Funny how 10 years can fly by. How appropriate it is to reminisce about days gone by; to look back at all the possible what-ifs.
It was the summer of 2009, and I was just in between my second and third year of community college. I was still feeling the sting of being denied my transfer to Cal Poly Pomona. It would be my first of three attempts in pursuing a potential career in Civil Engineering; I would never end up attending.
Every summer since high school, I enrolled in extra classes when I should’ve had fun and relaxed. Every summer, my skin would kiss the sun in a never-ending sweaty embrace. Every summer, I wished for something to happen to me; anything out of the ordinary for that matter. I never had time for myself for those summers, every summer living the same basic life.
I met Jessica in my chemistry lab. I initially didn’t take notice of her since my main concern was my studies and bearing with the searing summer sun. We both were paired up to experiment on the acidity of hydrochloric acids. We both were 20 years old at the time; so attempting to maintain our focus on balancing equations was about as easy as learning to play a piccolo. I can recall our casual banter ranging from the heat outside, to the death of Michael Jackson, to just getting to know what makes us tick. What we found was that we both followed the same tick.
Andy, at 20 years old, was a timid, sheltered, unconfident, anxiety filled wreck; the anxiety is still a bit there. Jessica was a near perfect match to lower then-Andy’s steel-enforced walls; she was more willing to be vulnerable. There was a healthy boundary between us; when we exchanged numbers, we would talk about academics, when we met up we would discuss our aspirations, and when class was dismissed, we made it a point to walk together out of the lab and straight to the parking garage. We kept it low key, we kept it from change, we kept it nerdy; for the first month.
We slowly began to dip our toes into our personal thoughts and opinions. When we texted, we began to slowly share funny photos and funny glimpses into our family lives. When we met up, we began to schedule times to grab food. When we would leave lab, we would lightly flirt which brought my double thinking anxiety into overdrive.
I believe this was the first instance where I began to learn how to get close to somebody. It was confirmed only when we both peered into our elongated flasks bubbling with chemicals, we leaned our bodies together against the table, shoulders touching, hips placed in sync. I blushed Mars red as I turned my head to her; her eyes laser focused to mine. Her expression was indescribable. We both were thinking the same thought: are these chemicals on the table about to explode?
It was a daunting task to fall asleep those nights. Who cares about studying for the midterm when there is a need to not fail at a potential, let’s call it, extra credit opportunity. The human mind is truly a cruel place for the imagination; so many scenarios, so many probable futures. Who is to say that any of them could possibly come true? One Friday August afternoon, I found my answer.
I realized as we continued to talk, something was off, something was missing. Let me put it to you this way: when a guy who has never felt the feeling of being wanted by a girl all his young life, his pathetic mind attempts to explain it as “I wish somebody would love me”, “why can’t I find anybody”, or “I’ll never find anybody who wants me for me”. Said-guy is desperate, he doesn’t believe in himself or that he deserves to be happy. In relationships, when you know somebody is the one, there is usually a confirming feeling, a spark if you will. In this particular instance, said-guy learned self-respect, he learned he doesn’t have to take the first treasure available to him, he learned there was no spark, despite all that has transpired.
I felt an overwhelming feeling of shame. It felt like I lead this person to believe in an idea, and an emotion. I began to distance myself from her; slowly, then gradually climbing out of the hole I created. The chemistry class eventually concluded, we both said we would continue to keep in touch. This was before the term ghosting became a huge thing, but that’s bullshit since ghosting has always been a thing.
If I want to leave you with anything, it would be on how not a day goes by that I don’t revisit the memory. If given the chance, I would probably apologize to her for what could’ve been, on the time lost and for ghosting her. What I wouldn’t apologize for is in finding myself during those days in the summer sun. I learned love is reciprocal. Love has to be shared between two people. You are worthy, you are beautiful, and you don’t have to settle for somebody who isn’t meant for you. Shoot for the stars; make mistakes because it’s how we grow. It’s how we drown out the what-ifs.