I know now that being a teenager was the most awkward of times. Boys, feelings, school, friends, hormones, fitting-in, new ideas, pressures: it all comes out of a fire hose. Drink? No, not really. It’s more like making decisions as reflex reactions to situations beyond one’s control. Trying to survive the adolescent jungle by swimming the path of least resistance.
This is a boy story. A story about what didn’t happen. You see, when I was a teenager, I had the biggest crush on this boy in my Geometry class. He was, honestly, super hot. I’m serious. Wow. He had gorgeous long brown hair, blue eyes, and a smile that made me melt inside. Our Geometry teacher assigned seats in her classroom and I was assigned the seat next to him. Between you and I, it still makes me smile.
Sitting next to him was how I got to know how sweet he was. Honestly, one of the sweetest people I have ever met. He would come into class, get his books out, and ask me some off-handed personal questions. I think that was when the crush started, because I remember being such an “awkward”, my tongue tied up in knots, heart beating out of my chest around him.
He wasn’t the most popular boy, but he wasn’t unpopular either. He was a good athlete and played soccer and basketball. Of course, he had “the girlfriend” at the time. She was also a soccer player and the general perception around school was that they were the “perfect couple”. A socially smothering image. But, sitting next to him, I learned there were big cracks in this perception. In reality, they were an on-again, off-again couple who fought often. Constantly breaking up, his girlfriend would go with other guys for a while, and then come back to him. And, while he’d complain to his friends in class, he always took her back.
To be truthful, I think he even dropped hints that he was in to me at the time, but I didn’t understand. He’d leave me things once in a while on my desk. Always say hello when he saw me. He talked about who he might take to the dance in front of me – “they” were on the outs again. I was just painfully shy and socially awkward. I carried my crush under tight wraps. I convinced myself that he couldn’t be interested in me. That was what I believed until the very last day of school.
As I was going down the stairwell with a couple of classmates, loudly celebrating the end of the year and coming summer vacation, I heard a voice call out: “Jenny!” My friends and I continued down the stairs talking. Then I heard the same voice, softer, plaintively call out one last time as I reached the bottom of the stairs, “Good-bye, Jenny.” Caught up in what my friends were saying it had taken a few moments to sink in, hey, I’m Jenny.
I had unmistakably heard my name called out twice over the chaos I realized then. And, what’s more is I now recognized the voice. It was the boy from Geometry class. He was calling me. Me! I quickly interrupted the conversation and told my friend Tabitha that I had forgot something in my locker and ran back up the stairs.
There was no one there. I looked for a minute or two, but was going to miss my bus. I ran.
They say youth is wasted on the young. I think that is harsh. We try to do the best we can at the time. It is the growth, the decisions we make that focus our character and values, that shape the lens by which we look back and judge the past. To say it’s a waste is regret and circular reasoning.
But, as my own boys go through their own teenage angst, I remembered the boy from Geometry and how he made me feel in high school, seeing him in classes, in the halls, and out on the athletic field.
It didn’t happen, but I sometimes still wonder “What if?” And then I consider it again and realize that the super sweet, ridiculously hot boy from Geometry, actually played his own small, important part in shaping my life into what it is now. He had noticed me when I was invisible.
Copyright © 2014 Eric A. Schweitz