NORMA

Always a thin-ice undertaking, romance is especially perilous when you’re young and poor.
— Edward Morris
 

THE STORY

The Night We Didn’t Meet


Always a thin-ice undertaking, romance is especially perilous when you’re young and poor. And we were both. I was a penniless graduate student and she was a secretary, barely two years into an empty marriage, when we fell in love. I was 24, she 20. To complicate matters, she and her husband had just moved into a new apartment near the university, an act that, to me, reeked of permanence. All this was taking place in 1959, when long-distance telephone calls were a luxury.

Soon after I graduated from the university and relocated to a town 100 miles away, she wrote me a letter, which her husband found in her purse and read before she could mail it. It was after dark when she called me from a phone booth, desperate at being discovered. Could I meet her at a park near where she lived? But how? I had no car and had never learned to drive.

Frantically, I called my older brother who lived nearby and asked if he would take me to meet her. He was willing, but his wife, who never liked me very much, said no. My torment was almost unbearable. I couldn’t even call her back to let her know I wouldn’t be meeting her. I visualized her sitting there alone in the dark waiting for me and finally deciding I was a lost
cause.


In the meantime, I had caught a bus which, in those days, took eight hours—counting layovers—to make the trip between my town and hers. When I got there the next morning, I called her, and we met at the home of a friend. Fortunately, her husband was very civilized about the whole matter. He soon agreed to a divorce and a few days later even drove her to the town where I lived. We were married early the next year and have been together and in love ever since. But the memory of those hours I spent in agonized helplessness still returns now and again to chill me.

 

© Morris 2018

 
 
 
 

THE SONG

Norma

 

Summertime the year of our lord 1959

Bus ticket that I can't afford

Daniel is a reasonable man

But he found the letter written in your hand

A payphone call after dark

I wanna pick you up babe

But I don't have a car

 

A hundred miles exactly from Charleston to you

Crossing the Ohio down by Syracuse  

We're in mortal danger and our love's at stake

'Cause I am not your husband

But I'm vying for his place

When you kiss me and you touch me 

Oh the love is promising 

 

No one here is on my team

Dirt poor West Virginia when you decide to leave

I'm just glad he knew where to look

When the bright idea came over him 

To search your pocketbook 

Goddamn he's lucky he don't know the half

Of all that we got up to before and after class

But that don't change you in the door

And all the pretty things

He'll make you answer for

 

© Della Croce 2018