The adventures of a New Jersey college professor with very strange friends, colleagues, and family members.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Embarrassing Crush Story #215: The Alec Years

If Jude Law and Josh Holloway managed somehow to have a baby, that baby would grow up to look just like Alec. My crush on Alec, therefore, was not embarrassing because it happened; it was embarrassing because it lasted for three years.

It began in my sophomore year of college. As I’ve mentioned here before, I was the president of the Forensic Society (I’m talking about speech and debate, here—not what Grissom does). Every year we had a table at the Activities Fair and passed out flyers to unsuspecting freshmen. One of the freshmen that we snagged that year was Alec.

I noticed him right from the very first meeting. He was easily one of the best looking people I had ever seen outside a movie theatre. He didn’t say much, but he did laugh at all my jokes, which was, of course, of vital importance.

To my delight, Alec decided to join the team and stick around. He continued to charm and beguile me and by the time our first tournament rolled around, I was deeply in crush with him.

The main reason I fell for Alec wasn’t his looks (though they certainly helped), but the fact that he was also a writer. Like me, he had started when he was a young child. He was so serious about writing that he had been allowed to live in the Creative Writing section of the Special Interest dorm. This was impressive because you actually had to submit written work to get in there. He was also incredibly intelligent--I don't think there was any subject he couldn't take about with some degree of aplomb.

Conveniently, my friend Lola also lived there, in the Performing Arts section, so I had a legitimate excuse to be in that dorm at any time. Lola was the first person I told about my crush and she was thrilled. She thought he was adorable, too. Her only criticism of him was that his clothes were always wrinkled. “He always looks like someone tried to stuff him in a mail slot,” she observed.

We set off for our first competition in November. It was then that, to my dismay, I discovered a horrible truth; Alec was a terrible public speaker. This stunned me because he was so articulate. He did so poorly, in fact, that his scores brought the team down as a whole and we had no shot at winning sweepstakes.

A clearer-minded thinker would have, at this point, suggested to Alec that he either (A) practice, or (B) consider leaving the team. But I was not, at the time, such a thinker. I absolutely refused to let Alec quit because if he stopped coming to meetings, I wouldn’t have the excuse to see him once a week.

I proceeded to get very, very weird. I began dressing up for meetings. I began trying new hairstyles. I even selected a specific perfume—it was called “Pearls & Lace”—to wear whenever I knew I’d be around Alec. I wanted him to associate it with me, so that if he was ever strolling through Macy’s and smelled it, he’d be awestruck and think of me.

I wrote pages and pages of “He doesn’t know I’m alive” poetry. I mooned around the campus. I called my friends and forced them to analyze everything he ever said or did. ("Lola said she saw him in the laundry room and he was washing Hanes 32's. What do you think it means?") When he left a message on my answering machine, I would play it over and over again like the Zapruder film. To put it mildly, I was not a well woman.

Alec had a lot of weirdness going on himself. First of all, he was very moody. Of course, I chalked this up to being a “tortured artist,” and insisted that, out of all of the people he knew, I was the only one to truly “understand” him. He was often very quiet and shy—I interpreted this as being “introspective and brooding,” something true intellectuals did. He also wasn’t the most reliable person in the world—often he’d stroll into Forensics meetings an hour late or wouldn’t show up at all. My reaction? “He was too busy writing.” Yeah, I know.

During the entire first year I was in love with Alec (because that’s what my 18 year old mind insisted it was), he didn’t have a girlfriend, which I found absolutely astounding. I was thrilled, of course, but was constantly wary—someone that good couldn’t go walking around free forever. But as our friendship grew, there was no sign of a girlfriend.

And we did become good friends. We talked about writing, we talked about our friends (most of whom were dysfunctional), we talked about our goals. While part of me was so thrilled that he was finally opening up to me, another part of me was worrying that he would pigeonhole me firmly in the “just friends” category of his brain and he’d be unable to see me as possible girlfriend material.

This went on, as I said, for three years.

By the time I was a senior, my crush on Alec had become an obsession. He was all I thought about. It got to the point where it was no longer fun and exciting; it was painful. My schoolwork suffered, my friendships suffered, and my performance at the pharmaceutical company suffered. I lost thirty pounds. One good friend asked me if I was on drugs. Another friend saw me in my underwear and burst into tears at my skeletal appearance. My mother asked me if I needed a psychiatrist.

No. What I needed was Alec, and with graduation looming up ahead I now had very limited time in which to get him.

And here is where your humble author completely lost it. Instead of doing the normal thing and actually telling Alec about my feelings, or even trusting his best friend and roommate Chris to tell him (I was also close friends with Chris—it was good to have an ally right in his room) I actually placed an anonymous personal ad in one of the university’s newspapers that I knew he read copiously. This easily ranks as one of the stupidest things I've ever done.

The ad read thusly: “Attention, Alec X. I have been interested in you for three years now. You can’t possibly be this clueless. Just come up to me and say ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘maybe,’ and let me get on with my life.”

All of my friends were horrified. All of his friends immediately launched a full scale investigation to find out who had written it. No one suspected me because it was so completely out of character. I went around with a boulder in my stomach, terrified every time the phone rang.

In the following week’s paper, Alec had written this response: “Yes, I CAN be this clueless. Who are you?”

Pressure was building all around me. Finals were coming up. I had grad school applications pending. I was cramming for the GREs. I finally couldn’t take it anymore, went to Alec’s room, and found Chris. I threw myself into his arms and began to sob.

Chris, being a smart man, immediately understood. He said that he had suspected it had been me since the beginning, and that Alec knew that, too. We had a very nice long talk until Alec came back from class. He saw me crying with Chris and a look passed over his face that told me he knew everything. And that I wasn’t going to like his answer.

Chris made a dramatic exit and Alec started up his computer. He began to write something. Without looking at me, he said, very softly: “No.”

A very polite, forced conversation followed in which I apologized nine or ten times, he told me it was okay nine or ten times, and we promised we would always be friends. Feeling like I had been through a war, I finally left his room, went home, and called Lola. I told her everything.

I was strange for a long time after that. I had lived for so long with the hope that I would be with Alec that I honestly didn't know how to feel any other way. I wasn't used to noticing men anymore. Every morning when I woke up, the very first thing I would think was, "he said no." I withdrew from just about everything and everyone.

Alec finally began dating over that summer, and I found out an amazing thing. He was an even worse boyfriend than he was a public speaker. In fact, in the course of four months, Alec went through seven girlfriends, all of whom were quirky and, to be truthful, not very attractive. Without exception, they all broke up with him because he “couldn’t communicate.”

And I was the one he called when this happened to ease his pain. And it turned out I did “understand” him more than just about anyone else, and we built a wonderful, long friendship. More than once he told me, “BeowulfGirl, you’re the one who knows me best.”

Sadly, for reasons that are too long (and painful) to explain here, Alec ended our friendship in 2000. And even though I don’t know exactly where he is now, I do know what he’s thinking because (embarrassed sigh) I read his blog.

Yeah. I know.