Old Habits and the King of Wishful Thinking

You’d think that with three years of a totally obsessive and self-destructive crush behind me, I’d have learned my lesson.

Especially with everything else that I started to learn in high school.

Well, you’d be wrong.

I still had a habit of fixating on people. Usually people I was interested in dating and horribly crushing on. Sometimes, those crushes would come and go–their intensity waxing and waning over time. Most of them never got intense enough one way or the other to overcome my personal anxiety barriers.

There were some, though, that did. For good or ill, I think I actually went on more dates in high school than I did in college or since. Almost none of them are what anyone would call “successful.” (Especially by high school-themed pop culture standards.)

One of those waxing and waning crushes had been in place for at least a year before it really hit me.

She was a year behind me, in the orchestra, a bit of an athlete, tall as anything and, as far as I was concerned, near perfection.

In my sophomore year, my courage peaked once or twice and I actually asked her out to dinner and a movie. (That was the standard thing to do back then, some days I wonder if it’s changed all that much in modern high school culture.)

Amazingly, every time I asked, she already had plans to go. Fantastic! We had the same taste in movies, too! What’s that? And I can come along with her? Well that’s a win-win situation… me surrounded by women! It doesn’t get any better than that!

Yes. Those are almost exactly the thoughts that ran through my teenage head back then. Totally oblivious to the reality of the situation.

To put it bluntly: she really wasn’t that in to me. But she was trying to be nice about it. Which was great.

Except for the fact that I was way too dense to get the hint. My wishful thinking and obsessive habits blinded me to the harsh truth, just as they had in prior years.

And so, more than a couple of times, I paid for dinner for three and bought three movie tickets.

Some of those nights were fun. One time, the friend she miraculously already had plans with was the older sister of a guy in my scout troop. I actually got along better with my troop members sister than I did with the girl I was supposedly on a date with. I can still remember that odd flutter when I ended up holding her hand and locking eyes with her (for oh! such a fleeting instant) at the McDonalds across the street from the movie theater.

(Being the proper sort of gentleman, I put that flutter right out of my mind. Because, after all, I was on a date with someone else. *sigh*)

Some of those nights were not much fun at all. Like the one where lobster was ordered and my supposed date and her friend sat in the row behind me during the movie.

Thankfully, she eventually started dating someone else and my attention shifted onward.

There were other, low-key crushes that were a near constant in my high school career. Being in band, my homeroom and first period class took place in the lower-floor rehearsal space of one wing of the school. That left me plenty of time to just hang out in the hallway after my bus got in. Dozens of people walked past me every day as I held that wall up. At least half of the girls I had, at one time or another, had a crush on.

Many of them were in the band or orchestra.A few were just passing through. Cora was one of the latter. Every morning I’d greet her with a smile and a kind word or two. We never spoke too much outside of those morning greetings, but I was modestly smitten. Never drawn enough to overcome my fears, I never did ask her out.

What I did do was invite her to my graduation party.

She was the only one who wasn’t family who showed up at the beginning and didn’t leave until the end.

And still, it seems, even at the end of my high school career, I was blind to obvious signs.

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