This post is a part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, start here: Our Story: Part I. Part II. Part III. Part IV.
I wish I could tell you that my stalking devotion to Taylor was undying and that I didn’t look at another guy from the day I laid eyes on him. But that’s not entirely true, and I don’t think I could bear being a stalker and a liar.
So here’s the truth.
Between the time I barged into Taylor’s room, demanding he know me, and the time anything really started to happen between us, there were a few, ahem, distractions.
First it was the boy who lived in the room next to Taylor’s. He was in my math class and I realized that if I worked on my homework with him, in his room, I’d be putting myself in a certain fella’s path even more often. Couldn’t hurt, right?
Couldn’t hurt anyone except for the poor boy who I accidentally gave the impression that I was interested. Apparently if you linger in someone’s room long enough, they tend to get the wrong idea.
It wasn’t my fault, really. When you go through an awkward stage that spans the majority of your adolescence, it only seems fair that you get to break a few hearts.
I mean first there was the mullet situation, which took most of third grade to remedy. Bang grow-out is rough business. Then came braces round one and the age when everyone else hit their growth spurts, except for me. Next up were the glasses and an incurable obsession with “wind pants,” neither of which did my wardrobe any favors. As if middle school isn’t already unfortunate enough, braces round two showed up right around then, as did that growth spurt I’d been waiting for, rendering all my pants a few inches too short.
I’ve always been rather self aware and didn’t spend too much time dwelling on my awkwardness, instead choosing to cling to the idea that this stage would pass and I would emerge a decent looking human with a killer personality. We talked a lot about character development in those days.
So when I got to high school, slightly taller but still scrawny and teeth covered in metal, boys were not even a consideration. I didn’t pay them any mind, and I was sure they would return the favor. But much to my surprise, when prom rolled around my freshman year, I found myself in unfamiliar territory. I’d been asked by a JUNIOR boy, but wasn’t allowed to date. Instead of being straightforward and sharing this information with him from the beginning, I acted like a typical 14-year-old girl and accepted his invitation, stringing him along for a week, knowing full well how it would end. But he liked me. And I liked being liked.
And so the vicious cycle began.
I wish I could tell you that I didn’t enjoy leading boys on. That I felt terrible every time I did it. That I realized the error of my ways and apologized. But most of the time, I didn’t. I was immature and insecure and I soaked up all the attention until it got a little too real and I bolted. It only got worse once the braces were off and I graduated from training bras.
I went to a Sadie Hawkins dance with one boy, a boy that I’d asked, only to spend the whole night dancing with another. I spent sports bus rides cuddling with guys I had no real interest in and then completely ignoring them the next day. I used my best friend from 5th grade to get to one of his friends and then lied to him about it. At the time it seemed innocent enough. I told myself, “guys are jerks, they deserve to have their hearts broken for a change.” But I was cruel and selfish and well on my way to becoming kind of a rotten jerk myself.
Though my life had changed when I met Taylor, I clearly still had a few bad habits to deal with before anything could happen between us.
To make a long story short, in the time between the start of school and New Year’s Eve, I was stalking Taylor, had strung along the Math boy, continued talking to my high school boyfriend, started something with one of my friends’ exes back home and kept in touch with a “friend” who had also gone to school in the area. What a mess.
I was starting things I couldn’t finish and it was less and less simple to just walk away. I didn’t like the things people were starting to say about me and the situations I was getting myself into, but I still wasn’t quite ready to own my mistakes and grow up.
Right before Christmas break, I somehow ended up alone in a common room with Taylor, watching The Fisher King, undoubtedly the result of the increasingly frequent AOL instant messenger chats we’d been having. God bless AIM.
I was over the moon, but he kept his distance.
Which of course, didn’t stop me from noticing how wonderful he smelled fresh out of the shower. Or how handsome he looked in a pair of black basketball shorts and a clean white undershirt. Or how cute it was that he wore his white athletic socks pulled all the way up. And it didn’t stop me from swooning as he talked all about why he liked the film and what he got out of it.
What the heck was I doing messing around with all these boys when I could have a guy like that in my life? I left that common room resolved to get my act together and come back from Christmas break a changed woman. But there were a few more hard lessons to be learned.
My time at home was a disaster to say the least. I remember sitting, wedged in a cold leather bus seat next to Jaime on our first road trip after the break, wondering aloud how I could have done so much damage in such a short amount of time.
In the course of a couple days at home I’d managed to have a nasty, humiliating argument with my former high school flame after finding out he was no longer interested, and end up in the arms of a friend’s serious ex-boyfriend. A guy that I’d been friends with, sure, but had no intention of pursuing in any way. I wasn’t really even sure what had happened.
Jaime had had a similarly strange experience at home with a former love, so we traded sob stories and told each other that we were done with boys. I’m sure we meant it at the time, but by February I had gotten myself into yet another mess.
For whatever reason, probably because she’s a really good friend, Jaime was in full support of my plan to seduce Taylor. She listened to all my crazy tales of campus run ins, kept me updated on sightings she’d had, scouted any potential competition and interpreted many an AIM response over my shoulder. She also spent a great deal of time sitting with me in the dorm lobby so I could be seen if he happened to walk by.
And it was sitting in this very dorm lobby that got me into trouble. I should have been tucked away in my own room, minding my own business and not associating with random guys that started to appear with greater frequency, asking all kinds of questions and bringing all kinds of flattery.
Taylor had hardly said two words to me since our Fisher King date, and being that I always get kind of bummed out the first couple months of the year, I convinced myself he was a lost cause. I threw my New Year’s resolutions into the wind and reveled in the flattery of this new fellow.
Flattery, which turned into hand holding, deep conversations and late night meet ups in the cold, concrete stairwell. Long emails, hours of movie watching and spending time tangled up on the couch. We really had nothing in common. He was looking for a serious relationship and I was looking for a warm body to tell me I was pretty and keep my mind off the fact that I was completely lost. He became my hardest and final lesson in toying with other people’s emotions.
I’d allowed the relationship to progress much further than I normally would have. I told myself it was because I was turning over a new leaf and giving love a chance, but it was really because I was too lazy to end it.
I’d hardly seen Taylor since we’d come back from break, but as we piled out of our respective vans on a basketball trip to Tacoma in late February, we found ourselves face to face. I was sure he’d heard by now that I was dating someone and the thought made me sick to my stomach. I looked down at myself and over at him, dressed almost exactly alike, head to toe in gray sweat suits that read, “Bruins,” across the front. He said, “hey,” unenthusiastically, readjusted his backpack and turned away. My heart ached.
I sat in the stands during the guys’ games that weekend and watched him on the end of the bench. I watched him cheer for his teammates, smile and hug them as they scored, high five and encourage them as they came out of the game. I watched him run and jump and shoot, and thought about the fact that even though I was supposed to be seeing someone else, I’d spent the entire season watching him. I still thought about him all the time. It was still the highlight of my day when he said, “hi,” to me as I passed. I was still just as sure he was the guy for me. What was I doing!?
All the noise of the gym faded away and I realized it was time to own my past, confront my mistakes and start working on being the kind of girl I needed to be to land a guy like him.
To be continued…