All the Things.

So, by now, I’m sure you’ve heard the details of the “bombshell” interview that Oprah Winfrey conducted with Harry and Meghan a few weeks ago. (If you’re a woman and a person of color, not much that you heard was surprising.) But believe me, despite not being largely surprised by how Meghan was treated, I found the interview to be utterly impactful. I felt sad for them, too. Ultimately, however, I have no doubt that she and Harry will keep it moving. The interview got me thinking about a lot of things. Race, microaggressions, my own life experience, so much. Here are some related thoughts and reactions from the more popular comments and remarks I saw on social media.

One question I saw more than once was why Meghan felt like she’d be accepted by this institution.

Image Credit: O, The Oprah Magazine

When I came to this country, the black and brown kids that I longed to be with mostly ignored and/or mocked me. Of course, in hindsight, I now understand that my “otherness”, coming from Africa, was largely informed by a stereotypical representation of my continent in the media. It explains why many questions were related to where I had lived in Ghana, if it was a house, if I owned shoes. They didn’t really know any better (we’re talking about 10 and 11 year-olds here, too). At the time, it was perplexing, sad, and infuriating. And lonely. The kids that looked like me didn’t want me. Being in a predominately Caucasian school and area, I was soon accepted into mainly white friend groups. Now, young me experienced the other side of the spectrum: fascination, curiosity, and interest. Many of these friends sincerely wanted to learn what life was like for me, pre-US living. They wanted to be in my presence, to be in my company. A level of comfort set in for me. When that happens, that comfort level, you start to believe–and I certainly did–that all spaces were ready for me. Because my white friends seemed to be accepting, all white folks would accept me.

Not so.

And I honestly think that Meghan believed some of the same things. Pre-Royal Family, she was an actress, in the public eye, likely accepted in a variety of circles and groups. Perhaps this mindset continued when she entered the RF. She mentioned in the interview that she assured her in-laws that she was ready to work hard on their behalf; she saw the opportunity for representation in the Commonwealth and embraced the new chapter that she would help start. But at the end of the day, some circles are not all circles. As I got older and navigated life/adulthood/race/ identity, I learned that there wasn’t always a welcome mat for me. Sometimes that mat seemed fine on the surface, but underneath was really full of ignorance, bigotry, and those microaggressions. So, yeah, I feel like she went in hopeful. And soon learned that there was a lot of stuff going on underneath.

Racism must be bad if they came to the States to escape it.

Word. But one thing I thought about: the British media was largely trashing Meghan. Here in the States, slants exist, yes, but there’s still a level of political correctness that will come with headlines. Harry and Meghan mentioned the British press more than once during the interview, their obvious bias against her and comparing her to Kate Middleton. (Love this quote from Meghan during the interview: “…if you love me, you don’t have to hate her. And if you love her, you don’t need to hate me.”) So it’s bad everywhere, yes, but at least the depth of journalistic vitriol isn’t as immense stateside.

Why in the world didn’t Meghan Google the Royal Family before getting involved??

She stated during the interview that she didn’t want to Google her husband-to-be, and wasn’t that informed about the Royals in general before beginning a relationship with Harry. Hey, it happens. I know plenty of folks who couldn’t care less about those people, nor need to be informed about them. Of course, This Square Peg isn’t one of those people. *laughs* Starting with my beloved Princess Diana and surpassing the British royals into royals all over the world, I’ve always been fascinated by them. But where Meghan and I differ: I’m Googling you. A potential relationship, a new friend, whatever–yes, I admire that she didn’t want to be informed by someone else’s POV about her husband, but Google is Google. I still need to know some things. Anyway, it’s a valid question. Maybe learning about the history of her late MIL would have better prepared Meghan for the life she was about to begin, but I also maintain that nothing prepares a woman of color for the welcome she will or won’t receive from society. Sadly, we mostly have to live it to find out.

Wait: it was the Firm’s decision not to give Archie a title and not H&M?

