So I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go with today’s post. One of my friends commented today that I have lost my wild side, that the Brent from “my Sarah days” (names changed to protect the innocent of course) was gone.
What are you trying to say, that I’m getting old?
Well, what he was referring to was a rather severe crush I had on this girl in high school.
Now. When I say “crush” that’s what it was, but it was the kind of crush the whole town more or less knew about, and a crush a lot of the town still remembers.
So I was a teenage stalker. NOT REALLY!!! But to hear some of the townsfolk tell it, that’s what you would think. And I realized with my friend’s comment today (and he has only heard about it all second hand) that I had never really told my side to anyone but my closer friends regarding the “Sarah days.”
Instant wherethebleepiswyoming blog fodder.
So, here’s what really happened:
Fall 1985. I had just started out with this whole “cruising Main” thing – I was at that time cruising in my parents’ Chevy Chevette. If Pee Wee Herman ever had an idea for a new car design, the Chevette has to be close to what he would come up with. I mean, this was a TERRIBLE car. And it had a cool factor of -2. (A 1968 Camaro, for example, would have a cool factor of at least 10.) I did at least get my dad to put a stereo in the thing. That helped.
No, this post is not going to be a reiteration of ‘Rock and Roll High School,” I assure you.
But it is going to be about the time I fell really bad for a cheerleader. Oh, I mean, at first it was the typical thing – nerdy guy from band class has puppy eyes for one of the cheerleaders, and hilarity ensues. And that was definitely how it started, smiles, waves, a friendly hello (during which I’m sure I blushed), and the like.
Then one colder evening I got the bright idea to follow her around a little. I don’t really know why. She had this big extended cab Ford long bed, and here she is being tailed by a Chevette. It must have been like, “Really??” when she looked in the rear view mirror. Not like there were a lot of gold Chevettes cruising Main. She knew exactly who it was. I bottomed out in a speed dip by a park (this was at around 10 p.m on an October night) as her front end bottomed out on the truck on the same dip. I decided it was getting a little ridiculous, so I broke off the chase.
Don’t ask me what made me decide to chase her that night. She had three friends with her – I would never have done this if she was alone – and she knew full well who it was. So, I just chalked it off to boredom and left it at that. Well of course, the next weekend she decides to give me some of my own medicine and starts following me. Then next time I followed her. We were playing automotive tag. I spun out a few times, even ended up faced the wrong direction once. But it was all in the name of fun, right?
Then the car hopping started. One of her friends jumped out of the truck at a red light and hopped into the Chevette. She proceeded to tell me how Sarah was in love with me. (Look, I might have had a crush on Sarah, but I wasn’t stupid.) Yeah, right. Then at the next light she hops back in to the truck. Next time Sarah gets out, her boyfriend takes the wheel as she hops into the Chevette. Now Sarah is telling me all about how one of her friends is “majorly” in love with me. Then gets out again. Cute. And I almost really did say, “But Sarah, I have a crush on you!” But I did stop myself.
So, things escalated that way – sometimes when we chased each other through town, it was with her boyfriend driving, sometimes his truck, sometimes hers, but never in a way that seemed quite as playful as when Sarah was driving. Not by quite a bit, as a matter of fact.
And this was hardly surprising. Because her boyfriend was already seeing what neither Sarah nor myself were admitting as a real possibility – that we were starting to have some real feelings for each other.
But it would never work. Sarah was from an old school family with roots in the town going back decades – inner circle, as it were. And of course she was one of the most popular girls in school. I was a nerdy guy who played the trumpet, read science textbooks for fun, and was generally and pointedly unpopular. And so it goes. If we ever actually “went out” (which we didn’t, by the way) it would be hopelessly one sided. She’d be the homecoming queen, and I would still be the nerdy hard luck case from band class.
So I guess that should have been the end of it. One of the things that I think began my infatuation – yes, I’ll call it that – with her was how kind she was to me when my leg was badly messed up back in my freshman year – she was one of the few who didn’t berate me for having a “funny walk” which I couldn’t help, and I always remembered that.
And I mean, I do hate to reinforce a stereotype, but kids, if you’re a nerdy guy who develops a crush on a cheerleader because she just didn’t have it in her to be a creep to you for no reason – guess what? It doesn’t mean you’re in love, it just means you’re still a nerd. But I was 16, what did I know.
