I barely knew her. But 14-year-old me felt so much for her.
I won’t use her real name. Let’s call her Shauna. Not that there’s anything unflattering I’d have to say about her. Quite the opposite. Even though I barely knew her. What was it about her that locked her in my heart for all of my high school years — literally from the first day to the last? Even though I barely knew her?
Sure, there were other girls throughout high school who would occasionally take precedence over Shauna, especially when she had a boyfriend. But she was always there.
This is one of four songs I can’t hear without thinking of her. Two of the others are Richard Marx’s other two big ballads. The other, the first and most intensely connected to her is Blue Rodeo’s “Try.”
“Try,” which isn’t in my music collection so won’t be getting a blog entry of its own, brings me back to that first day of high school, right after lunch, to Mrs. Townshend’s Keyboarding class. I wouldn’t be writing this, I probably wouldn’t have been a lovesick puppy for five years, if it wasn’t for Mrs. Townshend. Because it was her idea to seat us in alphabetical order. Shauna’s last name started with a letter close to mine, so she was right across the aisle from me.
My 14-year-old self couldn’t believe a girl could be so tiny, so adorable, so dimple-chinned, so brown-eyed and brown-haired as she was. I couldn’t believe my last name afforded me the delight of sitting next to her every day, despite the fact that it also forced me to sit next to the annoying and over-cologned guy to my left. I couldn’t believe a girl’s smile could make my heart try to leap out of my body. I couldn’t believe that she would giggle at my sarcastic remarks, my only real tool of flirtation, such as it was. I couldn’t believe she complimented me on my cheesy Blue Jays Halloween costume when she was the most adorable red-dressed gypsy who ever walked the Earth.
And, stupidly, I couldn’t believe she would ever feel for me anything close to what I felt for her.
Did we catch each other’s eyes? In the hallway? On the bus? In the cafeteria? Anywhere? Ever? I simultaneously wanted to think that we did and that we didn’t. After all, I thought, even if she was interested, and I asked her out, what would we do? Where would we go? Worst of all, what would we talk about? That was always my biggest worry. Still is, to this day, with anybody.
Throughout high school, I’d fall asleep listening to music on my Walkman. I’d often save this, or one of the other “Shauna” songs, for last, and I’d lay there stupidly pining away for this girl. Even though I barely knew her. But I just knew she had to be perfect.
I remember being in a group with her for a Grade 10 English assignment. I think she had a boyfriend at that point. Paolo or something. I just remember, while making sarcastic remarks to try to impress her, wondering if there was anything unspoken between us or if it was just me. I wondered if she was thinking, “Remember Keyboarding class and I complimented you on your stupid baseball costume? That was your shot and you blew it, kid. I’ve got Paolo now.”
I feel bad for my high school self. Poor kid. Just relax, I’d tell him. Feel it, whatever it is, but just chill out about it and maybe do something about it. None of us knew what we were doing back then, anyway. What if I had asked her out that first Halloween? What would the little gypsy have said to the lanky Blue Jay?
I’m not even sure that’s a question worth answering. The past is the past and I’m happy where I am now. Besides, I’ve been feeling like I should stop beating up on my younger self. I’ve done a lot of that. I was what I was. And there’s no turning back. I think this is part of the reason I started this blog. I wanted to exorcise my regrets.
Specifically, this song reminds me of being in a rental car with my family in Florida, I guess around March of 1988. I remember sitting in the back seat, looking out as we passed an orange grove. I was listening to this song through my Walkman, thinking of her and actually feeling happy and positive about the whole thing. Maybe it was the distance. Maybe it was just being in Florida (I established in an earlier post how I loved being in the States as a kid). Maybe I was just allowing myself to enjoy the idea of her, rather than sadly pine away for her. I really did love the idea of her. Even though I barely knew her. But she was never really more than an idea to me, was she? Because I barely knew her.