Passive Echoes

Winter, Spring, and Summer of 1970


Anderson High 


 Memorable Music:  Bridge Over Troubled Water

In restrospect, it had never seemed to truly matter in the past if they were dating other people or not from the time they first met. They would call, write, visit, go on dates, hold hands, and kiss, regardless of their relationship status. Just a few months earlier, in late spring of 1970, they had done the aforementioned things on several occasions.


Larry:

“In January 1970, after four months of no communication, I was pleasantly surprised when Marcia telephoned me in response to a mutual acquaintance informing her that I was ill. We talked for a while and then she asked if she could come to see me that day.

This was confusing because I had requested to visit her in September 1969 and she denied my request citing that she was dating someone on campus. She had called me a week earlier from Ahoskie to thank me for the gift that I had sent for her sixteenth birthday.

Much had transpired  during those four months. For me, this was a very difficult period in my life emotionally, and I felt that physically seeing her would exacerbate my emotional state of being. Despite her insistence, I expressed that it was not a good idea at that time and refused her request.
 
I detected concern and disappointment in her voice as we ended our conversation. Although I was delighted to speak with her for the first time in months, I was also deeply saddened and later regretted that I had denied her request to see me. "

Larry confides that he had always assumed that Marcia's life at NCSA and in general was idyllic. The reality is that she had recently experienced her 16th year of existence and was just as confused, troubled and disenchanted as he. In fact, when she called him in January she was also in need of comfort and encouragement.

During his junior year in high school, for the first time since the 2nd grade, Larry did not have an "official" girlfriend (except the girl he dated the previous summer) and dated no one the entire year. He was completely dedicated to music, poetry, and academic achievement.

It was a  year of dramatic changes in his thinking, appearance, and family life. Perhaps one of the most impactful adjustments was his brother's engagement and marriage planned for June and his brother's moving to his own apartment in just a matter of months.


Larry:

"Two months after telephoning me, Marcia heard from a faculty member at NCSA who was a former teacher at the high school I was attending, that the school was presenting a play in which I was a contributing writer and actor. She seized the opportunity to attend the play along with a bus load of students from the School of the Arts.
 
After the play was over, I was behind stage when a very distinct and familiar voice spoke my name. Initially I thought I was mistaken, but when I turned in response my eyes beheld a most attractive young lady dressed like an ebony princess in a floor length dashiki with a stylish afro.
 
My heart nearly stopped, my knees weakened, and for a moment I thought that I would pass out. It was Marcia. She was ravishingly and stunningly gorgeous. I was extremely joyful to see her and my eyes were never removed from her face as we caressed and I took her by the hand and proudly paraded her around.
 
Beauty and stylishness such as she possessed was not customary among the girls attending my school and everyone stared at her in wonderment and admiration. Each time there was a reunion it was if we had never separated... had never been apart. We would take up where we left off. Usually it began with a gentle touch, a smile, and then an embrace.  The only time that she resisted my embrace or kiss was at A&T and only because she feared the repercussion from other girls, which she received despite her refusal.

In fact, Marcia once said to me that I was the only guy that could walk up to her, embrace her, and then kiss her at anytime or place. This was true whether we were dating or not or if she was seeing someone.

After walking for some time, I escorted her to the band room to speak with her alone. Once completely alone we were both nervous and awkwardly struggled to communicate. To lessen the tension I played a song that I had written for her on the piano. 
 
However, as I was playing I unintentionally began staring at her incessantly, which made her feel very self-conscious and uncomfortable. Also, she was still recovering from the shock of seeing me as a long-haired hippie type with new and refined radical ideas.
 

Band1.jpg


I struggled to mentally absorb how much she had grown and matured, except for her height, which was still just slightly over five feet. I had grown nearly eight inches during the same period. Although we communicated by letter and occasional telephone calls, we had not actually seen each other in nearly sixteen months, since November 16, 1968. I recall the date because it was my mother's birthday when I retrieved some personal possessions from Marcia. 

I was thinking, wow! She was by no means that 'pretty little girl' that I fell so hard for in ‘68 any longer. Just a few months from her seventeenth birthday and a high school senior, she was blossoming into an exceptionally captivating, seductive, and beautiful young lady, though still several years from becoming a full-grown woman. I had never seen her wearing makeup before this day, just lipstick. She looked so astonishingly womanly, exuding sexuality from every pore."

Being allured to her in such a carnal manner was difficult for Larry. Previously his feelings for her were cerebral and spiritual in a non-religious sense, and from the heart. Although he was very attracted to her physically, it was never clouded or overwhelmed by a profound sensual attraction. 

"Now, such purity of thought was no longer the status quo and it resulted in turmoil within. It only grew worse the more that I spent time with and observed her, especially so when I began attending NCSA that fall. Was I no longer in love with her? Can these two powerful emotions co-exist? Had she become like other girls and women that I was attracted to and now is just a mere object of sexual attraction? These were among the many questions that I pondered.
 
Little did I know that these emerging feelings would become the source of an internal conflict that would result in my distancing myself from her in the months to come. I had placed my love for her on such a high pedestal based on my ideals. In my mind it was deemed grossly irreverent to tarnish it by anything remotely reflecting any of my impious and impertinent former deeds. My past track record with the opposite sex was marred by a flawed perception and opinion of women in general. 
 
Love for a woman in a romantic sense was novel for me, illicit appetite was not, nor the satisfying of it. Also, this was no visceral love or infatuation, rather it was one nurtured by time. I had yet to discern that one who is truly in love is capable of experiencing both wholesome emotional and physical passion. 
 
