Great Lovers I Have Known I--Gary Mathews II
Gary and I continued dating every weekend for some time until Gary fell hopelessly in love with our neighbor, Janet Bush. Of course, by the expression, "hopelessly in love" we generally mean "googly-eyed" or "puppy-dog-fawning", but Gary was never any of those things with Janet Bush. What it meant to be hopelessly in love with Janet Bush meant that you were in love and it was hopeless. For Gary to have sent her a large piece of butcher paper with a sentiment like "Roses are red violets are blue no matter what happens, I’m crazy for you", would have delighted her immensely. She would have roared for hours and put it on display in her living room, but it is doubtful that she would ever have gone out with him again.
It is fascinating to me that Gary, who always seemed eager to do his duty and get married as quickly as possible, should ever have started dating Janet in the first place. Not that she wasn’t a nice girl and very attractive, but she was also sort of ‘aloof". I came, in my own experience with her to refer to her as ‘the refrigerator", although I hear she has married and I doubt that her husband refers to her as "the refrigerator". She had graduated and was managing a finance company. She was, therefore, a professional woman and she looked and acted the part. For example, she had absolutely perfect posture when she stood (when she sat, at least, when she sat at home she had the posture of a raggedy-ann doll). She was very proud of her work, which often led her into being an absolute Scrooge, when her clients fell behind in their loans. On the other hand, she was very proud of being able to help people who could not get loans from the bank.
She would talk with pride of her helping the Arbizus, for example. I had known Ray Arbizu on my mission. He was the lead tenor for the Opera Company in Boon when I was assigned to work there. He and his wife were an interesting couple. Ray, who was, in appearance at least, a typical lead tenor, i.e. short and very stout, claimed to have been engaged to the absolutely most beautiful girl in the world. She (according to him) had all the curves of Jane Russell and the long blond hair and husky feminine charm of Marilyn Monroe. Anyway, he was engaged to this paragon of feminine beauty and within a few weeks of marrying her, when he decided to take a break from Opera singing and go for a weeks vacation back to the reservation (he was an American Indian). While he was there doing whatever Indians on vacation do on the reservation--I suspect, in his case, singing so everyone else can do the tribal rain dance--at any rate, while he was there he met and fell in love, apparently almost instantly, with a rather plain looking Indian girl and within a couple of days, they were married. It all happened so fast, that he didn’t have time to inform his fiancee that he had tied the knot with someone else. The result was that when he got off the plane in California to return to work, that his fiancee ran up to him and wrapped her voluptuous self around him in an only-to-be-seen-in-Hollywood embrace. When she finally came up for air, he pointed to his wife and introduced her as such leaving the now former fiancee wishing she had not been quite so ardent in her greeting. At any rate, the happy couple proceeded to have a tribe of little Indians that were as wild as anything seen in the movies. The Opera company had provided them with a very large (for Germany at the time) apartment but with hardly any furniture, which was a good thing, because whenever I was there, at least, the kids were all over what furniture there was. Ray had gotten a job teaching opera singing at BYU, but had been unable to get a loan for a house at the bank, so Janet had obligingly provided the ready for that purpose. Because she knew that I knew them she always informed me that they were right up to date on their loans, this being in contrast to her typical story about how she was having to chase after a delinquent client with a few tomahawks of her own.
But I digress, the point was that during his senior year, Gary pursued Janet with all the ardor that his lack of resources and her decided lack of ardor would allow. The latter was, or course, very frustrating for Gary. Probably as frustrating, or even more, was the fact that he perceived (he was always rather perceptive in this way) that I was becoming convinced that since Janet was dragging her feet, it was no doubt due to the fact that she really liked me! Dating Janet Bush may very well have put off Gary’s marriage by a good two years. I can speak thus rather confidently, because dating Janet Bush probably put mine back by at least four.
At the end of his senior year Gary was hired to teach school on a very remote island somewhere off the coast of Alaska--an island inhabited by a few Eskimoes and, during the school year for two years, Gary. The salary for performing this service was one that an MBA graduate would drool over, at least, he would until he found out that everything had to be flown in by hydroplane and that a quart of milk cost about as much as Gary had made in a week spreading butcher paper over banquet tables for BYU food service. He had hoped to save a lot of money but it became pretty clear that unless started shooting his own food (not likely, although he had read innumerable novels in which the hero shot, skinned, and cooked buffalo, they were all a little short on detailed explanation of how-to-actually-do-it) , he was going to have to live on bread and water--and moldy bread, at that.
Well, he actually did save up some money so he returned the next summer and we resumed life where we had left off the previous summer. When he had left he had told me that he expected that I would begin "beating around the bush", meaning, of course, that I would start dating Janet Bush as soon as he left. Which I did. But by the time Gary came back for the summer I had figured out that Janet Bush didn’t like me any better, in fact, probably not as much as Gary so I had given up temporarily. So Gary began dating Janet again, but fairly quickly gave up there himself. He took a couple of classes, but fairly easy ones so he had time to read, which he did with a vengeance. Almost every other day he went off to the city library and came back with 6 to 10 western novels. I suspect that during the course of that summer Gary read (or re-read) every western novel ever written up to that time. I figured out that he was able to read 10 novels in two days because all he had to do was read enough to get the names of the main characters, the location, and whether the plot was plot A, plot B, or plot C. Having read only a couple of Zane Grey westerns myself, I’m not sure whether the plots extend beyond C. The three I read never got beyond A. Of course, western novels are big on the description of the scenery, but I suspect that Gary only had to find out the local and from previous readings, he already knew where all the mountains, rivers, stage coach routes and trees, passes, and big rocks behind which outlaws could hide to rob the stage, so he could skip all that. Of course, we dated on most weekends, but it seemed to me a rather desultory thing, at best, on his part. Toward the end of the summer, I found out why.
It turns out that Gary was smitten, almost from the start of the summer and with increasing intensity with a girl he home-taught named Sharon. Of course, since he home taught her he could not date her, but rather than the traditional once-a-month visit, he dreamed up every excuse imaginable to perform home-teaching duties. Toward the end of the summer he confessed his amour to me and I hit the ceiling. This was, I told him, Janet Bush all over again only worse. Sharon was a prim and proper Easterner, from, as I remember it, of all places, Boston or someplace close to it. She was as different as Gary as Boston is from Tooele, which I pointed out to him. To this he protested that after all, he too was an easterner, having come from Washington D.C. To this I responded that I was convinced that the reason he liked western novels is that the all the gunfire and knives flying through the air in those novels reminded him of home.
Well, at the end of the summer, he returned to Alaska, and Sharon returned to Boston, but before that happened, Gary confessed to Sharon having strong feelings for her--something that, no doubt, came as no big surprise considering the fact that he had been hanging around all summer on the flimmsiest of possible excuses. But he said that he would have dated her had he not been her home teacher. She responded that she liked him too and hoped that he would keep in touch. Well, the bottom line to that story is that he started writing, she responded, then he started calling, so much so that he didn’t make any money that year due to phone calls. What he could possibly have written or said, I have no idea. He must have quoted Longfellow or Tennyson or, possibly, Jane Austen, which certainly would have been a stretch. He obviously had the good sense to avoid quoting Zane Grey or Max Brand, because after a couple of months they got engaged. A few months later they were married.
For my part, I was convinced the marriage would not last a month--they were just too different, but somehow it did. Years later, I was at one of his children’s wedding receptions. I have never known anyone so thoroughly happy with his marriage or the family that resulted from it--the sign in my opinion of a truly Great Lover.