* * *
My first high school, Saint Raphael’s, suffered from under-enrollment to the point that we had to merge with our brother school (this is not a euphemism). So it was in the fall semester of my sophomore year at Holy Trinity that I laid eyes upon my first serious crush, Patrick Greco*. Impossibly tall, with a shock of blonde hair framing a pale and narrow face and sapphire blue eyes, he stole my breath. If I hadn’t just lunched before my first Greco sighting, I might’ve swooned. Thinking back, I’ve no idea why he affected my heart-rate as he did, when the type I’ve come to be really into is tall, dark, and broody (as well as authoritative—yeah, I’ve got a daddy thing, so what?). But affect me he did, and I mooned around, all that fall, gushing about him to all my little girlfriends.
Unfortunately, I also told one of my new guy friends. The wrong guy friend.
Derek Jacobs, a junior, was acquainted with young Greco and offered to play matchmaker. I freaked out at the very thought. I was so incredibly innocent, so untouched, naïve. The word “sheltered” fails to convey the heartiness with which my mother preserved my virtue. I’m convinced the old gal would’ve brought back the chastity belt if she’d only known about it. I used to tell my friends that the epitaph on my tombstone would read, “Return to sender—unopened.”
I think you get the picture.
I knew nothing about dating and wasn’t supposed to. It seemed an exercise in futility for Jacobs to say anything about me to Greco, who likely didn’t even know I existed. That is, he didn’t until Jacobs went against my express wishes and let fly Cupid’s arrow at the hapless towheaded boy of sixteen.
One day soon after (I’m guessing, as I was completely unaware that Jacobs had spilled my beans) (as it were), I crouched down at my locker, fishing for whatever I needed for my next class. The corridor teemed with uniformed teens, the noise in the uncarpeted hallway deafened. I was caught completely off-guard when the door to my locker swung out of my hand. As I raised my eyes, Patrick Greco crouched down beside me. He seemed preternaturally serene, even if his dark blue eyes burned like dying stars. My heart seized at his sudden nearness. Then he said, “So. I hear you like me.”
Well, damn—I wasn’t ready for that! I don’t know that I could’ve handled anything else he might have thrown at me, but there was absolutely no way I’d been prepared to deal with such directness from a boy. A boy I liked? I said the only thing I could think of to save myself from this horrible exposure. “No!” I shook my head for emphasis, grabbed my stuff, slammed my locker shut, and ran off.
And that was the end of that. Next time Jacobs saw me he had the nerve to laugh. I wish I’d had the nerve to tell him to fuck off. Perhaps if he’d warned me in advance I might not have utterly bungled that milestone.
Because the thing is, I’m forty-bloody-four and still skittish. I’m totally tongue-tied when a guy approaches me, unless it’s someone I know and have some sort of relationship with already. I don’t know that I’d be different, or be able to behave differently at least, if I’d been able to engage fully with that very first opportunity. Maybe not. And I don’t know if Greco and I would’ve gone the distance. Probably not.
Some folks say, “If only I could go back…” I usually feel the opposite: “…thank God I never have to relive that moment.” But for Patrick, and for myself, I almost wish I could…
*Names have been changed to protect the clueless.