The Day My Dad Died

I saw down to write this piece a few times. Near when it happened. Near his birthday. About a month ago when the mere realisation the anniversary was coming up and caused me to have a near breakdown at work. I’m now sitting here in a carpark in Wollongong, having run the same run I did the day of his funeral, and since writing has always been my escape, written therapy, seems a good time as any to talk about it now.

On the 24th of September 2017 I was house-sitting a friend’s house. It was a long-ish stint and I’d ducked back to my own apartment that Sunday afternoon to get some more clothes. While I folded clothes ready to take with me I’d put on an episode of the tv show Wrecked, a funny little comedy about people stranded on a desert island that I now have an overly large sentimental attachment to. I was enjoying it enough I rested into the couch and watched several more episodes when the phone rang.

It was my brother Aaron.

“I don’t have much info, but Dad’s had another fall and is being rushed hospital in an ambulance,” he told me, his voice calm. “He has a DNR thought so this could be really bad. I’ll keep you updated when I know more.”

Dad moved up to Wollongong, about 2 hours drive away, when he and Mum split up when I was 18. The weather was warmer there, and having had several heart attacks by that stage the cold in Canberra affected him too badly to want to continue living here despite encouragment from almost all his children to move back to Canberra, or even to Sydney, to be closer to his kids

I called Mum to let her know the news.

Despite the DNR, despite the fact his health hadn’t been great that year, I still thought he’d be okay. He had a few falls that year already. Trips to the hospital like this were nothing new.

Forty minutes, and another two episodes of Wrecked later, the phone rang again. My sister Rach this time.

She was keeping it together, but her voice was cracking and I could tell she’d been crying.

“Are you alone right now? What are you up to?” Unlike most of my other siblings, I had no wife or kids or girlfriend that I would be with at that moment. Since most of my friends had partners and/or kids of their own, the question was a fair one. I spent a lot of my time alone after all.

I just wasn’t totally sure why she was asking.

“I’m at my apartment about to head back to Jamie’s, I’m alone. Are you okay Rach?”

“After we get off the phone you should go to Mum’s. I don’t think you’ll want to be alone.”

She was crying now. I was worried about her.

“Is everything okay, Rach?”

“Dad didn’t make it.”

How we ended the phone call is a bit fuzzy. I looked over at the tv. The episode was paused. I didn’t unpause it.

I lay back on my couch in silence. Head silent in a fog. I lay there staring at the ceiling in a numb state.

I was 33 years old.

And my father was dead.

I’m not sure how long I lay there in silence staring at the ceiling trying to process what had just happened.

For every minute I lived on now would be a minute my father wouldn’t. Everything that happened to me from that moment, Dad would never know about. If I achieved some sort of success in my professional life, I could never tell him. If I met a girl I’d never be able to introduce her to him. If I got married, he’d never be there. If I had kids, they’d never meet him.

Eventually, I think it was probably an hour later, I found it in me to drive to Mum’s where I proceeded to break down.

My Dad and I never had the greatest of relationships. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are fathers who were way worst, and I never hated the guy, we just didn’t get along. We didn’t talk all the much, though one of us reached out from time to time.

Yes – at times it had been years between times in which we’d spoken.

And if I’m being totally honest, because why not? It is his anniversary after all and I guess I owe him that, I always felt like I was a bit of a disappointment to him. I had never really achieved greatness in any form like my other siblings.

No university degree. No financial success. Yes – this is stuff that would have impressed him, but I’ve always known, from overheard conversations back home, to ones to my face, that stuff wouldn’t have mattered so much because he measured success another way too.
The success of loving someone romantically and having them love you back.
Maybe having children. He already had a multitude of grandchildren by that point so the first part probably mattered more.

I always wanted to be able to tell him that I had a girlfriend some day. Sure, we didn’t talk a lot, but I knew he’d like to hear that.

So here it is: sometimes it was hard to reach out because I knew I wasn’t a success.

He died before I could tell him I met a girl. He died before I could show him I was ‘okay’.

One thing I could do though was: write. My sister Susie was working on the Eulogy, I think in part because no one had stepped forward and offered to help. To be more precise, I wrote my own version, and then sent it to my siblings and asked what they thought. Worried that the child who arguably had the worst relationship with him had wrote about him wrongly. Turns out I did okay.

