Last week, I had probably the weirdest reunion since the time when I found myself unwittingly participating in an awkward situation in-the-making at an after-bar party thrown by a third-tier friend and his roommate. I didn’t find out until I got in the door that the roommate everyone had been referring to as Bill (not his name, but you’ll get the point) was actually the guy I’d lost my virginity to and dated for a year and eight months as a fifteen to sixteen-year-old. I’d known him as William (again, not his name, but you see what I mean). I’d dumped him over the phone in a screaming rage when I found out about a series of lies he’d been telling me for our entire relationship. If the fact that he lied to me doesn’t make my method seem any less harsh, this was also the previously mentioned boyfriend in Filling In The Blank with the slicked back hair, tiny pony tail, and an uncle in the Chicago Mafia. See, he totally deserved it. Oddly enough, the last time I’d seen him was when he started hanging out with an ex of mine that I was still semi-friends with. The Jenga Game of guys doesn’t end there. I went to said Ex’s apartment with my Current Boyfriend to give him some of Current Boyfriend’s ugly old furniture. Tiny Ponytail was there, much to my shock. It turns out that things I had revealed to Ex Boyfriend were not kept confidential due to our semi-friend status and Tiny Ponytail knew about some things I didn’t want him to know about. Let’s just say, we both had reasons to break up with each other. He wasn’t necessarily mad, but he definitely wanted me to know that he knew.
You can imagine the awkwardness of being in his apartment and seeing him again after somewhere around seven years. Well, it actually turned out okay because we said hello and acknowledged how weird the situation was. It’s a good example of how time heals wounds. We’re definitely not besties, but anytime I see him, I say hello with a smile and he does the same. But, I digress.
My point is, I had another similar experience while out to eat with my mom at the local buffet. We were seated in a remote corner (just where I like to be) when this guy and his wife were seated a booth behind my mom. I’d had a huge crush on the guy when I was a tween and teenager when he’d been our neighbor. Captain Crush had always known it, too, and liked to tease me relentlessly. Ever since he’d gotten married, he’d been very leery of making eye contact with me when we ran into each other, let alone small talk. I’ve always sensed a tight leash was present, though I’ve no proof of that. I signaled to Mom that he was behind us and she turned around and said hello and I waved and it was all rainbows and unicorns. His wife even smiled at us. Then things got exponentially weirder.
While at the buffet, I looked through the steamed-up sneeze guard and saw the guy who first kissed me when I was thirteen. He was eighteen at the time. In hindsight, that probably was more disturbing than I found it when it happened. That first kiss ignited an infatuation that had been kindling for the previous two years. I was a giddy mess anytime I was around him and my friends and I mooned over him like he was Mark-Paul Gosselaar or Scott Baio (What? Am I the only one who thought Charles in Charge was a hottie?) First Kiss had long hair and was about six-three. I thought he was so smart and wise and the best kisser I’d ever…well, he was the only kisser I knew of at the time. He made me so nervous I would shake sometimes.
I would say that seeing him through the glass gave me that same giddy trembling, but honestly, I’d traded that in for a strong distaste for him. I’d seen First Kiss over the years and he’d always been hopeful that something would happen between us that was beyond friendship. Unfortunately for him, as I was nearing the end of my teen years, I was also realizing that his status as legend in my mind was fading. So, over the last twenty years when I’ve been around him, I’ve seen the truth. Where I’d once seen intelligence and wisdom, I now saw pretentiousness. His long hair was long gone and his height was no longer attractive as he’d stand before me, smoking cigs and pontificating about life. Another gem I unearthed during the last time I’d associated with him was that he had nearly no boundaries. He started calling me at work asking me to bring him cigarettes. When I got a new job in a customer service call center, First Kiss called there and when I wouldn’t answer my desk phone, he had them page me so he could talk about pretty much nothing. I was afraid his nonsense was going to cost me my job. I told my mom about it and she called him up and told him to stay away from me. And that was the end of our contact until I ran into him at a bar one night about three years later. I tried to talk to him but conversing with someone so egocentric is difficult at best. I cut my night short just to get away from him.
Then, there he was at the buffet. I managed to dodge him and scurried back toward my table. I stopped at the booth where Captain Crush sat and said through gritted teeth, “First Kiss is here!”
Captain Crush busted out laughing and said his wife had just pointed that out!
As I sat down with Mom, I realized that First Kiss was actually sitting directly behind Captain Crush, facing me. I tried hard to keep mom’s head between him and me.
You might wonder how all of this is related. Or maybe not. But I’m going to tell you anyway.
First Kiss and Captain Crush were good friends in high school. Our neighbor, C. Crush, brought First Kiss around when they were sixteen. They liked flirting with my mom because she’d been a nude model and was a bizarre type of local celebrity for appearing in a girly magazine. I was smitten with both boys. For all of us to be seated in the same fifty square feet, after all those years, was a little Twilight Zonish for me.
What was truly unsettling was when we finally decided to reveal our presence to First Kiss. He came over and began the most awkward conversation I’ve had in quite some time. Maybe ever. If uncomfortableness was measured in plates of food, then I had eaten every last thing on that buffet. I won’t go into what he said because that’s not important. It’s the realization that matters. I’ve known for a long time that he wasn’t the guy I imagined him to be as a thirteen-year-old. It’s incredible though, just how far he’d fallen from that pedestal. And it isn’t just my perception of him that tumbled. It’s very much a reality. He’s like so many teen heartthrobs who fall out of favor, start spiraling downward, dabble in drugs and alcohol, suffer from poor physical health, poor mental health, and have no friends. I felt bad for him, even as I wanted to get up and leave. Quickly.
It wasn’t just him either. Captain Crush packed on the pounds and though he still has a baby face, it’s that of a much hairier, much fatter baby.
I know for a fact that Mom is no longer the stuff teen boys shut themselves in the bathroom for and that I fell off my own pedestal a long time ago. I’m pretty sure the thing is actually on top of me, I’m so far removed from the heights of young, thin and busty. It happens to everybody eventually. Youth is one of those things you never fully appreciate while you have it. You spend the rest of your life remembering it, sometimes grabbing at it, but almost always realizing you’re better off now than living amongst a bunch of distorted legends.