This whole conversion thing has totally thrown me off my agenda of NaBloPoMo talking points. Here’s a story.
I’ve always had crushes. My second earliest memory involves some tiny glimmer of my pre-school, and my sneakily telling my mother i had a crush on a classmate. (My earliest memory being the time my mom locked me and her keys in the car when i was two, which is another story entirely.)
In grade school my life was defined by my crush on Leahla. Pretty, smart, funny, artistic, blonde – who else could my 2nd grade heart have possibly desired? My grade school classes were small, so we interacted every day, and whenever i could engineer it i sat next to her, or did group work with her. We became fast friends, and friends was enough. I didn’t want to be turned into the schoolyard spectacle that a pair of young kissers at my school had become.
My mother aided and abetted my crush as much as possible in her legendarily unsubtle way. When she was a chaperone my mother always made sure Leahla was my hand-holding buddy. And, somehow she once contrived to have me stay at Leahla’s house for the day.
This contrivance was a big deal, as i rarely had a playdate with classmates outside of school. I was breathless in anticipation of seeing the inside of Leahla’s house. Crush notwithstanding, her mother was some sort of artist, and i think i was under the impression that the inside of an artist’s house would look like the crazy masquerade ball at the end of Labyrinth, complete with David Bowie mincing around in too-tight pants. What wonders did her home hold in store? Would the artsy mom leave us alone? Would i see Leahla’s bedroom? Would i see Leahla without her shirt on?
I can only laugh at the bundle of nervous energy and embarrassed reticence i must have been on my big day. What could i have done for hours with this… this girl? I remember in my hyper-precocious nine-year-old mind i imagined that we would spend most of it furiously making out, possibly breaking to discuss our future together and when we hoped to get married. In reality i think we probably just talked and played a gender-neutral board game.
Despite my highest hopes (and, apparently, my mother’s most ardent desires), our romance remained unkindled. My longing continued, unrequited but for field-trip hand-holding, until finally a do-or-die moment arrived: with middle-school imminent my classmates would be scattered to the wind, and i had no assurance that Leahla and i would be seeing each other every day, if ever again.
When I expressed my impending emotional desolation to my mother she, in her boundless and notably infinite wisdom, recommended that i confess my feelings to Leahla. Because, girls like boys who are in-touch with their feelings.
Being a naive momma’s boy who wouldn’t go on to kiss anyone until i was twice that age, i took her advice. I called Leahla to chat and through our smalltalk began bracing myself for the announcement. I chose the kitchen for this endeavor, as it was far removed from my mother and had a phone with a long, twisty cord, so i could pace off my nervous energy.
I paced and working up my nerve until finally i had an opening, a brief conversational stutter and, in suavest most in-touch form i blurted out, “You know, Leahla, i really like you.”
“Peter, i like you to. You’re one of my best friends,” she answered casually. If i knew then what i know now i would have seen that my chances already looked grim.
“No, Leahla, i mean, i really like you.”
Silence. My words hung suspended in the air by miles of telephone wires. I stood frozen, mid-pace in front of the microwave, watching the colon between the hours and the minutes count off the seconds until her reply. One one-thousand. Two one-thousand. Three one-thousand.
I jabbed at the open button on the microwave, rendering the clock blank. I watched the door sketch a leisurely arc to my right before it bounded backwards. My entire life flashed before my eyes. I was bearded and eighty years old, crouched beneath the kitchen table, holding the receiver to my ear with a palsied hand.
“I… i don’t feel that way about you, Peter.”
The microwave door lost its momentum and slowly swung back to the right. The cart must have been on a slant.
Leahla’s arc ended at the moment – I have no recollection of her past that point in time. I’m not sure if it was over a long, hot summer after school was already out of session, or if my heart was first shattered on some unsuspecting weeknight, and i just blocked out any further interactions.
I held it against mom ever since – that was the last time she heard a peep out of me about a crush – but i never did learn my lesson; i kept on blurting out unwelcome, unreciprocated feelings for years to come.