My Imaginary Love Life Reviewed

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Amy Pasternak: A fellow fifth-grader, and my first case of puppy love. At recess, in an effort to show my interest, I whipped a snowball at the back of her head. This was repeated for several days with no luck. If not for my inability to express myself in a more socially acceptable manner — perhaps by sharing some gum with her or by showing off on the monkey bars — she might have been my first kiss.

Julie Gibbs: Our lockers were side-by-side all through high school. I couldn’t count how many times we exchanged pleasantries such as “Hey” and “Long day, huh?” and “Have a good weekend.” If I’d had the nerve to take it to the next level, I’m guessing the two of us could have become as close as our lockers. High school sweethearts. Saturday nights at the movies. Junior and senior prom. The whole deal. And then an amicable split as we go off to separate colleges. Not one of the guys she met there could compare to me, though.

Linda: I don’t remember if I ever got her last name, and in fact I’m not really sure about the first. It could have been Lisa (we only met once during a dorm party and the music was really loud). She was more than a little tipsy and clearly willing to go upstairs with me even though I was tripping over every other word and sweating like a marathon runner. Would have been my first one-night stand if I hadn’t gone to get her another drink, then slipped out the back door in fear.

Maggie (as read off her name tag): She used to be the cashier at my grocery store. I always made it a point to go to her register, even when the line was longer than others. Despite eating a lot healthier during her two years and four months on the job, I apparently failed to impress her with my dietary selections. I would have said something chatty after answering her usual query about paper or plastic, but I was uncomfortable making my move with the bagboy standing right there. We’d have ended up going out for a while and having some fun. I was still in my twenties in those days, though, and not looking for anything too serious. Possibly an ugly breakup.

Charlotte LePlante: A co-worker for a number of years who once made a favorable remark about my shirt. Had I returned the compliment instead of blushing and hurrying back to my cubicle, one thing would have led to another and inevitably drawn us into an illicit affair. Probably best it never happened, since I saw her husband at the office picnic every year and no doubt would have felt guilty about the whole thing. Then again, Charlotte had great legs. No. Better if it didn’t happen.

Kathy McTeague: She lived in my apartment building for years. We ran into each other countless times and had many brief yet exciting conversations regarding the weather. There was even that one time she held the elevator for me. I got to know her schedule well by keeping a careful eye on the parking lot, and of course you can always tell a lot about a person by the kind of trash they leave in the Dumpster behind the building. For six long years we lived under the same roof, playing house, but in the end she left me. I didn’t even know she was gone until I saw the Kowalskis moving in several days later. Love can be a cruel game.

Some woman on the sidewalk: She was wearing a really tight pair of jeans, and when I stopped for the red light, I could have sworn she glanced over at me for a second longer than necessary. I should have smiled or honked the horn or something. We might be married by now.

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