Charles Sperry was a friend of mine since we met in 1978. I haven’t spoken to him for over a decade, so I googled him in the White Pages the other night to find his phone number in Massachusetts. The search revealed an obituary from the Boston Globe dated May, 2015. I sat, dumbfounded, at my computer. Too late.
I have tried to dial the number to speak to his wife, and offer my sympathy for her tremendous loss; but I haven’t been able to call. If I talk to her, it will be Real, and that will never do.
In the Summer of 1978, as I was deciding what I wanted to do next with my life, a boy with blond curls bounded down the stairs of my apartment building in Belmont, Massachusetts; he gave me a cheery “hello” on his way out the door. He was lanky and full of energy; his face was freckled and his eyes the blue of a glacier. Irish, for sure. Charles was smart and wickedly sarcastic: two of my favorite attributes. We became friends almost instantly.
That Summer, we had many adventures in my newly purchased TR-7. Charles helped me learn to drive a stick shift and properly maneuver through the rotaries of Cambridge and Boston, and off we went. We swam in Walden Pond on a glorious sunny day. We visited his friends palatial estate on Squam Lake in New Hampshire. Two Scorpios on the loose.
One of my favorite memories of that time was dress up night. We decided to take the town by storm, so we put on our fancy clothes and headed for the revolving restaurant at the top of the Hyatt Regency. I wore a fabulous black top and skirt outfit with black high heels. (Those shoes were the most amazing shoes I ever owned, and I wish I knew what happened to them. But, like many things in Life’s river, the current pushes stuff away from us, never to be retrieved.) Charles wore black slacks and a yellow dress shirt. We simply owned the City that night.
We stayed friends after I moved back to Maine at the end of that Summer. We called, wrote, and visited each other for many years. Whenever I was in Boston, we got together and had a meal, or just hung out. Eventually, he found his true love, married her, and moved to Western Massachusetts. I was, by that time, a single Mom, and immersed in the busy details of my life. So the currents pushed us away from each other, as they will.
I remember laughter, and so much crazy stuff. Who else will ever make paper airplanes with me and float them out the windows of the Ritz-Carlton down to Newbury Street? Who else will paddle the Concord River with me in a canoe? Who else will sign his letters to me “Relentlessly, Charles”?
Dear Charles, I regret that I took too long to call you and tell you that I missed talking to you. I regret that you never knew I wrote a fairly decent song about you. I regret that there would be a distance between us, for any reason, when we were once so close.
I hope that you are lazing by a beautiful lake. I hope that you have kittens in your lap. I hope when the radio at your side plays “Miss You”, by the Rolling Stones, that you think of the Summer of 1978.