Wichita. I don’t remember how many dates we had but I certainly remember the dates themselves, as she made those 140-mile trips quite worthwhile. I was a fish firmly caught in the barbs of her lure and wanted nothing more than to be placed in her creel. Ah, but she played me with all the skill of a master fisherman. Was Phyllis in her thoughts as she maneuvered me so skillfully? Was our end foreseen by her, a fait accompli, all planned and ready to put into motion? Those are questions to which I will never know the answer.
When it came, it was as the blade of a guillotine. It fell one cold Saturday night, leaving my heart and hormones lying on the floor at my feet. Much more cruelly in my opinion than the way in which I had ended my affair with Phyllis. Ater making the long drive from Wichita, stopping at my parents' home only long enough to freshen up and make myself more presentable, I pulled into her driveway. I was looking forward to a most worthwhile evening as I closed the door to my old Plymouth, quickly walked up to her front door and knocked.
Anticipation became bile in my mouth, my mind reeled with shocked disbelief as I heard her mother say, in response to my asking if Margie was ready, “Oh, she isn’t here. She’s out on a date with Bob Miller.” I slouched back to my car, drove around aimlessly for a while, then went home. I, a fish on the end of Margie's line, had been reeled in, gutted and filleted. I finished my junior year in a fog of disconsolation. My despondency melded into my knowledge that I was soon to be drafted into the Army. In June I said goodbye to my college days, met with a recruiter, enlisted so I could get my choice of assignments, and after spending a miserable summer completing Basic Training, became a member of the Fifth Army Band.
My advice to any young man who may be thinking about dating the younger sister of a girl whom you have spurned would be: Consider carefully. You may be charming and she may be captivating, but the bonds of sisterhood are strong. As has been said by many over the centuries, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." So, go ahead and date that kid sister if you must, but do not be surprised if you find yourself eating sumptuously from that frigid dish.
Thanks Tom. It's a bittersweet memory now, but at the time it was my re-creation of "Tales of Hoffman." As did "Hoffman," I lived through three "doomed" loves with painful endings. "Lois," "Margie," and "Pat." Ultimately, however, I found "Anne" and have shared life with her the past 61 years.