So, believe it or not, things went on this way for another year – we became more and more friendly to one another at school, and I quietly waited for the day that she didn’t have a boyfriend (who was out of school) anymore.
Well, quietly is probably the wrong word there. There was the time I was on Main in my parents’ Chevy Suburban and here comes this guy in a VW Rabbit who thinks I owe him 20 bucks, even though I didn’t. Anyway, I thought with that big four wheel drive I could ditch him easy on the canal roads. Man, he stayed right on me. I just couldn’t shake him, as much dirt and dust as I kicked up. Then his headlights veered off to the left – I thought he’d crashed – when the Suburban’s headlights picked out a sign that read DEAD END just ahead. Mind you I was doing about 70 mph on a one lane (if that) dirt and gravel canal road at this moment. I locked up the brakes on all four wheels and downshifted the transmission heavily into 2nd. Dirt, gravel and a massive dust cloud went everywhere as I hung on to a runaway train and was helpless to stop her from plunging nose first into an irrigation ditch with a huge splash, snapping the electric fence wire there along the ditch like it didn’t exist. Oh, and right in Sarah’s front yard, too. Perfect.
(I heard about it in Math class the next Monday too – she wanted me to pay for the wire, which was easily fixed without cost, but I digress.)
Well, that day when Sarah no longer had a boyfriend came, as it turned out, and not that far from the senior prom. (You hear about these things in a small town.) We hadn’t chased each other on Main much in the last year, but we had gotten more personable to one another at school. Heck, I’d almost say she was starting to treat me like an equal! Almost.
In the spring of 1987 I had this afternoon journalism class; during the same period she had an Office Assistant Class (a secretary the school doesn’t have to pay, wonder who though that one up), so it turned out that we often both had to use the back copy room (not the copy room!) at the same time. So we actually got to have a few real conversations in there, and I actually started to get to know her as a human being a little, something I hadn’t bothered to do too much up until then. Of course, back then I would have said I hadn’t had the chance to, but chance is something that is often rewarded most often to the bold. And bold was not something I was at 17 years of age (still a little afraid of Life, the Universe, and Everything).
So, when Sarah turned off the copier, locked her eyes to mine, and said, “Are you going to the prom, Brent?” I literally did not know what to do. I mean, I froze. There was a very long silence, as she just stood there looking at me.
Sure, now, if a woman my age comes on to me, I like to think know how to handle it, but at 17, not so much. So anyway, back to the copy room. I’m still frozen in my tracks. And then, in one of the dumbest replies to a question in human history, especially a loaded question from a member the opposite sex, I said, “I was thinking of going to see Iron Eagle II that night.”
Well, if you know anything about the female mind at all, you know that I got the Cold Shoulder and Icy Stares constantly for the next two weeks leading up to and including the senior prom.
Which I did. And I swear to you, I honestly did not at the time understand what I had done wrong. I just thought she was mad because of some remark I’d made (which she was, but not in the way I was thinking). It never occurred to me for a single second that she would actually consider going to prom with someone like me.
Some friends from The Rock and Roll Gang and I actually did go to Iron Eagle II on prom night. After the movie, one of the guys suggested we go check out the prom. So, here are four of us in leather jackets and jeans, walking into the prom like we owned the place. One of the teachers asked us if we didn’t think we ought to move along, nothing to see here folks, but not before Sarah could give me a look so cold that I still remember it to this day. She was clearly not amused I was there.
Well, that’s the teenage life, isn’t it? I have often wondered what would have happened if I had spoken up that day in the copy room. I have even wondered if that was a moment that could have changed my life if I had responded differently. You know what I decided?
Probably not. And even if it did, would I have stayed when it came time to move out of state? Again, probably not. But more than that, I’m glad it didn’t. I have an amazing life right now, and wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. Sometimes, things happen exactly the way they are supposed to happen, even if it means playing a shy, introverted nerd for a few years until you learn to grow up a little.
The day before I left town, I called Sarah and told her I was moving to California. We met briefly at Sanders Park – I don’t think anyone knows that – talked for a bit, shook hands, and we went our separate ways. Except for a 30 second conversation at the bar at our 20 year high school reunion (she was pointedly not interested in talking to me) several years ago, that was the last time I talked to Sarah.
By the way, she and that boyfriend (a childhood friend of one of my best friends) got back together and got married a few years after I left town, coincidence or not.
I’m glad. I hope they are having an amazing life.