Wednesday, November 23, 2005 -- 5:40 P.M.

The longing is the worst part--waking up the next morning, the memories still buzzing in your head like a movie on infinite loop. You go through the day, dazed, staring off into space whenever your attention isn't required. You try to make sense of everything, interpolate facts, draw haphazard conclusions, but the tide of emotions is too strong.

She was my first crush. I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed high school sophomore, and she was a confident senior, a member of the popular clique, but without their pretense. She was also the prettiest girl I had ever seen. I admired from afar for eight months, though we spoke not three sentences to each other. By June, she had moved on, her short-term memory having shed whatever wisp of an impression I was, if that.

She, on the other hand, was all I ever thought about; the measuring stick against every girl I saw. I never thought I'd get over her. I wasn't supposed to see her again. Our lives are too different, and the company we each keep do not intersect. It was impossible.

Or so I thought. She re-surfaced into my consciousness last summer when I saw pictures of her at a party. Old feelings stirred, but what of them? I had long moved on.

Or so I thought. One impossible hurdle after another later, I found myself in a group of friends in Boston, having dinner with her.

...

I knew it was her in a second. Nine years patiently dulled my memory of her face, but the impression never faded. We were at a table, perhaps twenty yards from the door, when she walked in wearing a white down-jacket, looking around while mentioning to the maitre'd that no thanks, she didn't need any help, her party was already here. The easy, casual way she tilted her head when she spoke was all I needed to flood that impression with the same color and vitality of 1997.

I had never known her, so her personality as I know it is completely fictional, pieced together by stories drifted through the grape vine, distanced observance in the old days, and a great deal of idealism. To me, she was Athena, Helen of Troy, and Marilyn Monroe rolled into one.

She sat down, greeted her friends, and shifted about uncertainly. There were, afterall, four strangers sitting across from her. I steeled my nerves and spoke first. I was afraid marbles were going to come out of my mouth.

"So... I don't think we've all properly met."

She locked her eyes on me. It just a split-second, but the amazing human mind can freeze-frame it forever. Her eyes were two dark, shimmering pools, framed by high cheek-bones, a button nose, and a smile that threatened to (but never quite) dimple her cheeks. Her black hair with streaks of old highlight was mussed and held haphazardly together by simple clips and bands.

Introductions were made around the table. Her words were music. So it's true. It's official. And I'm awake. All indisputable facts, but nevermind that. Reality can't be this good!

Time began to melt at this point. Einstein was once asked for a layman's definition of Relativity. He said, "When you're sitting on a hot stove, two minutes seems like two hours, but when you're talking to a pretty girl, two hours seems like two minutes. That's Relativity."

Genius.

...

Dinner lasted for two plus hours. The group loosened up quickly, and conversations jumped from food to home to frequent flier miles to European vacations. She wasn't quite Marilyn Athena of Troy, but easily the next best thing. Two minutes? It felt more like two seconds. The check came and left, and pretty soon the restaurant began to resemble a ghost town. Little signs like wandering eyes and vain attempts to hide yawns became more apparent. So I did the hardest thing possible:

"I guess we're all pretty tired. Ready to go?"

Nods all around. Damn my considerations. To this day, I wonder if I should have just put on a thick skin and rode the wave until it crashed.

We walked through a quiet, Sunday night downtown Boston towards the subways, forming a loose caravan. She took the front for much of it, walking with the figure and sway of a woman in her prime, her long, mussed hair gently reacting to the night breeze. If there is something more hypnotizing, I cannot think of it. As a matter of fact, there was not much that I could think of at that time. My brain was on cloud nine, as drugged as if I had popped 'shrooms.

In the subway station, our party shrank down to three. The others either took a different station, a different train, or crashed back at the hotel. We waited and waited, but the 'E' train remained absent. The attendant apologized on the PA for the delay. I, on the other hand, wanted to go in and shake her hand profusely. And so we stood around, chatting casually, though about what I can only hazily remember.

