This weekend, I hung out with a few friends of mine. We were at a local get-together, playing cards, and having a few beers. It wasn't anything special, but it was a pretty relaxing evening. In any case, while there, I ran into a girl who I haven't seen since high school, and I spent most of the night talking to her, mostly about her 2 year old son who has Down Syndrome. She found out I was a pharmacist and then started asking me question after question about her son's medication. I didn't mind. She was genuinely concerned, and I was glad to answer whatever questions she had.
The reason I bring this up is because I had the biggest crush ever on this girl when I was in high school. We first met in 8th grade, and I thought she was really annoying at first. You see... If you think I'm bad with women now, you should have seen me in my adolescent days. I literally could not speak to a girl. I'd shake like a leaf the second one said anything to me. I couldn't get a sentence out of my mouth. I was pathetic. For whatever reason, this girl (I'll call her Lisa) took an interest in me. To this day, I have no idea why.
At the end of the school day, we had a study hall period during which we were supposed to be doing our homework. I never bothered doing any work, and since I pretty much got all A's, my teachers never worried about what I did. Well, it was during that time that she continually sat next to me and tried to get me to talk about things. Nothing deep, you know. Just the simple stuff that I seemed to struggle with (i.e. my parents, whether I had brothers and sisters, what I like to do in my spare time, etc.). It was small talk, but before meeting her, I wasn't capable of making small talk. By the end of the year, however, she brought me out of my shell a little bit.
Suddenly and completely unexpectedly, I found myself really liking Lisa. She had a really special personality. She's the kind of person you just don't come across very often. I can't really describe it in words, but if you met her, you'd understand. It was no accident that she was voted best personality in both my middle school and high school year books.
The next year was our freshman year in high school, and by some amazing coincidence, we ended up in the same science class. I say it's an amazing coincidence because I shouldn't have taken the same level class as her. My high school had 3 class levels (honors, academic, and basic). Obviously, the honors classes were the best, but despite having the highest science average in my team in 8th grade, I chose to take the academic level class out of concern that taking all honors classes would be too much work. I didn't know what to expect from high school, so I wanted to play it safe. I ended up finding out that high school classes (and pretty much every level class I've ever taken) are pretty easy for me. I literally could have slept through that academic science class and passed with flying colors.
In any case, we ended up in the same class (it was the only class we had together in high school other than one other study hall during my junior year). We also ended up being randomly seated right next to each other. We kind of became pretty good friends. I used to help her out on her homework as well as helping her study for tests. She started going out with another guy on the basketball team, so she used to come to all our games (I only played freshman ball during my freshman year). Presumably, she went to the game to support her boyfriend, but I heard her cheering for me much more than for him. I can remember distinctly shooting free throws and hearing her yell out "Yay Mike!" every time I made one. Of course, I averaged almost 18 points per game and shot nearly 50% from the 3 point line in freshman ball, so she had more opportunities to cheer for me than anyone else. I think there was more to it than that though.
Now, I said earlier that I liked her, but you don't understand what that means with me. I tend not to give out my affection very often, so in order to really get my attention, you have to be pretty special. Lisa was special. I liked her a lot. And you know what? I know that by the end of the year, she liked me too. She would never admit it to her friends, but I could tell. There was always something between us that was a little different. Something that you can't quite put your finger on, but you know it's there. I was still this painfully shy, dorky kid. I was known for 4 things: 1) I loved basketball. 2) I was really smart. 3) I was really shy. 4) I was a really nice guy. I hung out with the "cool kids" because I was good at basketball, but I was never really fully accepted into the group. Deep down, I just wasn't one of the "cool kids." I was basically a smart, dorky kid who just happened to be nasty at basketball. Lisa was, in essence, too cool for me, so she couldn't go out with me even if she really wanted to.... and I'll always contend she liked me.
In any case.... I'm starting to get to the point of this post. Lisa ended up being caught up in the wrong crowd, and we fell out of contact. She was always a smart girl, but she just needed a little push to get her going in school. However, she started hanging out with these pot-smoking, beer drinking deliquints, and she got caught up in that stuff. Her grades suffered. She started getting into some juvenile trouble. Eventually, this smart girl ended up just barely graduating high school, and she never even considered going to college. She took whatever low paying jobs she could find and ended up getting married to some guy that had just as many money problems as she did. She had a kid who had Downs Syndrome (just plain bad luck there). She now is the same age as me and her and her husband live with her parents in a tiny house.
Let me clarify that I don't think this is neccessarily a bad thing. She and her husband aren't bad citizens or anything. They just struggle to make ends meet. Every day is a struggle for that family. It makes me sad because I know that she had so much potential, but her high school days ruined any chance she had of living up to that potential.
That's why I'm wondering what if. I never told her I liked her. Sometimes, I even went out of my way to show that I didn't really like her. Sometimes, I was just so socially awkward that I'd say something that sounded pretty rude to her, even though I didn't intend it that way at all. What if I had stepped up and put my feelings out there? What if I showed her I cared more? Could I have changed her life?
It's a strange thought and not without merrit (despite being ultimately pointless). I remember one time she came up to me proud of herself for making honor roll one marking period. She told me about it, and my reaction was, "So?" What an asshole thing to say to someone! I didn't mean it in a mean way, but I was too socially inept to state my feelings more clearly. I was thinking that it was really good for her, but she has the ability to do that every marking period if she wanted. My shooting her down isn't really the point though. The point was that she told me in the first place. She obviously thought it was something I'd approve of, and she was looking for my approval.
If she ended up going out with me, maybe she would have focused more on school. Maybe she wouldn't have gotten caught up in drugs. Maybe she would have went on to college and got a good job that would enable her to more easily take care of a family.
Anyway... Seeing her and talking to her this weekend made me think about all this stuff. She asked me if I was married yet, to which I of course said no with a chuckle (I didn't want to get into the whole situation with my ex). She looked genuinely surprised and said to me, "I'm shocked. I figured some girl would have snatched you right up." There was a room full of people that she knew far better than me, but she spent most of the night talking to me. I'm not saying she likes me or anything. Despite not having the easiest life, she seems pretty happy with her husband and child. It's just that the way she talked to me further showed me that she used to have more than a passing interest in me back in high school. I guess I also wonder if the thought of "What if.." ever crossed her mind.
I know this was a long post, and I know very few if any will make it through it. However, I write mostly for myself, and there's a lot I wanted to get off my chest. I found it simultaneously interesting, a little enlightening, and sad. It's kind of rare that a simple event can affect someone in so many different ways. I guess that's why I had to write about it.