Here's a plot line for you: 10 years after graduating from high school, a guy returns home for the holidays and visits a local bar where he finds and reconnects with his high school crush.
As it turns out, she's also had feelings for him the whole time, and poof! FIREWORKS.
Only happens in the movies, right? Well, it happened to me.
There was this girl I was obsessed with in high school. If you've seen the movie "Can't Hardly Wait," this girl was my Jennifer Love Hewitt.
She dated football players (at least one, I think?), was on the cheerleading team (for at least one year) and most importantly, nearly all the guys I knew had a crush on her.
She was friendly and bubbly and polite, blonde-haired and good-looking and had a last name close to mine — which meant two things: shared homeroom and locker proximity, son!
Those incredible good luck charms aside, I was never able to muster up courage to actually speak to her.
(I think there was one time we walked to health class together and probably another time I made fun of her in said health class… but that was about it.)
Now, it's worth mentioning, though we never actually hung out (in or out of school), our social circles did sort of orbit one another.
We were never so far away from one another to remove the dream of her from my mind.
Naturally, I never once acted on this fantasy of mine — settling for the idea that there was, in fact, a better chance I'd become president of the United States than get with her.
When we graduated from high school, we continued to drift further apart. She stayed local for school, while I went away to Syracuse.
After college, I moved back home for a few months, then moved again for a new job. Meanwhile, she had a child and stayed local for her job.
I'd see her every so often at the bar she worked at, whether I was visiting friends in the area or sneakily going back there with the intent of seeing her (read: it was always to see her).
There was a better chance I'd become president of the United States than get with her.
Every time I'd come in, she'd seem thrilled to see me. But then again, she seemed that excited to see everyone.
More often than not, she'd make time to sit and catch up at my table, ask about how my dad was doing or what this friend or that friend was up to.
I'd be so nervous about what to say and how to handle myself around her without coming off like a weirdo, I'd typically do just that.
I'd make odd jokes ("I have a shrine dedicated to you at my apartment!"), and because she couldn't be anything less than pleasant, she'd laugh to either hide how weird I was making her feel or to simply move the convo along.
Like all great things you can't have, the legend of being with her grew in my mind. It's sort of like what happens when your favorite actor/rapper/singer dies young… as the present recedes, the greatness exceeds.
As my 10-year high school reunion approached, I felt some sort of symbolic pull in the universe demanding I take action.
After a decade, my plan was simple: go to her bar, have dinner and then ask her to come out and meet my friends and I for a drink. (I think I chose this strategy because I knew it would be easy for her to say no on account of her working that night.)
Everything went according to plan: She wasn't our waitress at the bar, but she came over to talk regardless. She sat down opposite me in the free chair and made small talk with us as I fumbled with my silverware and tried to shout something funny every so often.
As soon as she left to go back behind the bar for even a moment, a debriefing began.
"There's no way this is going to work," I told my friends.
"How do you know that? She just sat here for like 10 minutes, man!" my buddy said.
"She likes you. Man up! You need to just ask her to come with us tonight," the other added.
"I am not doing that. I am terrified," I said.
"You're a wuss. if you don't do it, I'm doing it myself."
After some additional liquid courage, I assured my friends I'd carry out my plan so long as they left the bar before I did. I couldn't bear to have them around for the polite dismissal I was sure was coming my way.
High school-level hormones are a hard thing to overcome.
"So…" I began, "we're going to get going," I said, watching her smile at me and clean up the glasses in front of her.
“I figured that, you know, because you paid your check and the boys left,” she said, still smiling.
"Yeah, that would make sense, then. Well, we're going out in Morristown… and you know, you should come and join us if you can, you know, when you're done here… for a drink… if you want."
"I'll let you know, but I'm not sure when I'm getting out of here," she said. Which, hey, I took as a win considering that anything other than "I hate you. No, thanks!" would've been positive.
