A short story about unrequited love that magically (and briefly) was requited
|When I was a young kid in high school, I was a swimmer. Not like the swimmers today who go through strength conditioning, video reviews of stroke efficiency, and all the technological advancements of today. I was kind of like Michael Phelps: very tall, and in great shape, but also somewhat gangly. It also didn’t help my dating possibilities that I was something of an outsider. (I had moved to upstate NY in the 8th grade, after most cliques had formed.) Additionally, I was not all that confidant with girls yet either. I didn’t have any game back then. In a way, kind of like I am today.
So, I had a decent physique, but was certainly not an A-Lister. Even now, looking back, I wonder whether I even rated as a B-Lister. I liked to swim and play baseball, but I also liked chess, Math and Dungeons and Dragons! I also was in the choir, and was in a theater show or two. To top it all off, because my dad was a French professor, we also had several Exchange students stay with us over the years (yes, I hung out with them too!) I was part athlete, park geek, part Thespian, and partly brainy. Anyway, it doesn’t matter anymore today. The point here really was that I wasn’t part of any “in crowd” for sure.
Like any high school student, I also had a crush. Part of the rite of passage into adulthood, I think, requires some measure of unrequited love. To preserve her identity, I’ll only use her first name: Dawn. Dawn was an A-Lister, and definitely one of the in-crowd. Popular, liked, and quite attractive, she made my heart skip a beat every time we had a class together. It’s no wonder in the classes we shared I only was a B- student.
Then on a Spring day, one of the classes we shared went on a field trip together. I forget where we went, but it was warm enough to prompt everyone to wear shorts and t-shirts. We were all in our various smaller cliques, roaming around when a thunder storm came through the area.
I’ll never forget this storm! We were all stuck easily a mile or so from the bus, and everyone started dashing back for safety. It was a cold rain, and with its arrival, the temperature had also dropped at least 10-15 degrees, slicing through the humidity. Being a swimmer, I was faster than many (but nowhere near the fastest), and made it back to the bus in time to get one of the coveted bench seats toward the back. My clothes were a drippy mess (like everyone else, my shirt was clinging to my body, and I was slightly out of breath).
Students started piling into the bus, and finding seats. Then Dawn came on board. She was wearing a white shirt and some kind of denim overalls. All her decency was intact, but she looked about as much like a goddess as I could remember.
Being the A-lister that she was, she started toward the back of the bus, and upon arriving near the back, saw that all the seats but one were taken - the one next to me! She gave me the most dazzling smile I had ever seen at the time. Maybe it was her lips, wet from the rain. It could have been the fact that her clothes were plastered to her shoulders and hips. Or maybe it was the way her hair naturally clung to those cheeks of beauty. She was a goddess!
Dawn shrugged her shoulders slightly and asked if she could sit next to me. I played it off as being cool, shrugged myself, and scooted more toward the window to give her space. She climbed on in and we talked briefly about the rain, how wet we all were, and laughed at the situation. By then, everyone was accounted for, and the bus in all its diesel glory rumbled to life. We started home, the rain pattering on the windows, blurring my already blurry vision even more.
The next thing that happened, I’ll never forget. Maybe it was the gentle plinking of the rain against the roof of the bus, or the fact that the heater that was kicked on to warm everyone up from the drenching we’d all just received. But anyway, the bus got quiet. Everyone started dozing off. Before I knew it, Dawn turned her sleepy eyes toward me, dazzling with the still dewy eyelashes and asked if she could rest her head.
I leaned up against the side of the bus, and she laid her head down against my chest. Thankfully, the bus was was to my left, and she was to my right, so she couldn’t tell my heart was racing like Secretariat. Her head fell heavy against my chest and shoulder, her lips pressed into a light smile and her arm wrapped around my waist. For the next 45 minutes, all I could do was stare out the window at the blurred greenery of the Adirondacks. The bus rocked along, the rain chirped melodiously against the roof, and she nuzzled in to me breathing peacefully and sleepily.
Because she was in the crook of my shoulder and chest, my right arm naturally fell down across hers and we dozed fitfully to the sound of the rain, the warmth from the diesel engine, and the swaying of the bus. To this day, some 25 years later, that was the best nap of my life.
When it lurched to a stop back at the high school, we were all still damp, but much warmer, and everyone sleepily lifted their heads. Our eyes locked, and I think she realized the crush. I was, of course, speechless and had no idea what to do. (What gangly, teenage outsider would?) She did . Her lips planted themselves softly against my cheek and her arm moved out from around my waist as she placed her hand on my abdomen for support. She quietly whispered, “Thanks for the snuggle Jason, that was nice.” in my ear and pushed herself vertical, standing up to disembark.
No Dawn, thank you. Believe me, the pleasure was all mine.