A long, long time ago, in another province, I was once a 14-year-old girl who lived in a house with spruce trees growing in the back yard. An older boy from my school lived the house whose yard was back-to-back with ours. I was in grade 9, and new to the school. He was in grade 10. He was tall and lanky, with dark hair, and his name was Scott or Shawn or something.
One Friday afternoon in October, Scott-Shawn-or-Something was in his yard kicking around a soccer ball. I could see him through the window above the kitchen sink. Andrea and I found some excuse to go outside and hang out in our yard. We three volleyed playful, flirtatious insults back and forth over the fence.
I should back up a bit here and explain my living situation at the time. My mother had just taken a job teaching in the Arctic and she arranged for me and Shannon to live with family friends so we could attend high school “Down South.” I was fostered by my best friend Andrea’s parents. They lived in a different school district than I had been in for my first two years of high school, so I was in the terrifyingly glorious position of starting all over again and being able to re-create myself for an entirely new peer group. Of course, I was 14-years-old and instead of seeing the wonderful potential, all I saw was the terrible inevitability that everyone at my new school would surely realize that I was a nerdy, dorky, socially retarded loser. I would never have believed that anyone might see me as an exotic newcomer.
So, we were in the yard, teasing and being teased by Scott-Shawn-Or-Something and then Andrea went inside. I did not.
Memory is a funny thing; I remember some details of that October afternoon as if they were being acted out in front of me by my own private troupe of actors as I type this, but most of the events are completely lost to me.
I can tell you that Scott-Shawn-or-Something ended up jumping the fence into our yard, but I cannot recall exactly what led to that. Probably, he accidentally – or “accidentally” on purpose – kicked his ball into our yard and jumped the fence to retrieve it. Although, that doesn’t really make sense, since I could have just tossed it back over. Maybe I engineered it by holding his ball “hostage,” daring him to climb the fence, and forcing him to come to me. In any case, we were both in the same yard all alone as dusk fell.
There was one huge spruce tree in the corner of the yard. It’s lowest branches were a few feet from the ground and spread out at least eight feet from the trunk. At the very corner of the yard, the fence and the tree formed a sort of canopied hiding spot. The ground was covered with layers of dried spruce needles that allowed one to sit without risking getting grass stains or wet spots on one’s behind. The branches and trunk of the spruce almost completely hid the spot from view from the outside, and just enough light filtered through the branches to make it seem mysterious and cozy.
I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that I found myself sitting with my knees pulled up to my chest, leaning back against the fence boards with a foot of Scott-Shawn-or-Something, my heart pounding with anticipation and anxiety. I was shocked at the idea that a boy – an older boy, no less – would ever want to sit with me in such close quarters. I was excited by all the possibilities that existed in this secret place. I was terrified that this was all some ploy on his part to catch me off my guard, trick me into revealing myself, and exploit my vulnerability. It may be that I had seen too many teen movies involving exactly that plot line; it may be that I was tainted by previous experiences with mean girls in my grade 6 class. The result is the same either way, I was elated to be alone with a boy in a romantic setting, yet I didn’t trust the situation one bit.
We sat and talked for a while. I have no idea what we talked about, but I remember that he did ask if I would be going to the Halloween Dance that night. I had not planned to go, and I told him as much. He made efforts to convince me that I should go – this just fueled my fear of exposure, what if the goal was to get me to show up at the dance expecting to hang out with him or be his “date” and then reject me in front of the whole school?
At some point, Andrea’s father poked his head out the back door, reprimanded us for “killing” his tree – looking back as an adult, I realize the tree was less of a concern than the two teenagers with raging hormones sitting together in such close proximity and relative privacy – and called me in for dinner. As we crawled out from under the tree Scott-Shawn-or-Something asked me again to come to the dance, and I started to consider it.
At the dinner table, Andrea’s older sister Tina teased me about having a crush on the neighbour boy, and my pride and need to protect myself kicked into high gear and I decided not to go to the dance.
Andrea went to the dance. Shortly after she left, I started to regret my choice to stay home, imagining that if I had gone Scott-Shawn-or-Something might have tracked me down, and asked me to dance, and maybe kissed me – my first kiss!!! – and possibly even asked me to “go out” with him – my first boyfriend!!!
When she got home, I asked her whether Scott-Shawn-or-Something had been there, praying that he was and that he had asked about me. As it turns out, he was there and he did ask about me. However, when it turned out I was not there, he hung around with Andrea and her friends for a bit, ended up dancing with one girl in particular quite a bit, and by the end of the dance they were “making out” and they had arranged to see each other over the weekend and would surely be officially “going out” by Monday.
The bus ride to school that Monday sucked, Scott-Shawn-or-Something had left home early to walk to that other girl’s bus stop, and when the bus pulled up, they were cuddling and giggling and I was filled with loneliness and regret and a sense of loss for what I might have had.
That’s the story of the time I didn’t go to the Halloween Dance. Obviously, there’s no way to predict how that night might have ended if I had gone; but twenty-plus years later I am still convinced that if I had been there it would have been me that Scott-Shawn-or-Something would have ended up “going out with” in the fall of 1990; and I’d remember his name today.
Can you remember a time when you let fear prevent you from doing something you would have enjoyed? Have you ever missed an opportunity you wish you had taken a chance on? Write your own Remember That Time? post and link to it in the comments section.