And here we see how the media drives thoughts and opinions. When Archie was born and the announcement came, I and several of my friends assumed that Harry and Meghan had chosen to not give him a title and instead afford him a regular life despite being the son of a prince. Not so. Meghan shared that the Firm–the RF as a whole–decided not to give the baby a royal title. And why? Protocol, they say. But I’m pretty sure Meghan’s reveal that some members discussed how “dark” Archie would be had something to do with that decision. (Talk about the part of the interview that infuriated me more than I can even describe.) It’s just interesting, optics and media, no? Even Harry and Meghan showing the baby, not on the steps on the Lindo Wing post-birth like Kate M and Harry’s mother, but in Windsor Castle, seemed like their choice. It wasn’t. (By the way, post-birth, a photo op seems really intrusive and weird and like physically uncomfortable to look at, but yeah.) Anyway, my point: their decision to want to step back as Senior working members of the RF was warranted and completely called for.

So, Team Meghan, right?

Absolutely. From the start. (Just search Meghan on TSP and you’ll see what I mean.)

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk, folks. Happy FriYAY and bon weekend, as well.

Confessions of an Overachiever.

  1. I was always the last chosen for teams in gym class. Always isn’t an exaggeration. It would 100% be between me and a kid somehow slower than me, which was usually baffling because, yeah, I was slow, unathletic, uncoordinated, terrified, all of it.
  2. When my high school counselor gave me my Senior year final GPA, I saw the 3.0 (this is hardly a humblebrag) and where I fell in the senior class percentile–not top, not bottom, but the middle–and felt the deep twinges of disappointment.
  3. I once met a guy who asked me, three times throughout a weekend, whether we’d met before. He would look at me quizzically each time and smile unsurely, as if we hadn’t engaged in animated conversation barely an hour before, or the day before, and ask, “hey, have we met?” Before you can excuse him, keep in mind that we were part of a tour group in NYC that was sharing every moment together. So, it’s not like I went home and saw him several days later. We were always together. Yeah.
Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

From my adolescence throughout my twenties, I felt my averageness, my unmemorableness (not a word, but feel free, all yours), in the pit of my belly. I hated it. I remember vowing to my mother that in college, I’d rise above that average 3.0. I’d get on the Dean’s List, I’d snag a 4.0 and prove that I was more than some average, forgettable girl who no one wanted on their team. It mostly worked. Save for a late-stage and woeful Math credit and some other non-humanities classes that pulled the numbers down (English majors will understand), I happily found myself seeing my goals through: Dean’s List time and time again, high class standing, etc. Without a doubt, the overachieving began and flourished during those four years.

Or did the seeds begin when, as an adolescent growing into a teenager, I didn’t hear the best things coming from some family members about me? I used to condemn myself a lot (you’ll note, if you’re new to TSP, that I had to do a lot of inner work to love and respect myself; that’s why my Square Peg nature and confidence is high; I proudly march to the beat of my own drum), believing that the words some in our family used to describe me (fat, lazy, etc.) were true. My mom mentioned recently that she saw a photo of me as a teenager and I looked so sad. I didn’t respond in detail and simply said, “could be.” (I rarely discussed my lack of self-esteem and self-worth with my parents, by the way. There was a big part of me that didn’t think they’d understand. Immigrant kids may get where I’m coming from. Discussing feelings just wasn’t a thing in my household back in the day. But my mom and I had a pretty revealing conversation about all of that years ago. Freeing and cathartic.) I clearly digress. The point is perhaps those toxic descriptions of my character were forming the overachiever that would come: the obsessive need to be good, perfect, and efficient at everything in order to prove them all wrong, the unflagging desire to seem valuable.

