It was just after Thanksgiving of my sixth grade year. For about a year and a half, I had had the worst sort of crush on a girl in my class named Wendy Ford. When I was 11, she was my dream girl.
I was terrified for anybody to figure out that I “liked” Wendy, of course. And the absolute worst thing would be for her to know it. This is confusing to adult logic, but it made perfect sense back then. Somehow, she was going to “like” me first and let me know — and then I could confess that I “liked” her, too. And then we would get married. Or something like that.
Instead, one of her friends came over to me — in music class — and asked, “Do you like Wendy?”
My face must have turned bright red. I felt as though everybody was looking at me. My heartbeat raced. And I denied it. I assured her that it wasn’t true, but I doubt I was convincing. I just wanted to be anywhere but there.
“You should have liked her,” the friend said, “because she likes you.”
Thursday evening, I remembered what that sort of conversation felt like — and I didn’t like it any better than I did when I was 11.
My pharmacy rarely has reason to call me — never unless I have a prescription being filled — but one of the pharmacists called Thursday afternoon and asked if I would be nearby this evening. She said she had something to talk with me about if I happened to be around. I was curious what was going on, because she wouldn’t give me any hints.
When she saw me walking up, she smiled a little sheepishly. There were other customers at the counter, so she motioned for me to move down to the other end where nobody was.
“Do you remember the really pretty, tall pharmacist who was substituting here a few weeks ago?” she asked.
I did remember. One of the regular pharmacists just had a baby and there had been a substitute — someone they called a “floater” — working in her place. I had come in one night for something else but stopped at the pharmacy to chat. It hadn’t been busy that night, so several of us stood around and talked for something like 15 minutes.
I didn’t remember the woman’s name, but I remembered that she was tall, blonde and attractive — a strong combination for me. But I still didn’t know what the question was all about.
“She’s just taken a job at another company,” the pharmacist said. “As long as she was working here, I couldn’t say anything, but now that she’s gone, well, it’s different.”
I still didn’t see where this was going.
“She really liked you that night y’all were talking when you met her,” she finally went on. “And now that she’s gone and it’s not like some kind of professional boundary thing, well, I just wondered…”
I was stunned. And I was flattered. But I still felt like an awkward 11-year-old.
We talked a few more minutes and she told me more about this mysterious pharmacist who thought I was interesting that night. I kept thinking back to the night we met. I had been in a good mood and I was funny that night. I had everybody laughing. Would she expect me to be funny like that all the time?
I’m sure I didn’t seem as awkward tonight as I did when I denied my interest in Wendy all those years ago, but I’m also sure that I wasn’t my most charming. I just know that it made my ego happy — and I also know that I needed that.
I have no idea what happened to Wendy Ford. We moved away to another city during the Christmas break and I never saw her again after our class Christmas party. (I gave her a present and she said she liked it. She seemed to want to talk to me, but I was terrified.) I’ve tried to look her up just out of curiosity, but I’ve never figured out what became of her.
The pharmacist is another matter. I’m not 11. We’re not moving away. She lives nearby. I guess I’ll at least figure out a bit more about who she is. You never know what might happen.
Do you remember those notes shy people were fond of sending to one another back when we were young that said, “I like you. Do you like me? Check one.” And there would have been boxes for “yes,” “no,” and “maybe.”
I didn’t see any note like that tonight, but if there had been, I would have checked, “Maybe.”
Note: I have modified some minor facts in this story to slightly disguise the identity of the people involved. But not Wendy Ford. That’s her real name. What happened to you, Wendy?