• Jeff South

The Countdowns No One Asked For, 1979-80: 80-71

80. "When I'm With You I'm Born Again," Billy Preston & Syreeta

The details of the exact moment I decided to express my feeling for Molly are lost to time. We had a class together, again the exact one has receded into the darkest corners of my memory. I remember she made me laugh and that was enough for me. So, with the encouragement of my best friends, I composed a note in my 7th hour class that expressed my undying affection for her. My words were clumsy attempts to be romantic and poetic, but ended with the key question: will you go with me? Meaning, will you be my girlfriend? I folded that note in such a way (with the help of female classmate) so that Molly would have to pull a tab to open it. The goal was to build anticipation through drama. I slipped Molly (which is different from slipping someone a molly) the note at the end of the day as we all were making our way to our buses. She accepted with a coy grin, boarded her bus, and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with perpetual butterflies in my stomach. Was this love? In retrospect, no. But, I was all in.


79. "Special Lady," Ray, Goodman, & Brown

That night I sat in my room and listened to a K-TEL album of love songs which probably included something like "Special Lady,' by Ray, Goodman, and Brown, and anticipated Molly's response. I hypothesized three potential outcomes. First, The Optimum Result: Molly would enthusiastically agree to be my girlfriend and our romance would be the talk of the malt shop, if kids at our school went to a malt shop. A steady diet of Happy Days reruns informed this longed-for result. The second possibility would be a sheepish Molly handing me a note of her own, a one-page, single-spaced essay celebrating my many positive attributes. 'You're so sweet and cute' would be a possible sentence. The letter would end with an explanation that despite my many wonderful character traits, she could only see me as a friend. Option three would be a restraining order, which, frankly, I would have accepted over just being friends. At least with the restraining order, legally agreed upon boundaries. Too much gray area in just being friends. Clearly, The Optimum Result was what awaited me the next morning. I didn't anticipate a fourth option was on the table.



78. "Romeo's Tune," Steve Forbert

She said yes! Molly greeted me the next morning with a big, warm smile and a note that affirmed her agreement to be my girlfriend. Suddenly, food tasted better. The air smelled sweeter. The birds chirped better than normal. I walked on air from class to class. Kids eagerly approached me in search of confirmation of the hot rumor. "Are you and Molly going together?" "Indeed," I told them. I was in a serious relationship. I probably looked taller to most people. People shook my hand and patted my back. I contemplated the potential hand-holding that was sure to come. What should our first date be? Roller skating, most likely. Perhaps a ball game. No dances were on the horizon. I'd need to get a job to pay for the date. It was all moving so fast, but I was deliriously happy. Then, on the way to the same 7th hour where I wrote my note Molly just 24 hours earlier, I noticed Molly's smiling face coming down the hallway as she talked excitedly with a friend. I lit up, said hello, and she responded with six daggers to my heart.

"Oh, Jeff. I wanna break up."


77. "Hurts So Bad," Linda Ronstadt

I don't remember much of 7th hour. I mostly sat in a silent stupor while a friend tried to help me process what had happened. Had she just broken up with me six hours after agreeing to be my girlfriend? This was not a scenario for which I had a contingency. Surely she was joking, my friend said. Yeah, I thought, that has to be it. Messing with me. She was a character, that Molly. With renewed energy, I left 7th hour to find her before she went home. I found her walking despondent and I asked if she was kidding about breaking up. She flatly said no and kept walking. That was that.


76. "Don't Do Me Like That," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

I told myself I would be fine. That night at home I watched TV and went to bed like any normal end to the day. I didn't feel any different. Sure, I was a little sad. Who wouldn't be? But, I guess I could try out the friends thing. It'd be fine. No worries.


Then, I went to school the next morning, saw Molly, and fell apart. I wept openly through all of first hour while hiding my face behind a textbook. Molly, to her unending credit, tried to comfort me and tell me she didn't mean to hurt me. Looking back, I was being incredibly dramatic about the whole thing and it wasn't fair to her to pull my broken heart out and wave it around for all to see. All in all, I behaved shitty during that first hour and spent the rest of day feeling like an asshole. Molly was (and still is) good people with a heart of gold. A few years later, as seniors, we went on a date to a dance club and had a nice time. We also reconnected at college, too, which was yet another possible scenario my seventh grade brain couldn't have fathomed.



75. "Please Don't Go," KC and the Sunshine Band

They used to play this song during couples skates at Skate City and I never understood that. This is a breakup song, right? I got the impression, even at 12 years old, that the guy singing is basically begging his girlfriend not to break up with him. This seemed inappropriate for a couples skate. Whenever it came on, I would forgo asking a girl to skate with me (thus avoiding rejection) and just find someone to play air hockey. Skate City was prominent during my junior high years and was the site of my first kiss. More on that later.


74. "99," Toto

Of all the songs with 99 in their title, this one is my favorite. Yes, "99 Red Balloons" is catchy and fun and "99 Problems" has its virtues, but this is Toto we're talking about. This is the band that had already charted with "Hold the Line" and would soon give us "Rosanna" and "Africa." I don't count Prince's "1999" because that's not specifically the number 99 and he doesn't use shorthand by titling his song "'99." There is a song called "99" by Barns Courtney that is about the year 1999, but I'm not all that familiar with it. I know Green Day has "99 Revolutions" and I dig that one, too, but, again, WE'RE TALKING TOTO HERE! Final thought: I didn't realize there were so many songs with 99 in the title.


73. "I Need A Lover," John Mellencamp

I didn't discover this song until college, which seems crazy because I enjoyed John Mellencamp's music in the 80s. My introduction to him was "Ain't Even Done With The Night" and my personal favorite of his is "Lonely Ol' Night." I guess what I'm saying is, they didn't play "I Need A Lover" at Skate City.



72. "Off the Wall," Michael Jackson

One song they did play at Skate City was "Off the Wall" which was perfect for indulging in some roller boogie. A night at Skate City consisted of dressing just right and making sure I had enough money for concessions and air hockey and pinball. I wasn't as in to the video games as other kids yet. I preferred shooting for the high score on a marble machine or taking out opponents on the air hockey table. My favorite skating activities were limbo and the speed skate. I practiced prat falls by slamming into the wall or flipping over the side rails, but this was frowned upon by management no matter how many laughs that gag got me from cute girls.


71. "Cruel to Be Kind," Nick Lowe

Thumbing through my seventh grade yearbook once more and I came across this inscription:

Jeff,

You're a real sweet kid. Thanks for lending me my lunch money! Some day I'll pay you back!

Best Wishes,

Kim


First of all, 'you're a real sweet kid.' What is this? Casablanca? We were the same age! Second, Kim, who conveniently left off her last name, never paid me back. I've done the math and, assuming lunches back then cost a dollar, at a 3% daily interest rate over the course of 40 years, I estimate you owe me approximately $180. Also, I had to drop economics in college because I was flunking, so my calculations could be off.





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