It’s Just A Life.5

This is a repost, but only because it happens to be chapter 5. Well, it also happens to be one of my personal favorites.

 

5. She Became A Nun

I met Delphine the summer before I started at Hill Junior High School, the second middle school I attended in Novato. I fell in love with Delphine instantly. Now don’t get all worked up that a gay boy (which I very much was) could fall in love with a girl, it certainly wasn’t the last time.

This was in a phase in our lives that was almost pre-sexual, if such a thing exists. I know children are sexual beings, but that doesn’t mean they have the urges to explore it constantly. I just didn’t think in those terms with Delphine. I knew what I was, but really didn’t quite know what I was going to do. Delphine was like a young elf princess. But not the shrinking violet kind, the don’t cross me or your life will suck for a very long while kind, and besides, I genuinely liked girls. I don’t think puppy love is right for how I felt, and still feel to some extent to this day. I’d say love at first sight, in a chaste sort of way.

I wish I could remember how we met. She lived with her grandparents in the same apartment complex that my mother and I lived in. Delphine’s mother was absent, and strange. I only met her once, and the only thing I recall from meeting her was how alike she and Delphine looked, as if she were a clone, and the father she never talked about, literally didn’t exist. I don’t remember a single word spoken about her father. Delphine and I became friends very quickly. Unfortunately, her grandparents hated me, well more accurately, they seemed to hate everybody.

She and I often played word games or practiced dancing. This was the peak of the disco era, which may just be one of the gayest eras, I couldn’t miss out on that! Mostly we just hung out and played stupid teenage flirty games. Her grandparents wouldn’t allow her to see me, and she could never let them know we hung out together. It was like forbidden love. High drama!

When school started we were practically inseparable. And then one day, I honestly can’t remember when it happened, she stopped talking to me. No explanation, just done. I think our relationship scared her; she was scared by what she thought I wanted, something I believe she couldn’t reciprocate. It still makes me sad to remember those first days.

It seemed that she changed overnight. She dressed like a completely different person, the catholic school girl was gone (yes she had been), and the tom boy rock chick emerged! She went from playing bass clarinet, and Cello, to playing base guitar, and not only would she not hang out with me any longer, she shunned me completely. I remember being desolate for days. My mother, in desperation I assume, gave me a small dish garden of hers to give to Delphine as a peace offering. I honestly just wanted to be her friend. I had no desire for more, and I had sensed for some time that she didn’t either. Not because she wasn’t attracted to me, but because she wasn’t attracted to men. But I think I scared her away. Trying to get her to talk didn’t help. I took the planter to her apartment, and, afraid to be seen by her grandparents, I knocked, and hurried around the corner to listen.

They answered, I heard somebody swear, and shut the door. Damn it all, they hadn’t seen it. I knocked again, and scurried again. Ditto. They completely missed the damn planter sitting right in front of the freakin’ door! I was terrified. Somehow I had ended up playing a stupid game of Knock And Run, and I didn’t even realize it yet. In desperation I went to the door, picked up the dish, and knocked. I stood stalk still. A split second later the door was flung open! As I jumped back a little old man jumped out and yelled “What do you want!?!”

Scared the living shit out of me! It wasn’t until this very moment that I actually clued in to the fact that I was in fact playing Knock And Run. And with the grandparents who hated me for Christ’s sake.

I quickly told him who I was, who the gift was for, and no, I hadn’t seen anyone running away when I arrived. No lie involved! An audience with Delphine was denied in the strongest possible terms, and I was too scared to do anything but scurry away. I barely had a chance to speak to her ever again.

She changed dramatically in almost every way, going from straight A’s, to practically failing. She had confided to me early in our friendship that she wouldn’t answer in class anymore because people thought she was weirdly smart, which of course she was. It was obvious to me that drugs were involved in her transformation, but she never seemed so bad that it was obvious to anybody else. We hung out for part of a day right after school ended. She obviously didn’t really want to be there. It was so uncomfortable.

I spent years searching for her online. I wanted to come out to her, and hoped it would allow me back into her life. I tried early social media sites like classmates.com. I often googled her late at night. I even contemplated joining a “people search” site to see if I could find a number for her. Nothing. When Facebook came into heavy use I knew eventually she would join. Delphine is a rare enough name that I was certain eventually I’d find her. And eventually I did! She was listed (cryptically) as the base-guitar player for a band named The Nuns, under a pseudonym, Delphine Volino (Neid). It didn’t list very much info, but on later research I’ve learned that The Nuns were one of the very first punk bands, originating in San Francisco and Marin. They were extremely important in introducing the punk music scene, and were highly regarded, though not immensely successful. Delphine replaced their former guitarist in 1986, and was described as young and gifted. Delphine would have been 21 at that time, and she was most assuredly gifted. She made me love classical music after I heard her play the cello. Unfortunately, as I learned as I read more, she died of a drug overdose shortly after The Nuns finished recording their album Desperate Children, in 1990. I was shocked, but thought that, though extremely unlikely (young base player, drugs, named Delphine, in Marin County) maybe it wasn’t her. The odds were ridiculous, and it seemed it must be her, but still, there’s always hope. I contacted the only person I could find info on, the lead singer Jennifer Miro. I sent an email asking if she remembered Delphine? Did she know of her history? Was this Delphine the same girl who went to middle school in Novato?

After sending the message I forgot about it. Moved on, wondered occasionally, but only briefly. So months later, when I got a reply, I was dumbfounded. Jennifer’s answer didn’t settle my nerves. Yes, she was sure it was her. She knew her very well, in fact she was looking at a picture of her as she wrote the email, and how she and the whole band missed her every day. I have no proof, but I think she confirmed not only Delphine’s identity, but other questions I had as well. But I still wasn’t really convinced. You can’t think of a friend as dead on circumstantial evidence. Denial and hope are too strong.

And then while researching The Nuns again, I found a video! The only scrap of video ever taped showing Delphine Volino (Neid) performing with The Nuns apparently. After all those years and months, I was now positive it was her. Though the video was black and white and very blurry and grainy, I recognized her body language instantly. Even after all these years I recognized her signature slouch and bounce, a strange bobbing of her head when she played, and a singular focus that seemed to block out the rest of the world at times and playfully laugh at it the next. I cried, finally. In all the years I searched, I always knew I would connect with her again. I grieved for her life and tragic ending, and for the lost chance to tell her how much she meant to me.

It turns out Jennifer Miro’s email would reach me just 7 months before she too would pass away. She died quietly of liver and breast cancer in January of 2012. I don’t know anyone else that would have known Delphine. Our story is finished.

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