Thought for the Day: Don’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly. Life is way more interesting when you do.
It was September, 1968. I was entering high school as an awkward freshman with a thing for musicians, discovering boys for the first time. He was a junior – a trombone player in the school band and a member of a popular dance band.
It was my first school assembly, and as we gathered into the stuffy gymnasium, the school band started playing. I glanced through the group of musicians, and my eyes settled on the conservative boy with dark slicked hair, staring at the sheet music through brown horn-rimmed glasses. Badda bing, badda boom went the strings of my heart – Jimmy Galienski, my first crush.
To see him in the halls of the school was delirium for me. With my long light brown hair perfectly combed and lips slathered in cherry lip gloss, I would see him coming towards me amid the bustle of a gazillion students, and I would shout loudly “Hi, Jimmy!” He looked at me with dubious recognition and mumbled hello.
WOW – he said “hello!” I ran home from the bus stop that afternoon and immediately called my best friend June who went to a different school, and together we had an hour-long conversation on the exact circumstances of how Jimmy Galienski said hello to me in the hallway. “Did he smile when he said it?” June asked. Did he wave? Nod his head? Was it a loud or soft hello?! She grilled me like a detective and cross-examined me on every aspect of the encounter.
Each day from thereon was determined to be good or bad by the seeking and sometimes finding the elusive Jimmy in the corridors of the school and saying hello to him. Sometimes I would alternate with “How are you, Jimmy?” He would look at me blankly and respond simply, “Fine.” Home to the phone for a one and a half hour conversation with June on how he said “fine!” How did he say it? Was he happy? Sad? Did he look into your eyes? All seriously probing questions.
Sometimes he would answer with, “How ya doin’?”
“June, he said “how ya doin’?”
“OMG!! How are you doing?” June shrieked. He wanted to know how YOU were doing? He MUST like you.”
“You think?” I ask her smiling at the concept that a quasi-popular musician would actually like me.
“Absolutely,” she assured me. This phone conversation will last at least two hours.
But the next day he’s back to “hi,” again, so I’m not quite sure if I am making any progress and am uncertain of whether he likes me like I like him or not.
I started dragging June and my other friend Debbie to all the football games since Jimmy played in the band at halftime. He looked quite spiffy in his band uniform. I hate football but went to every game that year just to catch a glimpse of Jimmy at half time. After the fourth game, my friends grew tired of going since they didn’t like football either. But I pleaded with them in the name of love, and they eventually decided on whom they liked out of all the football players and the band so they could have a reason to attend as well. Debbie kind of liked a trumpet player named Phil, but he was obnoxious answering her with a burp when she said hi to him in the hallway. Really not a nice fellow at all.
We became a gaggle of groupies for Jimmy’s dance band and started tracking them wherever they played, usually school dances. June eventually developed a crush on their lead singer, and Debbie liked the drummer, so we became in sync on why we were doing this groupie thing.
Eventually Jimmy miraculously found out my name. Sometimes he’d say, “Hi, Sue.” That just catapulted me into outer space. Then I asked my brother to tell him I liked him, since he was in one of his classes, which my brother somehow agreed to do. Probably because I grilled him every day on whether or not he told Jimmy that I liked him, and he got sick of my asking.
When my brother told him, Jimmy blandly answered, “Yes, I know.” My brother was intrigued at how nonchalant Jimmy was about it, since he himself was not very cool with anything pertaining to girls at the time.
“He knows,” I tell June. “Now he knows!” We scream into the phone in unison. This is an all night conversation, which ends only when our parents force us off the phone because we need to get some sleep.
Even with the knowledge that I like him, Jimmy continues his usual blandness and never reacts other than a “hi” or “how ya doin’?” This continues through the school year. I eventually found out he apparently had a crush on the girl singer in his own band, although she was dating someone else. Eventually my crush on Jimmy fizzled, but I held that torch for a very long time. I finally realized the “relationship” would never past the “hi” or “how ya doin’?” stage.
