Passive Echoes

September 13th: A Family Gathering



 

Every detail of their first date on September 13, 1971 is still vivid and fresh in their memories. Larry recalls the excitement and nervous anticipation as he left Marcia. Several times he nearly returned to her dorm to reassure himself that she had not misunderstood his intentions with regards to asking to see her later. This was not to be a casual social call for a friendly chat, but a date, a romantic rendezvous.

Also, he felt a strong desire to act on the impulse to take her into his arms, look deep into her eyes and express how much he adored and loved her, how miserable and tormented he had been since her departure, and how remorseful he was for the pain and suffering that he had caused her the previous year.

Again Larry resisted these urgings and proceeded to return home to make preparations for their date.


Larry:

“After washing and shining the Riviera, I spent hours preparing myself. I rehearsed in the mirror what I would say to her, showered and washed my hair, spit-shined my shoes and I made sure that every crease in my shirt and pants were razor sharp. I had never been so meticulous about my appearance before this occasion.

Unbeknown to me, twenty miles away Marcia was adhering to a similar ritual even more rigorous, she later confided to me. I made a final inspection of the “Rivie,” double checked my personal appearance, and then called my brother. I informed him that there was a possibility that I would be bringing a very special person to meet mom and his family. I then began the twenty or so miles drive to the campus.

As I drove into the parking area behind C dorm I was reaching panic attack level. I took a deep breath and walked to her room and knocked on the door, C-111 was Marcy’s room. The door immediately opened and I was rewarded with the most marvelous and enticing sight that a man’s eyes could behold.

Marcia was knock-dead gorgeous! She was the most attractive and elegant lady that I have ever had the privilege to be in the presence of. From head to toe she was the personification of loveliness and grace. Her passionate smile and sensuous voice left me momentarily breathless and deprived of my speech faculties.

I quickly regained my composure and managed to utter a simple “Hi”. I asked her would she like to go for a drive and get away from the campus for a while. She said that she would enjoy that.

When I escorted her to the “Rivie” I was the perfect gentleman and assisted her by opening the car door and making sure that she was comfortably seated. As I stood behind her to assist, this also permitted me to “look her over” from a different perspective.


I was experiencing intense nervousness and anxiety. Marcia has told me that she felt that I was the ultimate in coolness and control. She was rather surprised when I confided what I was truly feeling. I was equally astonished that she experienced the same physical sensations and anxiety as I.


Our mutual 'butterflies' intensified once we were alone in the car. As we were driving away from campus we had to stop at a traffic light. I reached over and gently grasped her hand. This simple gesture dissolved all of her anxiety.

This is the first time that we had been completely alone off campus together during the more than three years that we had known each other. When we dated in ’68 we spent nearly all of our time alone, but on campus.

My mind traversed back to the summer of ‘68, to that engaging summer night when I first held her hand to accompany her to the dance floor. How soft, smooth, and delicate her hands were. Now, words were inadequate to express the sensation and pleasure that I was deriving from this simple act.

I delicately stroked the upper part of her hand with my thumb, she responded in a similar way. I nervously glanced in her direction, our eyes met and her countenance reflected a warmth and joy until that moment I had not seen before or will I ever forget.

We wordlessly gazed into each other’s eyes until the light turned to green. This endless moment reminded me of the first time our eyes met with such solidarity, that moment in July, 1968 behind the stage on the bench when our faces nearly touched as she read the inscription on the honors medallion around my neck...like the silent seconds before a kiss.”


It had been three months and a year since Marcia last saw the warmness of Larry’s smile or felt the strong yet gentle touch of his hand. It was like the rays of the sun breaking through the clouds after the passing of a dark and tempestuous storm.


Marcia_and_Larry_at_18.jpg


Larry:

"When we drove off I asked Marcia if she liked the group “The Delfonics". She stated that she did. I had recently purchased their latest 8 track recording with songs such as, “Over and Over Again, Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time, La La Means I Love You, When You Get Right Down To It, and Break Your Promise”.
 
