I’ve recently listened to Journey’s Greatest Hits as part of my Every Album Challenge. While listening to the record, the mega hit “Open Arms” came on (as should be expected on their greatest hits album). The song got me thinking, reminiscing, and memory-laning of a girl I once knew many years ago. Dena. For a while, she was my best friend, she was in love with me, and I was an idiot.
During my senior year of high school, Dena and I were practically inseparable. I enjoyed her company as she did mine, but she had a major crush on me. I was just too stupid to notice. While struggling through my senior year, I dated a couple of girls, but Dena was never far away from me.
In the beginning she never flat out told me that she was in love with me or that she wanted to take our friendship to the next level. She did, however, leave me several clues that I was clueless to recognize. One day, she handed me a mix tape---first sign indicator. The mix tape was delivered with a track listing and a note.
Side one of the mix tape was Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, which is an album that I had mentioned to Dena I wanted. She was kind enough to record a copy for me. I guess that was our version of Napster back in the day, borrowing tapes from friends. Side two, however, was the important side. It contained carefully hand selected songs from Dena to me. Second sign indicator.
Now, I don’t know how many of you enjoy Mike Oldfield’s music. I had never heard of him before Dena. His biggest hit was “Tubular Bells,” the creepy music used in the 1973 horror film, The Exorcist. On the mix tape was a Mike Oldfield song, “Islands.” The song is amazing, but it also had a secret meaning. The chorus of the song goes something like this:
“We are islands, never to part, we are islands. And I need your love tonight, yes; I need your love tonight.” – Third sign indicator.
Another track on the mix tape was Journey’s “Open Arms.” The song was specifically mentioned in the note Dena had written me. I don’t remember the exact contents of the note, but I know the closing line was “think of me when you play “Open Arms.” Hit me over the head indicator.
I don’t know why I didn’t read more into the songs. I don’t know why I didn’t ask Dena on a date. I don’t know why I didn’t try to move our friendship to the next level. I was always attracted to Dena, she was a beautiful girl. We got along well, we would have made a great couple, and most people in our high school thought we were dating anyway. As I stated, teenage boys are idiots, and sometimes, I was their leader. The king of all idiots would have been a good title for me.
Shortly after the mix tape display, I proclaimed that I was giving up on women forever because all they do is hurt me. I don’t exactly remember why. Either my ex-girlfriend was playing mind games with me, or a girl that I really liked didn’t reciprocate her feelings. Kid stuff, really, but that was to be expected at 17. Well, when Dena heard me say that, she stormed out of the lunch room in anger. I was befuddled (because teenage boys are idiots) and didn’t understand what Dena was so upset about. I found out later that day in the form of a note.
Dena delivered a note to me prior to one of my afternoon classes and after reading it, everything clicked into place. In the note, she told me that I had hurt her with my statement of giving up on women. She couldn’t believe that I didn’t realize how I felt about her and that I needed to get a grip on reality (or something to that effect). Basically, she told me to piss off (but with much harsher language).
I’d like to tell you that I ran to her after class, swept her off her feet, and asked her on a date. However, I can’t tell you that, because I didn’t. Instead, I got angry. I was mad that she scolded me in a letter. Instead of a romantic embrace that day, we had a not so romantic argument. That led to us not speaking to one another --- for a while. After that, our relationship pretty much went downhill. After high school, I never saw Dena again.
I still think about her from time to time, especially when I hear “Open Arms,” Mike Oldfield, or Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. I tried to look her up on occasion, but Dena was nowhere to be found. She hasn’t become a Facebook member, and Google stalking searches have yielded no results. Perhaps one day, maybe even at my upcoming high school reunion, we will run into each other. And maybe I will tell her how stupid I was. Even though I am a happily married man, I sometimes wonder how different life would have been if I had only realized how Dena felt about me and how I felt about her as well.
“So here I am, with open arms, hoping you’ll see, what your love means to me…open arms.” Journey