I loved high school and I am not ashamed to admit it. Even though I was half chola, half Mormon and pretty miserable most of the time, they were the best moments of my life. I had only one wish back then and that was to be as adroit with men as I was with softball. It's true that some things never change.
Experiences in my life are mentally organized into chapters. Recently, I was forced to unexpectedly write the end of the tragic chapter entitled, "Anneliesa and Pedro's* High School Reunion". For over a year now, I have been holding out for a surprising, romantic finish. Admittedly (albeit selfish), I considered this mini love story to have a happy ending only if I walked emotionally unscathed into the sunset.
The close of the chapter symbolizes transfer of the ongoing experience to a mere memory, only to be retold for posterity's sake. Before it is placed on the shelf, I will tell the story which will help you to fully comprehend the significance of the experience. I realize that telling the story honestly will reveal qualities about myself that I need to change. Some people tell me I disclose too much about myself, and that may be true. However, I find comfort in knowing that these weaknesses are quite universal due to our human nature. In other words, whether you admit it or not, you have been in a similar situation. With that stated, here is the chapter and the tragic end:
High school chemistry was an exciting class. The subject wasn't really all that interesting, but the guy in the lab group behind me sure was. Pedro was a shy but popular senior, the captain of the basketball team, and all the girls thought he was "fine" (a term used frequently in the 90's). As much as I despised following the crowd, I was one of those girls.
Pedro's lab group was right behind mine. I would turn around once every class to ask his group a question to the lab assignment. Every time, I was greeted by his dark eyes and gentle smile. Occasionally, we would make small talk about the upcoming basketball game and if I was lucky, we would engage in fluffy banter. He didn't know a thing about chemistry and occasionally I would give him an answer or two to help him out. It didn't matter though because he was so cute! I kept my "love" for him a secret, partly because I knew I never had a chance and partly because I loved the thrill of the chase.
A few months before the senior prom, I found myself daydreaming daily of Pedro asking me to go with him and how I would be the luckiest girl in school if that ever happened. I got asked.... not by him but by my best friend who resembled "Duckie" in the movie, Pretty in Pink (turns out I fell at the prom that year, showing my classmates my underwear-- Specifics of that story are found in the unwritten chapter entitled, "How I Became Senior Class President").
Pedro graduated in June of that year. He got my number and called me a few times over the summer because he knew I was Mormon and since his dad was a Pentecostal preacher he had a lot of questions for me. We would argue and debate for hours about religion. It was great and I was in love. He went to college and I never saw him again. I thought about him ever year though, wondering if he ever felt about me the way that I did him...
A year and a half ago, almost 10 years from our last phone call, he tracked me down sent me an email. He wasn't sure what had happened to me over the past years and thought he would find out. We emailed back and forth for a few weeks and then called me. Catching up was great! We had our religious debate as if time hadn't passed. And then it happened. He said in a nervous, quiet voice, "Anneliesa, did you know that my senior year I went to all of your softball games? I wanted to ask you to the prom and didn't go because I heard you had already been asked. Religion was just my excuse to hear your voice. Over the past few years I have thought about you frequently... and in talking to you now, those same feelings I had for you when I first met you in high school are still there." I don't remember what I said in response, but I am sure it was similar to what a socially inept 16 year old girl would say after hearing something like that. After all these years my secret high school crush had actually felt for me the way I did him!! Now what?
He flew out a month after that and our reunion was anticlimactic, although I refused to admit it because I wanted to like him like I did before. It was as if we were still in chemistry class, clumsily flirting with words void of substance. We had nothing in common but the town we grew up in. He was now a serious, articulate and a successful businessman. I now had a personality, an opinion, and a sense of humor--which I am sure he was shocked to discover. He flew back to California. I later gave the excuse that the relationship would never come to fruition unless he converted and we spend more time together. Both proved impossible when he said he didn't want to be Mormon for me and I said I would never move to California.
Pained by the standstill, he stopped talking to me. I was okay with that because I knew that he still had feelings for me and that was enough to preserve my self-esteem. I liked the idea of being liked (who doesn't?). Ashamed to admit this, I would purposely contact him so I could hear him say, "I still really like you but talking to you is too painful." Sadly, I used Pedro to help me patch up my heart, which had been broken a year prior. I figured that holding on to him (even though unfair) would get me through until someone else came along.
This is where it turns "tragic"-- I found out today that Pedro met someone, fell in love and is soon to be married. So here I am, still painfully and selfishly single, watching him walk away into the sunset with his true love, which he rightfully deserves.
The story really is only tragic in the sense that it marks the death of my once-thriving pride which lived for too long in heart protected by egocentricity. Fortunately, this experience welcomes the the birth of a new chapter in which I finally realize that protecting my heart forever from emotional bruises will never lead to a true "happy ending". He was able to love anew because he did not close his heart to other possiblities, even though what he wanted didn't work out. Lesson learned. Thanks Pedro.
*name changed to protect the identity of just one of the many men who painfully learned patience by dating me. :)