He touched me… Not in any way lascivious. Just a simple soft brush across and down my shoulder in acknowledgement that he had seen me. No words were spoken. Just the touch. I loved him for that. I always had…
I remember the first time I lay eyes on him. Third grade. It’s funny when you grow up in a small town that you end up knowing certain people your whole life. Can’t say I really knew him, but I knew of him. I fell into him on the playground and that was all it took. Didn’t know then what that feeling was or meant, but I knew on sight that there was something special about him. My innocent admiration of him was immediate. I suppose he didn’t know what that feeling was at the time either, but he saw me, too. He simply smiled. Years later that moment would come back to haunt me. Back then, I didn’t know that I had just stumbled into my very first crush. Silly me. If my eyes were truly the windows to my soul, I should have had the sense to temper the blinds.
By sixth grade a lot had changed. Especially within me. But I wasn’t the only one. Raging hormones between all the sexes were forcing its way to the surface way beyond leaps and bounds. By then we all knew what that look meant and it was hardly fully innocent. I had blossomed out before my own eyes, and when I saw him, well, that thing from the past was like a burning flame racing throughout my entire being. Call it heat, or passion, or just aching preteen desire to be close to someone who had stolen my childhood heart. It had nothing to do with sex, not really, but something more unnamable. Three years later and just looking at him pulled me back through time. I longed for him. Maybe somewhat physically, but mostly, I just wanted to be near him. Still, he never said a word. But he did smile at me sometimes. Just a friendly gesture really. He always did that in the passing years. With everything else going on in our young lives, I felt that was more than enough to hold on to. The fact that we had never held a conversation was a minor missing end to the overall means.
And then there was high school. Just the mention of that place can be summed up as pure hell. The world of love, sex, lies, and heartbreak had at one point or another affected nearly all. To me, in this final introduction to adulthood, it hardly made sense to chance your deepest emotions to anyone. But that is exactly what I did. I loved and lost as anyone else. Almost too much it seemed. I suffered my despair in the shadows. He was so popular I figured he didn’t have time to notice. The kindness in him was a gift to everyone and he was genuinely liked by everyone who knew him. I simply adored him. Just before we took our final walk into freedom, I heard in a whispered conversation that he said he knew me. Not that we were ever what you would actually call friends. I was just that kid from third grade who fell on top of him on the playground and never said a word to him. It was embarrassing to know that he remembered that too. I didn’t know he even remembered my name.
Class Reunion – twenty years later. Standing in a crowded room with a bunch of people and faces I could barely recognize. But still, old emotions came rushing back upon me as if my past was flashing before my eyes. And then, across the room, I saw him. Time had been very good to him. When he smiled, I saw that he noticed me too, so I turned and headed in the opposite way. I was cornered by another childhood friend when he moved to touch me. Just a simple soft brush across and down my shoulder in acknowledgement that he had seen me. No words were spoken. Just the touch. I loved him for that. I always had. I guess I always will…
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Note: In May 2013, “The Crush,” was selected to be featured on the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tracy-james-jones/ and in June 2013 it was requested by the International Baccalaureate Organization (http://www.ibo.org/) to use in their worldwide middle-years education program for language and literature teacher support material.