April Memories

by Richard Kovac

"April is the cruelest month."
TS Eliot

What did Kathleen Vogel write in my graduation book? I wrote her, "I have loved you since fourth grade and I always will." True, as it seems to turn out. But with a big question mark in purple ink, she wrote, "Inspiration won't come".

We were graduating, in the eighth grade, from elementary school. The nuns always seemed to sit us close to each other, so it may have been proximity that made me fall in love. She inspired me for a long time, but I never saw her after she went to St. Dominic's Academy.

What a tragedy. Kathleen, and before her, Alicia Ingram, were the most attractive things in the curriculum. The nuns, in their black habits and suspended with rosary beads, were also competent teachers - one or two saints, with the usual gamut of more ordinary types. I was always at the top of my class, or at least near to it. Thomas Smith and Susan Smith (not siblings) were the competition, along with Robert Kunz, who later became a Wall Street accountant.

I was too young to know that love must do something, and not just be wistfulness. It must express itself to the beloved. There are few things as harmful as love concealed, for that is a form of the "lie", a deception in other words. And so Kathleen went on to whatever destiny she might.

The smell of steam from the radiators mixed with the smell of chalk dust. I have some nostalgia for those days, but it's too late to do them again. I comfort myself with the thought of eternal recurrence. I was a pretty heterosexual kid, but I didn't think much of my academic inferiors, and I wet my pants.

I remember seeing a sign in a Protestant glass front church window that said, "God is love." I concluded that it was not true when the Protestants said it, but it was true when the Catholics said it. This was before Vatican II.

It is important to remember that the past is a fact and can't be done over. It is (or rather was) what it is (was). It is nevertheless always with you. I was enriched by these two pretty young women; at least I loved something, their beauty and niceness. It is much worse to love nothing. Dorothy Day (whom I knew slightly, and who may be officially made a saint for the good work she did with the poor), said, I think quoting Dostoevsky, that "the world will be saved by its beauty." I think so. It will be beauty like I knew in childhood - before lust and self-will corrupted my desire as happens to most of us, and when all was verdant and new.

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