There He Was

I sent him a note via Facebook yesterday.

I do this from time to time, just to make sure he’s still out there in the world. And it might take a week, or a month, or a day, but so far I’ve always heard a reassuring, “Yes, I’m still here” in response. I haven’t heard back from him just yet.

It’s a comfort, somehow, to know that he’s still out there and there are days when his mind wanders towards me.

I didn’t like him when I met him that summer at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Not at first. I had an insane crush on a tall, blonde German exchange student named Ulrich (this becomes ironic later). And so when I saw Ray strutting his stuff with the sixteen year old girls at camp, because he had stayed there for the two week session before ours, I just laughed. He was a player. Not really my type, though he was tall. He was brash and outgoing and threw out compliments to girls in what I saw as an obvious attempt at gaining their favor. The height of my disgust came one evening when he balanced two girls, one on each knee, and took turns kissing them while the rest of the crowd talked and tried not to watch.

I wasn’t interested in being another throw away toy, and I let him know it very clearly.

I kept hanging with my girlfriends, who all found him funny, and the boys we hung out with, including my pal Ulrich. He talked to me in his accented English and told me about life in Germany and I mooned for most of the two weeks over him. That was, until the night of the camp dance.

As a rule, I hated dances because I tended to be the girl who stood around and never got asked to dance. I’d, in fact, stopped attending them at school because I hated the feeling of standing next to the wall watching the world go by. I’d rather be at home writing than feeling sorry for myself. But camp seemed different; there were different people here who valued talent and intellect and so I dressed up in my big V neck sweater with the yellow tank top underneath and my ankle length white skirt to match and set out with my girls.

Immediately I regretted it. My girlfriends started going off in pairs with the boys we knew, and even though they were all “just friends”, there weren’t enough of our crowd to go around. And if that wasn’t bad enough. Ulrich was consistently dancing with one girl. I had shyly asked him earlier in the day if he would save me a dance, and he’d said he would. But tonight, here, he wasn’t even looking for me. I folded my arms and started to walk away from the crowd, alone. I should have known better.

Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was him. Ray. The guy I didn’t like, the guy who was shallow enough to talk about who he’d bagged in the woods, the guy who I wrote off as a cad about a minute after I’d met him. He asked me if I wanted to dance.

“I don’t think so,” I answered. “I’m not really interested in sitting next to the other girl you’ve got your eyes on tonight.”

“I don’t have my eyes on anyone,” he answered. “I just thought you might like to dance.” And then he smiled. He had this goofy smile that lit up his whole face. And suddenly, I was awkwardly dancing with him; my five foot tall frame reaching up high to his nearly six foot tall one.

I spent the whole song talking to him about how upset I was that Ulrich was dancing with someone else, just to make sure he was clear that I wasn’t interested in him. He was sympathetic, and kind, and gave me that “just friends” squeeze at the end of it. I smiled back at him as I walked away, thinking that maybe he wasn’t as much of a cad as I’d thought.

Twenty five years later, when I think of that night, I still smile. I had no idea how much that night would impact the rest of my life.


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