Thursday, February 14, 2019

"Hi, you're Super!"

I was in the 3rd grade before I had my first real crush. I won't say her name, because the last thing she wants is to find her name associated with some post on a weirdo's blog about a crush he had almost 30 years ago. So, we'll just call her CMT, no relation to the Country Music Station.

I'm not sure what it was about CMT that had such an effect on me. Maybe it was her raspy voice, or maybe it was that long curly hair of hers. Regardless of the reason, I fell, and fell hard. And I made sure she was aware of my feelings the only way 8-9 year old me knew how; by saying nothing, and staring longingly at her from a distance. It might surprise you, but back then  I wasn't the confident, sexual Tyrannosaurus that I am today. I was a shy, awkward mess around other boys, let alone the opposite sex. Around my crush, I was a two legged disaster, capable of making a fool of myself at any moment.

The crazy thing about liking someone at that age, is that it's nearly impossible to keep it secret. I don't know if it's the way I looked at her, or if I had written down "CM & CMT Forever" in a notebook somewhere and someone saw it, but somehow everyone knew I was crushing on her. I may as well have announced it over the intercom. Even my parents knew. My mom mentioned hearing that I had a crush on a girl named CMT, following it up with how her dad and my dad didn't get along at all. If I had known about Romeo and Juliet at that age, I'm sure I would have appreciated the similarities in our situations. The only difference being that Juliet knew Romeo existed.

I remember being on the playground a couple months into the school year, and a couple of CMT's friends came over while I was playing on the monkey bars. One moment I was just hanging around, the next I'm being interrogated.  "So, do you like CMT, or do you like her like her?", one of them asked. Of course I admitted to "like liking her", and almost immediately regretted it. These weren't the type of girls to keep something like that secret, and of course they didn't. Thankfully, nothing ever came of me admitting my "like", not in public at least. I consider myself lucky in that aspect. I knew kids that were picked on daily because of something they had done or said. Yet, I somehow managed to skate under the radar. I could have been teased right out of the third grade due to that little slip up.

When you're 9 years old, it's hard to find ways to tell the object of your affections how you feel. I didn't have the guts to even ask her out on a date, let alone the means to take her on one. And really, what would a date between 9 year olds even look like? The two of us sitting in the back seat while our parents drove us to McDonald's?  No, when you're that old, the best way to express how you felt was a Valentine's Day card with your favorite cartoon character on it spouting romantic puns.  I can't remember which pack of cards I went with, but I remember going through them trying to find the best one to express my feelings. It was nerve wracking. I had to fill out cards for almost 40 kids, and I didn't want to inadvertently give someone else the card that would bring my "like" and I together for the rest of our lives. Hey, I may have been shy, but I was also a romantic. I doubt I even added much more to what the card already said. I probably just wrote "Love, Chris" or "Happy Valentine's Day!" on the back, expecting Garfield or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to do most of the heavy lifting for me.

That Valentine's Day couldn't come soon enough, and was the first one I remember actually being excited for. I couldn't wait to see what CMT's reaction was when she reached into the paper bag with her name on it, and pulled out my profession of "like" for her. I started wondering if she had a card for me, too. What if she felt the same way I did, but was too shy to say anything? Would we run to each other from across the room, dodging desks and backpacks, to embrace in a hug so tight as to cause a singularity that would compact us and everything around us into a space the size of a single atom? I guess there was only one way to find out. I dumped my paper bag of Valentine's cards on top of my desk, and started searching through them, trying to find the one that would connect me to the "like" of my life.

"Hey dude, you're cool!" proclaimed Leonardo. An ice cream cone told me I was sweet, which I guess is a high compliment coming from a cold, sugary snack. Garfield told me I was the only thing he liked more than lasagna. "Hi, you're Super!" said Barbie. "Love, CMT" written on the back.

I stopped for a moment, the breath having been ripped from my chest. Sweat beaded up on my forehead, and I had to set the card back down on my desk, because I didn't want to ruin it with my now soaked palms. Sure, it wasn't the most romantic message, but she had closed it out with "love". I was floored. I looked across the room and saw CMT sitting with her friends, the bunch of them looking through their cards together, giggling to each other. I had hoped, wished even, that I would catch her attention. But, she was preoccupied with with what I assumed would be picking out her future husband. I spent the rest of the day lost in my own imagination, and when I got home, I hid that Valentine in a secret compartment in my desk.

Months later, just before school was letting out for the summer, CMT announced that her and her family would be moving away. I was stunned. If I hadn't feared the embarrassment that would come from openly crying in class, I’m sure I would have lost it. That’s probably the only time I was unhappy about the school year ending. CMT and I had never really had much more than a few quick conversations, but my like for her never diminished. If anything, the more I realized that I would likely never see her again, the stronger my feelings got. But, when the final day of class arrived, there was no outpouring of emotion, not even an exchange of phone numbers and addresses. There was just a hug and a “Good bye”.

CMT may have been long gone to parts unknown, but I still had that flimsy paper Valentine tucked away in my desk. Over the years, (that's right, years), I would pull out the card and think about her, wonder what she was doing, and wonder what could have been. Removing the card from its hiding spot became something of a ritual. I'd make sure my mom was occupied, so she didn't inadvertently find me fawning over a cheap piece of paper with Barbie on it. And I absolutely didn't let any of my friends know about it. I remember one afternoon I had a couple friends over, and one found the card laying on my desk. "CMT? Didn't you have a thing for her?", he asked. I managed to play it off, and made up some story about how it must have somehow been in a stack of papers I was going through earlier that week. I made like I was tossing it out, and put it back in its secret hiding spot as soon as possible. I was a man obsessed.

I held on to that card up to the 8th grade, when my mom, who claimed to be cleaning, but was more likely snooping about, figured it was trash and tossed it out. I wanted to be mad about it, but I had to admit that holding on to a Valentine's card nearly a decade old from a girl that barely knew I existed back then, let alone remembered my existence now, probably wasn't the sort of thing that a mentally healthy person would do. I figured it was way past time for me to let it go, and move on.

So, I don't know where you are or what you're doing CMT, but hey, I'm sure you're super, too.

Happy Valentine's Day.

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