Twenty years ago I was in the 8th grade and in the midst of my first crush. In Sixteen Candles Molly Ringwald’s character Samantha has a crush on Jake, one of the most popular boys in school. When she tells her dad about how she feels, he says, “That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call them something else.” Such an obvious statement, yet so true.
My first crush was on a blond, light-eyed boy named Tracy Bishop. I have always wondered what happened to him. I can’t believe twenty years have passed now. Sometimes I can conjure up exactly how I felt. That first crush is a killer. Especially when it is neither requited nor reciprocated.
Tracy and I had gone to different elementary schools. The first time I met him was in 6th grade. We were on the same team (you remember how middle schools divided — and still divide students into teams?). I don’t recall being in his classes. I really wasn’t that interested in boys, yet, anyway. We were selected as students of the month by our teachers — I think he was December and I was January. Our teachers took us out for pizza in the middle of the school day to one of those grand pizza places that were drummed out of business by the likes of Chuck E. Cheese. Crystal’s Pizza had a movie theater that showed cartoons, all kinds of games, and a late Victorian/Edwardian era decor. I remember the place was fairly empty. We were allowed to play games, but Tracy and I didn’t really know each other, so we kind of drifted in different directions. I was playing skee-ball — very badly — and I heard a soft laugh behind me. Evidently Tracy didn’t think much of my skills, either. We didn’t say anything.
I went to a different school the next year because my family moved, but I returned to my former school for 8th grade when my parents had to sell their house — there was a lot going on that isn’t germaine to this story, so I won’t get into all of that.
Tracy’s family had gone to Germany on vacation the previous summer. I just remember all of a sudden, there he was. Omnipresent in my thoughts. In my classes. He joked around with me. He probably had no idea how I would cling to each conversation. I think he knew I had a crush on him. I think he was even flattered. Perhaps in another world that didn’t revolve around how cool people thought you were, he might even have acted on it. That’s the sense I get, anyway. But middle school isn’t about being true to yourself.
No one really seems to know exactly what happened to Tracy. I moved away to another state after 8th grade, and I finally just learned that Tracy moved away while in high school. I don’t know where he graduated from, so I haven’t tried to track him down. Wouldn’t be any point now. That’s twenty years gone. I passed the point of wondering what if a very long time ago.
Still, every once in a while, I think most people think back on that first crush. It just occurred to me this morning that it was twenty years ago. That seems like a long time for memories that you conjure up in such crystal clarity.