This is not a film review of the movie ENDLESS LOVE (1981). Though it almost could be. This post is intended as a personal memoir of sorts of my ENDLESS LOVE. My first love. I’ve been wanting to tell this – for me – magical story for some time now; before it faded from memory altogether. It’s probably already forty years too late.
In a lot of ways, the events and feelings connected with the story, to borrow an ancient chestnut of a phrase, feel like they all took place only yesterday. Five seconds ago, actually. Seen from another tack, it all feels by now so long ago I sometimes wonder whether any of it really happened at all. Time makes a mockery of memory, afterall. But your first love is something you never forget. Not really. Not this first love anyway.
Details are what make a story. I know that. But I won’t start with those, other than to say her name was Caroline Byrne, I was a few months short of my fifteenth birthday (as was she) and back then you can be certain both our bloodstreams were positively awash with the type of pulsating teenage cocktail of ‘feel good’ hormones that helped transform every thought into something a thousand times more potent.
I’ll begin instead by trying to put into mere words my memory of how the whole thing -‘thing’ meaning ‘experience’ and experience meaning romance, which btw, endured for all up only around five glorious months – made me feel. ‘Magical’ is a good word to get things rolling. So is the 2014 Scarlett Johannsen movie LUCY.
If during any part of watching that trailer – if in fact you obediently went ahead and did that – you were left scratching your head and asking yourself what in bejesus drug mules, Asian crime syndicates and Morgan Freeman have to do with Glen’s first love story, then let me clarify: they have nothing to do with Glen’s first love story. As far as I recall anyway.
The on-point comparisons kick in only from around the 1 minute 15 second mark. That’s when the trailer starts talking about the average human being only using roughly 10% of their brain capacity. For the few short months my first love affair lasted (though admittedly ‘affair’ seems too adult a word for this context) I felt like previously unused parts of my brain were now lighting up like the proverbial 4th of July fireworks display.
Not just that but, like LUCY, it definitely felt like for a time I’d acquired a range of magical powers. Nothing to the degree of being able to hurl people up against walls with the wave of my hand like the title character of the film. No, this was more like thoughts, feelings and, probably most significantly, a sense of self, way more concentrated than before.
hundred thousand times more concentrated. Like a lazer. Like I’d ascended to a higher realm of existence. Like a super human who could now float on air to get around. Like, in many ways, I suppose, no less than a god. An entrancing-five-months long type of god.
In a sideways pivot, allow me to mention that American author Dean Koontz (1945 – ) penned a novel titled INTENSITY back in the early nineties. I read it last year after I
stole souvenired it from the library of a mountain-based so-called holiday retreat we stayed at. (Should probably mention not many things at that ‘retreat’ were in working order the weekend we visited so I reasoned I was due some form of recompense… and I got a small bit of it claiming that dog-eared book). It’s a story about keeping one step ahead of a stalking serial killer. Incredibly the whole novel – all 384 pages of it – with the exception of a couple of brief exterior scenes, is set inside a house. First loves don’t feature.
I mention the book and it’s title here because I think the word INTENSITY summarizes the feelings and experiences that commonly come with a first love. Having attended an all-boys high school and being from a family with three brothers and no sisters, falling in love with a ‘real-life’ beautiful girl was always going to send my heart into car-alarm mode, sparks of electricity shooting into my brain and show me the real gold this universe has to offer. It did all that. In colossal, sea-salt coating tidal waves.
As if that hyper-intoxicating rush wasn’t enough, my first love also came with an unexpected bonus: elevated social status. See, I feel in love with and began ‘dating’ a cheerleader. Well, not an actual cheerleader, like Sandy in GREASE (1978) ’cause I don’t think Australia had cheerleaders back in 1981. But she may as well have been a cheerleader, cause, you know…same social status. No, Caroline was a fifteen year-old water polo player who went to the local Catholic all-girls school.
Teenage female water-polo players all resembled well-proportioned, majestic Amazonians. Think WONDER WOMAN if that helps. Caroline was one of them and sat most assuredly atop of the popularity tree. She could have had anyone and she picked me. I’ve been trying to work out the why of that puzzle for forty years.
I debated long and hard whether or not to include some type of (approximated) image in this recount to give an idea of the type of face I fell head over
heels Dunlop Volleys in love with. Words, and imagination to fill in the blanks between those words, are so much more powerful in many ways. In the end I succumbed to the wisdom of a picture being worth a thousand words. Not that I’d mind writing those thousand words. But you know, could drag on a bit.
Fifteen year old Caroline, my Caroline, was a blonde goddess of teenage beauty in anyone’s language. Mine especially. With all cherished photos of her (come to think of it I only ever had just the one – a Year 10 school head ‘n shoulders shot enclosed in a plastic keyring case) long since lost to time, the closest resemblance I can lay my hands now on is an early-nineties version of Britney Spears.
Memory tells me Caroline was even better, cuter looking than Britney (she used to wear her hair in ‘Heidi’ style plaits as well). But at the risk of sounding like a cheap – or not so cheap – novels’ unreliable narrator I’ll refrain from saying that. But maybe not thinking that.
Caroline’s best friend was another girl named Caroline. Caroline Rogers. She was blonde and stunning too – kind of a Jessica Simpson clone. If anyone remembers her. Word back in the day was the two of them used to walk past building sites together and attract a chorus of wolf-whistles. Construction workers have long since been forced to clean up their act so that could never happen these days.
