four minutes to farewell—morgan bongard—august 2020
I stood outside on the balcony with Tyrone. It was an early summer evening, 1 June 1984. We'd just left the din of our prom and classmates behind a wall of swaying balloon sculptures, crystal punch bowls and silver chafing dishes. The lighted dance floor began corralling sleepy dancers.
"I didn't ever believe I'd get even a chance to dance with you," said Tyrone with a broadening smile. "So—please accept my many thank you's, Miss Aimee," and with a distinguished flourish, he swept my hand into his dark one and planted a mock kiss into the air.
"And your gown is beautiful. It's so white."
"I know," I explained with apology. "I didn't get to pick it out. The women in my family chose it as my 'social coming-out' dress, or something. Honestly, it's a bit too revealing for me."
Silence fell. Not an uncomfortable silence. No, more the same silence as when pausing during a test, pencil resting lightly against the lips while trying to reflect and formulate the correct answer. I always want to know even the path to that answer.
"Do you remember when we first became friends?" asked Tyrone quietly.
My hand rested lightly on the balcony railing. My sadness began to dissipate as I stared wistfully out onto a perfectly squared lawn of the country club, a woman's manicured fingertip of a moon just barely visible now pointing westward, north, south and east.
"It was in Ms. Timm's physics class," I continued, "you used to sit in front of me and help with my homework nearly every day it seemed. Thank you for always doing that."
"Girl, you're plenty smart, you didn't need me—never. You just needed a little extra encouragement is all, cause really, you're just shy about your own smarts and that's the truth. But that's not the day I'm referring to. No, there was this one time you came to class wearing a beautiful dress. And that's when I noticed your legs."
"Oh yeah, I remember that day," I said nearly laughing, then wincing at the recollection. "Rehearsals for 'Hello Dolly' ran overtime so I was late to class. I hated walking in, everyone staring at me."
Tyrone continued, "And then I asked you if you were on the cross country team, and you answered—"
"I only run by myself. For fun."
Another long moment of quiet.
"I didn't know you were a runner. Or a singer."
"I didn't know you were a wrestler," I answered.
"Full scholarship, too. Got accepted to University of Maryland."
"You'll do well, Tyrone."
"Hey, Miss Aimee Suzanne. Since we're gonna be walking across that stage on Tuesday, and getting our diplomas, and going our separate ways—in case we never see each other again, would you kiss me? As friends?"
We stared at each other saying nothing for the longest of moments as defined by youthful bliss. I let go of the railing and placed my hand gently along the curve of his jaw. His skin was dark, so much more dark than mine—almost an ethereal glowing midnight, and yet when my lips touched his, gone was the color of all nations, gone too, was all ego. It was a landscape that took nothing and yet—left only memories of tests on the tangent, of a kindness so ancient and pure that it always finds a will to start life and, even if it's beneath a massive boulder, will persist until the stone cracks just enough to let the light in. Love finds even the tiniest of spaces, one way or another.
We pulled away. I smiled at him with gentleness and care.
"Thank you." Tyrone, eyes now glistening, "I knew you would."
"Because of how you responded that day when Terrance asked you to go steady with him."
"But I told him 'no.'"
"Wrong. You told him that you couldn't date him cause of race, yes. That people treat interracial people terribly, call them names and bully them. And that you couldn't bear to watch it happen to him —a black man—go through that kind of pain. That's how I knew."
Morgan Bongard is a Green Bay writer whose early life was spent in the affluence of a 1960s San Gabriel, California. Swearing off privilege at age 17 and vastly interested in humanitarian issues, she began by refusing her first millionaire (and three more since) in order to study the inner effects of American poverty for her upcoming novel “BananaSeatTenSpeed." She welcomes emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.