The Boy Who Never Knew I Loved Him

Let's just get this part over with- of course we all fall in love in high school. It's practically a given. Half the time they don't even know we're in love with them, but love is love...even when they don't know.

I doubt the boy I not-so-secretly loved ever knew...or if he did, he was too kind to let on, to nice to openly break my heart by putting words to his feelings

You know how I know this?

One night, long after high school and college, when I was living alone in a drafty, old duplex, he and two other guys from "the day" called. Of course they were drunk. They called, they said, to tell me they'd just been talking about me and decided I was the "girl we most respected" in high school.

Is that the kiss of death, or what?

I mean, it's wonderfully sweet. Thank you. I will dine on that fact in my old age. Hell, even now I am pleased to hear it.

But you don't say that if you're in love with a girl. You say that when you've already said, "I love you like a friend, like my best friend, like my sister"...etc.

I was his designated driver. This occurred shortly after the night when he told his dad he was sleeping over at a friend's but was really staying out all night, partying. In his infinite and impaired wisdom, he decided to cruise by his house at 5:30 a.m. There, in a plaid bathrobe, at the end of the driveway, stood his father, retrieving the Sunday paper.

My wild boy toots the horn of his white V.W and says "Hey, Dad!" as we drive by.

He was grounded for months and I became the designated driver.

He was going steady with a girl who shared my name, Nancy. He married a girl who was everything I'm not but still someone I competed with because she was the "good girl" at Dad's church and I was the "bad influence." It really got under my skin when I learned she'd "won" him.

When we hung out, he wore an over-sized Army jacket. One night when it was very cold, he slipped it over my shoulders and I was enveloped for hours in the scent of him. He would do things like this, sweet little things that I treasured and remembered for years.

I was his confidant- to the extent that any teenaged boy ever confides his feelings and thoughts to another human being.

I was, in a word, his pal.

At some point, years and years later, I tell my dad about my unrequited love. That's something girls do, I suppose. But Dad's reaction surprised me.

"Oh, that would never have worked!" he said, laughing. "He's way too conservative for you!"

My pot-smoking, under-aged drinking, cohort who busted our friends out of military school and lived the wild life was now conservative? No way!

"He married the perfect woman for him. You'll see. Next time you visit come to church."

"They go to St. James?" I am astounded. He was Catholic if he was anything. She had him attending an Episcopalian "Catholic Lite" church! That spoke volumes.

One Spring, before Dad retired, I go to church. I am waiting for the service to begin when I feel a light tap on my shoulder. It's Her. "Come out to the parking lot," she says sweetly...and I do not mean fake sweet, either. She actually is sweet. "I know he'd love to see you."

Damn. I am at the 10:30 service and they attended the 8 o'clock. She is the only reason I will get to see him.
I rise and follow her outside into the parking lot. A green SUV sits across from us, its engine humming in the cool Spring morning.

"Look who I found," his wife says, sliding into her place beside him, leaving me standing on his side of the car feeling awkward.

My boy has grown up.

You know how they always look fat, bald and much older and you're just shocked by how badly the years have treated them? Not him. My boy has morphed into the spitting double of Robert Freaking Redford!

My heart snaps again and I wonder if he hears it.

I am so polite. We make small talk. They are the perfect couple, I realize. They fit together. She, like me, is a social worker but in a hospital. I am too overwhelmed to remember what he does but I do see immediately what Dad was trying to say.

My wild boy has become his father.

"He would want to be the one in charge and you would've fought that all the way," he'd said.

Dad is right. I would not have Her finesse. I am the bulldozer type. She is the whisper of conscience.

And, I might add, she doesn't seem to have gained an ounce or aged since high school either...Dammit!

This would've been a boring confirmation of what we always come to realize about our old boyfriends...that they would've been so totally wrong for us...had I not looked into the backseat of the SUV. There sit the two sons.

The eldest is sitting straight in his seat, every bit the proper oldest boy, very polite. In fact, both boys are polite and well-schooled in the social graces.

But it is the second boy who makes my day.

There sits my boy, reincarnated. Oh, he's dressed appropriately enough, and his facial expression mirrors that of his parents and his brother...But there in his eyes, is that mischievous twinkle I remember so well.

I smile at him as I think, Run boy! Go be wild before you have to grow up and become who you "should" be. Don't take your dad too seriously. Sure, he means what he says now, but once he was just like you, wild and longing for adventure. Live it up, honey, the future is nipping at your heels.

Such wicked, rebellious thoughts for the most respected girl.

I turn away from the boy and take a last look at this boy grown into Robert Redford. I do not see a twinkle in his eye any longer. I'm sure this is exactly as it has to be, but still I am sad...Because the wild girl who still lives inside my heart did so love that bad-assed boy.


Da Nator said...

Sigh... the old high school crushes. Even if we stop pining, do we ever stop pining? Uh... that makes sense, if you think about it.

Lovely nostalgic post. I think that you should realize, however, now that you are an adult: when you're in High School, you're never interested in the ones you respect most. When you grow up and wise up, however, those are exactly the people you find attractive.

Nadiah Alwi said...

That is such a beautiful post.

1st love never dies.

Nancy said...

Thanks, Nadiah. There is something so special about those first loves. My son is in love for the first time. It's amazing to be on the other side, looking in on what it's like to be The Boy.

Thanks for stopping by!

Frema said...

Wonderful entry. First loves really are that special. Although I'm happily married, I still see mine in my dreams all the time.

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere before that "the beauty of first loves is that they never last."

But the memories definitely do and upon remembering, account for a percentage of those warm and fuzzies when life gets a little too real. Or so I think. Thank you for the wonderful reminiscence :)

Kim said...

lol Nancy, I can just picture you standing there with your head spinning a thousand miles an hour. It's so odd how what we see with our eyes does not jive with what we know to be true, and yet we have to accept it.Thank you for my weekly dose of "church" my friend, in your own way, you are not far removed from what your father did for a lifetime, you know? I've missed you hon.