At 21, I was pretty immature and naïve in matters related to love and sex. I had never had a boyfriend before. I am not really sure why, or if there is even a connection, but up until the year my father died, I was always pining for unattainable guys. I spent my teenage years crushing on guys who would not give me the time of day. Usually it was older guys, friends of my brother who saw me as their best buddy's little sister. Or guys from my class at school, who spoke to me but showed no interest in being friendly. I thought about them constantly, dreaming elaborate story lines about what would happen when they finally realized we were meant to be together.
I wanted these boys from school to know of my affections, so I always told my friends, but never once did I tell them directly. I was so afraid of rejection. In fact, I avoided talking to them, and when I did I was a smartass. Of course, none of my little daydreams ever came true. Guys hooked up with more popular girls, prettier girls, shorter girls, girls not as dorky as me. Girls who gave them an opening. I was so clueless that I gave off a vibe of being unattainable myself. I had lots of guy friends, but usually I was the friend of the girl they were dating, the girl who gave them advice and a shoulder to cry on. Or so I thought. One of my friends did confess to me afterwards that he had a crush on me once, but did not dare tell me.
When I was in a junior in high school there was a Cuban boy in the sophomore class who was crazy about me and pursued me relentlessly for two years. He was a bad boy, kinda cute, and I loved the attention. I loved to tease him, but did not take him seriously. For one, he was younger than me, and I did not want to be a cradle robber. I also found him slightly obnoxious and not the brightest bulb in the Christmas tree. Plus, there was an undercurrent of danger attached to his attention. This guy was intense, and I did not think he was worth the effort. I hated the idea of putting myself at a disadvantage. Besides, I was Miss Goody Two Shoes at school, so I could not openly hang out with the likes of him. Well, compared with some of my classmates, I was a saint. I had good grades without trying, and behaved well in class. The teachers all liked me. But at lunch time I loved to sneak out with my friends and go to the bar/pool hall not far from where our school was. We did not get to drink, but we would order sandwiches, play pool, and smoke.
No, it was better to flirt with Juan in the basketball court and sit with him on the back stairs, letting our knees touch, but no further than that. Looking back on it, I know I led him on and it was wrong. But back then I enjoyed immensely the power trip it gave me, and it brought me some relief from feeling like an unattractive dork all the time.
There was another one, a guy who was my dearest friend, and whom I liked but never acted on because I knew my best friend liked him. They ended up dating, but always hung out with me at school. It was like they were incapable of being alone. We would go up to the College classrooms and sit inside one amphitheater style room that was always empty during lunch time. There, we smoked away and talked about inane stuff. I did get tired of being a third wheel though, and once told Manny about it. He understood. Anita did not. She got very upset with me and acted all offended, like I was shunning her or something. I had to apologize profusely to her, and we ended up hanging out together again, the three of us. But it was never the same. There was weirdness between us now, things left unsaid. Manny and Anita broke up shortly after the end of the school year.
Manny changed schools, but came once to visit us during our senior year. When he saw me, he gave a big, long hug and said that I still smelled the same, like the Nenuco baby cologne I always wore. I was happy to see him, but also a bit confused, and so I pulled back a little and asked him if he had seen Anita. We joined her and went out to have lunch and some cigarrettes, just like old times. Then he left, and I never saw him again. I heard he had joined the military. I don’t even remember his last name.