When I was 15, I spent three weeks at an academic summer program for high school students. The program was really about allowing academically gifted students to socialize together, the idea being that they were probably isolated at their own high schools. I wasn't, but I loved the summer program and attended for four years. Age 15 was my third year, and it was the year I met Jason.
Jason and I met on the first day of camp, when I was wandering around the halls of the dorm, randomly introducing myself to people whose doors were open. I don't know if things are different when you're 15 or what, but I don't really remember a transition period. I remember meeting him, and I remember spending the rest of camp with him, but I don't remember how we got that way.
I do know that everyone at the entire camp thought we were going out. And I remember wondering why the hell we weren't. We were literally together whenever possible. The campus had these huge benches--although the word "bench" really doesn't do them justice. They were more like huge, painted wooden structures, highly elevated with lots of comfortable seats. There was one outside each dorm and they were the main hangout points during all free time. And we spent hours on ours.
We would just sit, for a long time, talking and poking each other and chatting with other people. Jason played the guitar and often he'd have it with him, just messing around, and sometimes other people would show up with their guitars and they would jam together. I had no musical talent but I loved to sit and listen.
There were dances every Saturday, and Jason and I spent them together, but not dancing. We usually spent them on that bench. One week during a dance I got up the courage to ask him who he thought the three prettiest girls at the camp were. He named two girls, both friends of ours, and then he paused.
I still remember the sideways glance he gave me, and the tight anticipation I felt while I waited for him to say something. And then he said, "And you," and for one of the very rare moments in my early teens, I felt exactly how I wanted to feel because I had heard exactly what I wanted to hear from the exactly right person.
There were other signs too, other moments where pleasant silences turned into awkward moments of maybe we should be kissing. But those were moments where that tense waiting didn't release into that euphoria of feeling exactly how we wanted to feel, because we were both too awkward, too shy or uncomfortable or something, to push through the awkwardness and just do it.
Really, I would have done it because I wasn't shy, really at all, not by then. Except that despite not being shy, I was massively insecure, and even though from this charmingly grownup, distanced perspective I now have, it is so, so obvious that he liked me as much as I liked him... well, at the time I wasn't sure.
I thought I had given him so many opportunities that if he liked me, he would have taken me up on them. I thought about all the times that someone had asked us if we were going out and he had vehemently denied it. Even though I was equally vehement in my denials, when it was him doing the denying, I thought it was proof of the one-sidedness of my feelings.
But when we were outside and it was cold, he gave me his soft flannel shirt to wear. He played Brown Eyed Girl to me on his guitar while we were sitting in the hallway of the dorm. He hugged me, touched me all the time. He told me I was the prettiest girl in the whole camp.
At the time, at 15, when I desperately wanted experience and desperately needed affirmation that somebody could like me, those things weren't enough. But now, looking back, they are.
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