I remember one Friday afternoon after school a group of us gathered together at The Pancake Manor in Charlotte Street the City. With plastic menu in hand I found myself sitting in a leather-clad booth sandwiched between the double-act cascade of loveliness that was the bff Carolines. I was a bee nestled in-between honeycomb either side; a kid in a candy shop; Jack on the bow of the TITANIC shouting “I’m King of the Worrrrrrrld!” What’s for sure is that day had beauty to burn.
My Caroline was fully two to three inches taller than me. The height difference just seemed to underline my view of her as half-god to my mortal. Seated, that contrast disappeared. One such occasion of extended sitting occurred when we went to see the Brooke Shields teen-romance movie ENDLESS LOVE (1981) together.
Don’t remember much of the film but I do remember caressing the entirely lovely shape of her earlobes and of course… our kissing. Our weightless, time-stands-still, heart goes ‘whomp’, non-stop kissing. Teenagers in general deserve praise on this front. On the kissing love-0-meter scale they can more often than not rate a ten. They leave the majority of adults, who’ve long since progressed their attention to other items on the menu, a lot of the time completely and unequivocally for dead.
I had the Diana Ross/Lionel Richie duet from ENDLESS LOVE going through my head the entire time I was typing those words so may as well drop it in here below. That’s a very young Tom Cruise btw glimpsed at the 1 minute 35 second mark.
Precious memories – the title of one of my favourite 1980’s Bob Dylan songs btw – from this magical five months of my life come as spring blooms, only ever needing an invitation from the sun. I can see them, feel them now, as if I were back in that time. I remember Caroline’s voice on the phone to me the first time she told me she loved me. I remember asking her to say it again because hearing those words made me feel so wonderful.
I remember all the charming, funny and sincere love letters Caroline wrote me, signed with ‘Love Forever’ back in a time when the word ‘forever’ was imbued with meaning and belief by the both of us. I can even still see the different types of stationary they came written on.
I remember the school dances we attended together. Better still I remember some of the secret moonlit spots we found ‘out the back’ amongst the shadows to cuddle and kiss – and sometimes a bit more. I remember her whispering in my ear at the High School Prom that year “other people say we look great together”. And I remember the day we arranged to meet at lunchtime outside her school gates.
It was about a 1.5km walk from my school to hers. When I got there, with a busy road separating us, instead of seeing her across the lanes of cars I was greeted by two of her friends. We communicated via hand signals and raised voices across the din of traffic. They explained that something had happened that day and the girl of my dreams wasn’t able to meet me.
What I did next is as clear in my mind as if it happened five minutes ago. I felt in my pocket and found that, handily, I happened to have a packet of the then iconic Hubba Bubba bubble gum on my person. I lobbed it with my best throw over the lanes of traffic to the dutiful messengers. They picked it up where it landed on the concrete on their side and indicated they’d heard me when I shouted over the traffic noise “Give it to her”.
A few days later Carolyn wrote in a letter to me how she loved receiving that gum. Reading that would have had me ringing like a happy bell. Some memories are as clear as color prints. The irony is they’re alive and dead simultaneously.
The final memory fanning the flames of yesteryear concerns money. Not spending it but inscribing it. At some stage in our relationship I must have latched onto the idea I needed to announce our love for each other to the world. What better way to do that, my fifteen-year-old brain reasoned, then to write on every banknote that crossed my path the love-code letters GD4CB.
Back then you could do that as Australian money notes were made of paper. I mostly confined myself to $1 and $2 notes, ’cause that was the currency I chiefly dealt with in those days. I think I even continued for a while after things faded away and Carolyn and I went our separate ways. When the $1 note got withdrawn from circulation three years later in 1984, all my ‘engraving’ work went with it. In 1988 the $2 note got killed off as well, and that was that.
Silly, eh? Sure, but it’s the sort of harmless, innocent and well-meaning-at-the-time thing you can look back on with a laugh. A lot of laughs. These days, getting a tattoo of your current flame’s name only to be stuck with a permanent reminder of it after things go belly-up and splitsville is a whole ‘nother level of silly. I think we can agree on that.
First times for anything are always memorable. First loves supremely so. But am I right to look back on this as the happiest time of my life? It’s tempting to. Yet in a way that seems almost disrespectful to the countless other joyous times enjoyed from all facets of life both before and since; not to mention the other enchanting love affairs as well as life milestones like marriage and starting your own family that the woven tapestry of a person’s life will come to be made up of over the passage of time.
What I will say is if I could magically transport myself back in a time machine and relive any five month period of my life, this five months would most likely find itself first pick. Most likely? Pfffft! Who am I kidding? Without a micro-seconds hesitation, it WOULD be first pick.
This beguiling chapter in my life was so relatively short it was able to be perfect. There were no arguments – no struggles – no responsibilities. It was pure and undiluted, before the concerns of the adult world were allowed to take hold. Nothing can ever compare. And so nothing should be compared.
In at least a few ways I can look back and say I was never more alive – if ‘alive’ means the ability to feel. For a brief time I had the type of self-belief and certainty that can lead armies into battle. I felt super-charged and wonderful. It was all so long ago.
Some time after high school ended I got word that Caroline had ended up becoming a nurse. I was never able to find out for certain. I tried a few years back to make contact with her again via an ex-student’s organisation on Facebook attached to her old school. I never heard anything back.
For someone so resplendent, so golden, so…lovable as her back in the day, you can know with the certainty of a sage I would have been just one of a long, long list of suitors. I’ll admit there’s a chance today Caroline may not even remember my name. That’s ok. I can remember our time together back then enough for the both of us.