When I was 11 years old my brother had some kids over because my mom was out and since I was definitely not invited, I stood outside the living room door and listened. These kids were not from our Catholic school so there was an air of danger, subterfuge, and heady excitement as I stood there in my tight plaid vest which I felt had an air of Dreamboat Annie about it, freshly curled hair, and heavy clogs. Suddenly, the door opened and boy named Jerome was standing there, stringy, greasy hair hanging to his shoulders, a worn leather jacket, Dayton boots and a gapped tooth smile. “Whoah, Alan, you never told me you had a hot sister!” Like, as if I was hot at 11 but I fell instantly in love. Who was this creature? Certainly nothing like Colin, a nice boy, a good boy, my mother seemed to have a crush on because whenever we were at church she would nudge me–hard–towards him as we stepped up to receive communion.
I went to the bad boys like a moth to flame. The surly stance, the swearing, the smoking, the opening of a beer bottle with bare teeth–a dangerous elixir that no one was able to disprove to me wasn’t the most exciting place to be at any given time of the day. It did not help that the male archetype of authority-my father–had recently died and left a chasm heretofore unknown rife with freedom that my young brother and I were maniacal about exploring and did so, resembling just-released prisoners for several years.
I still went to church, but balanced out my prayers with Reservoir parties. Now, just imagine 30 kids in the middle of a forest with an enormous bonfire just off of West 16th Ave. in Vancouver, just beyond those (now) million dollar houses, in the heart of summer, with no worries other than who might kiss who, or how much vodka was left in the Silent Sam 26’er, or if Sammy Hagar had a better rock voice than Lynyrd Skynyrd, and you’ll have a sense of how my young teenage years were spent. Those bucolic nights all went sideways later, but that’s another story.
I was now, however, Jerome’s girlfriend. A girlfriend. I was someone’s–girlfriend! And my boyfriend was sweet–sweeter even then the ‘good’ boys who went to my school, sweeter than anyone I’d ever known, save perhaps my piano teacher Sister Margaret who let me just tell stories versus actually practicing my lessons. If I looked sad, Jerome would look crushed, despondent, as though my mood was so vital to his health that he would move stars to make me smile again. And while he may have come from a hard scrabble life, he was the ultimate gentleman. He never pressured me to do more than what my Catholic girl conscience could handle and would walk me home, through the streets of Point Grey, picking flowers for me, tucking them in my hair, kissing me without possession, but rather with a gentle question, do you like me?
We both knew he wasn’t a boy I could bring home. I was shipped off for Grade 8 to an all-girls private school and he went up the hill to the big public school, Lord Byng High and so we went our separate ways–but as I look upon some of the men who have come into my life as ‘good’ boys, with pedigree, and a paper persona worthy of an award, I have come to understand, albeit somewhat late in life. what Young was talking about when he wrote:
Keep me searching
for a heart of gold
You keep me searching
for a heart of gold
And I’m growing old.
I’ve been a miner
for a heart of gold.