Overachieving didn’t end in my formative years, as I mentioned. As I began my professional life in corporate America in my early 20s, it bothered me when I didn’t understand something quickly at a new job, fearing that I would seem not smart, not capable. The fear of seeming average. Adding the fact that I was a young Black woman in corporate America and undoubtedly being judged made things exponentially stressful. Those little microaggressions made their mark, believe me. (“This Square Peg, we heard you graduated college! Wow! Did you go to a four-year school?”) I constantly pushed myself to have a reputation of efficiency and silently beat myself up when I fell short of my own impossibly high standards. And some exceedingly high standards were self-made, yes, and some were absolutely not. Either way, I was emotionally toast most of the time.

I’d love to say that presently being a grown woman who’s way more self-aware and happy with herself and who understands how adolescent trauma and insecurities can lead to traits like overachieving means I’m no longer an overachiever. That wouldn’t be accurate. I work on it constantly. (This new job brought it out like crazy.) I talk about it with a trusted friend, too. I pray about it. The high that comes from being known as dependable and efficient, especially in a professional space, is the same as the low that comes when you criticize yourself unfairly because of natural imperfections. I went through that this week and I was able to express myself to said dear friend who reminded me of a few things I hope to remind you of, if this is something you go through:

  • You did a great job and you do a great job.
  • No one is 100% amazing at everything.
  • See the areas you need to improve on and realistically find ways to make improvements, remembering that you may still fall short and that’s okay!
  • Is it really a necessary improvement or camouflaging as a normal thing that will happen and out of your control? Try to see the difference.
  • Speaking of differences, there’s a significant one between overachieving/perfectionism and simply being a hard worker. The lines can blur and it helps to understand this.
  • Read this.
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Oh, and therapy! 2021 may be the year when I hang out with a professional. Being self-aware doesn’t replace doing some good internal work with someone who’s licensed.

Be good to yourself, okay? I’m certainly trying to.

not always easy…

fallquote

Sometimes it doesn’t feel so lovely, does it?

Just thinking about all the times I resign myself to letting things leave me. The expectation(s) that something small would grow into something far more significant and beautiful. And when that doesn’t happen, we have let it all go. At the end of the day, it is lovely to let what wasn’t meant for you slip through your eager, waiting fingers. Because that’s growth. That’s adulting. That’s life. But, boy, does it hurt something awful. Because: hope.

how English majors see the world.

englishmajor2

Symbols. We see symbols in everything.

For four years (and really, for many years before, since I was an avid reader and was already consciously and subconsciously doing this), I analyzed plot lines, characters, meanings, subtext. I did this in everything I read. I did this in art classes, in play writing classes, and most certainly in the plethora of psychology courses I took. Looking for meaning. Looking for rationale. Looking for archetypes. Identifying and explaining symbols. Breaking everything down. And I did it well, to toot my own horn. And I loved every minute of it, too. I was one of those people anyway, like I mentioned before. Listening to music was always an adventure, for example, when it came to lyrics. What does it all meannnnn? I’d like to thank Led Zeppelin, by the way, for Stairway to Heaven and the Eagles for Hotel California–I spent many a sweet hour researching and looking for the meaning behind those intriguing pieces of music. (I still don’t know.) Anyway, my point in saying all of the above: when you’re already looking at the world that way, it makes it hard to not look at the world that way.  I’ve discussed trying not to Englishmajorpsychoanalyze and overthink things to death before. It’s a constant struggle. It’s a constant struggle to not look for underlying subtext and motives. This becomes even more difficult when it comes to relationships. When it comes to potential romantic relationships, to be specific.

