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“The Girl Who Broke My Heart”—Roger Smith

Heidi was her name, and she broke my heart. I guess it was inevitable. I would even venture to say it happens to every fellow at one time or another. It happened to me when I was a junior at the University of Arizona, at Nogales.

To me Heidi was not just a girl. She was a state of mind. A way of life. She was all that I ever dreamed of.

I had often watched her on the campus, but I would have no more dared talk to her than to the president of the United States. It wasn’t just that she was more beautiful than any girl I had ever seen, but because we came from such entirely different backgrounds. Although I had lived in Los Angeles when I was a boy, my family had moved to Nogales when I was about 11 years old. I was strictly “small town”.

On the other hand, Heidi came from one of the better families in southern California. She was well-dressed, social, cosmopolitan. Her picture appeared in the society page. Boys were competing for her favors. She seemed unapproachable. And except for a curious coincidence, I am sure we would never have met.

I attended college on a football scholarship, which meant that in addition to my academic work, I had a lot of practice to do on the field. As a result, I worked late hours and did little dating.

One night I came home about nine o’clock from football practice. As usual, my fraternity brothers already had their supper, except for two other fellows and myself, who were eating by ourselves in the dining room.

I was halfway through my meal when a bunch of Chi Omega girls started to raid my fraternity. Before I knew what was happening, they were running all over the house. Guys were chasing them, the housemother was screaming, the girls giggling. Everything was a helter-skelter of commotion.

Meanwhile I kept eating. I was too tired, too hungry, and too preoccupied to be bothered by what was going on.

But I changed my mind when I saw a girl dash into the kitchen, open one of the drawers, and throw towels, pots and pans, and other utensils out of the window—a piece at a time. I don’t know why it made me so mad, but it really did.

I rushed into the kitchen, grabbed her by the shoulder, and swung her around while I shouted, “Pick all that stuff up again.”

Only then did I recognize Heidi. She looked so beautiful, so collegian, so sorry for what she had done. There was even a trace of fear in her expression that made me feel guilty and awkward.

Like a frightened child she rushed outside and picked up every item she had thrown out, neatly placed them on a tray, and looking up at me, timidly asked, “Is it all right now?”

I smiled benevolently. “It’ll do.”

The moment I turned around to head back to the dining room, she picked up the tray and threw the whole thing at me. Then she ran down the hall.

White with anger I ran after her, swooped her up into my arms, and while she was struggling every step of the way, carried her to one of the showers. “Don’t you dare,” she screamed as I locked her in, turned on the cold water, then leaned against the shower door to keep her from getting out until after I had made her apologize and tell me how sorry she was for all she had done.

When I let her out, dripping wet, her face was flushed with anger. But not for long. She quickly changed her attitude and burst into laughter.

Pacified, I asked if I could walk her back to her sorority.

“Sure,” she smiled.

It was on the way back that I fell in love with her. She looked so helpless, so wet, so lovely. The kind of creature you want to take care of for the rest of your life.

When we got to her door, she offered me her hand and said a sweet, “Goodnight”. But when I turned to leave, she gave me a good swift kick!

I should have had the good sense to recognize what kind of girl she was, but I didn’t. If I had, I’d have saved myself a lot of sleepless nights.

After what had happened, I had even less nerve to ask her for a date than if we’d never met. It was a very unpredictable Heidi who took the initiative now—

One evening, a fraternity brother stormed into my room. “Guess who just dedicated a song to you?” he cried out.

We had a little radio station in Nogales which made a practice of letting college kids dedicate songs to one another.

“I wouldn’t know,” I said honestly.

“Heidi!” he exclaimed.

I was flabbergasted. In fact, I didn’t believe it until hig statement was confirmed by three other fellows.

“Go ahead and ask her for a date,” my roommate urged, knowing darn well how I felt about Heidi.

“I wouldn’t have a chance,” I insisted.

“After she dedicated a song to you? Don’t be silly! Ask her.”

A few days later we had a beer bust at a nearby park. I decided this was the opportunity to find out how Heidi felt about me. When I called for a date, she said she’d love to go out with me.

When I picked her up, she looked so beautiful, so well-dressed, and acted so sophisticated, that I became frightened. I felt quite inadequate in her company. so much so that I hardly dared open my mouth. I didn’t know until later how this impressed her! She thought I was the big, strong, silent type.

If anything, my bashfulness worried her.

“Don’t you like me?” she asked after we’d been together for a couple of hours and I hadn’t said more than a half a dozen words.

“Of course I do,” I assured her.

Later, we were reclining in front of the camp fire. I can still see Heidi, leaning on her elbows, her face cupped in her hands, looking up at me while I was singing to my own guitar accompaniment. Suddenly she put her hand on mine to keep me from playing, and looked up at me.

“Now tell me honestly, Roger, is there anything wrong with me?”

I don’t know what happened, but somehow the guitar slipped out of my hands. Trying to pick it up, I happened to bend down—and our lips met, quite accidentally. Yet she thought it was intentional!

I was so embarrassed that I bolted upright again, and continued my singing as if nothing had happened. She didn’t know I was scared to death. In fact, she later told me she thought it was pretty fantastic how calm and worldly I could be.

Thereafter, every night she dedicated another song to me on our radio station, until the whole campus was conscious of what was happening between us. Or at least what they thought was happening between us.

My own attitude gradually changed. Her pointed affection for me lessened my fear and gave me self-assurance. I was no longer as quiet in her company. I started to assert myself.

And by doing so, I talked myself right out of the girl! If only I had shut-up, the affair might have turned out differently.

