Posted by: bourbonmama | 03/07/2009

WBW #21: The One That Got Away

Yes, I know it isn’t Wednesday, but I’m working with a very old computer right now, so play along.


My high school reunion is next month.  I still don’t know if I’m going to the actual reunion, but I will be in town for it.  I think I’ll probably decide last minute.  This has gotten me thinking of those awkward years of adolescence and hormones and boys and zits and feelings of inadequacy.  So, I’m now going to tell you the story of a guy, who to me, for a long time, was larger than life.  Gordon.  Sorry this is kinda long, I tried to split it into two posts, but I got a little lazy, hopefully the story will be so riveting, you won’t notice. 

The first time I saw him I was in seventh grade and he was in eighth.  I was in some class that I hated and was super boring, probably history, and asked for the hall pass.  Clutching my ticket to freedom, I slowly wandered the halls, trying to kill time.  The bell rang for the eighth graders to go to their exploratory classes (that’s what we called them, basically electives, like art, music, technology, etc).  He happened to be headed down the hall toward me.  I looked up from the water fountain as he walked towards me and couldn’t take my eyes off of him.  He was tall and scrawny, had long hair and a big nose.  Not your average teen-aged heart throb.  But, the perfect guy for me.  I was hooked.  A couple of weeks went by, I would acquire the hall pass and meander around waiting for him to pass.  Finally, I found out his name.  I saw him from the bus window and pointed him out to my friend Brooke.  “Him?  Really?” she asked with one eyebrow raised. 

“Uhh, yeah.  You don’t think he’s hot?”

“Well, he’s kinda grungy.”  In later years, I would find out that Kinda Grungy is exactly my type.  At this point anyone who would look my way was my type, ya know, beggars can’t be choosers and all. 

“That’s Gordon.”  An older girl informed us.  Gordon, even his name sounded hot.  I wanted him with all of my 13 year old being.  I told other girls about him, their response was all pretty much the same, “He’s so scrawny,”  “But, that nose,”  “His hair is so long and it looks like he never combs it,” and  “Isn’t he a little tall for you?” 

The nose, the nose was hot, almost as hot as the scrawny, but nowhere near as hot as the unkempt hair and way too baggy jeans.   I’m running the risk of sounding like a stalker, but don’t worry, I was super cool about it.  He has no idea that this happened (unless he’s reading this now.  Hey Gordo, how’s it goin’?  Tell the wifey I said hi).  The rest of my seventh grade year was spent stalking pining over him.  Then he went on to high school and I didn’t.  

Then came high school and I had all but forgotten about Gordon and our imaginary love affair.  My friend Laine was dating a sophomore.  She was super cool like that.  I, meanwhile, was not.  After school one day, we went to meet up with Random Guy who’s name I can’t remember.  As we were walking up to him and a few of his friends, I noticed Gordon.  “Ohmygawd, Laine, I can’t go over there.  Gordon is there!”

“Uh, yeah, so?  Oh yeah, you used to have a crush on him, didn’t ya?  C’mon, it’ll be fine.”  We walked across the courtyard to where they were standing.  I tried to make myself invisible, but Laine didn’t go along with the plan, “Hey, Gordon, have you met Mary?”

“uh, no, hi.  I’m Gordon.”

My palms were clammy and my body temperature started to rise.  I sputtered out some sort of gibberish greeting that resembled english.  

Not long after, I met Tater (she is a whole other post).  She had lunch the period before me and I always walked her back to class before wasting my lunch period in the bathroom hotboxing Marlboro reds.  The class that she had with Gordon.  Lots of times he would walk with us and give me the last half of his Minute Maid Fruit Punch.  I got a cheap thrill knowing that my lips touched the same spot that his had only moments before.  It was as close as I ever thought I’d come to kissing him.   I was dating Aubrey at the time.  After we split up, Tater told me that she thought Gordon liked me, that he’d asked her about me after those walks back to her English class.  I was so mad at her, “Why didn’t you tell me that then?!”

“You were with Aubrey.”

“Ohmygawd, I totally would have dumped him for GOR-DON!  I can’t believe you waited this long to tell me!”  In all reality, it was probably only a couple of months, which, as we all know, is a lifetime in high school years.

