I’ll never forget my first real crush. His name was Robert*, and we were in kindergarten. He had a blonde, bowl haircut, brown eyes, and the cutest smile. Our parents were friends, and I distinctly remember going to his house for dinner and hiding under the table because I was too shy to talk to him. I still remember his face when he peeked under that wooden chair and asked me what TF I was doing (in so many words — we were five!). I had it bad then, which is why talking to my childhood crush for the first time after 16 years was so incredibly fulfilling.
Robert set the bar pretty high for all my crushes to come, TBH. Unlike so many elementary school boys, he was nice to me and we were friends. We played on the playground, sat together at lunch, and I even invited him to a basketball game once. I guess you could call it my first date... except they were called playdates back then, and both my parents were there, and all we drank was soda, probably. His nap time spot was right next to mine, so you can imagine the thrill that was sliding onto that green plastic mattress every day after lunch.
On the day we learned about the letter R, we were asked to draw something that (you guessed it!) started with the letter R. I drew him, and covered the page with little hearts. Little did I know, we would be asked to present these works of art, and when it was my turn, I broke down in tears and refused to reveal my secret. No way was the entire class going to know about my crush on Robert. I was taking that to my grave. (And right into my teacher’s hands, apparently. I was not a subtle child.)
But when a recent browse through the internet led me to an article about adorable first crush stories, I couldn’t help but wonder what ever happened to Robert. I switched schools right before third grade, so I didn’t talk to Robert or really know anything about him until about six years later, when Facebook became a thing. We were both tagged in an old yearbook photo by a former classmate, so we became Facebook friends way back in 2010. Still, we never really talked. I don’t know what it is about high school and college — when everyone’s kind of a jerk and no one wants to get caught actually caring — but I like to think young adulthood has made me slightly more open to (gasp!) genuine human interactions, and significantly less shy, for sure.
With this in mind, and after much indecision, I decided to send Robert a Facebook message. I didn’t really expect him to answer because a) boys and b) would he even remember me?! It’s been a long time, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if he looked at my message the way he looked at me when I hid under his dining room table so many years ago. But he did remember me, and when he answered my message, I literally felt my stomach drop. Seriously, I was so nervous that I couldn’t stop laughing. I reverted back to a giggly, school-girl mess, and at that point, all he had said was, “Hi! Yes of course! How are you?”
“Is this actually happening right now?” I immediately thought to myself. I’d be lying if I said the thought of this reconnection resulting in a fateful meeting of some sort didn’t cross my mind. Maybe that’s why I was so nervous. But after a little back and forth, I was incredibly relieved to realize that he was still as nice as he was when we were little, which made me so happy, I felt little baby butterflies all over again. Not because I still have a crush on him (cut me some slack, y’all), but because I felt like I was meeting someone for the very first time. Still, he felt almost exactly like the boy with the blonde, bowl haircut.
Eventually, he gave me his number, told me to text him, and we ended up chatting back and forth for a few days, catching up on the basic happenings of the last 16 years. It was a lot of information, and it’s impossible to fit so many years within the confines of iMessage. But nevertheless, I learned that his parents are doing well, his brothers are in college, and yes, he "probably did know" I had a crush on him in kindergarten. Whoops.
He now works in finance back in Florida, and while I don’t know his relationship status ATM, I really can’t say it was a priority of mine to ask. I'm a pretty realistic person, and even if we were friends when we were little, we're different people now! Texting can only take you so far, and I wasn't about to slide into his DMs when we live in different cities and are, ultimately, almost like strangers. What mattered to me most was learning about his life and making sure he knew the effect he had on me (and apparently, that he still does to this day, just in a different way).
At the end of our conversation, I felt really excited about basically having made a new/old friend, but mostly, I just felt really grateful. I was grateful to this person for being humble and real and nice when he could’ve pretended not to care, or worse, not to remember me. He wasn’t all, “WTF are you doing under my table?” like I thought he might be. He was exactly the opposite.
The best part of this entire experience was finally humanizing this almost dream-like memory of the first boy I ever liked. It was so long ago, and I had such a big crush, that my memories of him are vivid but also almost feel like they weren't real. A boy who, inadvertently and at only 5 years old, was my first example of pure, innocent “love.” He was my first "butterflies in my stomach, can’t sleep thinking about you, every move you make thrills me" kind of crush. You know the ones. And even if those crushes don’t always end the way we want (especially in kindergarten), they are, undoubtedly, the most fun to have — and sometimes, the most fun to rekindle.
*Name has been changed.
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