Sunday 27 December 2009

Fire-Engine Fail

Earlier in the year, Jordyn from Ten Cent Notes, asked me to contribute a guest post in honour of Sarah Ockler’s debut novel, 20 Boy Summer. It was to be on the topic of first love. I ummmed and ahhhed but managed to scrape something together, this is the result. The original post (it's been slightly tweaked) can be found by clicking on the link complete with some fantastic comments. Thanks Sarah and Jordyn!

Reluctantly I have decided to delve into my deep, dark, and somewhat sordid past (I wish) to tell you about one of my boy adventures. So I thought I would start with the first… the one that will always be startling clear and reside in my heart just a little.

I was seventeen when I started university. Tall, clumsy and fresh from an all girl’s boarding school. I had always been very sociable with my peers but was always considered the “friend.” The friend zone was my prison and there was little I could do to escape its confines to flit into the girlfriend zone. I was too low maintenance, too blunt and very naive. I thought I would find a guy that liked me for me, he would fall in love with me at first sight and that would be it. (At this point I would like to inform you that I read my grandmother’s Harlequin novels from the age of fourteen, which explains everything.)

It happened very differently as the unrequited factor hadn’t really occurred to me. I had really never severely crushed on someone before and I had no idea what to do. I was a late bloomer, so to speak. I didn’t know how to wear flattering clothing and wore a bowling ball-tight ponytail throughout high school. I had long ago recognised that I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough, or agreeable enough to have guys fall at my feet. I was snarky, cynical, and too quick to call boys on their BS.

Tom was a giant (6′5) basketball player from another state who had a trace of an American accent. (As an Australian, totally appealing.) He had an easy smile, an affable way about him and hadn’t yet realised that he was a catch. I was completely smitten. He talked to me, found me amusing and would entrap me in big, open armed hugs. I was convinced he was “the one.”

He made it very easy for me to fall in love with him. I would eagerly survey the cafeteria for him as I had quickly developed Tom-dar. If he wasn’t there, I was attune enough to feel his arrival in my bones. Any time there was a party I would ensure a dance with him. I would cheer madly at him playing basketball skillfully and football badly. I hung off his every word. I ensured that my friends would take photos of me and him together so I could pour over them later. Around him my brain was the equivalent of mashed potatoes but less yummy. I always knew that he didn’t feel that way about me but was convinced that he’d discover, upon hearing me saying something particularly witty, that I was the one for him. But I was his friend. Someone he could be sure to hear a biting comment from or grab a quick hug with. However, after a year of pining I realised it needed to stop but I had no idea how to make that a reality.

I decided to tell him while I was drunk off Fire-Engines in a dodgy pub. It was still light outside; there was hardly anyone in the pub. Actually, I wasn’t drunk...I just pretended to be so that I could use it as an excuse later.

Sickly sweet, red vodka drink in hand I walked up to him. I looked up into his blue eyes and declared my love for him. Yep, I said it just like that. (Shudders in embarrassment.) The room froze. My heart clenched. My stomach rolled. Crap. Time to recant. I deliberately swayed on my feet a little to convince him I was a little tipsy. “Oh no no no, I meant to say that I was in love with you. I am so over you now. I just thought you’d like to know.” (Shudders some more.) Seriously, what was I thinking?

Tom paused for what felt like forever, I scarfed down the rest of my drink just for something to do. His head inclined to the side and he said this:

“That’s really flattering.” He leaned forward and gave me a huge encompassing hug – and yes I did smell him – lifting me off the ground and gently placing me down again. He quickly escaped my presence. I'd say bolted but that might be a little exaggerated. At the time, and even now, I appreciated the grace with which that eighteen year old boy let me down.

It took six months to rid myself of Tom-dar. What I had failed to realise while I was madly “in love” with Tom, was that he was madly “in love” with HorseFace. An extremely skinny, big boobed, whinny-faced dynamo with a loud laugh. All the girls hated her, not because he was crushing on her but because she was a bitch. Possessing some clarity, I realise now that Tom was me in that pairing. Except, he got his happy ending. It took him a year or two but he eventually swooped that girl up. She never deserved him but he was completely entranced by her vivacity. He was happy and that was enough.

Tom got married a few years ago (not to HorseFace). I saw the picture on Facebook and had a pang of jealousy. He looked really happy, had filled out, gained a medical degree and is still a nice guy. I suspect that my Tom-dar will come back in full force when I attend my ten year reunion later this year. Hopefully there are some Fire-Engines on standby.


Rhiannon Hart said...

Early uni crushes are so much harder to get over than high-school crushes, in my opinion. There's that sense of This Is My Life Now, tinged with freedom and plenty more alcohol. Being in control, more or less, makes it even more painful when things go awry. And very few guys are as sweet as this Tom sounds.

Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your memories.

Diana Dang said...

Great post. I'm in the last year of my high school and I'm currently crushing on a guy bad. I just wonder how my love life in university will turn out...

The Book Owl said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing. :)

Liyana said...

Thanks for telling us your story. It must have been hard, writing this down.

Karen Mahoney said...

I absolutely LOVED this story. Adele, thank you. :)

Also, it is wonderfully written - I am truly blown away. I think you should have this published in a collection of essays, or something like that. Maybe there will be an open call for essays on first love...