“Oh yeah, everyone knows you like him.”
My cheeks went tomato red. I was stunned. On a walk with a friend, I admitted the huge-always-growing-fucking-exploding-butterflies crush I had on a fellow classmate. I decided she was trustworthy and it would feel better to just tell someone and get it out there. I was bursting every moment I was around him ready to just shout, “I’m so god damn into you!!!”
But he had a lovely girlfriend. And I knew I’d just look like a fool. They were happy and in love. I was fine to just sit back and pine. Well, it wasn’t fine. But it was the only thing I could do.
I guess I did feel like a fool, such a school girl cliche. He’d look at me and I’d catch my breath, the damn wind knocked out of me with the smallest smile.
“I don’t think Dean knows, but yeah, I’d say everyone else does,” she continued, putting an arm around me. I was mortified.
How??? How could everyone know?!?
At the time, I was living in the college dorms as a transfer student and possessed something so sought after and cherished by all my peers living off campus: dining hall swipes.
I had been diagnosed with a severe gluten intolerance (yes, yes, I know as does everyone else now, but trust that if I eat a burger, I’ll end up in the ER) just before moving in and did not trust any food in the dining halls. I once asked the petite woman ladling soup if it contained any ingredients with gluten. She responded, “No, we bake it.”
I tried rephrasing the question and a light bulb appeared above her head. She disappeared in the back and returned with a giant loaf of bread. She offered it to me like a golden egg, proud of her success, and I felt awkward trying to explain again, so I just took it. And there it sat, smugly on my plate, taunting me as I ate a bowl of a rice. From that point on, I just let my swipes accumulate and survived on rice cakes and any pieces of fruit I could steal and horde in my room.
Word of my unused swipes spread like chlamydia in a retirement home, and suddenly all of my friends were texting me wanting to grab dinner. And lunch. And brunch. And at 1:30 in the morning when I had access to pizza and chicken wings in the late night section of one of the cafeterias. I once mentioned SwipeFest 2012 with Dean in earshot, and like a charm, he piped up. He suggested the two of us get dinner after class. I squeaked out a cool and collected, “Sure, I mean, yeah, okay!!” I could almost hear every elderly Jewish matriarch in my family celebrating in my ears, “Perfect! The way to a man’s heart is always through his stomach. Especially a slender gentile like Dean, feed the boy!”
And feed him I would. I was late to class more than a few times because I miscalculated how long the line at the to-go cafe on campus would take. I swiped, and brought him a sandwich.
Monday, it was turkey with cranberry sauce.
Tuesday, it was a BLT with a side of Kettle chips.
Wednesday, a melted cheesy panini that smelled so good, carrying it across campus to him was just the start of my masochistic behavior.
I was bringing him lunches everyday. And somehow, it never crossed my mind that my classmates might notice that I was ONLY bringing them to Dean. I knew I had this crush under control. I could clearly separate reality and fantasy. He had a girlfriend, and I just wanted to bring him sandwiches. I wasn’t trying to cause any trouble. I just liked him so goddamn much.
“So seriously…everyone knows?”
“You stare at him in class.”
“NO I DON’T!”
She clutched her chest with her hand, brought the other to her mouth and let out an audible awwww.
“You reaaally like him, huh?”
I did. I liked him so much, I wanted to be a better person. He had the most impressive work ethic, he’d be the first one done with an essay and then go work for hours and hours, catch a bus to an audition. He was doing the damn thing, busting his ass and never complaining. I admired him and thought if I could be a little bit more like him, I’d know I did something right. He inspired me to push myself. I was so enamored.
So deliciously enamored that I’d bring him sandwiches, even though I can’t eat gluten.
I think about him sometimes, wonder how he is. I miss the texts and friendship. I do wonder how much of a friendship one can have when one person is so desperately into the other. He was never available, never a viable option. But I still think about the crushing heaviness of how much I liked him. And to be honest, it makes me smile.
It makes me happy to know I liked someone so wonderful and so interesting. I never kissed Dean, but if he ever asked, I’d happily bring him a sandwich again. Just because.