First

Sharon Lynn Woods. 1977. She went to Sumter High and I went to Thomas Sumter. Public school girl, private school boy. We met in the Holy City.

Sharon Lynn Woods. 1977. She went to Sumter High and I went to Thomas Sumter. Public school girl, private school boy. We met in the Holy City.

My table manners. That, she told me later, was the thing about me that had caught her eye. Sitting alone in the dining hall at the College of Charleston, I’d put my napkin in my lap and kept my elbows off the table. One of the few times in my young life that being a self-conscious prig paid dividends.

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In the summer of ’77, Sharon Woods and I spent five weeks hobnobbing with our creative and intellectual peers at something called Governor’s School.

We were assigned to the theater track, which culminated in a production of Aristophanes’ The Frogs. It was performed at the pool as I recall, though I didn’t see it. Nor was I in it. Nor did I have anything to do with it, even though it was supposed to be the centerpiece of my summer.

Classes, reading assignments, seminars, rehearsals, Aristophanes … all of it, everything we’d been asked to accomplish … had flown out the window. There were no grades at Governor’s School, thank God. No way to fail as you were falling in love.

Prior to Sharon, my only experience with girls had been throwing up on my seventh grade sweetheart at the Sumter County Fair. Tilt-a-whirl. At 17, I was a virginal blank slate of a boy.

It’s true what they say about first love. All the cliches. The sensory overload, the songs on the radio, the heightened reality like Dorothy stepping into technicolor. Indellible.

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We dated during our senior year in high school, pretty tumultuously, then for a while during our freshman year in college. I honestly don’t remember how it ended, but it obviously did. Why does my memory fail me on that point?