I would guess that I’m seventeen in the photo, which was taken at my childhood home in Brooklyn.
I thought I’d share some stories about my wing man (see what I did there?) in the photo, Opus, the star of the Bloom County comic strip.
Please tell me you remember Bloom County, Modern Philosophers. It is one of my all-time favorite strips, joining Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Get Fuzzy on my Comic Strip Mount Rushmore.
I thought it was significant that Opus was given to me by the first woman I ever loved, and is currently in the possession of the last woman I loved.
How did Opus come to play such an important role in my love life? I’m not really sure, but I do intend to ramble on about it in this post.
I fell in love for the first time when I was 16. I was a counselor at a sleep away camp in upstate New York, shipped off by an Evil Step Mother who decided that I needed to find a job for the summer.
What I found, instead, was that I was destined to be unlucky in love. Maureen was awesome and I fell for her instantly. She had a liking for me, too, and we became very close. Unfortunately, she was 20.
Don’t worry, Modern Philosophers. Nothing inappropriate ever happened aside from some hand holding. Of course, if we had both been 16, then it would’ve been the perfect first love story.
Maybe my life would be totally different now, but instead, it was the first example of my tendency to fall head over heels in love with the wrong woman.
We stayed in touch once Maureen went back to college and I went back to high school. This was before email, texting, and tweeting, so we communicated via snail mail. I always looked forward to Maureen’s letters, and I’m pretty sure that writing long letters to her was, in my mind at least, my first serious writing job.
I wanted nothing more than to convince her to hold on until I turned 18 and it would be okay for us to be a couple. I’m sure Maureen found it quite adorable that a dorky teenager was in love with her, and she was a sweetheart to never flat out crush my dream.
For my seventeenth birthday, she sent me Opus. She knew I was a huge fan of Bloom County, and I suppose being able to sleep next to Opus was my consolation prize.
Opus survived the moves to NYU, to California, and to Maine. As a flightless waterfowl, it’s not like he could really get very far on his own, so he was pretty much stuck with me.
He ended up on my desk at my current job. I’m not quite sure why I first brought him to work, but he was probably bored sitting home alone at The House on the Hill and pestered me to take him to the office.
Our very first date was on my birthday, and at some point during the evening, we got to talking about how she had made Opus her own. I already knew on that first date that I was falling for her, so I didn’t mind that she was getting comfortable with taking my stuff.
As the date was ending, we exchanged cell numbers as I was off the next day and we wanted to stay in touch since she would be bored without me around the office. At least that was the excuse we used to share our numbers.
One of the first text messages, if not the very first one, I ever received from The Girl Who Stole My Penguin arrived the next morning. It stated that she had convinced her Mom to knit a beanie for Opus to keep his head warm while he was on her desk.
Once I received that text, I knew that this relationship was moving beyond our just being friends and coworkers. Once again, Opus was right in the thick of things.
When it came time for The Girl Who Also Stole My Heart to leave for school, it was a no brainer that Opus would make the journey as well to keep an eye on her for me.
Both women came into my life at the wrong time, but I loved them with all my heart. Clearly, I still love the dimple cheeked brown eyed girl who ran off with my heart and my penguin, but there’s nothing I can do about that right now.
I just hope she is taking good care of Opus. That penguin, like the women I will forever associate with it, holds a very special place in my heart.