The day I graduated it rained. Part of me enjoyed this since our principal announced that it never rained on a Northeast graduation (I have a twisted delight when someone makes a statement about something over which they have no control whatsoever and the opposite happens). It stopped raining sometime during the ceremony and we were able to stand outside on the damp grass and concrete to talk and reminisce (some of us for the last time). It was the day I officially left high school behind. It was also the day I learned that two girls I was nuts about at some point in the past four years were also interested in me along with the reasons we never got together.
The first was a girl I liked (liked liked in the Semantics of Relationship) for my sophomore and junior years. We stood outside the Dunn center at Austin Peay when she confessed her affection for me.
“Wow,” I said, “I honestly had no idea.”
“Yeah, I figured you never noticed me.”
“Noticed you? I noticed you all the time! I would have gone out with you in a heartbeat!”
“Really?” Her face arranged into a mixture of shock and sadness (I’ve had the same expression a few times over the years when a long ago crush tells me they were in to me as well which would have been good information to have, you know, twenty-something years ago).
“Yeah, but why didn’t you tell me? You were always forward and asked guys out. Why not just ask me out?”
“Because you were always with Suzanne.”
“Oh . . . wait, what? I never dated Suzanne.”
“Yes you did. You were together our freshman year through at least our junior year. YOu broke up then, but I thought it was too late. You seemed so hung up on her.”
“I’m pretty sure I would remember that. We never dated. We certainly never broke up, mainly ’cause we never dated.”
“But you did! You talked about her all the time in French class!”
I stared at her for a moment. I wasn’t really sure she just said what I thought I heard, so I repeated, slowly, “I talked about her in French class. You weren’t in my French class.”
“But I heard about it! She was all you talked about for almost three years.”
“You never asked me out because I talked about a girl named Suzanne in French class.”
“Yeah, and when she broke your heart, I thought you were out of reach.”
“Suzanne doesn’t exist.”
“She doesn’t exist, Jay and I made her up for the dialogues.”
Our French teacher had us do what she called dialogues every week. These were little skits that we had to perform in French. The interesting thing is, we could get away with just about anything, as long as we said it in French. Jay and I took two and a half years of French together and we always performed the dialogues together. I our very first one we created Suzanne, a girl I was interested in. She became the focus of all our dialogues and we created a very elaborate story over those two and a half years. We wanted good grades so we invested a good deal of emotion in them. They were popular and apparently a little too well done.
I couldn’t believe I stood in front of a real girl that never asked me out because of an imaginary one. Suddenly the A’s in French felt hollow.
The other conversation the day I graduated was with a girl I crushed on for all of high school. Actually, it was a little longer since we met the summer before we started high school at band camp. She was funny, beautiful, and wore the most intoxicating perfume (I can still recall its scent to this day). A friendship sprung up, but I wanted it to become something more. It never did (for a variety of reasons), but as we said our goodbyes that day she looked intensely at me.
“How come we never went out?” she asked.
“Um, well, you remember when we were freshman right after school started and I asked you what would happen if I asked you out?” Yeah, I know, smooth.
“And remember how you said you’d rather stay ‘just friends’ that you didn’t want to date me?”
“Well, that’s why. I respected your wishes because having you as a friend was better than nothing at all.”
“But I was just playing hard to get. I really wanted to go out with you.”
I’m sure my face had the same shocked/sad expression I witnessed a few moments before. It pained me to realize what could have been.
“Well, you did a really good job playing hard to get,” I laughed (it was a forced laugh), “I totally bought it.”
I eventually drove off in my parents’ little Subaru Legacy wagon. I wore my unzipped gown which billowed in the wind from the rolled down windows (at least when it wasn’t raining). I didn’t go home. I didn’t go to any graduation parties. I didn’t even go hang out with people I just graduated with. I drove 30 miles down to Lylewood and helped with a clean up day. No reminiscing. No thought of what might have been. I was done with high school and ready to forge a life beyond it.