When I list relationships I've had, whether they were the lost true loves of youth, or just some in between things, somehow he fell through the cracks. Was never on that list. Kind of like one of those soap opera stand ins who fills in for a season until they negotiate with the old actor and bring him back. He was definitely on the payroll; just for one reason or another, gets left off the list.
He was your average skinny teenager. Not super-cute, but then neither was I. He was a senior, I was a sophomore. He was smarter than the average bear. Involved in a lot of the same things I was. We went on school trips together. He was the first officially sanctioned "date" my mother let me go on after I was old enough to date.
It was unremarkable, as dates go, by today's more worldly standards. I was a goody-two-shoes, so you couldn't be expecting much. We went to the movies. Think it was the movie with Gizmo. Gremlins. I think we had the internal debate about holding hands. Never kissed much, but then I didn't have that much experience. And that was back in the day where I didn't think you should kiss anyone you weren't willing to consider for your true love one day, lest they get the wrong idea. He was an older guy. You had to be careful about what the older guys wanted.
We kept up a "thing" for a while. He continued to push the romantic angle; I wasn't sure what I wanted to do at the time. He gave me a rose. I told him "I just wanted to be friends." I wrote a poem about the rose. A tongue-in-cheek romantic ballad where I threw the rose in the trash.
There are times, in the past, where I've looked back and thought that I was shallow and insensitive. That he was probably more romantic than most boys his age, and for whatever reason, I didn't appreciate that. I harbor a secret embarrassment for throwing out the flower. And for writing a poem which was dedicated to subtle ridicule of his romantic overtures. He was just a guy, trying to get a date in high school, using whatever tools he could find.
He found me on Facebook. We've exchanged messages about our lives, our marriages, our kids, and our memories of high school and our hometown. He's kind of in the same place I am - had to get out and see the world, lest he be sucked down into the vacuum that is our hometown. His first marriage was not successful, but he's found another love and with their combined six children are a regular Brady bunch. He's got a decent job in operations management. His two boys are handsome young men. His new girlfriend is pretty enough.
We chatted tonight on Facebook. I reminded him how inexperienced I was; he agreed. He reminded me I stood him up for rollerskating, though I think that my mother might have nixed the idea. I reminded him that he gave me a stuffed tiger for my birthday. He reminded me of the rose; I apologized, appropriately shamed. But he holds no grudges.
But then we went on to remember the good things - bus trips from far away cities, and sitting around hotel pools talking until all hours of the night, because that's all you could do. School dances and rollerskating and cruising the traffic turnaround at the end of Main Street. Notes shoved in lockers and feeble attempts at adolescent romance. "Let's just be friends" . . . followed by jealousy when he dated another girl. Who later became close friends with me when he broke up with her . . .
I wouldn't change anything in my life. He was never going to be "the one." But I was reminded that maybe I could have been a little nicer somewhere along the line.
He lives close to my relatives . . . when I return for a visit, I might owe him lunch. Until then, it was an interesting trip through forgotten pages of history.