I’ve heard from older, wiser friends and relatives that you never forget your first crush. I assume they meant that in a very general way, rather than your crush’s name. Or eye color. Or skin tone. Or height. Or length or color of hair. Because I’ve forgotten literally every one of those things about mine.
Though I’m at least certain enough that she had a face and was a girl to make the title honest.
I want to be very clear here. I’m not trying to play it cool or anything. This isn’t a case of someone getting shot down and then acting like it was no big deal later to save face. This is the unusual case of someone who distinctly remembers the first time he ate sushi, the first time he made lasagna and the first time he owned a pale blue shirt that fit him just right across the shoulders…but not his first crush.
Obviously, I won’t be playing it up as a particularly noteworthy event for drama either. I certainly won’t claim it still keeps me up at night wondering about…what’s-her-face. I mean, yes, I am up very late most nights, though that’s for reasons entirely unrelated to…you know…whosits.
It was, however, an event in my college life. It was an event I think many people also shared in their respective college lives. And, if I’m being entirely fair, after some of the horribly insignificant stuff I’ve included it makes sense to include even a few weeks of not remotely romance with…that girl from the thing.
At which point, it occurs to me I’m going to need something to call her sooner rather than later. So let’s go with “Kay.”
I probably interacted with Kay for a few weeks on an absent-minded basis before we officially met, mostly because she was in my Philosophy class. We may have even sat next to one another once or twice. But for someone who was trying to find new friends in college, I was strangely convinced that the point of going to class was to hear a lecture and not notice any of the dozen or so other people there who clearly shared similar interests and potential majors.
We officially met somewhere between week three and four of summer semester. It was during a pleasant walk to class that I heard someone yelling behind me. As time went on, the yelling continued and the walk became less and less pleasant. Still, not wanting to get involved in whatever mess was going on back there, I kept moving.
Or at least, I did, until someone nearly tackled me from behind.
“Geez. Are you ignoring me or something?” a girl who had some sort of appearance asked as I turned and took a step away. I seem to recall she had some sort of face.
“Well, not now,” I answered, readjusting the straps of my bag on my shoulders. It was my policy, and continues to be even today, that anyone who attempts to tackle you from behind should be given your full and undivided attention. “May…I help you with something?” I ventured, ready to retreat if I got the wrong answer.
“Yes!” she said, more amused than annoyed. “I’ve been calling your name for two blocks now. I thought you had your headphones in or something but you’re just…really, really oblivious.”
In my defense, this was only a half-truth. In reality, I was more selectively oblivious. Between my first and last name, 90% of English words sound very much like someone saying my name when they were actually referring to hats, cats, gnats, floors, sores and bores. At a certain point in my life, it only made sense to stop turning around and wasting my time. People very rarely wanted my attention.
I explained this to her. “That’s funny,” she said with a giggle.
“It is,” I agreed. I hadn’t been joking, but I didn’t want to ruin her fun.
“Do you want to walk to class together?”
“Sure,” I said, less because I really wanted to and more because now that we were already standing together going to the same place, the alternative would have been a great deal more effort.
“So I’ve been trying to walk with you for two weeks now. But I can never catch you. You always leave at random times, like you just wake up, throw on clothes and walk straight out the door,” she said.
I coughed into my fist at the surprisingly dead-on explanation of how I got ready to go to classes. “Um…why?” I asked.
“Why have you been trying to walk with me?” I wondered. I walked with myself every day. Trust me. It wasn’t a life-changing experience. Hell, if I wasn’t literally attached to myself, I’d have probably avoided it.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. You seem cool. I wanted to get to know you.”
“I feel like getting to know me would almost immediately end that fantasy.”
This elicited more giggling. “Oh, my God. You are funny.”
I still wasn’t joking. But I decided to keep not ruining her fun.
We walked to class together. We talked about this and that. I’m even fairly sure she told me her name at some point. Then again, her not telling me would actually go a long way toward explaining why I don’t remember it now.
With midterms on my mind, I honestly didn’t think about the encounter much at first. Nor did I think twice about her suggesting we study for them together despite the teacher explaining there was essentially no way to give a wrong answer. It was only when she wrote her phone number on my palm in pen that something stirred in the back of my mind. While I had very little self-awareness, I seemed to recall seeing something very much like that happen in any number of teen romance movies.
“Does she like me or something?” I mused.
“I…don’t know,” the cashier at Panda Express answered.
“Oh, sorry,” I said, not realizing where I was. Or that I wasn’t doing an inner monologue. I pondered how unfortunate this would look if my future self decided to edit the event together in a misleading way in a story. “Well, anyway, I’ll take the two-entree plate to go. Orange and Kung Pao Chicken. With fried rice.”
While the cashier was as unhelpful as always with my love life, I was able to talk to my friend Matt for a bit more perspective.
“You know, I may have been wrong before,” he said sagely. “The more I think about it, the more I wonder if someone reading this later in story form would still think you were just talking about yourself if you mentioned me.”
I’d had similar concerns. “Yeah. I really wish you’d had a different name.”
Matt – who, I might again note, is a separate person from me who just happened to have the same name and be my first college friend – shrugged. “Well, I didn’t pick it.” Getting back on track, he asked, “So what makes you think this girl likes you?”
I wasn’t entirely sure she did. Being liked by a girl was new to me. “She wanted to walk to class with me. She gave me her number. She wants to study for a test that a toddler could pass. And she laughs really hard at almost everything I say, even when I’m not really making funny jokes.”
“She might like you.” Matt rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Did she try to find an excuse to touch you? Maybe when she laughed or something?”
“She tried to tackle me.”
“Wow. You’re quite the lady killer,” he said, nodding in appreciation for what he likely saw as an intentional skill on my part. “And you’ve got your stalker on top of all that, too.”
I blinked at this. “My stalker? I have a stalker? Since when?”
“I thought you…huh. How have you not met her by now?” he asked, baffled. He described her in terms that I would apparently forget entirely within the next decade. At the time, however, they sounded very, very familiar. “She practically chases after you every day when you’re headed to Philosophy, yelling your name.”
I continued blinking. “Actually…I’m pretty sure that’s the same girl.” Though, I made a mental note to look behind myself more often, fearful I was being followed by a horde of women calling my name without my realizing it.
“Oh. It is? Then, yes. That girl is completely in love with you.”