I went out on my first date in Memphis when I was fifteen. She was inordinately smart and pretty and her father played guitar in a Stax cover band. We shared the same obscure tastes in music and pop culture. I was putty in her hands, pure and simple.
During the course of our date, we actually had a lot to talk about. Among the topics that came up, was her father’s eccentric band of friends. One gentleman drew this particular observation: “I mean, really…this guy is thirty-six years old and he still collects comic books.” And with that, my comic book collecting died on December 20, 1987. My collecting had started in 1982 with the purchase of this spectacular X-Men comic. I’d bought it at Archie’s Corner Candy & Newsstand. Archie’s is now a fashion optical boutique.
In retrospect, this girl probably did me a favor by scoffing comics. We all know the stereotype of the cryptic, anti-social and intransigently celibate comic book affectionado who lives in his parents’ basement. Happiness in such a confined world is elusive and narrowly defined.
But fast-forward another fifteen years: my parents were finally moving from Memphis. My wife and I were down for a visit from New York and had just found out that we were expecting a baby boy.
Knowing of the pending move, I threw out a lot of junk that had been in my closet. And then I came across two shoe boxes. The first was a Nike box filled with my old comic books and baseball cards. I quickly bound this up and stashed it in my suitcase to take back to New York.
The second shoebox was smaller and filled with letters, real letters written by hand from a time when such things were done. Most of these letters were from that girl, the one who’d been my first date, the one I’d date on and off through high school into college. I opened one or two and re-read them but then had to stop.
By the end of college we’d grown up to become different people and stopped loving each other even though we thought such a thing would never be possible. Reading those letters felt like peering into the lives of two unknown strangers who felt things so urgently and blindly. I discarded this box. Upon the dumpster’s slam, I felt like a criminal who’d just shed the shackles of incriminating evidence.
The box of comics and baseball cards is still here though. I’m looking at it right now.