Sometimes a hello is just a hello. Sometimes a touch isn’t more than a touch. Sometimes a look is not meant to communicate anything other than the natural progression in someone’s attention or line of sight. Logically, I know all of these things. But when you have someone in waking thought, and you want to find meaning, and you want substance…all those perfectly natural things become potential somethings. Plus, I’ve read fiction my entire life. I’ve written fiction my entire life. I’ve read the lovely pairings designed by authors. I’ve done the same. I want that for myself. So I recognize now that my search for meaning and depth in seemingly simple things is coming from a place where I want there to be meaning and depth–and those things may not be there at all. A mess.

meme studies degree Inspirational Top 9 ideas about English Major Stereotype Memes onBut This Square Peg, you lovingly say, maybe there is something there. Maybe. But I can’t look for a symbol here. I don’t want to. I just want the real thing. And my nine year-old bratty self wants it now. But that’s another post. (That nine year-old though…she asserts herself during the most inopportune moments.) I’m just working on taking life and people at face value. That becomes more difficult when I have a writer’s heart and an English major’s brain, all of which long for 1) meaning and 2) control. And love. Actual, true, real love. Yes, I just went way, way deep on you.

So: what does it all meannnnn?

Let’s leave that question unanswered for now.

Talk to me in the comments about whatever you like, but specifically, if and how you deal with overthinking and unnecessary analysis.

The Watched Pot.

Never boils.

Specifically: A watched pot never boils. Time moves slowly when you’re waiting or potboiling watching for something to happen. I’ve been thinking about those words this week, specifically because my mother said them to me on the phone. During our conversation a few days ago, I hinted at one of the major Worries for a Singleton, which is #1,089,556 on the list: hesitating about making a major life decision because you wonder if something or, rather someone, waits for you around the corner. (And a part of you wants to wait to make that major life decision until you’re 1 of 2.) Her response: “Oh, Adjoa, don’t worry about those things. A watched pot never boils. I don’t want those thoughts to consume you. It’s easier said than done, I know, but don’t overthink it.” I let her words marinate before replying that I wasn’t necessarily obsessing, but merely thinking aloud.

My initial, knee-jerk reaction? 1. Pure irritation. Couldn’t I just express myself without the assumption that I was engaging in overthinking? Couldn’t I just say I was thinking about the future and what will be without being reminded of a slowly boiling pot? My next reaction: 2I’m never not going to think about my future and whether I’ll share it with someone. It’s always going to be a thought. It pays rent, that thought. It shares a room in my brain and it ain’t going away. Next reaction: 3. Grateful for the acknowledgement that it’s all easier said than done. As I get older and those desires to have my own family grow, it’s certainly harder to just be carefree and let it go and don’t think about it and la la la. It just is. Final reaction: 4She’s right, don’t overthink it. And as much as I have a Master’s Degree in Overthinking, my mother was absolutely correct in knowing that I do overthink, I do over-worry, I do over-consume in endless ruminations about life and the future and love and all that. And she, my biggest fan and cheerleader, didn’t want me to drive myself crazy.

Y’all. It’s hard wrapping your brain around needing something and going through life not seeing that thing manifest itself. It’s just hard. No amount of well-meaning advice…

  • Don’t think about it!
  • Are you even ready? It’s really hard!
  • Are you putting it out there?
  • Just move on!

…will remove the fact that in life, when we need something and we’re not seeing it, it’s just difficult to la la la and keep calm and carry on. Overthinking will happen. Mental over-consumption will happen. Emotional merry-go-rounds will occur. But it’s important to extract what you need–the acknowledgement of things being easier said than done, for example, or the reminder that people who love you don’t want you to stress yourself out–and try, very hard, to keep it moving. It doesn’t mean you stop thinking or praying or wondering, but it means you fight (fight hard) to not be consumed.

So the pot is there and I take comfort in knowing that it will boil. Until then, I’ll be peeking in the kitchen every now and again.

Blogtober #23: On Letting Things Go.

letting things go

Sometimes I wonder if I love fall so much because it’s the visual embodiment of all the things that, psychologically, I should be doing a better job of maintaining. Every year, nature takes stock and detoxes, shedding its skin in the loveliest, most wondrous of ways. It’s a lesson to be learned, and certainly one to echo.

Because, dear reader, I know how to do the following things:

drive long distances

remember every vestige of wrongs done to me

 Let’s discuss that last one. Is it really letting go and shedding if I hold on to the memory, almost lovingly, to my chest? Is my intent to remember not to be hurt again really a thinly veiled attempt to just remember the hurt(s)?

