There was one boy named Elliot who was in my classes. He was a smart kid. I would call him almost every night to help me with my homework. We went through algebra, trigonometry, and calculus together. We laughed a lot on the phone, making fun of our teachers. We talked about the books Siddhartha and Steppenwolf. We talked about our parents. But I never ever considered him a potential boyfriend.
Even though he was fun on the phone, Elliot was basically a nerd. He was short, he wore white socks, had braces, played the oboe-and got good grades.
I also got good grades. But for some strange reason, I tried to keep that a secret from my friends. I never let on that I studied. But Elliot knew. In fact, we sometimes studied together.
My boyfriend was the star basketball player. I had friends in lots of different crowds. I hung out with the jocks because my boyfriend was one. But I wasn't a jock.
I also hung out with the hippies because my friend, Jan, was one. But I wasn't really a hippie. I sometimes hung out with the theater people. But I wasn't a theater person. Everyone thought I was popular-but really I didn't feel part of any crowd.
There was only one crowd I didn't want to be part of. The nerd crowd.
One day Elliot called me. His parents were having an
anniversary party and he was supposed to bring somebody. He wanted to know if I wanted to come.
I didn't want to go with him. But I didn't want to hurt his feelings. I finally told Elliot no. I can still remember how I did it. I passed him a note in English class. I was a coward.
And even though he still helped me with my homework afterwards, his voice was a little quieter when we talked, we laughed less.
In senior year, I spent less time with my boyfriend who was now in community college. Elliot went out with a girl who was a sophomore. I'd see them walking down the halls, holding hands. I felt a twinge of jealousy when I saw them.
When I went to college, Elliot went to college nearby. The basketball player and I broke up. It was Elliot who I talked to about Jungian psychology. Elliot who I spoke to about my dreams. Elliot who I talked to about my fears about being fat when I gained the famous freshman 15.
But when he came to visit me, I wasn't physically attracted to him. I still thought of him as having braces, being short, and wearing white socks.
He started dating somebody in college and so did I. By the time we met again, it was 10 years later. He had invited me to his wedding. He was over 6 feet tall, with a long beard and piercing blue eyes. He was studying for his Ph.D.
I was attracted to him. I admit it. I was jealous. I could have had him, even for a short time, I could have been with him. Together. And now it was too late.
When I think now of the people who weren't popular in high school, I think of people like Elliot, who went on to become a professor of comparative religion, write a best selling book, and earn minor celebrity with an appearance on Oprah.
And I think of my basketball player boyfriend. I heard recently that he was divorced and cleaning houses in Florida.