So thrilled to have Amber West here today. Amber is not only one of my favorite blogger friends, but she is also the author of The Ruth Valley Missing, which is a real thriller! Today, Amber shares a less heinously embarrassing moment than, perhaps, some of the other bloggers in this series, but hers is a poignant story just the same. If you don’t know Amber — omigosh — why not? Super-talented, super kind, super sensible and just… super, check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @amberwest.
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Jerry Springer & Other Omens by Amber West
My tale of first love starts shortly after high school.
What can I say? I was a late bloomer.
Not to say that I didn’t have crushes in school. There was the crazy smart, somewhat eccentric guy from the crew team with steely blue eyes who looked like a young Mel Gibson. (You know, the pre-crazy days.) And the guy I knew since I was 12, who grew into a charming, adorable flirt, who looked like a young Tom Cruise. (Also, pre-crazy.)
Maybe my affinity for boys who resembled nutso celebrities should have been a clue as to how first love would go for me.
Apparently, I was not good at reading signs in my teen years.
Joe* was five years older than I was. We met through mutual friends and got along great. Funny and very sweet, he was the type of guy who opened doors for you, who asked you how you were and paid attention to the answer. He looked like a young Matthew Broderick. (You know, pre-cheating).
He moved to Florida from Maine, giving him a cute Northern boy accent, and a way about him that reminded me of home. Being around him was fun and cozy.
And he paid attention to me.
Being a middle-child with poor self-esteem and pretty naïve in the boy department, I thought we were just friends.
One day, he showed up at my office with roses. Not the roadside bouquet wrapped in cheap plastic and a paper towel. A dozen, long-stemmed, perfectly deep red roses, wrapped in fancy paper and cellophane.
“You said once no one’s ever bought you flowers. And that’s just wrong.”
I may have swooned a tiny bit in that Florida office park. And then he added, “I haven’t bought flowers for anyone in X years, Y months, and Z days.”
From previous conversations, I knew what this meant.
He hadn’t bought flowers for anyone since the last time he had his heartbroken by his last girlfriend.
Is that what he thought of me?
I mean, guy friends bring you flowers, right? And they give you extra long hugs and tell you you’re pretty and keep a photo of you in their apartment…
No. Couldn’t possibly.
But, well, just maybe…
Our “friendship” had the added pressure of disapproving parents (mine, not his), so we never said we were dating. We spent time together with mutual friends, stealing moments here and there for deep conversation, smiles across the room, and lingering hugs goodbye.
One day, he came by my office to take me to lunch.
Sitting in a TGIFridays, waiting to order, he nodded his head to indicate there was something behind me.
“Look over there. Jerry Springer just sat down.”
I rolled my eyes and looked back down at my menu, deciding between something fried with something fried on the side, or something fried on a bed of greens.
“Do you really think I’m that gullible?” I smiled.
Not smiling back, he replied, “Why would I lie?”
Giving in, I turned my head to see that Jerry Springer was indeed perusing the menu a few tables away from me. I laughed and turned back to Joe. “Oops.”
“I don’t understand why you wouldn’t look,” he said.
I quietly sipped my drink, unsure of what to say. What did I do? I thought we were joking around, but apparently, I’d committed some major sin.
It took a bit before moods lightened again, but I spent the rest of lunch picking at my salad, not sure what had happened.
As time passed, we had more of these moments.
Moments where he questioned our “friendship”.
And finally, there was the phone call.
Apparently, someone told him I’d been spreading rumors about him.
About him and a girl.
At first, I was apologetic. I didn’t know why anyone would say that, given the fact that I would never utter a bad word about him, but I was horrified that someone made him feel that I did.
He pressed. “Why would someone tell me that if you weren’t saying anything?”
And I snapped.
Well, for me it was snapping. It should be noted that I was never much of a snapper.
“I don’t know, Joe. All I know is that I’ve heard the rumors and the only thing I might have said is that you wouldn’t be stupid enough to be involved with her.”
We didn’t talk after that.
Some months later, I got the news.
He’d run off** and married the girl from the rumors.
I’m not the type to embarrass easily, or at least my brain does an excellent job of blocking out those moments.
But that moment? I felt that flush of humiliation.
This guy who once made me feel important and pretty and wanted managed to make me feel like nothing.
I’d been silly enough to fall for him. It was all my fault.
Or at least that’s what I told myself.
Older and wiser, I don’t kick myself for falling in love anymore.
But if any of you know if Adam Arkin has done anything crazy, let me know.
*name changed to protect the not so innocent
**when I say “run off”, I mean it – she was young enough that they needed to head to a different state to get married.
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