I could still show you the spot where Gail introduced herself to me back in the eighth grade at Jasper Junior High School.
It was just a few weeks into the school year. I was near the library in a downstairs hallway. It was between classes, so the hall was crowded with students. But within seconds, it would seem as though there was nobody there other than this beautiful blue-eyed girl and me.
Gail said she had realized that our fathers worked together, so she wanted to introduce herself. I don’t remember what else was said. But it was love at first sight for me — or whatever it is that a 13-year-old boy is mature enough to feel.
For the next three years, I was crazy about her and worshipped her, mostly from afar. By the time we were high school juniors, the fever had ended and she was just another classmate. When we were seniors, we were casual friends. In the second semester of our freshman year of college, we started dating. We were together for three years and even got engaged before eventually going our separate ways.
I didn’t know it then — and rarely realized it later — but my lifelong pursuit of the right woman to love me had its roots in an unconscious childhood need for love which I couldn’t find.
I came to identify love with painful longing.