As we listened to the eight track tape recording, I don't believe that Marcia’s eyes ever departed from my face or her hand from my hand until we parked the car to talk ten minutes later. The entire time as I drove we spoke only intermittently with our mouths but our body language was engaged in a vigorous conversation that said “I am happy to be with you and hope this night never ends.
 
After parking at my former high school where she came to visit me in April, 1970, I turned to talk and again was greeted with the most warm, welcoming, and endearing smile. I avoided discussing anything negative and only shared compliments and gazes. As I fixed my eyes on her beauty I felt an overwhelming rush and desire to take her into my arms and kiss her, and her eyes and gestures were inviting me to do so. Again, I suppressed this urge. 
 
As we began driving I sensed Marcia’s eyes on me. At every right turn I glanced at her and my intuition proved to be true. In fact, as I drove I would make eye contact with her as I checked the passenger side mirror, to change lanes, or to make a right turn. Each time she was staring intently.
 
I became very self-conscious and somewhat intimidated by this behavior. I was accustomed to doing the staring and not being the object of such attention. I was now capable of being empathetic to her feelings when I would gaze at her for long periods of time, like the occasion in the band room. I also watched her every bite and looked upon her so persistently when I took her to lunch a week later that she could not eat her meal.
 
This "staring" continued throughout the evening whenever we were alone in the car together. Weeks later I asked her why. Her response:"
 

Marcia:
 
“I had finally accepted and acknowledged that I was truly in love with you. I no longer had any doubts about the true nature and extent of my feelings. I was also questioning myself as to why I had resisted those feelings for so long. Furthermore, I thought that you were so very handsome and pleasant to look at.”
 

Nevertheless, he exercised restraint. The look that she was giving him was the same one that he was a recipient of when he escorted her to her room earlier that day, when they paused for a moment as she opened her door. During their three-year relationship thay had kissed hundreds of times.
 
Thus, he was familiar with her countenance when she wanted to be kissed. Similarly, Marcia was familiar with his eyes and recognized that familiar glow in them as he watched her lips as they spoke. She knew that he was desirous and was preparing to make a move and wanted him to do so.
 


However, Larry did not want physical desires to cloud the emotional and mental needs that were crucial to establishing the foundation for a solid relationship. Yet, it was extremely difficult to resist the urge. Marcia later confided to him that he had read her signals precisely but she was equally satisfied that he just wanted to talk and take things slowly.

After a few minutes of talking and becoming reacquainted they were on the move again and feeling more relaxed and spontaneous in their interaction. Larry decided that for this first date he would try to avoid any reference to their past difficulties, and all was going well as they chatted about generalities. He approached his former neighborhood and decided to drive to the house that he lived in as late as June 1971.


That was a mistake. Marcia recognized the street and the address on the house as being the one she had written the three letters to in her attempt to reconcile from February through April, ’71. In fact, every letter from ’68 had been written to this address that she had memorized but had never been invited to visit.

They stopped momentarily as he looked at his former home that contained so many memories. She interrupted his reminiscing and asked him kindly and softly, "Why didn’t you write me back as you promised?” She was not confrontational but was obviously still distressed over this issue and was dissatisfied with all of his previous answers.


Larry hesitated for a moment, and then stated very thoughtfully that he had already answered that question when he called her in August. She looked at him as if to determine whether or not he was being sincere and said “Okay, for now…” with a half smile.

Larry quickly left the area and drove a few blocks to his brother and sister-in-law’s apartment where his mother also temporarily resided. During the short drive he mentioned to her where they were going in order to get her mind off the letter writing issue and it worked. 

When she realized that she was going to formally meet members of his family and his mother again, she became more preoccupied with her appearance and pushed the other issue to the back of her mind. He hoped that it would remain there permanently as she pulled down the visor to reapply cosmetics.

