The One That Got Away

Most love stories in today’s media are either cliche romance novel plots or oversexualized views of millennial hook-up culture. I personally never related to either of these simplified depictions of love and lust because I never really experienced them. The kind of love I experienced was the confusing, innocent kind. Few people tell the story of their childhood crush, but this Valentine’s Day you’re in for a treat. So hop into my DeLorean and grab some Silly Bandz; I’m taking us back to 2009 to remind you of childhood love.

Picture this: a nine-year-old girl with French braids waking up to a new dawn. She’s scared but excited to start over at a new school. A new school means new friends and a chance to reinvent herself. This girl eagerly puts on her dark blue uniform and steps on the bus hoping for a fresh start. As she walks into her fourth-grade classroom, she is suddenly overwhelmed with a wave of anxiety and is having second thoughts. She takes her seat and turns around, only to be confronted by some new classmates. As she nervously starts to introduce herself, she grows accustomed to her status as the “new girl.” And just when she thought she had seen it all, she catches a glimpse of him: the boy whose name would forever haunt her heart.

For the sake of anonymity and what’s left of my dignity, we are going to refer to this guy as “Mike Wazowski,” a weird inside joke we shared. Anyway, I met Mike outside on the playground after the buzz of being the new girl wore off. He came right up to me, smiled, and like most nine-year-old boys, made a fart sound with his armpit. As you might expect, I shrieked and ran away from him, but my fearless suitor insisted on courting me with his wonderful musical talents. It turned out that Mike and I made quite the pair, and I always thought of him as a close friend.

Then puberty happened, complicating things because Mike started acting weird. As we grew older, Mike started to hang out with his other friends, but on the rare occasions when he did talk to me, it would always be brief and awkward, like he was trying to be two different people at once. One side of him would act like a stereotypical “bro” but the other would be the dorky sweetheart who taught me how to cross my eyes. I never understood why he acted this way until one day when I missed the bus he told me, “I missed you, yesterday. Who else am I supposed to make laugh on the way home?” Maybe it was the hormones kicking in that gave my stomach butterflies. Maybe it was the dim lighting and Axe body spray seeping out the boys’ bathroom that was making my head spin. But as he walked away, it finally occurred to me: Mike Wazowski had a crush on me, and I liked him too.

At first, I panicked because this was a crisis that required a whole squad. But the problem was I didn’t have a squad yet; I only had Mike and another girl. But I knew if I told this other girl she would tell the whole class. Luckily, I had a backup plan: the internet. Now if you ever looked up dating advice on the internet, you probably left more confused than when you started. So we spent the rest of middle school sharing awkward but loving glances, while simultaneously growing further apart because of the walls we built up to create a friend zone.

Now I am fully aware of how awkward this childhood crush is, but every once in a while, I can’t help but think to myself if Mike was the one that got away. Although we went to different schools, I would occasionally see him at the mall, and during one very painfully awkward Costco trip (there is nothing worse than watching your mom bond with your crush’s mom over a deal on rotisserie). Although I used to scroll through his Facebook in high school, I soon realized that I was simply infatuated with the idea of him. It happens to all young loving hearts, but at one point one must learn to let go of what never happened. So eventually I did move on to better and taller guys just as he found love elsewhere. But you never really forget that first love. I tell you this embarrassing, bittersweet memory to remind you of the beautiful, innocent love that we all deserve to experience at one point in life. And to Mike Wazowski, if by some embarrassing and serendipitous grace of God you are reading this: Thank you for being my first love and opening my heart up to a world of new emotions that I am still learning to navigate.