Then, my sister, Shellie, got a job at Taco Bell, guess who worked there.  Yep, Gordon.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t escape the hold he had on me.  On Friday nights, Tater and I would go to see Shellie at work and there he’d be smiling and talking in that Barry White voice that was way too deep for a 16 year old kid, slipping us free tacos and bean burritos.

Shellie’s boyfriend (now her husband) played in  a band with Gordon.  Gordon played the drums (my thing for drummers goes back a while).  I went with her a couple of times to watch them practice.  Gordon and I had become friends.  The kind of friends who constantly flirt with each other over the phone.  One night, during when of our lengthy phone flirting sessions, he told me he was moving that summer.  To Nashville.  My chance was slipping away.  All that for nothing.  This guy that I had wanted for years was leaving and the closest I’d ever come to kissing him was sharing a can of fruit punch.  My heart started racing, my head felt light.  I heard my voice say, “Well we should finally have that date.”  Shut up, shut up, what’s wrong with you?

“Yeah, we should.” Are you serious?   Did he just say yes? We made plans to go to the movies a couple of days later and flirted some more.  I asked him what he wanted me to wear, cuz I was smooth, that’s why.  I expected him to tell me a dress, but he said I should wear this over sized yellow and green soccer jersey.  Uh, OK.       

I immediately dialed Tater’s number.  I freaked out for a minute and then told her about the weird outfit request.  “You know why he wants you to wear that, don’t you?”


“‘Cuz you can see right through the sides.  They’re mesh. ”  And then we  said “ohmygawd” about five million more time in between giggles. 

I did not wear the jersey.  I decided that a short skirt would be sluttier sexiermore becoming.  We went to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Yeah, a Disney movie.  We made our way to the seats in the back corner of the theater.  My heart was racing, my mouth was dry, I was sweating bullets, my hands trembled.  The lights went down in the theater and before the trailers were over, we were making out like two horny teenagers.  Oh, wait we were two horny teenagers.  All I’m gonna say is mothers walking their kids up and down the aisles to go to the bathroom, surprisingly enough, did not kill the mood.* 

We met up for a couple heavy petting sessions before he moved a million miles away.  The whole time he told me that we couldn’t get into anything serious, he wished he could be my boyfriend, but we both knew that wasn’t going to happen.  I never told him about following him through the halls, the way my heart raced when he said my name, that he was constantly in the back of my pubescent brain.   After he left, we talked on the phone sporadically.  We’d go months without talking and then call each other a couple of times a week.  That’s when I had to start paying for my own long distance calls.  We’d spend hours talking about anything.  Anything at all just to hear his voice.  Slowly, we became friends, real friends.  The flirting gave way to conversations.  We’d talk about music, movies, our boyfriends/girlfriends.  I’d call  him when I needed a male point of view, when I needed a sympathetic ear, when I needed a shoulder to cry on.  He helped me through a lot.  This went on for years.  Until dickwad Travis, decided that I must be sleeping with any guy who would want to call me.  After I moved to Lexington, I got back in touch with him.  And everything fell back into place, he was single, I was single, the friendship turned back into flirting.  I sent him some pictures, he told me he wanted to see me in person.  We made plans for me to come to Nashville. 

I was on a Greyhound for 9 hours.  I stepped off the bus into the huge station, we were an hour and a half late.  I’d had no way to call him and let him know.  I scanned the faces in the crowd, looking for a familiar smile.  I hadn’t seen Gordon since a year after he’d moved, when he came back to town for  visit.  The 16 year old kid I remembered wasn’t there.  “Mary, over here!” 

I turned around and looked a foot and a half in the air, and there he was, a full head above everyone else.  I walked as fast as I could with my over sized duffel bag slung over my shoulder and my backpack stuffed full strapped to my back.  I jumped into his arms and wrapped my arms around his neck.  It was a hug that I’d waited four years to give him.  It felt so familiar and so foreign.  “Wow, hey.” 

He’d cut his hair and grown into his nose, kinda.  He was still scrawny, and I had to crane my neck to look at his face.  His eyes were the same.  Deep, thoughtful, caring.  All at once, I felt thirteen again, it was like seeing him for the first time.  I don’t remember anything at all that we talked about.  I remember feeling awkward, and sputtering out gibberish.  I kept staring at him, it all felt so surreal.  Even now, when I think back to that week I spent with him, it feels like a dream. 

