Young love: painful to live, sweet to observe |

Young love: painful to live, sweet to observe

Editor’s note: While Biff America takes an offseason hiatus, we are

re-running some of his favorite columns.

It might sound strange, but for me, certain visual images can express various emotions like no dictionary definition ever could. When I hear the word greed, I see pristine land being ravaged by heavy equipment. When I ponder the feeling of hate, I think of a burning cross or a swastika.

And when I attach a mental picture to the sensation of pure love, I recall a barely teenage, Irish couple I saw a few years ago in County Mayo.

It might have been the homesickness I was feeling at the time, or perhaps the ever-present threat of rain that gave the land a magical but melancholy feel. Whatever the case, the image of the young lovers remains vivid to this day.

She had green eyes and pale, youthful skin that flushed easily with the cold winds blowing off the ocean. Her hair was a tone of red that perfectly matched the freckles on her nose. What made me notice her was the fact she reminded me of pictures I had seen of my mother when she was a young girl.

Her boyfriend was a gangly, dark-haired man-child – all knees, elbows and neck. You could tell that someday he would be handsome, but at that time of his adolescence, his carriage was almost comical.

He had laughing eyes and a nice smile that did much to overshadow his awkward appearance.

My wife, Ellen, and I were sitting on a stone wall in a small coastal village watching the sun setting over the ocean. We were frustrated and tired because of the near-constant drizzle that plagued us for days. After bicycling more than 50 miles in the rain, the late afternoon clearing did little to improve our moods. We were debating whether to risk riding another 20 miles to the next town, or calling it a short day and spending the night where we were.

It was Friday night, and there was obviously some local function that brought hoards of young people out on the streets. The Irish are prolific breeders. A large group passed us, all energy and noise. The boys, with shirttails out and freshly combed hair, were pushing and shoving like young stallions hoping to get noticed by the girls who followed.

The girls in question were loud and giggly and sported their poorly applied makeup like a badge of adulthood.

About 20 feet behind this tempest of youth walked the young lovers. Their quiet conversation was in stark contrast with the mass of confusion that preceded them.

They were part of the pack in proximity only, and though they were two of many, they only had eyes for each other. Their nervous glances of absolute adoration reminded me of the pure beauty of innocence.

Our worries of rain and shelter passed for a moment as we watched the couple walk by us, oblivious of their surroundings. They were as close as two people could get to each other without actually touching.

As they passed us, we watched the young girl dangle her arm by her side and nudge the hand of her date. It seemed to take agonizingly long, but the boy finally got the hint and took her hand. At first he clutched her hand stiffly like some foreign object, but soon the two of them drifted from sight with arms swinging.

Before they disappeared around the corner, I heard her issue a peal of youthful laughter.

It might have been my imagination, but I could envision the events that proceeded that moment – the awakening awareness of the opposite sex, the tentative inquiries and the first awkward attempts at conversation.

The one thing I didn’t have to imagine was the infatuation these two felt for each other. They were enjoying that fleeting instant of young love, void of stress and conflict. There were no concerns over sex, work, money, ill health or family obligations. All that existed was their affection.

“Did you see that?” I asked Ellen.

“That was so cute,” she said.

“Do you remember the first time you ever held hands?” I asked.

We sat for a while and shared stories of first love. She reminisced of some guy from Pittsburgh with thick glasses, braces and acne. (No wonder she accepted my marriage proposal so quickly.)

I told Ellen about a girl named Maggie who had pig tails and scabby knees and who could throw a switchblade knife into a pine tree and make it stick. We both recalled the mystery, fear and excitement that were the byproducts of first love. I’m sure in some places, even in America, that innocence is still possible. I hope it still exists.

We decided to stay in that little village that night. We found a romantic bed and breakfast inn where we were the only lodgers. Our room looked out over the ocean and had a bathtub. The town’s only restaurant was a bar that featured many assortments of beef and grease, so we decided to buy a bottle of wine and make sandwiches in our room.

With the image of the young couple still fresh in our minds, we got out of our damp bicycling clothing and settled into our evening’s love nest.

I for one hoped to use the image to remind me of all that was exciting and pure about romance.

It was only after we were both freshly bathed that we sat on the floor where we could see the waves crashing on the shore outside our window. We opened the wine and ate our dinner in the twilight and in honor of the Irish courters. Then we cleaned our bicycles – well – first things first S

Biff America can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA and KYSL radio, and read in this and other fine newspapers.

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