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  • I kind of miss the old days in high school where there was no confusion about your relationship status with someone. You were either girlfriend and boyfriend, or you weren’t. No middle ground to agonize over. In the adult world, you can go months without defining anything, and when you discover they’ve been seeing someone else on the nights they don’t see you, you have no right to be mad, because they’re not your boyfriend. Not so in high school – as soon as the boy asked you out, it was official. You were a couple.

    Matt starred in my high school drama production of Grease. He was Kenicke, the one who sang “Greased Lightening”, while I was a lowly chorus member. I had been casual friends with Matt for two years, mostly because he had been dating my friend Stacey since before I even entered high school. They had broken up the month before, something I didn’t even think was possible at the time. You could date for three years and still manage to break up? How would you ever recover from that?

    We had dance rehearsal for “Summer Nights” after school. I was wearing ratty pajamas and an oversized t-shirt. My best friend Heather, who was dating Matt’ best friend Noah at the time, ran up to me in her Capezio dance heels: “Noah is going to drive us home after rehearsal and Matt is going to ask you out!”

    That was a lot of information to process. Um, what? Sure, I thought he was funny, and he was cute in a geeky kind of way. But we had never hung out alone once – all I knew of him I knew from lunch walks to Dunkin Donuts with a big group, or the occasional movie night. And I made such an impression on him that he has a plan to ask me out? He has a crush on me?

    The very idea that someone would think I was cool enough to have a crush on was so flattering that I immediately grew one back for him. I had tons of crushes – boy-crazy would not be an understatement for me, but that was because I was incessantly sexually frustrated because I never got to be all up on anybody because no one ever had a crush on me. But Matt did!

    I fumbled through my box-steps and hand waves for the “Tell me more, tell me more” parts, keeping Matt in my peripheral the whole time – but not being anywhere near brave enough to go up to him. Why jinx the inevitable?

    Finally, rehearsal ended, I was a sweaty mess, and I met up with Heather, who was standing with Matt and Noah. We exchanged shy greetings – he must have known that I know that he was going to ask me out. God, it was awkward.

    We piled into Noah's croaking station wagon, Matt and me in the backseat. It had begun to rain, really rain down hard. Noah drove Heather home first, and rattled out a lame excuse to leave: “I’m gonna say hi to Heather’s parents for a minute. You two wait here!” He parked across the street, next to the entrance to a gas station, and the two of them scurried to the house in the downpour.

    Noah was kind enough to leave his keys in the ignition and the radio on, so it wasn’t complete dead silence. “White Wedding” was softly playing on the radio as we made small talk. Tiny talk, more like it. Grease, drama, school, Heather and Noah's two week relationship full of “schmoopy”s and “cuddle bug”s and “poodle kitten”s and all that other annoying crap we couldn’t stand. Then—

    BAM! The car shifted forward. Something had hit the car. The rain was falling so hard we couldn’t see out the window.

    “What was that?” I exclaimed. “Did we just get hit by a car? We’re parked!”

    Matt looked as perplexed as me, but had to go be the man. “I’ll go check.”

    He leaves the car, is gone for a moment, then hops back in.

    “Yeah, we got hit by that car as it was leaving the gas station.”

    He leaned over to the front seat and turned on the windshield wipers so I could see said car before it drove away.

    And it was a hearse.

    A hearse had hit the parked car we were sitting in.

    “That’s a pretty bad omen, isn’t it?” I said. To which he replied,

    “Do you wanna go out?”

    My blank stare. It happened so abruptly I wasn’t prepared.

    “Do you mean out of the car?”

    “No, you know – go out.”

    I finally got it. “Oooh!”

    More silence.

    “Well. Say yes.”

    “Oh, yes. Yes.”

    That’s all it takes back in high school. Now we were a couple.

    Okay, now we’re a couple. What on earth do we do? Do we start making out? Do we go find Noah and tell him someone hit his car? Where the hell is Noah?! What the hell are we supposed to talk about now?!

    Five minutes later (but what was about 100 hours in hurry-the-fuck-up time), Noah returned, a cheeky smile on his face. He didn’t ask either of us to join him in the front seat, polite etiquette it is, since he figured us lovebirds would want to sit next to each other as long as possible before he dropped me off.

    Eventually, Noah pulled up to my house. I turned to Matt. I didn’t even have his phone number. There was no Facebook or anything like that back in 1999 - there was no alternate way to contact him.

    “So, I’ll see you in school tomorrow?” I asked.

    “Yep,” he said with a smile. I smile back. This happened! I have a boyfriend! I had never had one in the real world before, only able to get boyfriends with expiration dates while attending sleepaway camp.

    A little flutter of joy in my head, I open the car door and step out – at which point my pajama bottoms get caught on a sharp edge of the car door, causing me to trip on my way out and stumble backwards into a puddle.
    I quickly get up, totally embarrassed. I’ve been this guy’s girlfriend for twenty minutes and I’m already humiliating him. I smile, my cheeks red, and wave goodbye, slamming shut the car door.

    Noah's car waits in the driveway as I make my way up my porch (etiquette, again), and stays long enough to see me trip up the stairs on my way to the front door. I finally get my key out of my backpack and scramble inside as quickly as possible.

    The day was February 2, 1999. Groundhog’s Day, the most romantic day of the year.

    The next day at school, everyone knew. Gossip travels fast, even before the time of text messaging. Stacey was alternately heartbroken and furious that I hadn’t talked to her first before agreeing to go out with Matt. She had a right to feel badly – they did date for three years, and he asked me out only a month after breaking up with her – but everyone else was happy to take a side as well.

    Two days later, again in the backseat of Noah's car, Matt and I would finally kiss. Our first date – MY first date, with anyone, ever – would involve The Matrix (a movie I ended up hating), and dinner at the Macaroni Grill, with Heather and Noah smooching and canoodling the entire meal as Matt and I racked our minds for something to contribute over the sound of their slurping.

    Matt and I ended up dating for seven months, until he left for NYU. The distance between Manhattan and Long Island might not seem very far – it’s only an hour train ride - but to a 16-year-old and a college freshman, it’s pointless. There was no discussion of us keeping things going once he went away to school. In fact, I was kind of relieved. Our relationship was only good every other day. Now that I’m an adult, I know that a large majority of your days together should be spent being happy, and that 50% doesn’t cut it. Sadly, I think I put up with the bad times because having any boyfriend was better than having no boyfriend.

    I wouldn’t have another real-life boyfriend again until I turned 22-years-old, but Matt would have one his first year in college.

    Turned out he was gay. I knew that hearse was a bad omen.
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