Lessons Learned: That Green Eyed Monster

My years at college were very busy by just about any standard. A lot of things were started. But one of the most painful and educational things that happened that year started the summer before I left for school.

And it started in New Orleans.

Between my last year of high school and my first year of college, I went to the 50th Annual Key Club International Convention in New Orleans. It was, by far, the most raucous “high school” party I’ve ever been to. But The Big Easy is good for that sort of thing.

I was the only person from my school’s club to go, but that was just fine. After four years of attending NY District conventions and the previous year’s International one in Toronto, I knew a bunch of people from all over the state (and a couple of other states, too).

Needless to say, during that convention week, many crushes were developed. (Many addresses were also collected and I’ve stayed in touch with some of those people right up through now.) One crush in particular had started at a NY District convention as a wee bit of interest. In the wilds of Bourbon Street, though, that wee bit grew to a size larger than a crawdad. In the twilight of a river boat dinner, it became a full-blown crush.

Her name was Sarah. She was from upstate NY, just outside of Buffalo. Not too terribly far from where I would be attending school. This, of course, put all sorts of ideas in my head.

Let’s take a moment and remember what kind of state of mind I was in before college. I was a social outcast. Any positive social interaction, especially any prolonged conversation from a girl I considered attractive, was an amazing experience. I knew next to nothing about relationships and was a die-hard old school hopeless romantic.

All of that, and Sarah seemed to be not not interested in me. (Yeah, I know, a tricky double negative, but that’s how I thought back then.)

And so, for a while after that I kept in touch with her.

I had my share of adventures and whatnot in my first year of college. I fell in lust, I fell in love, I learned exactly what a psycho hose beast was (and ran from that one). I even started to get my head on straight and make great friends.

When Sarah did finally come and visit, I was pretty well situated in my new life. I was really looking forward to welcoming her into it as much as I possibly could. I was downright giddy when she actually showed up and took great pleasure in introducing her around to my good friends.

My buddy Z and my compatriot in “Chris-ness” CA took to her right away, as I suspected they would. They were my best friends in the world, we did everything together that we could. It was great that she fit in so well with all of us.

And then, a not-so-funny thing started to happen. She started to spend more time with them, than with me.

That’s when I started to feel it well up from deep within me. A slow burn that I had never felt before. It grew into a bright, tight fire, constricting my lungs and making my vision actually go spotty.

She was my girl, damn it. How did they end up with her. I was supposed to be the one spending time with her. She was supposed to fall for me.

I didn’t see any of them much more during her visit.

And then, one day, my phone rang. It was Sarah.

“I’ve got kind of a strange question for you,” she said, hesitating with on obvious bit of nervousness.

My mind whirled. What could it possibly be? “OK,” I managed.

“Well… my senior prom is coming up…”

Oh God! Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! My heart was doing an odd fluttery thing.

“And I was wondering…”

And I’ve been wondering for years! It’s about time you came to your senses and asked…

“Do you think CA would go with me if I asked him?”

Ye– wait… that can’t be right. I felt all the muscles in my back tighten. My throat dried up. I almost dropped the phone. I took as deep a breath as I could manage (which wasn’t much of one) and said, “Uh, I’m sure he would. After all, he’s a lot like me and I know I…”

“That’s Great!” She was obviously relieved. “And do you think that Z could give him a ride if I set him up with a date, too?”

Now it felt like there two very distinct knives planted firmly in my back. Each penetrating not only a lung, but a ventricle. Breathing was an afterthought. Standing was almost too much. “yeah… I suppose he probably would…” My brain was just spinning a blank.

“Wonderful!” she said. “Thank you sooo much. I’m going to call CA right now.”

“Uh, yeah…”

*CLICK*

I stood there with the phone, just me and the dial tone, for a while. I heard the phone ring across the hall and knew it was her calling my buddies to invite them out to prom weekend a couple months in the future.

And that’s when it really began. A constant burn. Every time I saw either of them.

I started to notice things. I noticed they would stop conversations when they thought I could hear them. (They didn’t quite notice how far sound carries in a dorm hallway, so it was always too late… I knew exactly what they were talking about.) There was never any mention of Sarah while I was around. There were few deep conversations among the three of us. There was even one time, just a few weeks before the prom, when I caught them going out for their tux fittings. They made up a very lame excuse and scurried off.

The weekend of the prom was a nightmare for me. All I could do was sit and stew in this newfound feeling of jealousy. Not only had they both said “yes” without pitching me into the deal (or if they had, they had done so unsuccessfully and never mentioned it), they hadn’t even been honest enough with me to tell me they were going until the absolute last instant they could.

To say it was unpleasant would be a massive understatement.

But now, when I look back on it all, I can see that in those dark hours of my own life, my friends were making great strides in their own. They meant me no harm–they just didn’t know how to tell me. They kept quiet because they didn’t want to hurt me. I had never mentioned to them that I knew before they did that they were going to a prom. They thought I was blissfully ignorant. I must have put on a passable act.

From that dark weekend, my buddies came away with good stories to tell. Mostly about how much the prom itself sucked. Z’s date didn’t quite work out, but he did meet another wonderful young woman who would become quite the important part of all of our lives for a while (I, at least, am still happily in touch with her… she’s been a very good friend and brought much joy over the years).

CA and Sarah didn’t really work out either. Which, really, was just as well. I know that her and I would have never worked either. But his time with her got him moving along in his life just fine and, he’s done quite well for himself since then.

That night, I faced a part of my own shadow self–my Adversary–that I had never even known existed. I learned that I did care about some things, like friendship and honesty and openness, more than I had thought possible. It also planted the seeds for me to learn the difference between a crush and Love and Reality.

My life has been an ongoing game of connect-the-dots. That prom night was a big green one that sits smack in the middle of an amazing web of rippled effects.

Nothing happens accidentally. No pain is worthless. It is all in how we choose to look back on it.

And from the vantage point I gained way back then, I could see that jealousy wasn’t worth the trouble it could have caused.

I’m happy to say, it hasn’t reared its ugly head for any length of time since.

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