Crushed for Lunch
Remember your first real teenage crush? You know, the one you really liked, you hoped liked you back, but you couldn't speak directly to, so you had all kinds of intermediaries taking your messages to? Remember those notes in class? Or how about waiting breathlessly for nutrition or lunch to discuss with your friends the complicated head nods in the hallway, body language and bouts of silence? These things needed to be dissected. No wonder these types of complicated teenage mating rituals almost always end badly.
Brady was my 9th grade crush. He was the one that got away. Although we had P.E. together and spoke, even occasionally walking part way home together (he home, I to the bus stop), we never quite talked directly about the undercurrent of tension that characterized that fall of 1982. We were one of those could have been couples. We could have been a couple if he weren't in the wildly popular established clique and I new to the school. Or, that he was obviously better off than I. Or maybe even, and the most likely, maybe black girls and white boys had a harder time of if than black boys and white girls. Go figure that one out.
Brady and I never "went around" and eventually I got over him. It was bittersweet to see him write in my yearbook, "...too bad things between us didn't work out..." It was the first indication from him at all that we might have had a chance.
And then, life went on.
The next year, I went to Israel for high school. As it so happens, my mother did not save my place, although she meant to, at the high school where Brady went, so I ended up in a succession of schools that never made up for the fact that my future should have been at the school with Brady. I don't think I've forgiven my mother for this. I probably never will. I know in my bones if Brady and I had gone to the same high school, we would have gone out and my life would be drastically different. If only she had remembered to return the paperwork. If only she thought it was important enough to resolve before I returned.
My lifelong friends would be different (although, my BF Amber is from this period and that would not change - a testament to why she is my BF); I would have gone to college; I would probably be married with more than one child now. Yes, I know in my bones that I would be the same person in a different place. I think there are just a few key missteps in our lives that we can look back on and say, "my life would be totally different if it had just happened this way..." And I not going to the same high school with my junior high compatriots is it for me.
Last year was the 20 year reunion. I went as BF's date, as we had agreed years ago; it was imperative that I see Brady - that we see each other. We missed the 10 year; we were not going to miss the 20. I figured he was married - how could he not be? But that wasn't the point. I had to stand next to him; to confirm that yes, we there actually was this spark of something great that didn't get the chance to grow to a full fire. Did he remember as much as I did? Would there be fondness in his eyes? Would there be that patience in his voice? What kind of man is he now? I had to confirm that he turned out to be the stand up guy that I pegged him to be back in day. I had to know if the one person I continued to pine for all these years was indeed worth it.
And, I'm happy to report that yes, he is all that I thought he would be. He is a family man with two lovely children and a gorgeous and gracious wife. He is successful with his MBA from USC. He's still dry and a bit stoic, but his humor comes out at regular intervals. And how do I know this, you ask? Well, funny enough, not from the reunion. He and I only chatted for a little while. I actually talked to his wife more. I was ecstatic to know that he married a good one; that he was a good provider and a good husband. It was some comforting kind of reassurance to me. I didn't go there hoping he'd throw over his wife for me. No, I needed to see him for me. I needed to know that I didn't have totally lousy taste in men.
I followed up with a handwritten note and my card again (we exchanged at the reunion itself), as I did for all the people I talked with at length. No one followed up with me. And that was okay. I do that for most functions I attend. I send a note with my card. That was it. I had his card; he had mine.
And it so happens that a few months later, I had the opportunity to pass some business along to him. I called him first and asked him if I could give his number to a vendor that might be able to throw him some business. We played phone tag for a day or two and then finally spoke. It was short and sweet and to the point. I asked him to send his wife my regards. We hung up.
Fast forward six months. I walked into an industry function, expecting to see the usual suspects, when, low and behold, there he stood. Can you imagine my shock? I was floored. I blurted out, "what the heck are you doing here?" I thought perhaps my lead had brought him to the function, but no. He had changed industries completely. He had just started, that week, working for a friend from his college days; a guy that I've known professionally for a few years. His entree into my field was completely separate and most likely, inevitable. I would have seen him even if I had not attended the reunion.
I pinched myself. Maybe there was something to this remembering him with such fondness. Maybe there was destiny in our shared karma or maybe it's dharma; I can never remember the difference between the two.
We tried for a while to get together for lunch; scheduling and rescheduling. Finally, our calendars aligned and we had lunch last week. It was a long lunch, talking business, the past and the present. We laughed. He remembered more than I would have ever dreamed he would. He remembered that I went out with Glenn for a minute that he swears seemed longer. Heck, even I forgot Glenn - one of those convenient bouts of forgetfulness. Glenn did not hold a candle to what I felt for Brady.
But some things never change. I talked around how much I really liked - loved him in those days. I couldn't even voice it now. What good would that do? No, I talked around it, just like I did then. At the reunion, I figured his wife knew; she sensed that I was the one who really cared.
I don't know if my dreams of the past live in him today, but I know I like him; he's a good man. I'd like him if I met him for the first time today. But maybe that's the gift of yesterday; it can give you a new tomorrow. I'm glad that this road has circled back. I'm glad to know both he and his wife. Somehow, a connection from the first part of my life is a signal that the middle part of my life is on track. I am content.
1982 was a stellar year. I'm thinking 2008 might be the same.