We went out to a comedy club with his cousin.  Then after we got back to his house and dropped off my stuff, we went to his neighbor’shouse to drink and  watch a movie.  We layed on the floor with overstuffed pillows and snuggled.  I felt the warmth of his chest on my face and it was heaven.  And we just were for a couple of hours.  When the movie ended, we walked across the street, and he showed me my room  (this is where I should mention, he was living with his parents, so I was staying in their guest room, and there was to be absolutely no hanky panky).  And then he said good night, and kissed me.  My head exploded.  “What was the hell that?” I whispered.

“Just saying good night, and I’m glad you’re here.”  He turned and walked out of the room and down the hall to his.  I was left breathless, jaw on the floor.  I couldn’t sleep that night, knowing that he was so close.   I sat up wishing I could go back in time and tell High School Mary what was happening.  Tell her that she does have a chance and she should take it.

That week is a big blur.  We spent a lot of time at his friends’ houses.  He wasn’t able to take any time off of work, so during the day, his friends kept me occupied, and then he’d meet up with us at night.  He never kissed me again.  I asked him a couple of times about that first night and his answer was always the same.  “Ya never know…” 

The last night I was there, we went out alone.  He took me out dancing and drinking.  After we’d had our fill if loud music and too many people in not enough clothes, we got in his car and went for a drive.  We ended up parked on a huge hill on Vanderbilt campus.  The twinkling lights of Nashville below us, it was beautiful. 

I really hadn’t expected anything to happen when I’d stepped onto that Greyhound 6 days earlier, but now that I’d spent the week with him, I ached to be with him for real.  I felt the minutes passing us by, my chance slowly slipping through my fingers.  There was music playing softly in the background, I turned and looked at him and said, “Aww, fuck it, man.”

“Huh?”  And then I was kissing him.  And then, there was more.*  I just pulled out my journal and read the entry about this trip.  I’d forgotten this, but on top of that hill, we promised to be eachother’s back-up.  He said, “Mary, if in five years, when we get through school and get our shit straight and we’re both single, I’m gonna marry you.”  It wasn’t like he’d never said it before, we’d said it to each other a million times during our late night phone calls the past five years, but this time it was different.  This time it seemed possible.  This time he wasn’t a million miles away, he was right here next to me.

The next morning, he dropped me off at the bus station on his way to work.  We promised to call and keep in touch, I thanked him for inviting me and showing me the big city.  That was the last time I saw him.  We talked a couple of times after that, but it was never the same.  The magic was gone.  The phone calls got fewer and fewer until they stopped all together.  And life went on. 

I found him on Myspace a couple of years ago.  He’d married a beautiful woman, gotten a degree in photography, and grown a beard (as well as grown his hair back out).  He still had that nose, and those same eyes.  I’ve talked to him off and on through messaging.  Basic stuff:  How’s life?  How’s work?  How’s the family?” (and yes, he will get a mesage about this post and the final say-so in whether it stays up, ‘cuz I’m respectful, like that)  And I missed him.  I wasn’t sad that we’d never come through on that promise, it would have happened if it was supposed to, but I was sad that I’d lost a friend.  A friend that had always been there for me, on the other end of the phone.   He’d disappeared from my life, became just another fleeting memory.  A symathetic ear, someone to lean on, whine to, and laugh with.  He was a constant in my life for so long, he had been through a lot with me, had helped me through so much.  And I’d lost him becuase we were young and stupid and didn’t know what to make of our feelings.  I miss the friend I had, not the lover I wanted him to be.

*Sorry, that’s all you get, he’s probably reading this right now, and I don’t wanna say anything that he (or his wife) might not like.



  1. I am flattered Mary! We should keep in touch and chat more often. I am sorry for drifting away over time, but I guess that is what happens sometimes. Keep in touch. Do you have my number? if not tell me and I will get it for you.

  2. I absolutely love reading your blog! I never knew about your interest in Gordon before. How did I miss that?!? Anyway, your writing amazes me. I wish I could recall memories and events from “back in the day” with the same clarity that you do. Somehow you also manage to make the past relevant to the present.

    For the record, I did not do the reunion bit. Heard from several folks that I didn’t miss much. But thankfully I did get to spend some time with some out-of-town folks, so that was good.

    Keep up the writing, and I hope you guys are all having a fantastic holiday weekend!

    • That’s because I was so super cool.

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