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Tomorrow will mark thirty years since I began an emotional journey the likes of which I’ve only approximated maybe three other times since. In the three decades since, I’ve learned that I was actually in love for the first time. Not just a crush, or puppy love, or some preteen infatuation. Love, actually and truly. But as a person of deep thought, a boy surrounded by sexism and misogyny, and a lonely and semi-ostracized twelve-year-old, I didn’t have the thoughts, much less the words, to describe what I felt between March 4 and May 30 of ’82 (see my “On Women and Wired Weirdness” post from March ’11).

To think that this all pretty much started because I picked a fight with Crush #1 at the end of class on the first Thursday in March in 7S. Almost all of my extracurricular incidents that year began or ended in our homeroom with our homeroom/English teacher Mrs. Sesay. The incident began because Crush #1 asked a question about a subject that Mrs. Sesay had spent the entire week going over, a concept that Sesay would test us on that Friday. I laughed out loud — thinking that I was only snickering — after Crush #1 asked that question.

Thinking nothing of it, I began to pack up after the 2:15 pm bell rang. Crush #1 came up to me and pushed me from behind.

“You’re an ugly, arrogant asshole!” she said with the distaste of a ballerina being asked for money by a junkie.

I called her “stupid” and then said something else stupid. “You’re an idiot!,” Crush #1 yelled as she threw two punches into my chest and a third at my jaw.

The fight lasted about fifteen or twenty seconds, but after landing a punch on her left boob and nipple, I stopped fighting, already descending into the land of the idiot romantic, as in The Doobie Brothers “What A Fool Believes” (1979). All while Crush #1 kept hitting me, then being pulled away from me by a couple of her friends. One of them, the recently deceased Brandie Weston, called me a “pervert” as they exited the classroom.

I know that I wasn’t the first boy in history to start a fight with a girl who I’d come to like or love, but I do think that boys who do that have a lot of weird in them. Mind you, I hadn’t quite hit puberty yet, so my testosterone levels weren’t high enough yet to be the cause of my brain malfunction. No, my very sexism and her fierce sense of tomboyish feminism was why I liked her in the first place, and I drank deep from that well for the next three months.

I’ve had thirty years to reflect on this incident and the three months of school-day dreaming that followed. There are only a handful of childhood memories I’ve thought about more. For years, though, I’d packed my emotions away. Through high school and Crush #1’s first dating experiences, through my own high school and 616 trials and tribulations, through college and graduate school and my years of dating and then marriage to my wife of twelve years.

Then, as I began work on Boy @ The Window six years ago, I opened up that dusty box of memories and emotions, to find them almost as strange at thirty-six as they had been at twelve. But unlike in ’82, I shared it with a bunch of friends, and especially my wife. After telling the story of me and Crush #1, my wife said, she was my “first love. It doesn’t matter if she didn’t reciprocate.” Or, for that matter, if she didn’t know. It was the first time it dawned on me that I really had fallen in love before I’d learned how to love. Wow.

It explained why after so many years, through all of my ups and downs, and despite the love I do feel, have and show to family and friends in my life, that Crush #1 would show up in my dreams. It helped me understand why I found few girls, young women and women attractive prior to going to college, and even then, they didn’t compare. It also let me know that a feeling like that can’t die, doesn’t die. If anything, it allows room for more love, and more understanding for how to love in the process.

The video above is about the best way I can express what I felt in ’82, without the complete sappiness of an incurable romantic, or worse yet, a tragic one. Like Professor Snape (as played by Alan Rickman) in the Happy Potter movies, or worse still, Ralph Fiennes’ character in The English Patient (1996). Combining music and two of my three favorite sports (the other one’s golf, but Tiger’s inappropriate for this theme), it’s a mere approximation for how I felt back then.

There’s plenty of other music I could’ve used (see my “The Ultimate Crush” post from March ’08 and “Desert Rose” post from April ’09), other themes like figure skating or ballet that would better show what I saw and felt in Crush #1, and what I see and sometimes feel in my dreams on occasion now. I guess that I really was in love. But there’s at least one thing I can do now. I can be there for Noah when it happens to him for the first time.