Larry and Siblings


Formally Meeting Larry's Family:

Perhaps the most significant factor that contributed to convincing Marcia of Larry's sincerity was his introducing her to all members of his immediate family on their first, second, and third dates, as stated earlier. Their first date was especially monumental. She met Larry's mother, older brother Carlton, his wife Stephoney, and their two year-old son, CJ. 

After a few moments of introductory chattering, Larry's mother asked to speak with him alone for a moment. They excused themselves and retreated to her bedroom. His mother expressed how beautiful and well-mannered Marcia was but then inquired in her soft and high pitch voice:  


Mom:

"Larry, what are you doing with that little girl?" She can't be more than 14 or 15 years-old. Boy, don't you realize that you are now eighteen and can get into a lot of trouble going out with someone that young? You go from one extreme to another, always toying with trouble. Just last year you were dating a woman nearly seven years older than you and then you started dating those white girls. Now this!"

Larry smiled and reassured his mother that Marcia was eighteen and mentioned that she was a sophomore in college at NCSA. He added that she was just very petite but was a mature young woman. Then he stated:

Larry:

"For her 16th birthday you helped me to pick out the robe and slippers two years ago. Do you remember?" (She said, yes) Furthermore, you have met her before. She is the girl that we picked up for my poetry reading about seven months later from the School of the Arts. You would playfully refer to her as "ME", because she would only put her initials as the return address with little flowers during the past three years when she wrote to me. Well, this is 'ME', Marcia Epps." 


His mother simply shrugged and said, "You've had so many girlfriends I can't keep up with them all!" Still, she had reservations. Hence, he took his mother by her hand and returned to the living room and asked Marcia to please show his mother her driver's license and explained the reason for his request, quite amused at the entire issue. Marcia simply smiled and then complied.

Larry's mother, now somewhat embarrassed, apologized to them both, but not before justifying her suspicions. She shared with Marcia his history of dating much older girls as well as interracial dating. She thought that now he was trying something different, dating younger girls. Marcia laughed about the entire situation and teasingly whispered to Larry, "You have been a very bad boy!"


Suddenly, Larry's sister-in-law Stephoney abruptly grabbed Marcia's hand and said, "Come on, girl. We need to talk." And talk they did for quite some time. Marcia and Larry were in eye contact but he could not hear their conversation. He was somewhat bewildered and concerned about what they were so vigorously discussing.

Stephoney was also a very practical woman and he knew that she could be dreadfully direct and straightforward. Also, he suspected that Carlton and Stephoney had sneaked and read his journal and the book of poetry that he had given to Marcia in ’70. It provided details of their complex relationship commencing in ‘68.

He began to lament that he brought her to meet his family because of the interrogation that they were both undergoing. He asked Carlton if he had any idea of what they were talking about and his brother said rather nonchalantly, “Not a clue”.

Then Carlton asked, “Isn’t this the girl that you have been in love with forever?” Larry, holding his hands together as he nervously glanced over at Marcia who was engaged in an enthusiastic conversation, responded, “Yes it is.” They chatted about Marcia for a few minutes and he inquired how school was going so far while Larry played with his nephew.

Larry knew that his family had his best interest at heart and were concerned about his fragile emotional state since ’70. His brother especially had always been overly protective of him since they were kids. They were very close and just twenty-one months apart.

Carlton was the popular jock in high school, football and track, and Larry had been the equally popular musician, poet, and scholar. They shared friends and had a weekly party together; musicians, cheerleaders, majorettes, and jocks in their basement every weekend during their championship year, win or loss.

They made eye contact and she gave him a strange and somewhat serious look, like the time that he brought the visitor into her work area that she was trying to avoid. A few minutes later their eyes met again and she had a very tender expression, smiled, and winked at him. He told Carlton that he wished that he could be a fly on the wall to hear what they were talking and laughing about. His brother told him not to worry as long as they were laughing.


