August 21, 1997:
I knew it all along yet still can't believe it! Let's start by reviewing evidence of my clairvoyance.
September 5, 1995, I wrote:
This girl is the one.
Six weeks later (after she dumped me) I wrote:
Stacy can try to scrub me out of her heart, but I know she loves me. She can't cheat fate, she can only delay the inevitable.
Then, the countless encounters in the hall, at football games, and at parties. Every time I ran into her I came away saying, I know this girl is into me. For example, May 24th, 1996, after I saw her at Amy Bacheldor's graduation party, I wrote:
I swear Stacy's pupils got bigger when she looked at me. I could see her lips plump when we talked. When I leaned in to hug her goodbye, her body was like a furnace. And what song played just in that moment? “Dreams,” by Gabrielle. She supposedly wants nothing to do with me, but I've read enough of Dad's Men's Health magazines to know these are signs of sexual arousal. Why is she denying our destiny!?
But nothing compares to last night. It was Richie Sahler's going away party – really everyone's going away party. I was out by the pool, talking to Liz Mueller. “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn was playing, and the guitar plucks seemed to go along with the light glinting off the waves in the pool. All the sudden Liz looks over my shoulder, her eyes get real big, and she says, "Benny, hold on a sec. Don't look now. Who is that blonde-haired girl in the teal miniskirt, standing next to the ping pong table?"
I of course had seen Stacy earlier and didn't even have to look. "She's looking over here, isn't she?"
"Benny, if she looked harder swear to God I'd fall in the pool. She must think I'm flirting with you. Who is this girl?"
I felt vindicated and frustrated at the same time. I have to admit, I'm glad Liz gives that "hot" first impression with her red hair and Julia Crawford lips, because I wanted Stacy to feel jealous. My chest felt like it was collapsing. Fittingly, “Un-Break My Heart” started playing.
"So that's Stacy,” I explained, thinking about her walking out a metaphorical door yet still lingering in my life to re-break my heart. “She went to Marshall. We went together six weeks sophomore year. I was in love with her. Swear to God she was in love with me, but she dumped me out of nowhere.” I told her about how Stacy has been acting the past two years. How she makes me think I’m crazy. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised Stacy was looking.
Liz opened her mouth real wide. She said “Well what the fuck, Benny?," and hit me on my shoulder.
“I know, I know,” I said. Why does everyone make it sound so simple, as if being into someone is enough? As usual, I’m the one into someone, and she refuses to see how good we could be. I told Liz, Stacy’s moving to Arizona for college, anyway. A big map of the United States flashed in my mind, illustrating all those plains, mountains, and desert between Kearney and Tuscon.
Liz says, “And you’re just gonna let her go!?” She wasn’t making this easy. "If you love this girl you've gotta do something about it. The way she keeps looking, I don't think you're crazy. Listen to me, I have eighteen years experience as a girl. She's into you!”
Well, I didn't do something about it. As much as I've said we're destined for each other, I just felt tired. Tired of feeling like we're about to get back together, only to be disappointed and confused again. Like, why bother trying to force destiny anyway? Destiny doesn’t take effort. I guess it takes patience.
I felt so tired, in fact, I was ready to go home at 1 a.m. But just as I had said goodbye to everyone and was almost at the door, what did I hear?
"Benny!," Stacy's voice was unmistakable, like polished and varnished wood, with a wry Alicia Silverstone twist. "Do you think you could trouble a lady for a walk home?"
"Why yes," I said, all formal and suave. But I could feel my hands start to shake. I took a gulp of air. I shit you not, right at that moment, what started playing? That Jewel song, “You Were Meant For Me.” And she was.
I tried to make conversation with her while we walked home, asking her about Arizona and what she was gonna study. She was her usual sarcastic self ("What's Arizona like?" "Hot.”) But she kept her arms folded over her chest and was looking at the street most the time.
We were walking past my house, on the way to hers, and all the sudden she just jumped in front of me like she was Gary Payton, and started kissing me! I swore my heart was gonna explode!