I started worrying about her openly. I asked her not to drive so fast. I cautioned her about some of the company she kept. I was concerned about her studies—about every phase of her life. And thus her strong and silent type had changed into just another boy from a middle-class family who had a big crush on her!

The result was that Heidi, who had gone steady with me for several weeks, started dating other boys again. I nearly went out of my mind!

I became so jealous that I couldn’t sleep at night. Sometimes I would follow her around to see whom she was with. Needless to say, this didn’t do me any good. Finally, she refused to go out with me altogether.

I decided to make one final attempt to get back in her good graces. And so I sent her a note pleading, “I’ve got to see you just once more.”

She agreed to go back to the same park with me where we had gone on our first date. Before I could confess my undying love for her, she said matter-of-factly, “I’m sorry, Roger, but I just don’t care for you anymore.”

She was just ready to take off again when a gang of motorcyclists tore into the camp ground—there must have been a dozen college students and their girls there—and started to raid it. They were carrying broken bottles, knives, and other deadly weapons.

All of us, Heidi and myself included, dashed up the mountain to safety, while the cyclists, about 20 of them, made a mess of what we’d left behind—food, clothing, cars, and so forth.

One of my fraternity brothers who had taken a stroll in the park with his girl, ran into one of the fellows when he returned—he didn’t realize there were more—demanded to know what was going on. The next thing he knew was that he was pinned to the ground with the other guys beating the daylight out of him.

My own mind worked feverishly. While I didn’t particularly care for the guy, I saw a chance to promote my own cause. If I helped him, I figured, I might win Heidi’s respect. At this point I was willing to do anything for her, including risking my life, which is exactly what I did.

I ran down the hill and charged the group of boys like a flash of lightning. They made short work of me. I was beaten senseless with rocks and sticks, and broken glass, and someone even managed to give me an eight-inch gash in my scalp.

Fearing they’d killed me when I passed into unconsciousness, the cyclists fled the scene while the fellows and girls from the fraternity and sorority ran toward me. They found me still breathing, and rushed me to the hospital where 15 stitches were taken in my scalp.

I came to again in a hospital bed several hours later, with a terrifying headache. Unknown to me, my exploits had earned me a new nickname—Burt, for Burt Lancaster.

Accounts of my deeds, vastly exaggerated, spread all over the campus. Overnight I had become the new hero. Girls were serenading me from the street below my hospital room. Newspapers carried descriptions of the battle, also exaggerated. My professors congratulated me. Best of all, Heidi came back to her hero. She was so proud of me that when I was released from the hospital and we went for walks, she made me unwrap the bandage from my head so everybody could see the stitches in my scalp.

Unfortunately, the idyllic situation didn’t last. As I grew healthier, interest in me started to sag, and that included Heidi’s. And then I had another accident.

This one was a simple, unglamourous concussion I earned on the football field, which cost me my scholarship, and my girl. By the time I was discharged from the hospital this time, she had lost all interest in me.

But I did benefit from the latest happening in one way. Unable to continue with my football playing, I decided to concentrate on my guitar. I figured that maybe, if my voice was good enough I could serenade myself back into her heart.

It was the beginning of a new career—but it had no affect on Heidi whatsoever. When the semester was over, she returned to Los Angeles to enroll in a different college. Nevertheless, when she said goodbye, we promised to write each other regularly. For the next two months, for every letter she wrote I wrote 20.

Two weeks before school started, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to go to Los Angeles to find out how things were between us. I found out.

I can still see myself ringing her doorbell. Through it I heard her gay laughter. Oh, how I had missed it! Then the door opened and Heidi came out. A surprised look formed on her face as she recognized me. And then I saw the handsome young man, obviously her escort for the night.

“Roger,” she said at last, “I want you to meet John Harrington.”

And to the fellow, “John, this is the boy I told you about, from Nogales.”

Obviously, John couldn’t remember. Then they left me standing, with egg on my face, and some polite excuses why they couldn’t ask me to come along.

I still didn’t have the good sense to head back home. Instead, I came back to her house the following morning, for another heart-to-heart talk.

Heidi insisted that while she still liked me, she felt in no way tied to me. Then she suggested that it might be best not to correspond with each other anymore.

Only three days had elapsed from the time I left Nogales till I returned. Yet I felt ten years older. And I hadn’t improved in that time. I started to have arguments with my father. I picked fights with my fraternity brothers. My grades went downhill. I was pretty well on the way to ruining myself and my education.

My love for Heidi was still too strong to write her off completely. And so, under the pretext of going to California to make my fortune, I quit college and took off to see her again.

I reached Los Angeles with only a few dollars in my pocket. I can still see myself walking into a telephone booth near the bus station, and dialing her home number. I got as far as the second letter, then hung up. I dialed again—and again—and again, but I never finished.

And then I got mad. I wasn’t going to let her get away with it, I told myself. I would show her I was as good as any fellow. I would be a big success someday, and she’d be crawling back to me. It was then that my ambition was born to really make something out of my life.

When I returned to Nogales I didn’t dilly-dally around any more. I went back to school and studied harder than ever before. I looked for an aim in life. At first, it was to become the best guitarist in the world. When I switched to acting, I wanted to become a real professional. And I was willing to make every necessary sacrifice for it.

It seems a typical paradox of life that when I finally started to succeed in what I had set out to accomplish, I was no longer interested in Heidi.

By then I had met and married Victoria Shaw and was perfectly happy with the way things were going.

Yet looking back to those miserable months I spent almost seven years ago, I can’t help but be grateful to the girl who once broke my heart, but at the same time, if indirectly, gave me the ambition I needed to succeed.





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