The last time I saw him, we were in grade eleven, eighteen years old, circa 1979. I was painfully shy and exquisitely awkward. I would pass him in the hallway feeling ghost-like. I knew him only as this soft spoken cute boy who all the girls liked and had crushes on including invisible me. He had brown messy hair, and piercing brown eyes. I sat behind him in home room; he used me to forward his enamoured notes to the popular girl who sat behind me. I saw him today almost 35 years later.
This was not a chance encounter I have to admit. I typed his name on LinkedIn the business-oriented social networking site that I just joined and I typed his name only because his first and last name rhymed making it easy to remember. At fifty-one I find myself terrible with names, words in fact, whole sentences get stuck and lodged on the tip of my tongue but on this one day his name popped right out of my head and onto the LinkedIn search box.
I kept my message brief but playful, a side effect of being older and feeling daring. The next day, I had a waiting message and in true Mr. Bean wide eyed exaggerated form, I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone else was witnessing this exhilarating moment. I read his email in slow motion and by the end I was lightheaded. I don’t know how long I was staring at the computer before I heard the opening of the front door and my husband’s voice announcing his arrival home.
I wrote him back that I would be available for a coffee reunion. Several weeks went by and there was no response. On week four, there it was among all the other routine emails and it simply said “how about tomorrow?” On the day of our rendezvous, I ransacked the closet before settling on a smart but fabulous at any age ensemble! I could not contain my school girl excitement. He would be seeing me with actual cleavage and confidence something I never possessed in high school.
In our last email exchange, I mentioned that I hoped he was completely bald and bulky. He wrote back that he was and also sported bifocals! All this good natured ribbing only served to buoy my desire to see him. At 1:00 PM sharp I ejected myself out of my office and onto the cozy artsy café where we were meeting. My head was throbbing, my body felt feverish, I was hot, not the kind you hope for in terms of attractiveness, but the kind you experience when you have peri menopause like me.
But no matter, even if I had to crawl into that café, I was going! I hauled open the door and stood inside the now bustling café and just prayed that his first sight of me would not be me fainting and hitting the lovely birch wood floor. Before I had time to reconsider I saw a man holding up a paper sign that simply read “BALD & BULKY”.
He was neither of those things by the way. I approached the table and he stood and before I knew it, we gave each other a tight embrace. My body incinerated on contact. He was tall, broad shouldered, and still had his hair, but it was peppered with grey like George Clooney. His eyes were punctuated with a few lines but they still managed to radiate warmth, or was that my hormones again?
We ordered our beverages and continued staring at each other in disbelief. He went first, but to be frank again, I wasn’t paying attention, preferring to drink in his looks instead and thinking how impossible this all felt. When he interrupted himself to say that he thought I looked great, I became instantly giddy, like a crazed teen that just saw Justin Bieber!
Far too quickly we realized it was time to be getting back to work. He walked me back to my building where he mentioned again how wonderful I looked. Neither one of us mentioned a future get-together. We jokingly outstretched our hands in a gesture shake but instead drew each other in and performed the distinctive Montreal style double cheek kiss. For a moment there, I wanted to hold on to him, like in the movie Titanic, I suddenly became “Rose” and he was my “Jack” and I didn’t want to release him. But I knew I had to let him and my past insecurities go.
This experience left me feeling vindicated on behalf of all the awkward ghosts out there. I returned to my office feeling like my old self once again, but you know this time I felt just fine with that.
by Montreal freelance writer, Wendy Reichental