The first of two parts.
I can count on one hand the great loves of my life, and the one I
count on my little finger is a tall, brown-haired girl named Aubrey.
Aubrey and I were 14 when we met. She was the first big crush of
my life, and my first girlfriend. And it would have been among my
happiest childhood memories were it not for the fact Aubrey turned
out to be a Nazi.
OK, she wasn’t a real, swastika-wearing Nazi -- more a Nazi
sympathizer. She didn’t goose-step around campus or wear brown shirts
and boots or anything like that. Instead, she wore the same peasant
blouse and bell-bottom jeans that were popular then. She had the same
feathered, Farrah Fawcett hair as did all the girls at my school. In
fact, if you squinted your eyes just right, she looked just like
Farrah, or so I tried to convince my friends at the time.
So far as I could tell, the only thing that really stood her apart
from all the other girls was the way she carried herself when she
walked -- perfectly straight, chin up high, as though she’d spent
hours walking with a book on her head or carrying a torch in some
But I never suspected her of being a fascist. I just thought she
had great posture.
I fell for Aubrey the first time I laid eyes on her, which was as
she walked to school one morning and crossed the path of my friend
Buck and I. I immediately turned to my friend Buck and said, “She’s
the one -- she’s the girl for me.”
But for all my outward confidence, I almost passed out from shock
the day I asked her out and she accepted. Not sure what actually
constituted a date, I took her to our school’s big annual talent
show. Somewhere between Judy Rincon doing the hustle and David Perez
crooning “Three Times a Lady,” Aubrey and I started holding hands.
After that, we were inseparable. We walked to school together and
waited for each other after class to walk home. We went to the movies
and to football games and kissed behind the P.E. bleachers. We talked
for hours on the phone every night, or mostly I talked, about all the
places in the world I wanted to take her. Aubrey was a great
As I said, it would have been perfect, but it all came crashing
down when I called her one night to tell her about a show I had just
seen on TV. The miniseries “Holocaust” was airing for the first time,
chronicling the story of a doomed European Jewish family during World
War II. We had studied the Holocaust in school, but the film brought
the catastrophe into my living room, made me realize for the first
time that these were real people who perished, not just faceless
figures in a history book. I asked Aubrey if she wanted to come over
the next night to catch the second episode with me.
“No, I don’t believe in that stuff,” she replied.
“What do you mean, you don’t believe in it?”
“I mean I don’t think it happened,” she said matter-of-factly. “I
mean, sure, some Jews were killed, but not so many as they say. And
the ones that were killed probably had it coming.”
Having grown up in a heavily Latino city, among people who
suffered daily from racism in their lives, I had never heard such
words spoken. “How can you say that?” I shouted, suddenly very upset.
“Millions were killed -- women, children, old people.”
Aubrey was silent for a long moment, and I began to think that
maybe she was just putting me on, when she said, “Well, they had to
kill a few good people to get all the bad ones.”
Her words knocked the wind out me. My mouth worked, but nothing
came out of it. “I ... I ... look, I’ll talk to you later,” I said
finally, and hung up.
The next day, I met Aubrey after class and walked her home in
silence. The words she had said the night before played over and over
in my mind, but I figured if we didn’t talk about it, I might forget
them, or she would come to her senses. I sometimes catch myself doing
this with the racists I come across today.
Aubrey and her parents lived on the second floor of a duplex not
far from my house. I had already met her parents, Susan and Al, and
they had seemed like nice enough people. But when Aubrey invited me
upstairs, I hesitated. What if the way her parents had acted before
had been just that, an act, and now they were all dressed like storm
troopers and had a big bonfire going? OK, you’re being stupid, I told
myself, and followed Aubrey upstairs.
Susan and Al were sitting on a couch in the living room, listening
to Merle Haggard on the stereo. “Hi, Dave,” Susan said. “Sit down,
sit down. Take a load off.” Aubrey and I sat on the loveseat across
from them. Her mother asked us about our day and we chatted for
awhile. I was so nervous I began to sweat.
“Aubrey told us what you talked about last night, Dave,” Susan
said. “Look, Aubrey really likes you ...”
“Mom!” Aubrey wailed.
“Shush. Look, Dave, if you’re going to be spending time with our
daughter, we think we should get a few things out on the table right
Susan then told me about how difficult it had been for the family
to move to a town where everyone was so blind to the truth. It was
especially hard for Aubrey, Susan said, because she had to sit in
class while her so-called educators tried to fill her head up with
lies. But fortunately, Aubrey had family who refused to allow her to
grow up with her eyes closed.
Susan then proceed to tell me all about the Big Jewish Conspiracy.
I’ve heard this anti-Semitic garbage several times since, but I had
never heard it before, and as I sat and listened my heart grew
heavier and heavier in my chest. The conspiracy, Susan said, was an
elaborate, multi-tentacled affair that had started before the birth
of Jesus and continued up through to present times. It somehow
controlled the White House, the civil-rights movement and NBC, jumped
the Atlantic to include Buckingham Palace and the Vatican, snaked its
way east to dominate the Soviet Union and China, then jumped back
across the ocean to pull the strings of all the financiers on Wall
Somehow, Susan insisted, the entire conspiracy was controlled by a
roomful of rabbis and the loan officer at the local Bank of America.
All the while she was speaking, Al kept nodding his said and saying
things like, “Yep” and “That’s right.”
I left the house two hours later in a daze. I felt like my ears
were bleeding. How could this be? How could someone as sweet and
pretty as Aubrey come from a family like that? I knew I had to break
up with Aubrey immediately. But ... but ... that hair! Those eyes!
That great posture! How could I dump Aubrey?
I couldn’t, was my heart’s answer. I decided that the best thing
to do was to stay with Aubrey and somehow convince her that her views
were all wrong. How would I do this? With the power of love.
I had recently seen the TV movie, “Summer of My German Soldier,”
in which Kristy McNichol meets German POW Bruce Davison while he’s on
work detail in a small Southern town. Her love manages to convince
the Nazi of the error of his ways. That’s what I’ll do, I told
myself. I’ll change Aubrey’s heart with the power of my love.
But it was perhaps because of that love that I had forgotten
“Summer of My German Soldier” ended with Davison being chased down
and killed by an enraged Southern mob.
Next week: Kristy McNichol and the fall of Berlin.
* DAVID SILVA is an editor with Times Community News. He can be
reached at (909) 484-7019, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.