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“I Love You . . . I Never Want To See You Again”—Connie Francis

As I leaned toward the mirror, brushing on a new pale pink lipstick, I could see the reflection of a girl in a plaid skirt flipping through a movie magazine while she waited for her hair to dry. She was tiny, like me, and just about my age, around twenty. When she looked up, even though we didn’t know each other, we smiled.

“Say,” she shouted—and I remember thinking how funny it is how when your head’s in the dryer and you can’t hear, you think you have to shout. “Say, have you seen this story on that new singer, Tommy———Isn’t he the greatest!”

My hand shook for just a second when I heard his name again. I nodded at the girl to let her know I agreed. Then I found a tissue to wipe off the lipstick where I’d smeared the outline when she startled me. I dabbed at my nose with a puff, threw my makeup kit in my bag and picked up my coat. I didn’t realize that I was almost running till I heard the girl at the cash register call out after me.

“Say, Connie, what’s your hurry?” she teased. “Don’t you want to pay your bill first?”

“Sorry,” I said. “I just realized how late . . . Here you are.” I didn’t even bother to put the change in my wallet. I just jammed it into my purse and walked out quickly. It took me almost three blocks to realize that I had no reason to hurry . . . that I had almost an hour before my father was to meet me and drive me home to Belleville, New Jersey. There was a Walgreen’s drug store on the corner and I turned into it.

I sat there, my elbow propped up on the lunch counter, not drinking the coffee I’d ordered, just trying to understand how, after all this time, just the sudden mention of his name could make my heart go flip-flop. I wondered if all your life that’s the way you feel when someone mentions the name of the first boy you love.

Tommy’s not his real name, of course. I call him that cause he’s a famous singer today and you’d recognize his real name. But he wasn’t famous that day we first met two years ago . . .

I didn’t like him that day. My manager, Mr. Scheck, and I had an appointment with Tommy to listen to some songs he’d written. When I got to the office, my manager led me into the bare rehearsal room where Tommy’s partner was seated at the scarred upright piano and Tommy was slouched on a wooden folding chair with his feet propped up on the only other chair there. He didn’t get up. He just raised his hand, moved his palm around in a slow circle and said, “Greetings. You’re late!” But as they played the first song, I watched him and I thought, “He’d be nice-looking if he wouldn’t scowl.”

The first song wasn’t my style and I said so. Tommy dropped his feet off the chair with a thud and stood up. “C’mon,” he said to his partner. “Let’s go.”

“But don’t you have any other songs?” I asked.

They played three other songs and they were very good.

“Gosh,” I said, “they’re great. They could almost have been written just for me.

“Well they weren’t, doll, they weren’t.”

“I’d like to record them, especially that one you call ‘My First Real Love.’ ”

“Sure you would,” he said. “I’ve heard that before.”

“I’ll set up the recording date,” Mr. Scheck interrupted. “You boys wait here, I’ll be right back.” And he ushered me out of the room. “He’s a very talented boy,” he whispered.

“That’s no excuse,” I answered.

But a week later I saw Tommy again, when he and three of his friends sang along for vocal background when I recorded Tommy’s song. Making a record is like taking a final exam at school. You study and prepare and you do your best—and then you hope you’ll pass. And when it’s over there’s a let-down feeling. Sometimes, if you’re alone, you want to sit down and cry. But this time, I wasn’t alone.

Pushing back the blond hair that kept falling over onto his forehead, Tommy put his arms around my waist and we both jumped up and down in a crazy sort of a jig, laughing. Then Tommy pulled me over to a corner of the room.

“Connie, you’re one of the nicest girls I ever met,” he said quietly. “I want to thank you for giving me so much help. I hope you’ll forgive me. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” I told him. “I know you didn’t mean it. I . . . I wonder if you and your friends would like to come to a party I’m giving next week?”

“Sure,” he said. “Thanks.”

In the short week till my party, Tommy had been on a roller coaster. One of the big record companies had given him a contract and he’d sung on the most popular musical show on television. In that crazy week, he’d even found time to make a record, and he brought me a copy of it when he came to the party. I put it on the top of the panel I’d stacked next to the phonograph in the pine-paneled den.

Then, busy passing the Cokes and a cheese-dip for the potato chips, I heard someone start the phonograph and it was Tommy’s record. I wanted to dance it with him, but a boy I’d dated—when I was a senior at Belleville High and my father let me begin going out on dates—asked me before I had a chance to look around and find Tommy. It was eleven-thirty before I realized that I hadn’t seen him all night. He wasn’t there in the den, but when I went upstairs to look, I spotted him through the open kitchen door, leaning across our new gray formica table, talking away with his friends. But my father saw him first.

“Aren’t you boys having a good time?” he asked. “Why don’t you go down to the den and dance?”

“We’re busy talking,” Tommy snapped, twisting around in his chair.

I walked back to my party and started picking up the used paper cups, just for something to do. About fifteen minutes later, Tommy appeared.

