July 10, 2012

Some Random Memory of a High School Crush (A Writing Exercise)

It’s strange how a word, a picture, a smell, can bring to the front of your mind a memory that had long been filed away. All of us have a novel-worthy story wrapped up in the recesses of our memories, with details, plot lines, and drama that would leave Dickens impressed. Just now I’m reminded of a momentary high school crush, forgotten long ago but apparently forever seared into my memory. Not that my retelling itself would impress Dickens, but the story nonetheless.

Oh, how much I adored her, and how much I wanted to be with her - though I had never left so much as a hint that it was so. Very outgoing, yet terribly shy is the only way to describe me at fourteen. In this case, my crush and I talked all the time since we shared many classes together. Yet it was hard to even imagine having the courage to ask her out, though I worked diligently at thinking about it. It crossed my mind that Valentine’s Day would be the ideal moment to make my love known and find out once and for all if my dreams would come true or be forever crushed in disappointment and rejection. That was it – I would buy her a Valentine and write my heart into it. Shortly after making this decision, I convinced myself that I was being delusional. I knew very well that I wasn’t going to buy her the Valentine, and I sure as sugar wasn’t going to give it to her. Who am I kidding, right? Right.

So Valentine’s Day came, and I proceeded to school empty handed. Partially relieved, and partially regretful, I worked my way through my classes until it was time to come to the first one with her. I wish I had a Valentine, but I’m so glad I don’t. It would be great to give it to her, but I know that I won’t. I guess I was still conflicted, but there certainly wasn’t any pressure. I just needed to keep my cool. We engage our normal pre-class banter and she looks extra bright, cheerful, and engaging with me today. Wait! Could she be expecting a Valentine from me? It’s not possible. As class goes on, her brightness and cheer seems to be fading. By the middle of class my sweet is nothing of the sort. Oh no! She was expecting something from me and she’s disappointed I didn’t give her anything. I know, right? Right.

Thankfully (or so I thought) my mouth was working faster than my brain and I whispered over to her, “Hey, I got you a Valentine…” She smiled and held her hand out expectantly. Oops!

“I forgot to bring it today.” Nice cover.

“Sure you did,” she grinned and went back to paying attention to class.

“I’ll bring it tomorrow.”

“Ok.”

Now what have I done? For the rest of the day I felt the pressure that I thought I had successfully avoided. Of course, it was possible that I could just buy the Valentine and give it to her without exposing any other feelings. I just couldn’t let myself do that. I really liked her. How could I possibly get that close and then chicken out. Somehow I made it through the rest of the day, but now I had another dilemma. I don’t actually have a Valentine’s card. Easy enough – I’ll go to the store and buy one. The only problem is that I was 14 and don’t have a way to get to the store. I’m not sure I remember correctly, but I think I persuaded my sister to take me at the cost of giving up my deep secret that I was buying a Valentine card.

One thing I’ve failed to mention is that Valentine’s Day fell on a Friday during this year, and I couldn’t muster up the courage to get a ride to the store until Saturday or Sunday. It seemed reasonable to me at the time that, given the amount of effort they put into promoting and selling Valentine’s paraphernalia that there was bound to be some excess stock waiting for me at the store. To my surprise - and terror – all of the displays had been removed and updated for the next marketing holiday. Finally, I tracked down a small stack of remaining cards in a corner. And – more terror – there was nothing left that was not gushy and romantic! Oh well, there was no going back now so I selected the one that had the greatest possibility of being stretched and construed as completely platonic should the need arise.

Now what was I to do? Should I write something to express my love, pour my heart out and hope for the best? Should I just say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” and carry on? I’m not sure exactly what I wrote anymore, but I think it was something truly cheesy along the lines of, “I like you. Would you be my Valentine?” I certainly wasn’t channeling Shakespeare or U2, but it was sincere.

And now, the day of destiny – my life would forever be changed, for good or for worse (or so I thought – and apparently so given the permanence of the memory). I don’t remember anything else about the day and I’m certain that if I did it would be that I didn’t learn a thing in class. As I arrived to the first class I had with her, I panicked. I can’t do this. I don’t need to do this. She never asked about the Valentine, and something seemed different. Something wasn’t right. I waited and waited, not listening to class and only lightly talking to her. Then the bell rang. Oh no!

“Here’s your Valentine.” Way to go, mouth!

“Oh, thanks ,” she grinned and headed out.

Whew! Relief and ecstasy! All of my cards were on the table, and I could put away that goofy poker face. It was up to her now. I hadn’t backed down and that by itself was an accomplishment. It certainly didn’t evidence any “game” on my part, but - as they say - you play the hand you’re dealt, not the one you wish you’d been dealt.

The next class I would have with her was after lunch. It was a delightful few hours. The feeling of making your love know to another, even if you’re not sure it will be returned, tends to lift the spirits. The expectation and excitement continued to build until we met again – and she handed me a note. A note! And it was long one, probably a whole page. This was height of my joy.

But something was not right. That sinking feeling in the gut, the one that tells you what you should be thinking even though your mind is not quite ready to admit to it yet – that’s what her demeanor caused for me. The note confirmed my fears. She was flattered by my interest, but she was already involved with someone else (who, incidentally, happened to be an old friend of mine from a different school, much cooler, much more attractive – small world, big heartbreak). And that was that. It certainly made things awkward for a little while, but I played it cool – no problem, just thought I’d ask. Right? Right.

This wasn’t the first time I had garnered up the courage to make someone of the fairer sex privy to my feelings for them, but perhaps the first time I’d done so without getting many hints in advance that the feeling would be mutual. So that pressure, along with the rejection undoubtedly contributed to this being a lasting memory. Such a minor incident, but for someone prone to shyness, it likely contributed to me being a bit gun shy going into my later high school and college years.

Thinking back to this time, and all that has transpired since, all I can say is, “Thanks be to God!”

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