Me, high school teacher, circa 2002
In 2002 I was a high school history teacher. I was still pretty new and still figuring things out. And, perhaps most importantly, I was still very young. I was 23-24 and my students were 16-17...there wasn't much of an age gap there. Every year that I taught high school, there were always one or two young men who, for whatever reason, be it the way I taught, the things I said, the music I played, or because I tended to wear tight sweaters, took a fancy to me. It was always easy to spot the kid with the crush. He was always in my classroom before or after school. He wasn't the best student, but did okay in my class. He tried to hangout in my room while ditching other classes. He figured out when my birthday was and gave me a small gift or note. He tried to call me by my first name instead of my formal "Ms. Petersen".
Anyway, in 2002 there was one of these boys. He fit the bill and was sort of a shadow. He struggled a bit, was sort of a Gothic wanna be without much of a crowd of his own. Nice kid though. Never one to assume that I was high school boy crush worthy, it was obvious by the way he'd look at me, the occasional inability to finish a sentence when talking to me, and the hand written notes in a book about slavery that this kid liked me. The truth came out though at spring parent teacher conferences when he came with his mom and she looked at me, looked at him and said, "Oh, this is the teacher you think is hot!" He turned purple. His mom smiled. I pretended not to hear.
Anyway, fast forward ELEVEN YEARS! Monday night I was at the gym, working my way through the circuit my trainer had given me for the week. Yes, I have a "trainer" now, but that's another post. Anyway, over by the free weights I saw this kid staring at me. Really staring at me. It took me about two minutes to realize that, though he was bulkier than in high school, it was this kid. The kid with the mom. Now, because I'm an awkward social weirdo, and because I don't like to talk to people, and because he was a former student, once I'd realized I knew him, I made a beeline for the other end of the gym. Complete avoidance was my goal. But, out of the corner of my eye, it was obvious that not only was he still staring, but he was sort of following me around the gym.
There was no way to escape.
As I finished on one my last machine and headed to a treadmill, headphones blaring looking at the floor, I walked past him. He jumped up behind me and grabbed me by the arm. I could tell that he knew who I was and that playing dumb wasn't an option.
We had a conversation. It was awkward and a little uncomfortable. He looked at me, even with me being sweaty and zitty and no make-up on, just like he had in high school. He asked, "Are you married?" "Yes, very happily for ten years with three boys!" I replied. He asked if I still taught, if I lived near the gym, ("Do you come here often? I've never seen you before.", he said) what my husband does for a living....you know, small talk trying to sound grown-up. He told me about his life - he's a police officer at the jail, lives alone with his dog, but that he has a girlfriend....
Who is 34. (about my age.) Then he said the kicker....."If my girlfriend knew I was at the gym talking to my old high school history teacher, she might come find you and beat you up." Um...huh? That either means that his girlfriend is a man, that she's very protective of her boyfriend or that he has talked about me and that she knows who I am.
After about 10 minutes of awkward I bowed my way out of the conversation and ran a mile on the treadmill to clear my head.
I'm not sure I want to go back to the gym.