And yet, one thing I actively try to do is be a good forgiver. In the past, I held grudges like a boss. As I grew up and looked inward, it was important that growth and maturing involved a decided effort to strip away some of the vendettas grudges I was holding on to. I’ve come a long way. But there’s still road to traverse.

Sometimes I think wanting to protect our hearts, as women, involves a large dose of remembering. The heart needs protection. It needs a shield. We have to remember the past so we don’t repeat letting people inside who shouldn’t be there. But balance. So much balance is necessary. To wrap the heart in a shield doesn’t also mean to let it grow cold with memory.

Look at all the trees around you, just stripping things away and readying themselves for the cyclical new beginning.

Copy and paste.

photo of dried leaves lying on the ground
Photo by Ray Bilcliff on Pexels.com

Le 40 is Le Terrifying and I Can’t Understand Why.

Y’all. Why am I so scurred about turning 40????

A bit of background: growing up, no age ever really scared me off. I ached to be 12. I fortycouldn’t wait to be 16. 21 was super cool. 25? Give me 5. And if you’ve read any of my past posts, you know about the wonder, amazement, and sheer beauty that 30 brought me. (There are too many posts to link about 30; just hit that search button, playa.) As the ages continued, I embraced each new year, grateful for the increase in wisdom and self-discovery, among other awesome things that came with getting older.

But why is 40 giving me all the terrors known to man? What is it about that number?

Oh, and the whole “you’re only as old as you feel” adage means nothing to me. I was born old and stressed out.  If anything, getting older has given me ample opportunities to age backwards. Meet your Melanin Benjamin Button, everyone. So why do I envision this new decade hiding behind a dark corner, flexing its long claws, ready to strike?

Here are some irrational, pre-40 fears:

  1. All my bones will fall apart.
  2. Someone will refer to me as middle-aged.
  3. My hormones will get further out of whack and someone will find me on the side of the road muttering unintelligibly to myself.

I said irrational, didn’t I?

In the past, like most kids, I always felt too young and dreamed of being older. And now…give me trips to the library during school-sanctioned summertime and rolling in the grass in the backyard without fear of ticks, please. Perhaps it’s that, the strange sense of losing youth, that’s bothering me. Even though I craved getting older, I also knew that the process would take time. Fast forward to now, where time is a giant clock that has “40” emblazoned on its surface, staring back at me with its arms folded and an impatient tapping of its foot. We have arrived.

In the grand scheme of things, rationally, I recognize that the age is really only a number. It’s relevant for tax, census, and records purposes. It doesn’t define me or create some sort of blueprint of what my life will become. I know, I know…

Here are some of my favorites who are turning 40 this year right along with me (or already have):

Anyway, I will continue to heave giant sighs and wonder what 40 will bring me. Meanwhile, you will tell me in the comments how you dealt with new ages and/or decades, won’t you? Because you love This Square Peg and want to comfort her somehow, right? Right? Riiiight?

(Un)necessary.

What is?

closuregif

Closure. Let me tell you a story. Many, many moons ago during that perilous decade known as my Twenties, I met a boy. He was nice; we became friends. Eventually, I developed a crush on him (as I was prone to do) and silly me, I believed that he felt romantical (definitely not a word) about me in return. He didn’t. After some time of seeing that my efforts to engage him met with silence, it was clear that he wasn’t interested in me. Disappointing? Yes. Ultimately something I moved on from? Absolutely. And then a friend and I talked about it and she encouraged me to reveal my feelings for him, something I had never communicated. “You need closure,” she kept saying. “You need to know where you stand, once and for all.” But, dear reader, I already knew where I stood. It was startlingly clear: this boy had zero interest in your Square Peg. So why did I nod along with her talk of closure and needing to definitively know whether the door between us needed to stay closed or could possibly re-open? Because deep down, I wanted to know, too. And I was hopeful that maybe, just maybe, the door didn’t have to remain closed.

