The Last Time I Saw Marty
By Marge Roth
The last time I saw Marty I didn’t think he looked well – a little pale, a little pudgy. But he was his same sweet self. Our periodic reunions were always special, illuminated by warmth from the past, and unfulfilled connections we didn’t really understand.
Our earlier lives together, shared with many others were conjoined in Brooklyn– Flatbush to be exact. We attended the same grammar school, P.S. 197, and were in the same class. My memory of Marty is very distinct in the 4th and 5th grades – perhaps even a while longer. He lived in one direction from the school, I in another. Our connections seemed to follow geography. And of course we were in class together seven hours a day.
There was something different about Marty, from the other boys and even from the rest of us. I attributed this to a feeling I had that he had responsibilities. Maybe for his younger sister and brother, maybe somehow at home. So while he could horse around with his friends, for me there was always a sense that he needed to get home to his responsibilities. Which it was clear he took seriously.
I always felt a tug of sympathy for Marty and sensed some sadness in his soul. I was involved with my own friends, and was linked with Kenneth Koboslay who was a much different kind of personality. Not without some underlying pain
as Marty had – something that always attracted me – But more flashy and conspicuous, with a sharp artistic talent that made him stand out. Marty didn’t have flash; he had solidity.
But, as I was saying, Marty was just kind of there until…. It was the last day of school before summer vacation – I think 4th or 5th grade – when he rapidly approached me as we were leaving the building and said “Can I write to you this summer? Would that be alright?” I was surprised and somewhat taken aback by this expression of interest. And I said of course, or some form of assent. He recorded my address and said that he would write. I understood that he would be at home and around in the summer. My surprise at this request had a tinge of excitement in it. I was flattered, intrigued and perhaps somewhat mystified that I was on his mind and had no awareness of it.
The summer proceeded as usual – going to camp, going to the beach, reading and hanging out with friends. But in the back of my mind was Marty. I never received a letter from him. I don’t remember checking the mail. But I was aware of our exchange on the last day of school and I was a little puzzled and a little hurt that I did not hear from him.
When school resumed in the fall Marty seemed more subdued. He came up to me early on the first day and apologized for not writing. He made some reference to the quality of his summer as not making it possible. Even then I was impressed, both by his asking to write to me and then apologizing. I would never have done this; I was too busy hiding my feelings even from myself. I brushed off his apology and never asked anything about him or his summer or anything. I just went off with my friends. Later, his best friend, who seemed to be privy to what had happened, told me that Marty’s mother had died that summer .
Marty and I remained bonded as a result of this experience. When our paths crossed there was always a special connection, as though we were picking up our old incomplete interaction. He acknowledged this many years later, when I was back in Stamford Connecticut visiting my sister. He heard I was there and stopped by. By then he had been a physician for some years with a busy practice in Stamford, a wife and 3 boys. And I lived in California with my husband and two children. He said to me, ”Life is so strange – from where we started out, and here we are. And I’m the person who signed both your parents death certificates.”