Allow me to take you back to a simpler time. Wait, no. That’s not right. The time I’m going to take you back to is anything but simple: my early teen years.
The year was 2002. Dragonball Z gripped my afternoons, Pokemon was (kinda) still socially acceptable to play, and the still-fresh Grand Theft Auto III was tearing away at the moral fiber of society.
Although I had full access seeing beautiful women on television and in movies (and the internet, but please don’t tell my parents), there were few things that could make my stomach do a somersault like a cute girl. Actually, that doesn’t even begin to describe it. A cute girl with enough attitude was enough to make my stomach somersault, exit through my mouth, steal a car, and die in a police shootout in some nowhere town in the middle of Nebraska.
So as you can expect from what I’ve told you so far, I wanted to ask a girl out. As someone whose stomach was gunned down by a sharpshooter in another state (when I spend that much time thinking up a metaphor, I am going to make reference to it at least once), this was an insurmountable task only to be achieved in my dreams. But this time, I had exactly what I needed to succeed. I had a plan, and a fire burning in my heart (in retrospect, I should have had a doctor look at me…not particularly healthy, that).
So what was my brilliant plan? I was going to…ask her out. I rode the bus with her, and would have ample opportunity to ask. Sound exciting? No, probably not now, but to my thirteen year-old self, this was the equivalent of riding a motorcycle over a shaky bridge that was positioned over a sea of lava while being chased by demon bears that spit acid. And not nearly as fun. But who cares about not having fun? Romance was on the line here. I had a duty to go to school in the morning and to have a date by the end of the day.
But this day was no ordinary day! This was THE DAY. The last day of school until fall. I wasn’t going to see her for about ninety days (something my thirteen year-old self would probably describe as being “forever”). I had to talk to her, yes? There was no choice in the matter. It was go time.
It was on my mind all day. It was hard to stay focused on any one conversation I have all day. I chat with friends about stupid stuff, and no matter how interesting I would find this to be on an ordinary day, I didn’t care. My mind was in one place. I was thinking about that bus ride home and what I have to do.
Okay, I was most there. It was the end of the day. The principal was over the loudspeaker giving us the last announcement that we would have heard for three months. She congratulated the eighth graders on graduating and moving on to high school (well, the eighth graders that passed, anyway) and told the rest of us to be safe during the summer time. I wanted her to finish quickly. Hurry up, you old bat. Finish your announcements. The rest of us had exciting lives to get back to!
The announcements end, the bell rang, and I made a dash for my locker to get my stuff so I could ensure that I got a seat next to her. Everything went according to plan. She sat down where she usually did. We had our usual chat about school or whatever. Things were going swimmingly. Except for that whole, you know, part about asking her out. Finally, my stop came and I got up to leave.
“Bye, Theo!” she says, waving at me with a smile.
“See you next year,” I respond with something that resembled a smile.
Then my brain just loses it.
“No, no, no, no, you idiot. That’s not what you wanted to say. BE A MAN! Turn around and say something else! It’s the end of the school year! A simple ‘Bye!’ or ‘See you next year.’ Is not going to suffice! Why aren’t you speaking? Isn’t your tongue still in your mouth? Yes, it’s still there, and as far as you can tell, it’s still functional. USE IT! What, did you forget how to speak English all of a sudden? Well, clearly you have not forgotten how to speak English, because all these thoughts are coming to your head, and they clearly aren’t in Russian. And stop walking towards the front of the bus! Holy shit, you moron, turn around and say something! You’re already two seats up! SAY SOMETHING BEFORE THIS GETS AWKWARD. MORE AWKWARD. Whoops, too late. You’re off the bus.”