“Am I too late?”
This week’s Sunday Scribblings prompt: Crush
This is the story of yet another aspect of my life upon which the hand of God can be seen. As I discussed in my initial article about my six-year journey litigating Conservatorship of Wendland, when you are called, you have no choice but to answer.
No matter what the cost.
To observers, it probably looked like a crush, typical high school puppy love.
But for me, this business of a first big crush or “first love” is a complicated, thorny topic that I have scrupulously avoided writing about until now. Oh, I’ve been writing this article in my head for a couple of years. But committing it to cyberspace has been another matter. After reading the following, you will understand why.
We’ve all been through it to one degree or another. Innumerable songs, books, poems, paintings, drawings, and other forms of artistic expression have focused on our elusive desire to explain, analyze, and recapture that feeling of first love.
What did we learn from it, we ask ourselves later? Am I a better person for having experienced it? What would have happened if things had worked out for me and _____? We’ve all pondered the answers to those questions. Everyone thinks about their first love from time to time.
And what if that first love was not reciprocated? What if the initial crush never advances from longing to reality? What is the impact upon the person who experienced that early heartbreak? How are their later relationships affected?
In song, Garth Brooks proclaimed that “God’s greatest gift” is unanswered prayer, telling the story of a man who encounters a former girlfriend and thanks God that things did not work out for them, but, rather, he ended up with his wife. Like that man, sometimes we don’t really appreciate the impact of that first big crush or love on our life until many years later.
So it was with me.
I spent a lot of years wondering why. And when the answer was finally revealed to me by the Holy Spirit, I realized that Garth Brooks was, to some degree, right.
I say “to some degree” because I do not believe in unanswered prayer. All prayers are answered.
We just don’t always get the answer that we want.
I was a sophomore in high school when I met the first big crush of my life. From my perspective now, especially having raised two boys, I know that we were just babies. I am now able to laugh about it in the ways that age allows, recalling the nights spent writing in my diary, thinking about him and wishing he would call, talking to my girlfriends about him because, of course, he didn’t call, planning what I would wear to school the next day, how I would happen upon him, and what I would say . . . So much energy focused on another human being! I wish I could have some of it back to devote to my current interests and projects.
Those cliched songs, poems, sonnets, novels, etc. about first love all describe it as a unique experience, utterly incapable of repetition. Cliches are truisms, of course, and my experience was no exception.
When I fell for him, I fell to the bottom of an empty well, landed on my head, suffered a major concussion, and did not regain my ability to function fully for many, many years. Maybe I never did. Sometimes I still wonder.
This was no minor crush. No, this was big love. Boundless. Unconditional. Forgiving. Pure. I was completely naive, inexperienced, and unprepared because I was not one of the pretty, petite girls. I was always the sort of chubby, smart kid who was musical. That was my niche. I had friends — the same people I hang out with today — but I was not part of the “in” crowd, the “beautiful people”.
As you have probably guessed by now, my feelings were not returned.
Instead, my first big crush had his first big crush on one of the other girls in my class. She insisted she did not feel “that way” about him, would never “do that to me” because I was her friend, etc. She also claimed that he repeatedly declared his unrequited love for her. At the time, being the neophyte that I was, I did not know that I had reason not to believe her.
So we spent three years in high school as part of a rather pathetic triangle that everyone in school knew about. Because I was so hopelessly and publicly smitten with the guy, no other boy would have come near me had they been interested (which I have no reason to believe they were). In those days, you didn’t go to the prom or other dances as part of a big group the way kids do now. You had to have a date. So I never went to any of those events.
After we graduated from high school, we went on to college. The “friend” who was the object of my big crush’s desire dropped out fairly quickly and got married young to, ironically enough, a guy from my church to whom I introduced her.
Yes, she is “D1” in “It All Began at Chuck E. Cheese’s”. If you read that article, you know that D1 may have been what stood between my first true love and I, but she was also responsible for my meeting BigBob.
And what of my high school crush? Since he was only 13 days younger but a class behind me in school, he enrolled in the same college after I had been there for a year.
But what a difference a year makes. During that first year, I no longer saw him every single day. I was on a campus many times larger than our high school where I gained a lot of new friends in the music and drama departments. I also acquired confidence and self-esteem that I lacked in high school where he reminded me daily that I was neither pretty nor popular enough for him to have a crush on me. 1
I actively worked to forget about him. Yes, I had wanted to marry him, have his children, and live happily ever after. But I came to accept that was not to be.
Which brings me to the question quoted above. It was the spring of my second year in college. By then, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I didn’t have a steady boyfriend, but I didn’t want one. I was focused on my education, planning to transfer to a four-year university that fall. I was busy all day every day with a full load of classes, musical pursuits, and one college or community theater production after another. I had been taking dance classes and was in what was probably the best shape of my life.
My high school crush was working for his family’s business and I saw him from time to time. One night he came by the community theater where I was stage-managing a production and, after rehearsal, we went for a drive. He stopped the car and we talked for a bit. I was not feeling particularly attractive or desirable because it had been a very long day and I was tired. I recall that I was wearing a red bandana (because I hadn’t felt like washing my long hair that morning), with a Mickey Mouse t-shirt and my four-pocket jeans from the surplus store that were our uniform in those days.
And that was when he asked the question. Out of the blue. With no warning. I can no longer remember what words immediately preceded it, but I can still hear his voice.
“Am I too late?”
It seemed like forever, but, in reality, the pause could only have lasted a millisecond.
I remember formulating the words, “For what?” But they would not come out of my mouth and I could not look at him.
It was like an out-of-body experience where I was an observer, not a participant, in the conversation. It was literally as though something or someone had taken control of my body and my will — just like in the old “Outer Limits” television series introduction (“We have taken control of your television . . . “).
And as though from far, far away, I heard my own voice.
I said, “Yes.”
To be continued . . .
- In my senior year, our A Cappella Choir performed a musical play entitled “Rough ‘n’ Ready” in which I was cast as “Rosie Pickens,” a rather unfortunate character name since it gave him an opportunity to repeatedly and cruelly call me “Slim Pickens”. I wonder sometimes if now, after having raised children of his own, he regrets that. [↩]