“Well,” I said, “don’t you dance?”

“When a gentleman wants to dance,” he said, screwing up one eye to hold an invisible monocle and bowing from his waist, “he does the asking.”

My anger fled when he put his arm around me and we danced out to the center of the room. We glided slowly around the room and I felt Tommy’s hand tighten at my waist as I closed my eyes and hummed along with the record, “The Nearness of You.” When the record was almost over, Tommy danced over near the phonograph, picked up the needle and put it back at the beginning. I opened my eyes and smiled at him. He is good-looking, I thought, and I even liked the way one eyebrow always seemed to be raised in a question. Then suddenly, in a hoarse voice, I heard him whisper, “I love you, Connie.”

And I was so startled I stopped dancing, stepping on his toes till I was able to find the beat of the music again.

“We just met,” I protested. “You just mean you like me. You can’t mean what you said . . . You shouldn’t say that to me.

“Well, it’s true,” he said, “so believe what you will.”

And then another boy cut in before I could say no to him and over his shoulder I saw Tommy leave.

After that, I saw him almost every day. We’d meet at my manager’s office and then we’d sit for hours in a drug store, drinking hot chocolate and talking. But we never talked about what Tommy had told me at my party.

Some days, my father would come into Manhattan with me, and on those days I’d see Tommy at the office but I’d always have to go straight home with my father. I knew he didn’t like Tommy, that he thought he was too flip, too “show business.” Even though my father had taught me music—he’d really guided my career ever since I was twelve and I won first prize on Arthur Godfrey’s “Talent Scouts”—Dad has never really felt at home with “show people.” But he didn’t say too much until one Saturday night about a month later, when Tommy and I were going to a party in Newark.

“A nice boy doesn’t come late to take a girl to a party,” my father began when the clock on the walnut sideboard showed eight and Tommy was already an hour late.

“It’s snowing,” I said, “and traffic’s probably all tied up at the tunnel.”

“If the weather’s that bad,” he answered, “it might be better if you didn’t go out—especially with that boy.”

At nine o’clock, Tommy still hadn’t come. At ten o’clock, we heard a loud chugging noise outside and I ran to the window again. A battered, gasping Chevy pulled up before the house and Tommy ran out. I opened the front door.

“I’m sorry,” he said breathlessly. “The traffic . . .” I heard a door slam and I knew my father had stalked off to the den.

I noticed Tommy’s wet shoes were making a puddle on the carpet as my mother began, “Connie, I don’t think you should go out in this weather in that old car. . .”

She started to protest again but I edged Tommy toward the door before she could. “All right,” she called after us, “but be careful. And be home by one o’clock.”

Usually, it takes thirty minutes to get from my house to Newark, but that night it took us an hour and a half. We stayed at the party less than an hour, so we could get home on time. But the return trip took even longer, two hours, and even with what happened afterward I still think it was the most beautiful time in my life.

We didn’t talk much. Tommy’s eyes were riveted on the road as he tried to spot the dangerous patches of ice. He drove slowly, and I sat quietly at his side, but not close enough so that our shoulders touched. A great white silence seemed to be heaped up on the streets as we drove through them. The moon glowed white in a starless sky and the streetlights were just pale sentinels before buildings that had lost their outlines in the snow that continued to fall in slow silent flakes. The branches of the trees, heavy with snow, seemed to be reaching down to us. There were no other cars, no other people . . . just Tommy and me in a brand-new white world.

Then we were driving up a hill and the car stopped for a traffic light. I could almost see the lacy designs on the big snowflakes as they fell slowly before me. And then I said, “Tommy, I think I love you.”

I didn’t turn to see his face. A long minute passed and then I heard him say in a funny hoarse voice, “I always have something to say, but not now . . .” He took my hand and held it tightly in his on the seat between us. “. . . except I love you, Connie.”

I still couldn’t look at him. I watched the traffic light turn green and I heard a screeching noise as Tommy put the car in gear, but we didn’t move. For five minutes, he worried the motor but it was no use. We got out of the car and walked toward the ghostly lights of a bar. It was full of men, and Tommy had me wait just inside the door while he called a cab. We waited, talking about everything except what we’d just said, till finally the yellow cab came and we got into it.

We still sat apart, but Tommy took both my hands in his. “Connie,” he whispered, “you’re so different from anyone I’ve ever known, different from the rough kids on my block, different from the other people in the business. I don’t ever want to hurt you . . . I don’t know why I say those awful things sometimes . . . but I try to be very gentle with you . . . honest, I try.”

He held my hand all the way home . . . he didn’t kiss me. When the cab turned onto my street he squeezed my hand till it hurt and he said, “Let’s get married in 1961. I’ll have a million dollars then and I’ll never have to say ‘sir’ to anyone.”

