A short story of a missed opportunity for a high school romance.
| It was the fall of 1997. I had just begun my Senior year of High School, and as always on the first day of class after summer break, I had butterflies in my stomach. What a funny feeling to have, especially when you are surrounded by the familiar faces of your fellow classmates and teachers, many of whom you have known well for years. Yet that uneasy feeling prevailed throughout the day as I went from class to class, getting reacquainted with old friends. and settling back into the routine that is high school. When the time for lunch rolled around, I sat with the same circle of friends, discussed our summers, caught up on old times, and exchanged information on new classes and teachers. By the time final period arrived, the butterflies persisted, in spite of myself.
As I walked into the classroom for seventh period, I found myself scanning the room for a seat, hoping to spot a friend. I am a rather shy person, and slow to find a comfort level even with those I have been acquainted with for years. The seat you choose the first day of class usually means that was where you would be sitting the rest of the semester. I spotted an open seat next to someone I once knew well in elementary school. We happened to attend the same church, which also ran a parochial school for grades one through six, where class sizes were in the single digits and two grades were put into one room with one teacher for most of the day. However, since moving to the comparatively much larger public high school, we had lost touch for the most part. We exchanged the standard casual greeting, but then as I took my seat next to a pretty brunette on my right, he announced that she had a boyfriend! She responded with a smirk and a remark. Seated between them, it should have been rather obvious at the time that these two had a rather jovial relationship that relied heavily on sarcasm, or in other words completely casual and platonic. Alas, somewhere in my brain, a switch flipped and immediately I cataloged the cute brunette as unavailable. Little did I know that years later I would still be thinking about that moment wishing the switch had never been thrown.
Over the course of the semester, I had the opportunity to learn a little about the girl on my right. Sitting to her right was her close friend, who was often paid a visit by her own boyfriend (presumably from Study Hall). Our Desktop Publishing teacher was very laid back and allowed these intrusions as we were often working independently on an assignment on our Macintosh computers, although she would chase him out if he stayed too long or during a rare lecture. Anyway, as I fell into the routine again, I found myself looking forward to final period for reasons other than the end of another school day. Unfortunately, I never really grasped completely why this class had become my favorite. In my mind, I had decided it was a combination of the teaching style of our laid back instructor, the independent nature of the class, the fact we were allowed to play music on the computer while we worked, and that I liked computers in general. Then there was the easy rapport I had managed to build with Miss Brunette. For me, this was somewhat unusual, although I did find myself gradually coming further and further out of my shell that year, albeit at a snail’s pace.
Don’t get me wrong, I did have a rapport with other girls, including some in that very class, with whom I had gotten to know from other classes, and also with Miss Brunette’s close friend. The relationship with the girl to my immediate right, however, was somehow different, but at the time I failed to realize it, and that is something I still deeply regret to this day. I think having recognized how shy I was, she had attempted to reach out to me in many subtle ways. Unfortunately, I missed her signals completely.
One incident in particular stood out. On the last day of class we had finished our finals and everyone was standing by the classroom door waiting for the final bell to ring to signal the end of the semester. In those few minutes, Miss Brunette commented on how she was going to miss our class together, and suggested that she hoped to see me again. She conveyed that idea in a variety of subtle ways several times in those waning minutes, and may have even mentioned Prom which was coming up the next spring, a few short months away. Of course I remained completely oblivious to her overtures, having only responded politely and casually with a few words and a smile. The bell rang, and we went our separate ways.
Since she was a sophomore, I didn’t see her around much the following semester. I graduated that spring, entered college the following fall, and quickly forgot about her. I had a girlfriend or two freshmen year, but then when I returned home for the summer, she gradually reentered my thoughts. I saw her very rarely while I was a college student, occasionally at church when I was home for the holidays, but since graduating from college, several years have passed without any contact. Upon realizing my own feelings from that time, I have attempted to regain contact with her but the search has been unfruitful. She might as well have dropped off the face of the earth in this digital age of Facebook, Myspace, Email, and Cell Phones. If only I had recognized her initial and obvious interest in me that fateful semester, as well as my own. If only I had the courage to ask her to prom. If only this had not become my biggest secret.