One part of my brain began to wake up. It's nearly over. Taking account of the night objectively, it really was. Our conversations remained firmly at the group-level, with mostly me initiating the questions. Her replies were polite and well-worded, but never intimate. Her body language kept the nice-to-meet-you but here-today-gone-tomorrow cocktail party aura. That independence was maddeningly attractive, driven I'm sure by the natural male tendancy of coveting what they can't have.

The 'E' train finally rumbled into the station. Its delay had created quite a back-up of waiting passengers, so when we piled into the back car, strangers filled the gap between us. We spoke no more beyond a silent good-bye wave when my stop came up. She tilted her head in that way of hers, flashed a compact smile, and turned away as I desperately snapped a million mental photos while deboarding with the human tide. She was moving on, her short-term memory starting to shed whatever wisp of an impression I had made that night.

Three or four glasses of scotch chased by two or three more glasses of Red Bull + Vodka made short work of my night thereafter. I watched Sunday Night Football at a bar with detached interest, reacting to my team's typical ineptitude out of habit. A gamut of emotions torrented when I went to bed that night, ranging from one extreme to another. How do people deal with this??

The day after was no better. Upon waking, I desperately clung to every memory, as if I concentrated enough, I could dive into them, relive them, and control them to affect the future. I saw her face and heard her laughter everytime I closed my eyes. I left Boston feeling like life was simultaneously Heaven and Purgatory.

...

Now, she's slowly sinking back into the corner of my brain where I realize she will always have a home. Time is the ultimate healer of the heart. I had a brief fling with glory, but now it's over, life goes on, and at least I get to keep enough colorful memories to write down and help kill a three hour flight to Chicago. Will we meet again? Improbable. But if I take only one lesson from this surreal experience, it's that impossible is nothing.


Sunday, August 29, 2004 -- 6:45 P.M.

Wow. It's been, what, seven years since I last saw her. I think it's seven. Met her initially when I barely turned 15. She was in Campus, and I had just joined Interact......

It's October, 1996. Homecoming is fast approaching, and as brother and sister service clubs, Interact and Campus is working together to create a float. The hours we are working is insane, frequently including overnight stays at the float-house on the weekends. As such, we see the same faces a lot; but there was only one face that stood out to me. Subtle dimples under high cheek bones, an impossibly sweet demeanor, a perfect smile, eyes that danced and sparkled when she laughed... she became my first real crush.

I never knew her. I've barely spoken maybe two sentences to her that school year. By summer of '97, her class and she graduated to bigger things. I saw her last during the club senior send-off trip to Catalina, standing on top of a park bench, rallying the people who needed a ride home from her. Our two-year age disparity seemed like the width of the Grand Canyon.

...

I still haven't seen her since. I've thought about her on and off, and since then, she's become somewhat of a legend to me. A personal celebrity, perhaps? But recently she made friends with a friend... of a friend. Three degrees of seperation! She went to her party, and at that party, she made friends with an immediate friend of mine. Two degrees, now! Pictures from that party floated my way. Wow. Memories hit me like lightning. News is that she is studying to be an Optomitrist. This coming fall semester, she's heading to Boston for school.

Funny how small the world is sometimes. Obviously I don't have feelings for her anymore. But then again, there is something there. Feelings for a memory, for an impression made in the impressionable mind of a high schooler. So, Boston... one thing's for sure--Beantown just rose to the top of my list of to-visit cities.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004 -- 1:03 A.M.

It was just another miserable Monday morning. I rolled out of bed at 5 a.m., barely logging 3 hours of shut-eye. My head throbbed with annoying consistency for the first hour of awakening, no doubt enhanced by having to cancel the taxi service because its driver overslept. Mom drove me to Burbank Airport, instead.

The realization that this will be the last time I'm taking the Monday morning Alaska flight did not dawn on me until I approached the ticketing counter and noticed the new girl was working there. This will be the last time for a while that I fly Alaska, as my gig in Seattle is up.