Le sigh.

I reached out to him and we’ll just say that he definitively made his feelings known: the door was not only closed but had been slammed shut. It was a punch to the heart, to say the least. But the bruises healed. I learned my lesson and I moved on. And what lesson did I learn? Closure isn’t always unnecessary. closure

Is my statement borne from the bruises that were inflicted on my heart because I re-opened a door that should have remained closed? Sure. After all, I could have saved myself the endless tears that came from his unrelenting honesty. I could have saved myself from the humiliation I felt so deeply. I could have saved myself from the anxiety that came from wondering if he had shared this story with his or our mutual friends. Yes, my statement is riddled with bias. But here’s the thing: in life, in general, my story notwithstanding, sometimes a goodbye, your goodbye, is one-sided and that’s OK. (I just killed a family of commas.) Sometimes both parties don’t need to officially end something. When you know and understand that it’s over, is it necessarily important that the other party acknowledge that it’s over, too? I really don’t think so.

I’m sure a roomful of therapists is presently finding my opinion laughable (and note that it’s my opinion), but that situation with the boy and many, many others that came after taught me a few things: closure2

  • Sudden silence in a relationship doesn’t always require a summary.
  • People disappear.
  • You never hear about certain topics again.
  • Friends quietly move on.

As much as I view myself as a Law and Order/Murder, She Wrote-type investigator, I’ve learned that certain moments in life don’t need me to dig deep. Silence speaks volumes when it needs to. But This Square Peg, you say, I’d rather just know where I stand with someone. I agree. However, we can’t always say that the other individual is interested in ensuring that you know where you stand with them. You know what I mean? Maybe they’re just done and somehow, they want you to get that. There won’t be an official coda.

Doesn’t mean you won’t be hurt.

Doesn’t mean you won’t be angry.

Doesn’t mean that the lack of resolution won’t eat at you.

Doesn’t mean that you won’t wonder.

But it happened.

Looking back at the situation with the boy, I initially did a lot of blaming in the aftermath. Myself for giving in to what I wanted to hear. My friend for placing that seed in my mind. The boy for being so intense with his honesty. The boy for not realizing how amazing I was. The boy for…we’ll stop there. Because hindsight and age mean understanding. Here’s what I now know for sure, clearer than an ending or a resolution or closure: it wasn’t anyone’s fault.

Let me know your thoughts about closure in the comments…are you for it? Against it? Doesn’t matter? 

Dear Leonard Sotten:

My, Leonard. You seemed like such a wonderful, patient, kind man, and these are pretty important things if we’re going to be married. And based on last night’s sweet dream, we were. I’d love to know how we met or all the fun things we did during our courtship, or even how you proposed–I hope it was a surprise proposal, Leonard–but I’m also happy that the dream just kind of started full swing and showed me these lovely images of our life together. After all, I woke up knowing  your full name. I probably even know your social security number. And yet, Leonard, we’ve neither met in my actual, waking life, nor do I know anyone named Leonard.

So where did you come from, my love? Oh, I don’t doubt that my subconscious questionmarkmolded you out of all the qualities I hope to someday meet in Mr. Square Peg. But the dream was so specific. I saw us together, always together: conversing, walking, gazing at one another. I even noticed your patient regard while I gabbed with friends at our house of worship seconds before start time. And when I finally rushed to my seat and sat down, Leonard, you smiled at me and took my hand into yours.

I’ll confess: it was bittersweet to wake and realize that I wasn’t Mrs. Sotten. I laid in my bed this morning and couldn’t shake visions of your face from my mind. I even wished you were real. Because, Leonard, I don’t know anyone like you in this actual, waking life. My experiences with your gender have forced me to believe that the majority of you must be suffering from some kind of illness that renders you unable to be normal and do normal things. Is that too vague, my dear? It’s meant to be. I certainly don’t want to be as specific as my dream was. If I get too specific about your brethren, Leonard, this letter will take an interesting turn. And I’d rather just think of you and how nice it was to share a life with such a kind man. And boy, did that dream communicate your kind nature. I even felt that kindness. You know that tiny part of the mind where you know it’s only a dream and that what you’re experiencing/seeing isn’t real? Almost as if you’re watching a movie? I felt your kindness there, in that strange corner of sleep lucidity, and I longed for it.

