THE BOY WITH A COKE – A LOVE STORY

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Sweaty, sultry East Coast summer days drain the soul. They’re God’s sauna.

But so what? My two oldest sisters, Joan and Barbara, were blasting away, hitting teenage forehands on our local public courts at Staples High School in Connecticut. Dripping with sweat, the gleeful duo finally staggered to the sidelines and stumbled into a shack-like snack bar.

Laughing and breathless, Joan, just 17, turned to the soda jerk and blurted, “Please give me a Coke.”

But the young attendant was enticed by the pretty girl who’d come his way.

So he went for it and replied, “Sure, I’d be happy to – if you tell me your name.”

“Why not,” thought my sister, “he’s cute.” “My name’s Joan.”

“Well, Joan, here’s your Coke,” chuckled the boy in his moment of not-so-subtle triumph. The two soon began to chat and flirt as only teens deep in the dog days of summer can. There was a spark – a hint of passion. The window of love opened. One date led to another. For a few years the lovers thrived. But first love can be dicey. And our well-meaning but far-too-invasive father jumped in and laid down the law. “Joan,” he insisted, “you have to make up your mind: marry Bruce or walk.”

So the young couple, brought together by tennis but not ready for commitment, were torn apart by a curious unforced error – an unwanted paternal intervention.

Joan moved on to meet and marry a Greek American who had a considerable forehand which he put to good use to beat many a foe. But decades later, he couldn’t beat cancer, and after 49 years of marriage to my sister he passed away. Joan grieved. Then, months later, she began to rebound and decided to follow her heart. “What the heck,” she murmured, as she mustered her courage to call her old flame – the boy with a Coke.

“Hi, Bruce,” she said, her voice quivering. “This is your old friend Joan.”

Their ancient, long-subdued spark reignited and became a bright flame. It was as if the lovers hadn’t been apart for five decades. Three years later, just a lob or two away from those fateful Staples High School courts, I walked my sister Joan down the aisle at her wedding with Bruce.

It was a cool autumn Saturday. No Cokes were served. No one asked for one.