Her long dark hair, not done in the usual braid today, flowed around her neck. Her skin is well-tanned, evidenced by her legs--never more have I appreciated the short skirt Alaska uniform. Except her taller height, which I judge to be around the 5'7" range, she looks remarkably like the crush I had in college--fairly high cheek bones, dark eyes that remind me of ponds under a midnight moon, a constantly ready wide smile, and an idle expression of contentment.

Every time at the ticketing counter, I try to land the slot in front of her. Every time, I've failed. Today, I moved in as close as I could, sliding into the self check-in machine immediately adjacent to her. As I began tapping on the machine, the man who had the prime position in front of her finished and left, and I cursed my luck--she was available to help, but I had already committed. Having done the check-in drill a thousand times, I flew through it, and the machine spit out my ticket a minute later. I amusingly noted the middle-aged man who was my care rep was so enthralled by his pretty young co-worker that he had temporarily forgotten about the bag I wanted to check, listening to her chat away about her sister's party this past weekend, his immediate universe dominated by the siren to his right.

...

"Gooood morning, and welcome to Alaska flight four-zero-one with service to Seeeatle!" she announced brightly, as a herd of passengers began to file towards her, handing out their boarding passes.

"Good morning," she said to the man in front of me as she scanned his pass, "You can board from the rear of the plane, it's closer to your seat."

I step forward, noting that my seat is 27A, pretty much the next-to-last row on this MD-80 plane. I am secretly pleased that this will be the first time she says more than two words to me as I am scanned in.

I try to say hi. I'm not sure I succeeded, because I realized my throat was as dry as dust. She put my boarding pass under the scanner, and as she handed it back to me, looked straight at me for about half a second, piercing my universe. Nothing was said as I moved on to the plane. My disappointment was paramount--I sat at 27A! I needed to know I could board from the back!

But... the look. It was a direct look, not a fleeting glance you usually give strangers. It also seemed like a familiar look, like a "hey, I've seen you before." Maybe she remembers me, knowing I've flown the Monday morning flight for the past 5 months. Maybe that's why she didn't relay redundant information to me.

Then again, equally likely is that she gives that look to everyone, that I could've imagined its directness. Equally likely that she knows I must have heard what she told the man in front of me and deduced it also applied to me. Equally likely... or even more so than "equally".

All I know is that my Monday mornings will be a lot less pretty from here on forth.


Sunday, June 20, 2004 -- 9:59 P.M.

What makes a girl attractive to me? Looks? Sure. But I'm talking about serious attraction. I'm talking about I've-got-it-real-bad attraction. The kind that makes you want to write about it somewhere. Luckily, I've got this little corner of the web, here.

There haven't been too many of those in my life. I can count all of them on one hand. I, like every other male that has ever walked on Earth, have had scores of minor crushes. But only a rare few blossom into full blown attractions.

What made her so special? She was not like the previous one, who was perfect in my mind. But then again, perfect is overrated. A little inperfection is the mark of a human being.

She's pretty. Not stunning, but again, see above regarding perfection. She's tall and thin, but has a generous hip. She wears little make-up, and keeps her blond hair simple and straight. Her smiles to me make my blood boil. I live to hear the joy in her laughters.

She doesn't seem to be very outgoing. Shy, undemanding, keeps to herself, mainly. The rare moments that she opens up around me, talking randomly, makes me believe she is as pretty as anyone I have ever met.

She has a pessmistic streak about her, but I am unsure how much of that bleeds into the sharp sarcasm she can dish out. She appears to be unconfident, but when placed in a leadership role, she executes with precision. And her memory--impeccable.

She was so nice to me. She is so nice to everyone. She doesn't possess an ounce of the plastic fakeness in modern women. There's no ditz, no pretense of sincerity. If a joke isn't funny, she'll laugh politely, not pretend it's hilarious.

And she listens. That's an enormous point for me. A lot of people claim they listen, but they don't really listen. Listening is not brushing the words off with a, "Ah. Interesting." Listening is not taking the subject matter at hand and going off into a tangent regarding yourself. Listening is asking questions. Listening is taking what is said and offering analyzed counterpoints. Most importantly, listening is remembering. She listens.

