You lead me on.
Because I was a virgin?
For over a year, I crushed on you. My nineteen-year-old whimpers of “What do I do about Ren?” were met with condescending “There, there’s” from my co-workers, *Manny and *Joe, who saw hilarity in my heartache.
You, our company’s engineer. Me, the newbie. You, with your hazel eyes and flaxen mullet. You were cute, Ren. But it was the mid-90s. Those locks had to go.
Whenever you approached, I’d tell Manny and Joe, “Make me laugh. Ren’s coming this way.” I needed a distraction from the hairnet.
You and your buddy Barney strode towards us. Barney, the more enthusiastic one, would joke in passing. Whereas you seemed shy and reserved. I ogled you. Walking down the hall. Chatting with Barney. Closing your office door. Still talking. Special lovelies about me? Proclaiming how I drove you wild with my perfume? For all I knew, you saying, “I think that girl in the hairnet is stalking me.”But I wasn’t. Not really. I learned you were twenty-eight. Into country music. You lived with your parents and had a black truck. And a snowmobile. Shutter.
We’d say “hello” in passing, if I were alone. You’d flirt. I’d giggle. Then you’d leave. Step one, you knew I existed. Step two? Introducing the real me.
For months I plotted, schemed and daydreamed. How to accomplish step two. Then the chance presented itself: our company Christmas gala. I’d arrive in a flashy short dress and hair that could channel Reba McEntire.
The night of the party, my heart palpitated as I entered the ballroom. I imagined a spotlight streaming to the centre of the room. Reflecting off my shimmery copper spaghetti-strap dress. The most romantic ballad would play, and you’d approach me. Speaking in a British accent. I said this was a daydream. We’d dance, and I wouldn’t stumble in my black, three-inch heels. You’d say, “Tessa, I’ve been waiting for this moment.”
“So have I, Ren.” And I’d hover over your lips, because I’m bold like that. My perfectly traced, redone three-times, burgundy lips. And we’d kiss, and everyone would applaud our magical love.
Not to be. I squeezed through packed ballrooom towards Manny, Joe and their dates. Sitting solo. Facing the ballroom. Scouring for you.
During our four-course dinner – salad is hardly a prelude to soup – you and Barney appeared from the far-end of the ballroom. Typical Barney joked with everyone, while you smiled at me. You leaned and said, “You look pretty.”
I almost choked on my chicken. Literally. It was pretty dry. “Thanks.”
“I’ll dance with you later.”
For over a year, I crushed on you. Yet, I could only articulate: “Okay.”
I waited for a ballad. I wanted our first dance to be perfect. A memorable song such as Bon Jovi’s Always or Power of Love from Celine Dion. The ballads came and went. Mixed with Dance Mix ’94 and ABBA. Who chose this music? And where you?
Ah, with Barney. Drinking by the bar.
“Hey,” said Manny. “Just go ask him to dance.”
“I’ll give him a few minutes.”
“Tessa, it’s almost midnight. People are leaving.”
“Good point.” I strolled over. You looked at me, semi-sober. “I thought we were going to dance.”
You handed Barney your beer, and you followed me onto the dance floor during Def Leppard’s “When Love and Hate Collide.” Not exactly the ideal song.
But I was still convinced this was our moment. When you’d look into my eyes, and you’d realize … we should date.
And it’d be mission accomplished. And we’d get married and have non-mullet children.
But as we danced, you didn’t speak. At all. Sort of a bummer. However, after the dance we sat down and chatted. Or tried. You weren’t one for conversation for some reason. When they played the last ballad, I practically had to drag you onto the floor.
Frankly, “Stairway to Heaven” wasn’t.
We parted after the gala. You’d see me Monday? So, you don’t want my phone number?
That week, our company was closing down for the holidays. Three weeks. You and I would catch each other between breaks. Sure, we spoke more. Because I carried the conversation. I can carry on a conversation with a pillowcase.
You, my dear, merely stood – nodding – while I spoke. By Friday – the company’s season finale – we still hadn’t exchanged numbers. Or made plans for coffee. Not even a walk through the park. New Year’s Day? Nothing. You wished me a Merry Christmas, and then drifted away. What a bummer.
Three weeks later, I returned to hear words no girl wants to hear when she has a crush: “He found someone.”
You were dating someone? And it wasn’t me?
Worse, you met her before New Year’s. Before Christmas. In December?
Apparently, *Rebecca was a thirty-two-year-old accountant. You told Barney I was too young? But … but … that’s ageism. Or something.
I poured my heart out to Manny and Joe. “What does she have that I don’t? Besides a CGA?”
“Tessa, it’s more like what she doesn’t have,” said Joe.
“What does that mean?”
Joe sighed. “Sweetie, you’re a virgin.”
Manny groaned and scratched her neck. “Ren’s not. And neither is Rebecca. For the love of God, tell me you see where this is going.”
“Yeah, I’ve got it,” I said. “So, in December. Were they–”
I’m sure Manny – whose boyfriend worked with you – gave you the heads up that I knew what and who you did that Christmas.
The more I thought about it, I realized you weren’t attractive. Don’t get me wrong. Your exterior was attractive – minus the mullet. But the interior?
You gave a nineteen-year-old girl false hope. You said, “I’ll dance with you,” when you weren’t available. If you’re in a relationship, Ren, you’re not available.
And that wasn’t fair to me, or your thirty-two-year-old girlfriend.
The only consolation is she made you cut off your mullet.
*Names changed for privacy