The September night was cold, but I was determined. For days I sat outside the store, waiting for him to walk out. He always did, just like clock work. And by this point, I had his schedule memorized. Even though we shared many friends, we barely knew each other, so I wondered what he would say.
I had so many questions.
I could feel my pulse in my temples as he walked towards his car, carrying his brown canvas messenger bag in his hands, the leather shoulder strap swinging against his shins. His polo shirt held tightly to his chest and arms. The yellow lights of the parking lot made him look like a sepia-toned photograph.
“Hi!” I barely squeaked out the word, and my 16-year-old voice betrayed my feigned masculinity. Of course he recognized me, but was it obvious that I had been waiting for him? Did he sense what I was about to ask him? Could he see my body shaking?
“Hey Seth,” he said without stopping. He said my name! Why is he in a hurry? Does he have a date? Is he avoiding me? Does he think I’m stalking him?
The questions were spinning around nonstop in my head.
“Hey, well, I know you must be in a rush. And so…” I stopped talking because he stopped walking. He looked at me. “Here’s my pager number. We could get coffee or something.”
He took the crumpled receipt with my number hastily scratched on it. Now he must have known I was stalking, no, waiting for him. Did I sound desperate?
“Sure,” he muttered, and thirty seconds later his car was speeding out of the lot.
I waited. I waited longer. And longer. And longer. Days passed. And then he paged me!
Two weeks passed.
The nights were even colder. And there I was again, waiting in the parking lot.
We drove for a long time with no destination in mind. I didn’t really want coffee. I drove us away from the small town streets and into the dark narrow highways of the Sonoma countryside, up the vineyard-covered hills to a quiet, empty street overlooking the towns below.
On a small picnic blanket, we laid down to watch the stars. They were so bright against a night sky so black. The air smelled clean. The wind was gentle, even as the frigid air made bumps on my skin. He told me about leaving for college. I told him a story about the Boy Scouts. And then we kissed.
An hour passed and the drive back to the parking lot was quiet. He stared silently out the passenger window, leaving me to wonder about his thoughts.
Two days passed. He left for college without a phone call. Not even a page!
In my mind it was always destined to be the greatest love story ever told. In reality, it was a simple teenage crush, the first and most poignant. The burning desire, so briefly fulfilled, extinguished under the yellow lights of a parking lot.