In The Meantime: Wanting That Old Thing Back
This past weekend, I ran into the reason for my affinity towards tall men with slim builds, full smiles, polished caeser, quick wit, and a love for music. He stood amongst a few other men I recognized from high school and they chatted about the neighborhood and how it’s changed. I dared not speak to him, for fear he’d recognize my face. (I made a fool of myself around 9th grade, when confessing my love to him.) I tapped the closest guy, next to him, and he gawked in recognition. Mitchell, the guy my eyes followed for several years of my adolescent life stared relentlessly, trying to figure out how he knew me.
“Erica! It’s been a while,” said Nicholas, the guy closest to him.
We embraced and I was genuinely excited to see him. Nicholas was a part of my sweet sixteen and one of the funniest men I’d ever known. We were both huge geeks, back then, and proud of it.
“Hi Nick! It’s been seven years. Wow, I feel so old.”
He laughed, “We still have one year to the ten-year reunion. We’re not that old. I’m so proud of you! I see you’re doing big things.”
Mitchell figured out where he knew me from and smiled. I smiled back, shook his hand, and continued my conversation with Nick.
“Something like that.”
“Oh please girl! I see what you’ve been up to. I follow your stuff.”
I laughed, “I’m trying to be humble.”
This caught Mitchell’s attention, “What are you trying to be humble about?”
Nick responded for me, “She’s out here doing well. Education tycoon, writer, entrepreneur.”
Mitchell frowned, “Humble. I don’t like the definition of that word. Humble means lowering your importance, so other folks around you can feel comfortable.”
I knew that wasn’t quite the definition, but I liked where he was going.
“Be proud of what you’re doing, yell it to the world. There’s no reason to be humble. Some folks around here can be inspired by that pride.”
Still smooth, still put together, and still fine.
We all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Later on, a few of my girlfriends gathered for a birthday party. One of the girls was someone that was familiar with Mitchell.
I said, in the middle of our usual banter about men, “I saw Mitchell Merrick today and he’s still fine.”
Tianna jumped up, “Mitchell! I know Mitchell. How is he?”
“He looks good. Producing out in LA. He was back home, for a quick second.”
I recounted the events that took place earlier that morning. The girls all waited for a more awesome ending.
“So that’s it?”
I smiled, “Yeah that’s it. I made a fool out of myself back then. I wasn’t going to do that again. I’m good.”
I told them how I waited until Mitchell was sick and went to the nurse’s office, for a stomachache. They never gave us any real remedies and always made us lay down for a few minutes, hoping we’d get back to class. I gave a friend of mine an elaborate letter to give to him. I didn’t sign my name to it.
I sat on the steps, near the office, and watched him walk out with the letter. He stuffed it into his pocket, I was sure he’d already read it. He walked right past me and I let go a sigh of relief, thankful he didn’t know it was I. He stopped a few steps away, turned around, looked right at me, and said, “I know that was you Buddington.” He smiled and walked away.
My girls all started laughing and asked what he’d done afterwards.
“Nothing,” I said.
He was older than me and I knew he wasn’t interested at all.
Tianna said, “I’m glad nothing happened this time too. You love a pretty boy. Mitchell is a pretty boy. I keep telling you that you need to broaden your horizons.”
Tianna had given me this advice before. I took it. A montage of some of the guys I dated, over the last few years, ran through my mind. Tianna convinced me to date every one of them.
There was the rude guy, from a speed-dating event, who was far too rough around the edges.
There was the guy from work, who we found out already had two girlfriends.
There was the DC transplant that was into…well…weird things.
There was also a guy that we couldn’t figure out whether he really liked girls or…
I had uncertainties about every one of these men and Tianna pushed me into circumstances, with each of them.
She continued, “Later for them. What ever happened to Dante?” She was referring to the rough-around-the-edges dude.
I rolled my eyes, “Dante is done.”
While my girls continued to dog men, I thought about my brief meeting with Mitchell. It wasn’t that he was a “pretty boy”—which I really didn’t think he was—it was how he stood out. While most of the boys in school were obsessed with basketball and name brand jeans, he wore crease-sharp khakis and loved practicing his saxophone. He was quick to stand up for any girl who was being made fun of, which often got him made fun of as well. He was unique and I couldn’t help but adore him.
The guys I dated, the ones I pursued before Tianna’s advice, happened to be really good looking. She was right about that. They all had one other thing in common—they were distinctive. Tianna didn’t see this. All she saw was the absent overt “masculinity” that she coveted: obsession with sports, beers/couches, called all the shots, and damn near misogynist.
Mitchell’s presence reminded me of what I really looked for, in a guy. He reminded me that I wasn’t picky and I had standards. I’d shuffled those standards, during moments of desperation and loneliness. I’d let the words of my friends seep in and contradict my better judgment.
I came home and signed into my Facebook. I typed “Mitchell Merrick” into the search box and I wrote him a message:
“I was fourteen, when I finally worked up the courage to tell you that I had a crush on you. I waited until you had a stomachache, you were lying down in the nurse’s office and I had someone hand you a love letter. Lol. I was such a corny kid. Although my intentions are nothing like what they were then, I must say that all the attributes I found awesome about you, back then, are still apparent. You stood out from all the other boys: polished, intellectual, love of music. After seeing you Saturday, I’m excited to see that you’re still that way. Stay different. It’s how we stay on top.”
“I remember that letter. I wanted to ask you if you remembered sending it to me, but I didn’t want to upset you. Ha! It was great seeing you. Never humble yourself, to make others feel comfortable. Make noise and be proud of it. You’ll be surprised how many people will follow suit. See you next time I’m in town?”
We are often reminded, of who we once were/are when we least expect it. Sometimes the reminder comes in the form of a memory of a teenage boy, who couldn’t be compared to any other I’d ever seen. I could’ve told Mitchell this, but I didn’t. Instead, I told him, once again, how awesome his individuality is/was. I hope he’s still that way, I hope he stays that way; I hope he instills it in his sons.
In the meantime, I’ve got a standards list to rectify. Catch you next week.
Come back next Tuesday for the next installment of the series!