Furthermore, these feelings did not cheapen or make my love for Marcia less genuine if pursued with the lofty intention of honorable courtship resulting in marriage. This I perceived based not on a religious code, rather on my internal or innate standards. It was unique for me to experience such feelings for a woman simultaneously, because this was the first and only time that I had been in love.
 
After several hours, I escorted her to the bus and softly kissed her on the cheek as we said goodbye. I promised to call."

Larry kept his promise and called Marcia within a few days and invited her to attend one of his poetry readings, and she accepted the invitation. Accompanied by his mother, they picked her up from the UNCSA campus which also was the first time that Marcia and Larry's mother formerly met.

After the poetry reading, the meal, and receiving his pay from the elderly Caucasian women at his "Book Club Gig" as he called it, they returned Marcia to campus. When Larry escorted her to her dorm he gave to her a collection of eighty poems that he had written and dedicated to her. He gently stroked her cheek, they gazed into each other's eyes, smiled, kissed and said goodbye.

Within days she wrote to him to express how much she treasured and loved his poetry, informing him that many of them were hung on the wall nearest to her bed so that she could read them at night while she lay in bed. Larry did not feel that it was appropriate to seize this opportunity to pursue a deeper relationship or courtship. There were still impediments and risks involved in such an undertaking in his mind. 

Marcia in 1970


It was as Plato observed: “At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.” Among the 80 poems was a new one premiered at the poetry reading entitled, "Unrequited", which he had written the previous night. This poem summed up his feelings about their relationship.

In May it was necessary to retrieve his poetry from her because his English teacher wanted to make copies of them for editing and possible publication. Larry had given Marcia the only copies that he possessed. He promised to return them. On the day that he came to retrieve them he invited her to lunch and they talked about his poetry and how his writing saddened her, despite its beauty. After escorting her to her residence hall they stood outside talking when she introduced Larry to her roommate and closest friend, Kay.

Kay was a very lovely and delightful young lady that Larry liked from the outset. As she was departing up the stairwell she smiled and said to Marcia in a playfully flirtatious manner, "If you don't want him I'll take him." Larry was tempted to reply that "he was all hers".

Although he felt that Marcia genuinely cared for him, she would oftentimes display an indifference with regards to serious affection of the type that he so desired. After an afternoon of somewhat restrained conversing, he had to leave. They kissed goodbye, and for that brief moment it felt like ’68 again. However, they refrained from discussing their undefined and complicated relationship.

Nevertheless, their relationship remained intimate to the extent that if Larry had attended his high school prom during his junior year of high school he would have asked and she would have accepted his invitation to accompany him as his date.

Interestingly, soon after their marriage she surprised him one evening with a very romantic dinner at home. Marcia bedazzled him by dressing up in a stunning evening gown that she had purchased and would have worn for his junior/senior prom. He was in awe of how beautiful she looked and told her that all eyes would have been on her if they had attended. However, that date never transpired because it was interrupted and eventually cancelled due to a sudden court ordered integration of all schools in Winston-Salem in April of that year.

Hampton Coliseum and Jazz Festival


Later during the summer of 1970, Marcia first introduced Larry to her younger sister, Melea, when they attempted a romantic rendezvous at the Hampton Jazz Festival. Larry had just finished attending a summer-long jazz composition workshop at Hampton University.

Several weeks after the jazz festival, it was Melea and her girlfriend who prevented them from getting together. Marcia could not rid herself of them when she attempted to visit him at his uncle's home while in Newport News for a day. They were both frustrated and very disappointed when she called to cancel their plans to spend some time alone without them.

Ironically, Marcia had asked her father if she could attend this same workshop as a vocalist, but he had erroneously informed her that it was only for composers and those with extensive knowledge of theory. The truth is that there were a number of vocal students and instrumentalist in attendance along with composition students, and they were very much needed to perform their works. They agree that a summer together at Hampton University would have solidified their relationship.

Additionally, their planned rendezvous at the festival was thwarted by Marcia's father because he thought Larry was a long-haired hippie "coming on to her" and hastened her to her seat before she could formally introduce them or tell Larry exactly where she was sitting. They missed most of the festival searching for each other during breaks under the watchful eyes of her father.

It was more than a year later before Larry was formally introduced to Marcia's father over the telephone. After the jazz festival they spoke again over the telephone and expressed regret that for the second time in a matter of weeks they were hindered in their attempt to spend significant time together. It was during this conversation that Larry informed Marcia that he had been accepted to UNCSA for the fall.


Despite their subtle and gradual efforts to reunite, trouble was looming on the horizon. Perhaps due to hidden emotions and insecurities, there was hesitancy to be totally open and honest in their communications. They rarely complained about their difficulties, failures, disappointments and self image in their correspondences.


Reflecting back, Larry states that he can recall only one occasion that Marcia wrote expressing discouragement, depression and a loss of enthusiasm for life. It was in early August during the summer of 1970. This was just a few weeks before he began to attend UNCSA in the fall.

Marcia desired to be the perfect lady that she felt that Larry envisioned her to be. Later when they reunited she finally confessed to him that she feared that he would view her differently or admire her less if he discovered that she were somehow flawed by some unwritten and unexpressed standard of his.

This was strictly based on her perceptions and not based on anything that he had stated or written. Thus, when Larry wrote inquiring about the cause and nature of her disenchantment with life she merely stated that she was having a difficult day and that it was nothing to be concerned about.  As he later learned, nothing could have been further from the truth.

Remarkably, within a matter of weeks their affectionate and oft' times very impassioned relationship was soon to change abruptly on a September morning in 1970. This would transpire due to Larry's fracturable emotions and a very simple "blow off" from Marcia who was having another "difficult day". 

 


 

 

 

 

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