After a thirty minute conversation or so the women returned to the living room to join them. He admiringly looked intently at her as she sat with her legs crossed and conversed with elegance and a modest easiness with his family. If one did not know, it was if she was an old family friend stopping by for a casual evening of conversation.


Marcia inquired about Larry’s childhood and the type of boy that he was. His mother explained that he had always been an excellent student in school but he and his brother were a challenge because they were so mischievous. Marcia stated that she could relate to that and mentioned a few of the pranks that he had done at A&T. His mother remarked that she hadn’t heard the half of it. Then the spontaneous storytelling began.

Stephoney encouraged Carlton to relate the story of “Not Tonight”. He could relate detailed accounts of their adventures like no one could without embellishment. Carlton proceeded to explain that they were part of a small little gang in Nashville. Because they were all under-aged teenagers they could not legally purchase a bottle of wine and they were in that experimental stage as youths.

They devised a scheme whereby they would find a “Wino” lingering about and give him the money to purchase several bottles of cheap wine on their behalf with the promise that they would give him one of the bottles. They were careful not to choose the same one each week or the plan would fall apart. It was never their intention to share their wine. When the Wino would come out of the store with the wine they would snatch it and run.

They were successful with this “game” for a number of times until they unwittingly asked the same Wino from a previous week. He took their money and purchased the wine but as they prepared their snatch and run routine the Wino pulled out a huge knife and started swinging at them while shouting “Not Tonight! Not Tonight!” They all took off running and never tried that stunt again. Carlton added the gestures and motions of the Wino which made the story even funnier.

Larry’s mom was shocked at hearing this particular account and several others that they shared because she was not aware of these activities. She recalled several less dangerous exploits of theirs and related them. One was the time that they poured dishwashing liquid into the toilet reservoir and stirred it up to make a lot of bubbles knowing that their father would always have a “toilet reading session” immediately after dinner. Their father had always taught them to give a courtesy flush immediately after caring for their business rather than sitting there until they were completely finished. This was to keep the stench down.

They finished dinner a few moments before their father and rushed into the bathroom together to complete their task. They heard their father enter the bathroom and soon thereafter they heard the familiar flush and the anticipated shout, “Carlton, Larry, get in here!” After they received their spanking, they were 9 and 11 at the time, they heard their mother and father laughing about the bubbles floating between their father’s legs as he sat on the toilet smoking and reading the newspaper.

During this entire period Marcia was vigorously laughing and acquiring an insight into Larry’s background that she never could have received simply through discussions with him alone. She was also able to observe him in a relaxed setting with his guard down, totally exposing all facets of his personality.

It warmed her heart to see him carefree, laughing, embarrassed at times, joking, and untroubled. This is the Larry that she longed for, smiling from his core. Each time that he touched or caressed her it was with a unique and refreshing warmth and calmness.


His sentiments were comparable. Marcia was not just a lady who reflected magnetism, grace, and faultless etiquette. She was a mature and experienced young woman who understood how to complement and enhance a man’s dignity and respect. She tactfully spoke with intelligence, wit, and humor and when necessary, empathy and compassion. He was exceedingly honored to be with her.

Larry was impressed with her maturity and sophistication. It was obvious that his family approved of her, the only girl that he had dated that they unanimously liked. She was unpretentious and had genuine kind remarks and compliments for everyone.


When he returned her to her dormitory they sat in the car and laughed heartily and discussed the evening. He leaned over, gently kissed her, and told her "I love you so much." For the first time in their relationship, Marcia looked into his eyes, smiled, and simply replied, "I know." 

There was no hesitancy or doubt in her response. He next asked her if she wanted to spend the evening together the following day and she enthusiastically responded affirmatively. Larry felt that he had attained a victory and that the evening was a success as he escorted her hand in hand to her room. He slept restlessly as he reflected on every word spoken by Marcia and each eye contact and smile.

The dawning of a new day could not come soon enough.....


 

 

 

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