I arrived on the campus of my future college the summer before my senior year in high school ready to participate in a prestigious academic camp. I was ready for six weeks of intellectual enrichment; little did I know all of my learning would take place outside of class when I had my first serious crush.
His name was Scott, and we were both declared philosophy “majors” at the camp. Along with a handful of other nerds, we spent our days sitting in a circle, reading old texts, and pondering the meaning of life with the depth of experience accessible to a 17 year old. While pretending to think deep thoughts during our reading sessions, I tried to make sense of this intoxicating sensation. What had started as long talks in the library had progressed to listening to pining REM and Natalie Merchant songs in his dorm room, vague conversations about teenage alienation, and dreams of future academic accomplishment.
Like so many summer romances, it was a true whirlwind. Six weeks of self-discovery and little more than a peck on the cheek. A little more. We parted after six weeks in high emotional angst. There were the occasional letters to follow, full of vague phrases and suggestion. There were hollow invitations for visits that never went realized; the three hour drive just seemed a bridge too far in our limited scope of vision. And there was a final telephone call, on the day of my high school graduation, full of awkward silences built on un-acted upon feelings and the entropy of a school year.
And so it was with some interest that, fifteen years later, I receive a friend request over Facebook from my old crush. It would have been impossible to decline the invitation to peek into the past and what might have been, and, as it turns out, it was a reminder that what was once so alluring can turn out to be so different. My crush was now a professor of film with an interest in trapeze. That’s right: trapeze. Difference does make the world go round, which, in the case of a trapeze artist, is good, I guess. We were, however, two very different people, to say the least.
Perhaps somewhere in the back of my mind, in the heat of that summer before my senior year of high school, I dreamed we would end up going to the same college. After all, at 17, he was the only other gay person I had ever met. I knew that was not meant to be at some point during my senior year, but, the next fall, I was back on the same campus, ready to start my college career. I unpacked my bags for a few minutes after my parents dropped me off, and I couldn’t help but remember the brief romance the college had offered me just the summer before. Little did I know it was the closest thing to a romance the campus would ever really offer me.
The naive dream that we might meet and rekindle whatever we had — and even I wasn’t so sure — didn’t happen, but, in an odd twist of fate, I did end up rekindling a relationship from that academic camp. On my first day on campus my freshman year, as I rounded my dorm building to walk to the book store, I encountered my roommate from the camp. Brad, in his trademark sunglasses, was walking right towards me, and we both couldn’t believe we were seeing each other. Brad turned out to be my closest college friend — funny, smart, and the strongest moral center I’ve ever encountered. That friendship turned out to be the best thing the college ever gave me. And, so, the academic camp did give me a life-changing relationship, just not the one I might have predicted during those hot summer days.
And, honestly, at my weight, it’s probably best I’m not up on a trapeze.