Thirteen years ago, a fourteen-year-old girl with a cylindrical torso and a freshly cut bob shaped from a grown-out accidental butch cut sat in a door cove outside of the Hering Auditorium. The spot was our usual lunch seating grounds. If you wanted to find us, you’d find us there. We had primo viewing of the entire Taco Bell line in the cafeteria, not to mention a clear sight-line to the vending machine super-hub at 60-degrees to the left. If you haven’t guessed as much, the girl was me.
I’d been in love, oh-so-in-love with several boys that first year of high school–Mike and Jason, just to name a few. But one freezing spring day, I’d finally had the courage to wear a pair of skin-tight brown bell-bottom pants that my grandmother had purchased for me at Sears the year before. The bottoms flared out over my chunky black Doc Martin boots and I wore a light cotton maroon hoody layered over a black teeshirt on the top. I had a butt, I’d realized the night before, tripping around my bedroom at my father’s house and debating whether or not the outfit looked good or if I looked like I was trying too hard or if–god forbid–I looked like a slut in those tight-tight brown pants. I’d been trotting around in them for a long while, but only in the safety of my bedroom. To bring myself out in them, especially at sub-zero temperatures, was ballsy…especially for me at the time.
I sat quietly in the corner of our cove outside the auditorium on the Day of the Tight Brown Pants, observing my friends’ conversations, occasionally participating, and keeping a keen eye out for Jason, the highlight of most days being when he bent over the water fountain outside vending machine mecca.
And then a tall, large figure darkened our little cove, a freshman football player and wrestler named Nathan. My heart stopped. How had I never seen this boy before? I’d been in high school for three quarters and I thought I’d seen everyone! Not so. This was Nathan. Nathan! He knew my other friends from their past years at a private school. But he and I had never met until that moment–he spotted me and introduced himself. I smiled bashfully and felt my cheeks redden. Mike and Jason who? They had nothing on this boy.
As luck would have it, we bumped into each other not too many minutes later on the other side of mecca. I can’t even recall the conversation. I only remember tugging at my 48-hours-old bob haircut and jamming the toes of one shoe over the others, nervously looking around and wondering why on earth this boy was talking to cylindrical-torsoed me and not to the other myriad hot girls at our high school.
All those images and feelings flashed back to me as Nathan and I sat, heads together, at the dining table of my parents’ house this past July 4th. We were a bit buzzed from the beer and the fun with my family as we poured over one of my old journals from our sophomore year of high school, giggling and aww’ing over the old entries declaring my love for him and my tortured heart, pages detailing every interaction we had each day and every corresponding feeling I’d felt.
I tucked my head into his armpit and slapped myself on the forehead. “OH my gosh, I can’t believe I’m showing you all of this!” But he just squeezed me tighter and said he wished he’d documented these moments as I had. He was glad these existed.
We’d reunited only two days before, serendipitously brought together by his car blowing its transmission seventy miles south of Denali National Park. After hitching a ride to Talkeetna, 100 miles north of Anchorage, Nathan called me to tell me he might not be making it to Girdwood (south of Anchorage) after all. On a whim, I’d offered to pick him up. I didn’t even know if we were going to see each other anyway, but I figured this was at least a good opp to spend an hour or two catching up after eight years of not being face to face. I was exhausted from sleeping in the car the entire night before and hitting the fishing charter at 5:30am, but I wasn’t going to let my old friend sit out in Talkeetna with an uncertain few days ahead of him. Carpe diem, I told myself, and off I went (but not, of course, without kicking myself for volunteering once I got home from the fishing charter and felt like I was about to pass out).
We met up at the entrance to the road leading to Talkeetna, a spot on the Parks Highway with nothing but a gas station and a Subway restaurant. My belly flipped; I was going to see this Nathan for the first time in eight years! We’d never dated in high school, but we’d become really really good friends due to my widely known crush and his refusal to date any one girl. My parents had even flown him down for my junior prom after I moved to Anchorage and had no friends. The next year he had driven down to Anchorage just to come to my high school graduation. And then there we were, face-to-face, thirteen years after we’d first met. I walked briskly to him, my body tense, my mind exhausted, not knowing what seeing each other would be like. But Nathan folded his huge arms around me, picked me up and spun me around–the same scenario I’d breezily fantasized about on the drive up but didn’t actually think would happen. No. Nathan was a pipe dream. Always had been, always would be. And it had been eight years since I’d seen him. And I hadn’t showered. Or put on any makeup. And my hair? Forget it.
We stopped at the good ol’ Mug Shot Saloon in Wasilla on the way back to Anchorage. Yours Truly had left her driver’s license in the fold with her fishing license in Dad’s car, and so had to sit at the bar sipping water while Nathan inhaled an Alaskan Amber. We talked about relationships and God only knows what else. We were ADD conversationalists, jumping from one topic to another without ever actually completing a discussion and hardly ever getting to the point of a story.
He wanted to take me out that night, see the Anchorage nightlife, which he’d never done before, since he’d already missed his (guitar) performance at the Forest Fair in Girdwood thanks to the car troubles. So after hanging out for an hour with my parents, we headed to downtown Anchorage to a spot called Sub Zero (which, by the way, if you live in Anchorage and you’re reading this, you really should stop by). Conversation and whiskey flowed…
And then… seemingly out of nowhere: “You’re my dream girl.”
I know it wasn’t actually out of nowhere. It was a legitimate part of a conversation I seem to have blocked out due to near-complete shock. Had Nathan just said that? Had Nathan just said that he had always thought I was beautiful and that he regrets not dating me in high school? Did Nathan really just say that when he came down for my junior prom that he’d intended to tell me how he felt but that I completely rebuffed him by decrying how glad I was that we were just friends? Friends. Friends. FRIENDS!
“Um, yeah,” I said sheepishly, biting my lip. “That was a defense mechanism.” Because how could Nathan ever like this girl? This little formerly cylindrical flat-nosed brown-eyed girl?
“I love your nose,” he said, a line only spoken by boys I’ve ever really really liked. Point! I really love my nose, too.
Even as Emmy the Cat is twitching in her dream state next to me on the couch, I feel that lovesick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Nathan and I said our goodbyes last Tuesday, July 5. Everything between us matches up perfectly, but there is an entire continent between us. We’re fortunate to live in the time of text messaging and free long-distance calls. This all feels silly and cheesy and fantastically unrealistic, but I can’t help but fantasize about some crazy life we could have together. And, for what it’s worth, he’s said the same thing to me.
I guess, as the saying goes, only time will tell. We’re not in a relationship, we won’t do the long distance thing. We’re free to see other people… Except neither of us actually wants to see other people right now. Again, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. If nothing else, I’ve been writing up a storm. Being lovesick is the best muse I’ve ever had.