terrorist romance: covert love operation.
from page 1)
Then things started happening. The
first note was discovered every few days and the crush would
read them to her friend the statuesque Greek girl with lifetime
straight As. Then one day, a buzz developed around her as
she found a second note. A circle formed around my targets
desk one afternoon and the unthinkable out-loud reading of
a note took place.
John Dugan of the Red Brigades
They were mystified, mesmerized, utterly
confused. Luckily, I was probably the only one in the class
with the vocabulary of propaganda, communist rhetoric and
anti-imperial bombast to translate this stuff I was writing
so the notes were even more mysterious and bizarre to everyone
else including the Tolkein freaks and the fourth grader who
studied high-school German. The notes included maps, things
I cut out of magazines, references to places and people that
were utterly impenetrable. My crushs divorced parents
were a doctor and lawyer, not State Department or Army Intelligence
officers, and she therefore, even more confused. I cant
recall if anyone ever wondered if the notes were real, even if
Id love to believe they did. But as for getting my crushs
attention, intriguing her, my project had done their job.
But I was horrified by the fact that
my crush had made my works of art public so quickly. Then
I very quickly realized that I had set myself up for embarrassment
or the class for massive disappointment or probably both.
Where was this going? I was in a jam. Luckily for me, the
class was unaware of the actual context my covert love operation
was taking place in.
At the same time this was going on,
the real Red Brigades were making headlines in my neighborhood.
US Army Brigadier General James Dozier was kidnapped from
his home in Verona, Italy, on December 17 by an Italian Red
Brigades terrorist cell. An eleven-year-old who sometimes
read the Washington Post I got the story wrong mishearing
an adult conversation between my parents and confusing
it with what was on the news. I somehow decided that Doziers
family lived in my neighborhood, as there were two twin girls
whose father was stationed in Germany at my previous school.
On a daily basis, I tried to imagine the depth of their pain
and suffering even as I continued to type my coded notes,
not realizing that I was in effect siding with enemies of
the state. Dozier was held for forty-five days until Italian
special forces rescued him on January 26, 1982.
In contrast, my scheme ended so uneventfully that I cant
remember the details except that it all went down just after
a final note was discovered in the desk. I revealed my identity
to my potential significant other and a few others with the
expectation of facing a kind of elementary school firing squad
reserved for total nerds, like dodge ball or smear-the-queer
targeted at me. She reacted instead with a kind of theatrical
disgust that neither hurt my feelings nor made me regret my
enterprise. In retrospect, I think she might have even been
flattered. The kids in the class had forgotten about the whole
thing by the next day. Either that, or they just chalked it
up as a minor eccentricity in a class of hyper-intelligent
and somewhat hyperactive grade schoolers. Life went on. I
played soccer, got decent grades, studied the Samurai, bought
books at the mall with illustrations of the worlds combat
aircraft and learned how to draw naked women from borrowing
my buddys Playboys.
The bittersweet epilogue to the story
has nothing to with violent terrorist groups with great style
but a little bit to do with the Violent Femmes. The scene
is the break just after Gang of Fours set at a free
outdoor musical festival in a grassy field of Northern Virginia.
Back from college and basically single (okay just plain 19
lonely and desperate), I was having little luck searching
the crowd for familiar faces and whomever I had come to the
gig with I had basically ditched for what reason I cant
remember, probably because they reminded me of high school.
As my eyes searched the crowd, they suddenly stopped on a
face that I had studied in the school yearbook under more
than one nightlight. Memories of playground courtship came
flooding back to me. We chatted, made plans for the weekend
and paled around for the rest of that summer of 91.
Over the next couple years had one of those mythical platonic
relationships that dont come around too often. Of course
thats only because I completely lacked the will or the
interest to go any further with the relationship. My grade
school crush had grown into a bright, together, kinda foxy
young woman and in turn had (in the fashion of unattainable
80s teen movie crushes) fallen hard for me over the
summer, perhaps because I so clearly was not trying to get
laid as we saw movies, ate ice cream and shed the baggage
of our last dating train wrecks. I had taken a hostage and
had not even typed a note or demanded ransom. But with many
hours between our Midwestern liberal arts colleges (rather
like the distance between Moscow and Rome) and no car I couldnt
see committing myself to her or even keeping things up to
that level of giddy summer of the Las intensity. The
girl I had wanted to draw into serpentine international intrigue
a decade before was ready for something real and I couldnt
get over the weirdness of it all even as that boyhood dream
was now easily within my grasp. Gradually we fell out of touch
but neither of us, to my knowledge has mailed a letter bomb
or kidnapped a member of the military.
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