Her fiance--he's a lucky man.


Monday, October 27, 2003 -- 7:53 P.M.

One week ago...

I stepped out from the food court into the Monday afternoon sun, eyes stinging from the rapid change in contrast. I fumbled on my shades for relief and started to trudge my away across campus, towards a 2 o'clock lecture that had food-coma effects written all over it.

Then I saw her.

She wore a simple plaid flannel shirt and shorts, with her hair nonchalantly clasped up to allow ventilation around her neck. She was walking fast, with a concentrated look on her face. We came about two inches away from grazing shoulders. The entire event unraveled in maybe two seconds, tops. I almost missed seeing her, initially. When I realized who it was, I nearly tripped on my own feet.

It had been about ten months since the last sighting. Blame it on the 30k population of a public university. I have thought on and off about what I would do if I ever saw her again. Maybe ask her out for some coffee. Maybe catch up on what has happened for the, oh, past three years since we last talked. Maybe be smooth the entire time, with a confident smile and posture throughout.

Now I know exactly what I'd do. I'd pretend I didn't see her and do my best to gaze longingly from afar. Why? Because I'm pathetic like that. I realize she does not in any shape or form remember me. If I had cojones I would take the initiative to remind her, but I don't. I realize all the imagined confidence I would be filled with when I saw her would instantly vanish in real life and be replaced with clammy hands and a light head. I can't explain it, but I know for a fact that's what will happen. Because that's exactly what happened. I am no alpha male, that's for sure.

...

But it did reveal several pieces of intel to me. First, she's still around school, whether it's because of left-over classes or graduate studies. Secondly, she obviously has class near where I saw her. Those two facts mean I will be hanging around that area on Monday (and perhaps Wednesday) afternoons, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. It's like a drug. Just a sight of her shoots beta-endorphin throughout my head.

Does this make me a stalker? Depends on your definition. I'm not following her around. I am merely situating myself in an area which has a high probability of her passing by. Furthermore, I'm not going out of my way to get in position. The food court there is a convenient lunch break area for me before class. Maybe I'm trying to justify it. Maybe writing all this down makes me more of a stalker than anything I do. But objectively, I know it's harmless. Everyone has guilty-pleasure crushes. I harbor no illusions--hope, perhaps, but no illusions--that anything will ferment between us.

...

Today is a Monday. I took position with my lunch outside half an hour before two, idly flipping through the papers while I ate. At ten-'til, hundreds of anonymous faces had already passed by, causing me to doubt whether or not I had missed her. Maybe she doesn't have class around there afterall. What's going on? I tossed the remainder of my lunch and packed up, somewhat dejected.

After hoisting the backpack onto my shoulders, I saw her. I allowed a half-second window to gape before turning around hastily. It's like she ambushed me! That was not part of the plan. I was supposed to be still sitting, two eyes peering over the pretense of reading the newsrag, and spotting her approach several yards away. I had lost several seconds of gape time because of my impatience!

Of course I was still infinitely grateful for being able to see her anyway. I didn't see much with a half-second window, just that she seemed more relaxed than the last time I saw her. She's one of the few people in the world who's idle expression looks like contentment. Most people's idle expression is either boredom, with half-shut eyelids, or aggression, marked by furrowed brows and set jaws. The latter is most commonly witnessed in thug wannabes.

Her hair was down today, glossy under the sun and gently curled at the tips around her shoulder. A simple, nondescript golden necklace adorned her solid blue t-shirt. I walked several feet before stopping at a nearby table, pretending to check the contents of my bag. From the corner of my eye I looked for her. I scanned through a pass with no success. Where the heck... A second pass found her looking through a bargain stand of paraphernalia. Bronze, well-tanned legs carried her slowly around the articles of clothing splayed on the long table. Definitely more relaxed than last time.

A few more seconds of that, I started feeling self-conscious and re-closed my bag. I turned away and started towards my lecture, happy. I wonder if my idle expression then refleced the same.


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