Summer came, and I got busy having other crushes anyway, mainly on one boy named Ronald who surfed, whom June and I were fighting over, even though he didn’t really know either of us existed.
The last time I saw Jimmy was a couple of years later at a graduation party of a friend of a friend’s who was a year older than I. I was a junior at the time, and feeling like a hot shot, especially since I was invited to an upperclassman’s party.
June and I spent days deciding what to wear and what our game plan would be so we could act mature at the party and fit in. We went to the party decked out in wide striped bell bottoms and scarves wrapped around our heads. You have to remember it was the early seventies. I remembered feeling very hip and cool. That was until I tripped over a chaise lounge and stumbled on top of an upperclassman knocking the chair and him to the ground. He threw his soda can on the ground and yelled inappropriate obscenities. My fair complexion turned a bright red.
It was just about then that I spotted Jimmy across the crowded back yard. He had just finished his first year of college and now had shoulder length hair and looked like a hippy, which was very trendy at the time. Even in my embarrassed state, I remembered the heartache of his ignoring me during that vulnerable time in my freshman year by only saying “hi” or “how ya doin’,” so I ignored him even though I could swear he was watching me.
June and I decided to leave because I was humiliated over the tripping incident, and our confidence level in this group of upperclassmen was beginning to plummet. Amazingly, Jimmy said hello to me as I passed him on the way out, but for some odd reason I just walked past him without responding and pretended I didn’t know him. In hindsight I wished I’d said a bland, “how ya doin’?”
Flash forward quite a number of years. Out of boredom, I am searching a few names on Facebook and I plug in Jimmy Galienski. His face instantly shows up, and surprisingly, a butterfly flutters in my stomach. Are you kidding me? I chided myself, annoyed that he still had that power over me. But there he was looking a little different then he did at 16, but so did I. I google the webpage he has listed on and read his bio, which proved him to have had a pretty interesting life. He stayed in the music business. I’m blown away. The “send Jimmy a message” icon beckons me. Should I? I ask myself. I feel a little anxious but start typing: You were my freshman crush, but I was probably nothing more than a pain in your patut. Glad to hear of your accomplishments. Best wishes for continued success. My heart is racing as I write this to him just as much as it did every time I spotted him walking towards me in that school corridor so many years ago.
The “send” button entices me. Should I send it or not? I asked myself. I wish I could talk to June right now, but we’ve lost contact. I imagined she would scream, JUST DO IT! Jolted by the thought, I bravely hit the “send” button. For the rest of the day I was bubbling over but didn’t dare tell anyone. What if he never wrote back or, even worse, wrote back something like, “Leave me alone you creepy little freshman stalker.” I checked my Facebook page again and again that day, but there was no response. That night I was feeling both elated at the prospect of hearing from him and forlorn that he might ignore me like he used to way back when. I was pleasantly surprised that I was recalling the humor of the old days and wondering like a school girl if he would write back.
I rushed to my computer the next morning and screeched when I saw “A message from Jimmy Galienski.” I opened it with blinding speed.
“Susan, great to hear from you.” (from me?, I smile to myself)
“Freshman year?” he continues, “you make me blush.” (My heart is bursting.)
“I’m still in the music business,” he continues. (My imagination is running 100 miles per hour.)
“Will you be going to the school reunion?” he asks. (OMG!!!! Is he asking me in a nondescript way to meet him at the reunion?!? This would definitely be an all day conversation with June had I still had her number.)
I answered him: “No. I won’t be going to the reunion. I actually graduated from another school – transferred in my junior year. But I’m glad you followed your heart with your music, Jimmy.
I could use my imagination to make up a great story on how Jimmy and I connected through Facebook and an endearing love affair followed. But it didn’t. I never heard from Jimmy again. Maybe he couldn’t get the idea of that geeky, annoying freshman girl out of his mind. But I’ll always be grateful for the blast from the past and the remembrance of what a crazy kid I was as I boldly reached out to my first crush and felt the twitter of puppy love for the first time.