Friday, July 18, 2014

Family Friday: Cross Country Blues

(This is a story written by guest author Grig Tank)

Eww...I just saw a colon.
High school is a fairly unpleasant time for most kids, and for me this was no exception. OCD and a particularly bad set of social skills helped me feel both more isolated and more mentally unbalanced than I really was. Everyone has their own magical solution for the unhappiness that is teenage life, and for me, that was a girlfriend. I had somehow come to the conclusion that a girlfriend would make my loneliness, obsessive-compulsive neuroticism, and general, teenage-related pains instantly transform into the golden, quirky life I dreamed of. In retrospect, my failure to know what to do or say around a girl may have saved me a great deal of trouble, since a girlfriend was the one thing I couldn’t seem to get. At any rate, I looked down the hall at the rows of lockers and milling students one day, and thought to myself: if something doesn’t change, I will go mad.
My solution was a simple, if poorly thought-out one: since school failed to properly distract me from my hormonally charged frustrations, I would use shock and confusion to do the job myself. I began hiding bones found in the woods and other oddities in my backpack, then donning them or using them as props to disturb others (a favorite game of mine was finding a circle of girls so focused on their conversation that they wouldn’t notice the deer skull about to perch on their shoulder until it was too late. I thought I was pretty funny.).

The feelings of isolation began to dissipate when I joined the cross country team. Along with the endorphins that running provided, the pleasure of being accepted into a group was a welcome change. I never actually thought about it in much depth, but the knowledge that I now had peers that enjoyed doing things with me made all the difference. That, and the fact that there were some very pretty girls in the female section. I was hardly any better at being social than before, but there was less time to pity myself now, and at least one of the girls seemed like a possible match. Hazel was quirky, short, curvy, and lived on a farm… all big bonuses, in my eyes. I began talking to her when I could work up the guts to do so, and even interrupted some kids playing a prank on her, once… the charity of the love-smitten teenager knows no bounds, after all. At one point, I went so far as to suggest that, if she ever broke up with her boyfriend, that she should consider me as an alternative. What happened a few weeks after that suggestion was one of the strangest, least-welcomed miracles I have ever experienced.
I had taken to talking to Hazel every week on the phone, perhaps several times a week, and things were going smoothly. One day, during our discussion, she abruptly said, “So, I broke up with my boyfriend.” Expectant silence followed. This was the moment I had been waiting for for years. I would take the place of my unfortunate successor, and all would be made well. Now, however, a wave of inadequacy and fear poured over me out of nowhere.
A car. She would expect her boyfriend to have a car to drive her around in. I understood that girls liked that sort of thing, but I had no money, which brought me to problem number two: I had no job. I wanted no job. I would have to buy Hazel things, to boot, and I imagined myself failing in all these regards and more, fear after fear hammering me with unexpected force. After what may have been thirty seconds of silence, I found myself saying, “That’s nice,” and then bringing the conversation to as amiable and abrupt an end as possible. The moment I hung up the phone, those fears vanished, and I literally kicked myself with frustration at how close I had been. Where had all that emotion come from?! I had ruined my chances beyond repair, as I thought, and I nearly screamed with fury.
Sometime after my tantrum, I came to realize that it might have been the Holy Ghost protecting me. I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Hazel was not. I had seen what happened to people who married outside of the Church: often, they went inactive, but even when they didn’t, it was very rare for their spouses to become members, themselves. Worse still, their children often fell away from the Church when they began to be independent… why worry about a testimony in a God that Dad or Mom wasn’t interested in? In addition, I honestly think I wasn’t ready for the insanity that courtship can bring with it. Make no mistake, it is a pleasurable experience, but it’s also a frustrating one. Women can be difficult to read and anticipate, and the interest some of them have in mind games became a pet peeve of mine later on. I doubt that my teenage brain, which was still flailing about wildly, trying to handle its own problems, could have handled Hazel’s on top of everything else.
Later still, I would come to wonder about her reaction: was she heartbroken? Angry? Doubtless, she was confused, and I can’t help but think she may have dodged a bullet as much as I did. The final results of that bizarre event (and the rest of high school, for that matter) will probably only become truly clear to me after this world’s impending Endgame.

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