Thirty minutes later, she was looking for a parking spot at the bar. And that's when I began to sweat more than I ever have in my life.
When she walked in, it was clear she had changed her outfit. I did my best not to stare, but high school-level hormones are a hard thing to overcome.
"I literally cannot believe you're here," I blurted out, handing her a beer. Looking back, it was a ridiculous thing to say, but I was so nervous, I couldn't process anything else.
I truly don't remember much else of our conversation at the bar, which then moved to a fried chicken place, and the car on the way back to my friend's apartment to have another beer… because all I could do was think about what in the heck was happening.
I was still wildly nervous, overthinking and overcompensating by making strange jokes or keeping my mouth shut and saying very little.
And yet, after a while, she and I were the only ones left at my friend's apartment. There I was… seated on the couch with my Jennifer Love Hewitt.
I knew I had to make a move. KISS HER was all that ran through my mind the whole time. But in my exhausted, drunk state, I felt rambling on and on would be the best course of action.
She did her best to give me all the signs. At first, she inched closer and closer to me on the couch, then she put her legs up on my lap, then she flat out cuddled into my shoulder.
I marveled at how adorable she looked in matching PJs, a faint taste of spearmint still on her mouth.
After — no joke — an hour of talking, I finally went in for the kiss (mid-sentence, just like they teach you in the movies).
That night, we had a make-out session I'd been dreaming of for nearly 10 years.
Before we went to bed, she changed into pajamas she'd brought with her — apparently I was the only one who wasn't convinced she was staying over the whole time — and we brushed our teeth together.
I distinctly remember making out again afterward and marveling at how adorable she looked in matching PJs, a faint taste of spearmint still on the corners of her mouth.
That night, there would be no hooking up of any kind. And it was amazing. When I woke up with her in my arms a few hours later, I knew I wasn't dreaming.
Laying there together before anyone else woke up, I admitted something I'm sure she already knew to be true: I had a huge crush on her high school.
Without missing a beat, she looked me dead in the eyes and said, "That's unbelievable. I had the biggest crush on you in high school!"
Now, I consider myself a decent communicator, but it's truly difficult to put into words how stunned I was to hear that. I must've asked her if she was serious about 20 times.
If she was just saying it to be nice, I told her, then we couldn't be friends anymore. But believe it or not, it turned out to be true.
Of course, that doesn't mean she was home alone on high school summer nights doodling my name on notebooks. But the fact remains that somehow, we were both interested in each other all that time. And I never knew.
After that night, what I had fantasized about in high school finally came true: We dated.
Now, in the movie version of this story — which has totally cut out how nervous and pathetic I acted — we end up being together for a long, long time.
But reality was a little different.
At first, it was mesmerizing. We did all kinds of couple things together, like going to her sister's holiday party and celebrating my birthday and getting intimate with the lights on.
Somehow, we were both interested in each other all that time. And I never knew.
Unfortunately for my teenage dreams, I started to realize we weren't necessarily the match I prayed we would be.
Over time, it became obvious to me that despite how much I cared about this person (which I still do, and probably always will), there was something that wasn't quite clicking.
Maybe it was in the way our humor differed or the fact that she lived so far away from me and also had a child.
Regardless, what I had to do, which absolutely sucked, was admit to myself it wasn't working the way we'd hoped.
That's not to say we were going to get married anytime soon, but after the great way it began, I was sure we'd at least date for a long while and see where it went from there.
In the end, I honestly think I was more in love with the idea of dating her than actually dating her.
We still remain friends, and I'm happy for that. I'm only disappointed by the fact that it didn't work.
So yeah, I guess we're all right when we scoff at a movie and say, "Psshh, this stuff doesn't really happen in real life."
After the credits roll, we're in real relationships that have real ups and downs and real highs and lows.
You can't force yourself to be compatible with someone just because of the amazing way you got together or that you both liked each other for 10 years.
But even so, it's a heck of a story to tell.