I was kissing back, and wanted to keep going and not say anything, but I was so confused. So I stopped and was like, “What is this?!" I was gasping for air.
She looked down with her hand over her mouth like she was Bashful the dwarf. She nodded like she understood, then asked if we could go inside and talk. So we went through my door on the driveway quiet as we could. Once we got into my room she laid on the bed and just unloaded.
"I haven't really had a significant boyfriend since you, Benny," she said. That blew me away because I remember seeing her with that guy from Benson a couple times. She looked like she was gonna cry. “I’ve been lost and I...I..."
"I don't get it!," I pleaded. I was watching myself from outside my own body, partly thinking, Dude you have Stacy in your bed! This is what you wanted!, but partly thinking, What the fuck is this insanity? "You dumped me out of nowhere," I said. "I never understood why. For TWO YEARS I've felt like we were living a lie. Like we were supposed to be together. We could've been together, Stacy! Two years! Half of high school! You kiss me at our going-away party!?" I probably woke up my parents. I was whispering, but angry.
Her eyes were squinting. Tears were welling out. She was shaking her head, dabbing her eyes.
"I never told you this," Benny, she sniffled. "But before I came to Marshall, there was someone else."
I didn't say anything. What could this someone else in Minnesota have to do with her holding a two-year stand-off with me? Especially if I'm the only boyfriend she's had.
She said, “In Minnesota, I had a boyfriend. He had just got his license. There was this hill outside town everyone from school would jump cars on. It’s so stupid. There’s been so many wrecks and they won’t fix the street. They say that night there was a little patch of ice...” She sat up in the bed and covered her face in her hands. Her fingers were all wet. “I was grounded that night. Which never happens. It was the smallest thing. I stayed home.”
I didn’t know what to say. I knew I should feel bad and comfort her, but I didn’t know how. Mostly I was disappointed. I had wanted to believe she was crying over the time we’d lost. I wished she could see how none of this was chance. It all brought us together. But she wasn’t crying over us. She was crying over herself.
She turned over and buried her face in my pillow. Just a few minutes before, it had felt like destiny had brought her here. I looked at her beautiful legs coming out of her corduroy skirt and wished I could change the situation. I sat there a while. She sobbed, and I patted her on the shoulder blade. I didn't know what else to do.
She left right before I started writing this. She told me we’d talk tomorrow. Our stars are finally aligning. I don’t know how I’m gonna sleep!
August 22, 1997:
I’ll never figure out Stacy. I need to remember to stop trying to force it. Earlier today, I tried calling her, but her line was disconnected, and I don’t know the number of her parent’s line.
So I walked over to her house, and she was leaning against a U-Haul trailer in the driveway. She said hi and looked straight at me as I walked up to her. Her expression was blank, like nothing had happened.
“So, last night...” I said.
She said she was sorry, that she had lost control. She actually said, “It was the alcohol talking,” which is fucking bullshit.
I tried to tell her we could give it a shot. That Kearney to Tuscon is an eighteen-hour drive, so I could skip class some Fridays and drive there and back and we could have some time together and I could make it to class Monday morning. That I could move to Tuscon and work a couple years to get in-state tuition, or go to a community college nearby. But she just kept looking at the ground and moving a pebble around with her jellies.
I wanted to cry but couldn’t. I couldn’t cry because I felt strong in my chest this feeling like one day we’ll make it. Maybe she’ll come back to Nebraska or at least when winter break comes around I’ll see her again.
I walked away slowly because I wanted to watch her go, but didn’t want to talk to her parents. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and just wanted to be alone as I watched her drive away.
When I got home, a thousand times I played the song I wrote about a year ago. I never wrote down the lyrics, so I might as well:
You’ve got a way,
of breaking hearts,
with a smile.
The words that you say,
they don’t betray,
I know some day,
you’ll come around,
to your senses.
But I’ll always stand by you,
I’ll always wait for you.
I’ll always stand by you,
I’ll always wait for you.
I’ll always stand by you,
This I know is true.