If Tommy had asked me to marry him on any day during the wonderful months that followed, I’d have done it. Instead, we’d meet at the office and talk for hours. We’d walk one another to appointments, holding hands and dawdling in front of the Fifth Avenue furniture stores. We’d stop someplace for a Coke and doodle “1961” all over the menus. “It’s one day nearer,” I’d whisper and he’d laugh.

“Connie,” he asked me one day, “what do you think we’ll be like when we’re married?”

“The same,” I teased, “only with a dozen kids.”

He grinned and then the grin faded and that crooked eyebrow of his went up even higher than ever. “I don’t think happiness can last, Connie, I really don’t.” He pushed the ice in his glass around with the straw. “People get married and then after a couple of years, maybe the very things they fell in love with start to annoy them and they’re not in love anymore—just married.”

“Oh, no, Tommy, that’s not so. You only think that because that’s what happened to your mother and father. But it doesn’t have to happen to us. Golly, my mother and father have been married for twenty-five years and they’re still in love.”

“Are they?” he asked. “Are they really?”

“Of course they are.”

“Well, then why don’t they understand that we . . .” and he smashed the straw down into his glass.

When summer came, Tommy and I both had to go on tour. We promised we’d write every day, and sometimes he’d write twice a day. Once, he phoned me from out of town. “You didn’t write yesterday,” he said, “and I got such an empty feeling when I went down to the hotel desk. Please, please write.”

But mostly, he didn’t like to call me at home, for fear my father would answer the phone. The tension at home had begun to throb in me like a sick headache and because I always told Tommy everything and wanted to share everything with him, I poured it all out to him the first day we saw each other again.

“This is the first time I ever cared what someone’s parents thought of me,” he said. “Let me go home with you and talk to your father.”

But I wouldn’t let him do that. I was too afraid and I was sure my father wouldn’t listen. “Not yet,” I told him. “Let’s wait. Maybe . . . maybe they’ll get used to the idea.”

But they didn’t. The tension only grew and grew, like the snowbanks that had made a private world for Tommy and me that wonderful white night. I was unhappy for my family. We’d always had such warmth and understanding and happiness. But now there were evenings when I’d run up the carpeted stairs to my room without even saying goodnight to them.

Then one day, my father and I were in Mr. Scheck’s office and Tommy came in. I watched him pause a moment at the door, then take a deep breath and walk over to us. “Hello, Mr. Franconera,” he said, “how are you?” And he held out his hand.

The office was crowded, and since most of the people there knew about me and Tommy, they turned to stare. My father knew they were looking, but he refused to take Tommy’s hand. Finally, Tommy let his hand drop. A flush was spreading over his face, but he tried again. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you, Mr. Franconera. If we could only get to know each other, maybe we’d find. . . .”

“I only want what is best for my little girl,” my father said, putting his arm around my shoulder. “I do not feel that you and she are suited for each other.”

“But if you’d only give me a chance,” Tommy pleaded. “If you’d only try to get to know me . . .”

“I know enough about you.” My father’s voice was loud and distinct. “I know enough about you,” he nodded to a group of young musicians Tommy hung around with, “. . . and your friends.”

“What’s wrong with my friends?” Tommy demanded.

“I don’t want that kind of people hanging around my daughter,” he said. “Why do they wear those beards anyway?”

“Maybe they like goatees,’ Tommy said.

“Why are they hiding their faces?”

“Maybe you’d look better,” Tommy flung back, “if you’d hide your face.” Then he turned and started stamping toward the door. He had his hand on the doorknob when he turned around and stretched out his arm in a pleading gesture to my father. Then his arm dropped. “Oh, what’s the use?” he muttered, slamming the door behind him.

My heart thumped wildly as I turned from the closed door to my father. I stared at him as he said, “I’m going to speak to Mr. Scheck about this. Wait here for me.” But I couldn’t wait. I ran after Tommy, only I couldn’t find him.

I came to the office early the next day, and I learned that Mr. Scheck had talked to Tommy about us. I waited for him in the empty rehearsal room, and when he finally appeared, I called to him softly, “Tommy?”

He came in and closed the door of the rehearsal room. I leaned my head against the shoulder of his gray jacket. “I love you,” he said, so softly that I wonder now if he even meant me to hear it. Then he pushed me away.

“Connie, I don’t want to see you any more.”

“I know what you’re going through, I know how . . .”

“You’re in my way, Connie. I can move faster without you.”

“You don’t know what you’re saying. You’re upset. Let’s wait and . . .”

“No,” he said, “We’re finished.” And he walked out.

I felt numb. The next day when we met again, I saw he wanted to say something to me, but I’d been hurt and that made me walk out of the office. The next time we met he was with his friends and I was rude to him. And then he was rude to me. And we were never alone again. And that was the end of it . . . almost.

. . . Because there in that drug store, perched on a stool and staring at the signs advertising the sandwich specials, I knew I had to think about it, that I had to understand why it happened the way it did.

Now it’s all over. I know it’s all over. I was hurt, but I wouldn’t have missed it. I hope love happens to me again. I hope it happens again soon.





1 Comment
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