In the mid nineteen eighties, I was a girl who forged an unlikely friendship with an older man.
This fledgling bond evolved one summer as he drove his motorcycle to visit his parents who lived on Kentucky Boulevard. His parent’s yellow house sat near the bottom of a hill and next to the river just down the street from my own house.
My childhood neighborhood of Woodland Park is surrounded by the North Fork of the Kentucky River. Until recently, we entered the gateway of Woodland Park by driving over a dilapidated and rusty green bridge. The bridge has been replaced now with a new shiny one, but on sully evenings at dusk, I would hear the roar of his engine as he drove over that old truss bridge into the Park. We never formally introduced ourselves, so I didn’t know his name. But I clearly remember his dark hair that was prematurely gray with flecks of salt and pepper. He wore a black leather jacket, blue jeans and wire spectacles.
At the time I was near him, I was fourteen. He was probably in his late twenties. I would stand in my front yard next to the crumbing street curb in the twilight of a Kentucky summer night and he would drive up, cut the engine of his Harley and we would talk for an hour or so. We discussed books, music, weather-whatever came to mind. I remember he was pensive in the way he delivered his thoughts and observations. I was excited, in my mousey Jane Eyre sort of way, that I had caught a mature man’s attention. He wasn’t just some redneck boy I met at Fugate’s Roller Skating Rink who loved Hank Williams Jr. and Def Leppard. If offered, I may have jumped on the back of his motor cycle and ridden away.
This was a covert memory until recently when I sheepishly confessed to my mother about our clandestine meetings. I finally asked her about him and his family. In her terse but curious retort, she gave me very little information but told me, he was Dr. Webb’s son and that the Webb family kept to themselves. “They were strange people”, she said.
In remembering the past, I think about how I kept this relationship to myself, a secret that I did not share, not even with my best friend Jayne. I cannot help but think of my own twelve-year-old stepdaughter and what I would do if she struck up an acquaintance with an older man, much less what her father would do. At the same time, she is entering a threshold into a magical but dangerous time in her life and our grasp on her is less steady.
I know that look in her eye and remember when I was a lonely young girl on the cusp of womanhood who wore ragged shorts and moccasins. I was lucky. I think that Dr. Webb’s son was a person who felt alienated and this relationship with a fourteen-year-old girl was a needed connection to another human being. Sometimes, it is these unconventional relationships that abet in catapulting us into adulthood.
Many years have passed and that forgotten summer and the Webb family are long gone from Kentucky Boulevard, but not from my memory. Whenever I visit my parents and I walk my dog around Woodland Park, I stroll past Dr. Webb’s old house and wonder what became of his son.
Note: Names may have been changed to protect the innocent