Billy Ryder. Just saying his name silently to myself was enough to reduce me to a useless puddle of drool.
Somewhere in the middle of junior high school, I developed one of those helpless, heart-stoppingly painful crushes on a boy with whom I had never spoken.
Billy Ryder. He was extremely tall, lanky, and walked with a very graceful loping stride that really got me—right there, you know?
He wore his straight dark brown hair parted on the side, and it was always falling in front of his eyes, which meant that he always had to reach up and gently push it back, or, even better, toss it back with his head.
Oh, how that got to me!
Of course, his face was cute. But the crush clincher was that he was highly intelligent and well-informed, and oh so soft-spoken. What a killer combo.
Between classes was a very difficult time for me. That is when there was a chance I would have to pass my paragon.
I was terrified that he would spot me, and immediately detect the embarrassing depth of my feelings for him.
I would spot him coming, miles down the hallway, and immediately avert my eyes, hoping that this would prevent the bright red blush that always covered me when he was near.
It never worked; I’d feel the heat burning my face and even my arms. As he grew closer, I would find it hard to walk.
As soon as I knew he had passed, I would have to stop and lean against the wall and wait for the cold sweat to break out.
I hated being so out of control of my feelings and my body.
And my feelings were utterly hopeless. Me, skinny, ugly, nerdy. He, tall, beautiful, and—already with girlfriend!
Here is the worst part:
Said girlfriend used to have crying jags in the girl’s bathroom about problems in her relationship with Billy, and cry on my shoulder while I offered her sympathy! When what I really wanted to do was take her place…
This is just how pathetic this crush was:
In the summers, when our family traveled by car to Chicago, my heart would race and be broken by every Ryder Rental truck we passed.
By high school, the crush had not faded one whit. Then: The day of The Fiasco.
We Choir kids are lined up in the hallway waiting to go onstage. Boys on one side, girls on the other. I’m next to my good friend Vicky.
Billy happens to be across the hall from us, so I am doing my very best to be invisible. Then, the most horrible, most awful, most dreadful thing happens:
Billy, my paragon, the most perfect boy for me ever put on this earth, leaves his place in line, walks across that hall, straight up to me, stands directly in front of me, looks down at me from his angel-like altitude, and, smiling broadly–at me–says, “Hi!”.
And what does Ms. Suave, Ms. Always-be-prepared, Ms. Grab-your-opportunity-or-it-will-pass-you-by do with this golden moment?
You do remember my smooth moves with Chuck “Hot Pencils” in Biology class, don’t you?
The first thing I do is cast a panicked look at my friend Vicky, thinking “Surely, Billy must be talking to Vicky. He can’t be saying ‘Hi’ to me.” But Vicky’s back is turned.
Once I realize this, I totally freeze. That’s right. Like a deer in the headlights.
The nightmare I always imagined would happen if Billy ever spoke to me is exactly what does happen:
I am unable to move, or say a single word.
Billy continues to stand there for some moments, looking puzzled. Then, he turns around and goes back to his place in line.
Billy was the student who organized our school’s first Earth Day, adding social consciousness and leadership strengths to his long list of attractive qualities. This rubbed in painfully the gem I had missed out on.
Someone told me years later that my paragon, Billy Ryder, had had a crush on me during those years!
I find that very hard to believe. Wouldn’t it just be so sad if it were true?
Stupid teen years.
Note: No names were changed to protect the innocent. So, Billy, or perhaps Bill or William now, if one of the readers of this blog (Shout out!) happens to be six degrees separated from you, you may finally learn of the awe you inspired! (I think I can feel your virtual cringe from here.)