I am somewhat of an expert at falling in love. I have, in fact, been falling in love quite well since the tender age of eleven.
Third grade brought me to the realization that I was, if not the weirdest kid on the planet, at least in the top six. Ronnie Castle, who came to the Halloween carnival as an outhouse, was perhaps weirder. But not by much. And people liked him because he was funny weird. I was just awkward weird.
So I admired boys from afar. It was easier that way—I could pretend there was a chance, and they didn’t have to remind me what I freak I was. I became an unrequited love aficionado. I knew all the rules: staring and sighing heavily, finding his picture in the yearbook and drawing hearts on it, asking all my friends for information on him on the sly, thinking about how my first name would sound with his last name, and, of course, completely running away if he ever so much as glanced in my direction, because no good could come of an actual conversation.
The first poor kid to get this treatment was Henrik in sixth grade. Henrik was from Norway and did not even know I existed, which was probably better for him. Had he known what a torch I carried for him, he would have blushed, as only a Scandanavian can blush, all the way up to the roots of his white-blonde gorgeous hair.
By eighth grade, I had moved on to the greener pastures of Michael. Michael was the lead in the spring musical, which was a revue of Bye, Bye Birdie and Grease. He was Conrad. He was Danny. And even though I hadn’t seen either movie, I listened to Summer Dreams on repeat the entire spring. I would have given anything to be the girl lead opposite him. But that kind of thing doesn’t happen to girls who accidentally drop their overalls strap in the toilet… after they’ve used said toilet… and before they’ve flushed said toilet. And I was that girl.
The one great thing about unrequited love, though, is that if I was admiring from afar, my guy was always perfect. He never said anything hurtful to me, or touched me in a way I didn’t like, and, really, he wasn’t even ignoring me, because it was my doing that had made me invisible to him. Compared to love with two people, unrequited love is kind of a breeze. It’s the falling, without the landing.