I was moved recently by an experience I’m going to file under the heading “passage of time”.
It involves memories, real and imagined, sliding doors, and that most painful of afflictions – unrequited teenage love.
Let’s just say there was someone in my past that possibly I only really ever knew in my imagination. Because that’s the only place I ever really met her.
Unless you count those two glorious lunchtimes we spent together on the steps at the quadrangle near A-Block in year seven. Or it might have been year eight.
It’s hard to pin down the facts when it comes to teenage love because possibly there’s such little evidence, but the feelings certainly seem crystal clear.
A stomach-churning, sweaty-palmed crush that triggered the moment I saw her and lingered the entire length of high school, erupting in blushes at a mere glance, contact or mention.
I hope it wasn’t obvious. But maybe it was, because at one stage a meeting was arranged by friends and confidantes, as is the fashion in year seven (or was it eight?) when the only thing breaking more than your nerve is your voice box.
In scenes reminiscent of the Paris peace talks, envoys secured a lunchtime rendezvous with some heavy negotiations which went along the lines of: “Do you like her? I reckon she likes you.”
Nothing could have made my world more complete than the thought that she did, and that we might, if I played my cards right, end up “going together”, whatever that meant. And going where, it was hard to tell. But as we sat down that lunchtime, I was thinking it was in the right direction.
Not that I was able to communicate that succinctly because, being a hormone-hamstrung teenager, I was paralysed by self consciousness.
We might have met twice on the quadrangle stairs. Or it may have been once. Emotion fogs the rose-coloured glasses.
But looking back, I wouldn’t blame her if it had been once, because the conversation was far from riveting. Unless awkward silence gets you going.
I think it did get her going, because before I knew it, our chances of going were gone.
Things fizzled from a pretty unspectacular beginning and in the end, I suspect she preferred to spend her lunchtime with people who spoke. And maybe play handball. It was never really clarified.
After that stymied encounter, the relationship ebbed and well it probably wouldn’t be fair to say it died, because really, it never had a pulse, but the thought of it still sends mine racing.
We remained friends for the next four years, offering shy acknowlegments in the stairwell as we moved between class each day. I never really gave up hope, but when she started going out with someone in the year above, and then left school in year 10, I concluded it was time to face facts.
I never saw her again, mainly because I moved away from home, but I heard she got married, had kids and lived out all those other lyrics from country songs that get you pining from time to time.
I heard she got married, had kids and lived out all those other lyrics from country songs that get you pining from time to time.
That’s destiny for you. And what’s interesting is the turns destiny can take when you fast forward nearly four decades later and I’m visiting the old home town, as you do.
We head out for a meal and not surprisingly, there’s a few familiar faces, but it’s hard to put names to them after all these years.
You get up a couple of times to get serviettes and water and what not, and each time you go past a particular table, they’re looking. So eventually I go over, apologise because I’m drawing a blank and say gday.
Blow me over, if it’s not her – the greatest single crush of my youth. Boom.
Thankfully tongue-tiedness didn’t overcome this time and we got chatting about our various matches, hatches and despatches over the years.
There were a few things I could have said which thankfully I didn’t, because that might have been “awks” all over again.
Her life and times were sitting there at her table and mine were across the room, contemplating whether to have the pork or the beef. It was a classic case of water under the bridge on two different rivers that had flowed out to separate seas.
We smiled and said our goodbyes and as her group departed the restaurant I realised that was probably the longest conversation I’d had with her in my life, which was amusing, given all those heartfelt high school yearnings.
I’ve since thought about emailing, Facebooking, or even phoning to expand on these profound observations, but realise that it might reflect poorly on me, as a stalker.
So I’m letting go of what I never held as I come to grips with the passage of time and the intensity of high school crushes, rejoicing in the beauty of what never was and how it always will be.