Monday, January 17, 2005

 

Love's Labour Lost and Found (A Random Anecdote)

To read about Liz first, go here.

Maryanne was one of the tallest girls in our class, and one of the few kids besides me who wore glasses (hers were cool. Mine? Well, let's just say I could have time-traveled back at least 3 decades with those glasses and would not have looked out of place to denizens of those eras). She had long, strawberry-blonde hair and from very early on, I was...smitten is the best word. I was smote but good. I had never been at a loss for words around anyone, grown-up or child, but when Maryanne said hi to me, I became Goofy, as in the "hyuck, hyuck, gawrsh" Walt Disney character. I couldn't think how to approach her or talk to her. So I did the only thing I could: I wrote her little notes and left little gifts from "a secret admirer" in her desk, her coat pocket, etc.

Today, I'd be on CNN:

"And in Pinardville, a 4th grade boy was expelled for stalking a female classmate. Witnesses say the boy was harassing the young girl by making strange dog-like noises whenever she spoke to him, and then began a campaign of terror in which he left suggestive notes among her personal possessions. FBI agents converged on the school last Wednesday and found the boy staring relentlessly at his victim across the playground. 'He was always such a quiet boy, kept to himself,' said his teacher, Sister Mary Chastity..."

In reality, though, she figured out it was me, gave me back the gifts I gave her and said, simply, "No thanks." To this day, it's two of the worst words for me to hear. Editors have used a variety of language to reject story ideas I've proposed, but the ones who said "No thanks" were the ones that really hurt.

After one year at the school, my dad got a new job off in the Midwest and we moved away. Just before Christmas a year later, we came back and my parents actually dropped me off at the school during recess, just to say hi to my old friends. I hung out with the boys, talking and horsing around, and then out of nowhere, a girl tapped me on the shoulder. I didn't know her.

"Maryanne wants to talk to you," she said. I looked way off across the playground and saw the tall girl with the long strawberry-blonde hair.

"Naw," I said. "I'm playing kickball." And went back to the game. Later, and halfway across the country, the shock of what I had done set in, and I ended up kicking myself. I didn't know what "closure" was at the time, but I knew I'd missed a chance at...something and the loss I felt then was keen. I resolved never to miss the chance again.

But of course I did, over and over again, especially where girls were concerned.

I spent three years in public school in the Midwest after that, and knew a lot of girls, but didn't feel anything like the smiting thunderbolt I felt when I saw Maryanne. In fact, the only moment that remotely comes close was on my birthday, when a miracle happened.

I was 12, it was the last day of school, and it was my last day in town (my dad got yet another job and so we were moving yet again). It already felt like some great force in my universe was pulling things into alignment; it seemed like a day where anything could happen. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was, when riding home on the bus, Michelle, the cutest girl in our class, kissed me goodbye (yes, I was bussed on the bus). I was so flustered I couldn't even look at her. You have to understand: this was 7th grade and already the social strata that would define high school interpersonal interactions was beginning to take shape. Even at that early stage, I knew who was in my league and who wasn't. Michelle was so far out of my league that the odds seemed higher that Farrah Fawcett (who Michelle resembled not a little) might kiss a monkey as Michelle might kiss me. But the next day I left town and it was too late to fall in love with her, so I didn't.

My family moved back east and I went to 8th grade at a Catholic grammar school very much like the one I had attended in 4th grade. And that's where I saw Robin...

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