Three Crushes and Me
- Brent. 8th grade. We had every class together, sat near or next to each other in all of them, were science lab partners for half the year. He played the bass, basketball, football, was super smart. Drew pictures of me, spoof-y, non-sexual, badass ones based on a nickname he and his friend assigned me that year: Whips ‘n Chains. He grabbed my hand for a second or three as our class moved through a crowd outside the Lincoln Memorial.
- Steve. Freshman year of college. A poultry science major who roomed with a high school classmate of mine. The energy of us formed the moment said roommate/classmate made the introductions. I kept calling; he kept answering. Eventually I began to wonder, Why doesn’t he call me? and stopped. The last I heard of him I was at the movies with two friends. They were outside the bathroom; I was in it. He passed by, asked what had happened to Ashley. “What happened to you?” they said.
- Aaron. Sophomore year of college, “the hot guy from biology.” The first time our hands touched were were walking into class and he reached out with a piece of Trident gum. He introduced me to camping and hiking, dive bars and self-confidence. We went to a courthouse and got married, have raised each other, are raising two kids too.
It seems important, this accounting of major crushes. Conjuring up the loss of what was and never was. Mourning and honoring what fear kept me from and what time paved over. Reconciling something I can’t yet pinpoint by considering:
- Me. 8th grade. I played on three different softball teams at the same time, was a pitcher, was quiet—impetus for becoming Whips ‘n Chains. One of my coaches gave me the Best Defense award and called me “the strong, silent type.”
- Me. Freshman year of college. Biology major, pre-med. Went to class but didn’t study much because I was in the room across the hall with my girlfriends talking about boys mostly. There were plenty of them, and I even spent time with one a year older who’d been known in high school for his parties, one of which my friends and I had once cruised by, curious on a Saturday night.
- Me. Sophomore year of college. I met Aaron at the beginning of spring semester, just after I moved into my first apartment. My ex-boyfriend lived in the same building and occasionally we still had sex. I mean, when he wanted to and I didn’t say no. (I never said no until the first, final, and everlasting no.) I remember the day he told me he’d started seeing a girl named Erin. After we hung up I called him right back. “I’ve got an Aaron too,” I said. “Not yet, but he will be mine.”
I wonder why I’m writing this now. Why does it matter? What am I trying to show or see?
Is it the hit of a crush I’m seeking? Of excitement, newness, possibility? Not in exchange for what I have now but in addition to it.
Is it to grieve what I never had? Relationships under-developed, moves I didn’t make, bravery I didn’t possess.
Is it to make meaning? What if Brent, I might suggest, was there to help me like myself more? What if Steve came along to teach me not to assign explanation to others’ actions? What if Aaron showed me how to hold on?
Is it to release? What’s over, the vision of what never came to be, the need for meaning, even myself. These crushes are long since gone, and at some point I’ll be gone too.
Is it because these crushes point to me? Show me more of myself—who I was then, who I am now, the essence that’s been there the whole time.
The sun, outside the kitchen window, hints that it’s about to rise, the sky ever so lightening to pale. Maybe when it’s brighter out I’ll be able to see.
We regularly learn by overcoming challenges, making mistakes, experiencing embarrassment. Examples that come to mind for me are often related to travel, like figuring out how the London Tube works or how to get one from city to another on an ADO bus in Mexico without Spanish fluency. Things that are useful at the time, but if I never return to those places won’t be useful again. I don’t like thinking this, that my hard won knowledge is going to waste. I want there to be a point, a reason to remember, a chance to use it again.
But what if there isn’t? What if there isn’t a reason to recall anything besides what’s useful in our daily lives? What if the memories of subways and buses, of my crushes and the me I was then are just clutter in the junk drawer of my mind? What if there’s no point, no gift in looking back on them or me? What if doing so is just my ego begging for attention, longing for my thoughts to keep tripping over one another?
Hey, remember this? Remember him? Remember me? Let’s think about this stuff a whole lot. Why don’t we write about it too? Make it out to be really special, super important.
So I do. I give it what it’s craving, a mental-emotional masturbation session, spinning memories into nothingness, leaving me unsatisfied.
There’s only so much looking back we can healthily do. Just enough to scoop out the importance of it all, give it the honor it’s sometimes due.
Freedom is, in part, the ability to release the past, to stop clenching it between our teeth and shaking vigorously, hoping it will give us what we want, or die. It’s letting go to make space for the present and whatever future we may get.
Remembering is only beneficial insofar as it helps us create freedom in the present.
That’s what I see.