Years and years ago, Leonard, I heard a quote from one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite TV shows.  “A dream is an answer to a question we haven’t learned how to ask,” as spoken by Dana Scully from The X-Files. I remember being stunned by those words. Obviously they have stayed with me. Just profound and rife with meaning. So what answer did you provide, Leonard? And what was the question?

I didn’t want to leave you in that dream, and I don’t want to now. I wrote your name down. Maybe we will meet someday.

Yours,

TSP

About a Boy.

As I stood in line at the café at work and watched one of the employees step over to the espresso machine to whip up a latte for a customer, I thought of him. It was such an interesting time in my life, really, all of it, and he was, by far, the most significant part.

I was 19 years old when I met him. He and I started at Borders Books (I still miss it, sniff, sniff) on the same day, in the same orientation group. I noticed him immediately. Having long been a lover of cute faces, the combination of said cute face, those blue eyes, and that brownish-blonde hair got the heart racing. But, believe it or not, I told my prone-to-endless crushes heart to stop itself. I was tired of silly crushes. I was journeying into adulthood, wasn’t I? So I valiantly ignored R., not even allowing myself to swoon at his Texas drawl and those eyes.

Didn’t work, though.

When we began our first task of shelving books, he called my name. Ever hear your name being uttered by a boy you’re trying to ignore because you understand the inevitability of your soon-to-be deep feelings for him? Yeah, it was like that. I nearly collapsed, threw up, and smiled all at the same time. I heard you’re a writer, he said. I said yes. I write poetry, he then said. Maybe we can talk about books sometime.

A poet? A poet? I knew, then, that I was toast.

We discussed a little about writing, my then in-progress major in English at my college, his former college in Texas. It was a nice conversation. Soon, we were directed from the books to training on the cash register, where we stood next to each other, our shoulders slightly touching. I knew it then. I was in like.

For a year and a half, I went through the usual infatuation journey with R. I alternated between wanting to gaze at him 24 hours a day and wanting to push him down a flight of stairs for one silly reason or another. One distinct memory: as he tied my apron for me in the café, where we were frequently assigned together (which is why I thought of him yesterday), he asked me to be his creative inspiration. Dizzy from our proximity, I merely smiled and went into the back of the café, where I stuck my head into into the freezer.

Eventually, the crush dissipated and we became good friends. We shared poetry and book recommendations, laughed, talked, joked. When he decided to leave Borders and go back to Texas and back to college, I was sad, but not heartbroken. Before leaving, he gave me a sweet letter about enjoying our friendship and the “inspiration” I provided, although I think he was just happy to be around someone who loved writing as much as he did.

I last heard from him in 2000. He sent me a letter and a bunch of his poems to review, for which I never received a reply. I was angry about that.

A few years ago, while perusing the Internet and suddenly wondering what became of him, I googled him. That’s when I learned that he died in May 2002.

The death was unexplained. I merely saw his obituary, and cried, and reached out to the university he went back to, in order to learn something about the situation. Of course, the cause of his abrupt death was his family’s to own and to know, but the shock of it all–the untimely death of this young man that I once knew and treasured…it was unbearable. I was able to communicate my condolences to his family through the university contact that I found. (A memorial scholarship/award, for poetry, was established in his name.)

The triggers can be anything–coffee shops, bookstores, someone bearing his resemblance–and I am instantly transported to that time in my life, when a wide-eyed nerdy girl swooned over and ultimately found friendship with a sweet poet from the South. What a time it was.