Hump Day Crush: I’m Gonna Be…

Kerry was just one of those girls that I found myself falling for quite unexpectedly in high school. She really was more like one of the guys than anything else.

Except every now and then… there was just something.

I had first met her in middle school. I had an English class with her one term. Academically, we weren’t on the same track (though I still think she was a lot smarter than she ever gave herself credit for). We weren’t into a lot of the same things, we didn’t hang out much outside of school and we didn’t really travel in the same circles.

In all fairness, though, I couldn’t claim that anyone really did much of the same stuff I did. My social standing in high school wavered somewhere between “nowhere” and “everywhere” with a general feeling of disdain. I could be anywhere and most people would just ignore me and let me sit there and watch and listen.

Except for Kerry.

It was in high school when we started spending more time with each other. Mostly at lunch, then during the plays. She was only in the one I wasn’t in, the rest of the time she was on stage crew. I got along better with the stage crew than I did with most of the other actors, so we got to spend a lot of time together during show breaks.

She was the first girl I really danced with. She was the first girl that put me in a headlock. And there were days when I was convinced that she was going to be the first girl who I did a lot of things with.

Short and tough, she could come across as antisocial as any disaffected Gen Xer, complete with flannel and jeans. A bit of a heavy metal edge was softened by an actual appreciation of real friends and hard work–both relatively rare in high school.

We always had fun together. We also always meant to get together a lot more than we actually did.

The summer after our senior year, after I had gone to the Key Club International convention in New Orleans and before I left for college, we finally did manage to get together.

It was me, Kerry and our friend Georgia (a pretty standard group to find together in the quad or in the hallways at high school). We got off to kind of a late start, the sun was already setting on a nice late-summer day. Ice cream was high on the list of things to do, and so we went to one of the (many) local shops and got our cones from the white-clad server behind the stick-covered sliding window.

Sitting on the bench next to the orange building (that even then needed a paint job badly), we laughed and licked and talked and chomped our cones.

Then the inevitable question was raised: What are we going to do?

The decision came rather quickly, a rarity in our group. “We’ll go to the track and catch a horse race!” After all, it was just a little down the road from the ice cream place, and it was bound to not be too crowded (it never was during those years… except during the dog show, one of the other times I could be pretty sure I’d run into Kerry as her parents had some pups that were purebred).

So we hopped into our cars and made the two minute drive to the track.

And discovered it was closed.

This perplexed us for a moment.

Then we remembered…

It was Sunday night.

And so there we sat, parked next to each other, doors open, radios on and tuned to the same station. The Proclaimers came on and we sung right along with I’m Gonna Be, our almost in tune voices (ok, her’s was in tune, but she was in the chorus) echoing off the ancient, out of style walls of the main track building and bouncing back at us from the still warm pavement.

That’s about when the security guard showed up and told us we had to leave or the real cops were going to show up.

With nowhere else to go, and everything in the county closed (it being Sunday night and all), we parted ways.

I wouldn’t see Kerry again for more than a year. I got a midnight-ish drunk call from her once my first year of college, but I didn’t see her again until the second summer when I was working road crew for the county. She just happened to be out walking on the road we were starting work on. We chatted briefly and said “We should get together.”

We never did.

It was just a few years ago that I tracked her down, through the Internet and her older brother. She seemed at least vaguely happy to hear from me and invited me over to her and her boyfriend’s place for a holiday party. I went, of course. There were some other people from her circle of high school friends there, ones who had kept in better touch or who had at least stayed in the area.

I told her that a lot of us guys had crushes on her in high school. She, of course, said “Why didn’t any of you say something! I didn’t think anyone liked me.”

And I had a moment of bittersweet memory of that one perfect night.

When I could have told her.

I could have looked right into her blue-green eyes and said “I’m gonna be the man who’s growing old with you.” I could have taken her oddly delicate hand and held it tight in mine and swore that “I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more” just for her.

Because, back then, I would have.

She was one of the first people I really fell in Love with. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Now, I haven’t spoken with her in a few years. She disappeared from my life completlely just before she got married.

Some days… I wonder how she’s doing.

And when I hear The Proclaimers belt out that one tune… I smile… and sing right along.

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