Then a few days later, his eldest and youngest children, stood up in that church and wished our father goodbye.

I felt like a failure for months. I kept it hidden, only confiding in one person and probably not admitting the cause. The reason.

I don’t think the grief ever goes away. It changes however. It becomes less sharp. It cuts less deep. It was months later when I had to spend three months travelling for work that the feelings of failing him drifted away. (I still absolutely suck at trying to win over the heart of the opposite sex… but I’m working on that)

My Dad was a good person.

And even when he made mistakes, and did bad things – which is stuff we all do, he still tried to be a good person.

Many years earlier, in a god awful time we like to call ‘high school’, I remember telling Dad about an argument I gotten into at school. It was for an end of year thing and each student in our class had to submit one personal line for the end of school prayer (yep, I went to a catholic school) so it was from ‘all of us personally’.

The girl organising it, Paige, (yeah, not her real name) asked what I wanted my line to be and I told her “I hope that we all do good things in the future.” a few days later she read out the full prayer and I sat listening for my one line only to hear it rewritten as:

“I hope we all do the right thing in the future”.

It was actually slightly out of character for me to confront her on this, but I did because it pissed me off just enough and high school was finishing anyway so what did I have to lose.

“What does it matter?” she snapped at me.
“It’s just, everyone else’s got read word for word and you rewrote mine.”
“Yours was worded badly ‘do good things’, ‘do the right thing’ was the correct way of wording it.”
“But they actually mean to entirely different things!” I told her. “How can you possibly not get that?” She proceeded to ‘not get that’ and stormed off.

That night I found myself venting about it to my Dad, who to my surprise understood immediately.

“Sometimes ‘right thing to do’ is a very bad thing.” And in a moment that stuck in my head, possibly because it was a little rare my Dad and I were on the same page, my Dad turned to me and said. “Always try and do ‘good things’ where you can. Bad people can convince themselves they’re doing ‘the right thing’ and can do very bad things. Horrible things. If you try and do ‘good things’ however it is harder to get lead astray.”

I made many mistakes over the course of my life. Everyone does. I’m not going to list them here. I failed a lot. I’m not going to list the failures here either. (That would take WAY too long.) And yes, this next part came as a shock to the only friend I confided this to, I don’t think I’m a good person, but because of my Dad I will ALWAYS try and do good things.

We had a shitty relationship but there were good times. I remember when I was kid in Melbourne and wanted to go to the Big Egg one weekend. We’d been there before with friends and family. To be fair, it wasn’t nearly as much fun without kids my own age, but still the fact he drove a fair distance to some comically large egg with a chicken popping out of it.

Not having many friends growing up he did other stuff too. Before his health got worse. Hell, before our relationship got worse. He took me to the Canberra show. He played chess with me. He let me rattle on about time travel and science fiction stories.

He did good things.

I am trying really hard to keep it together now so this last part will probably seem rushed.

We sang the entire 8 minutes of American Pie at my sister’s 40th birthday part on karoake. He picked up 75km outside of Canberra when the chain on my bike snapped on an attempt to cycle to Goulburn. He picked me up when in Goulburn when finally succeeded in making the 100km ride a few weeks later.

He walked my sister down the aisle at her wedding. He had a laugh you could from miles away.

He was a pretty scary driver in his closing years – it’s one of the reasons my parents sold their car when I was in my teens. (Can… can I argue this is where ‘driving prowess’ comes from?) He also taught me a valuable lesson in pulling over as soon as the car overheats because he killed his last ever car when it overheated and he thought he’d just finish the drive to Wollongong. The engine seized and the car died about twenty minutes later.

He was my Dad.

I wished we’d had more time. But I’m glad he’s at peace.

And every year I hope to drive to Wollongong and do this short 4km run in his memory.

See you in another life, Old Man.

And I’ll always try and do good things like you asked me to.

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Chapter Three: Kirsty

KIRSTY

Much like most of the earlier crushes, I don’t have a distinct memory of actually meeting Kirsty. We were at primary school together and became friends in Year Four, not good friends, but friends. This did not go down well with one of the school bullies, Jeremy, who repeatedly kept telling me to stay away from Kirsty. He liked her, so I had to stay far, far away.

This put me into a dilemma. Kirsty was only a friend to me, at the time I still had a crush on  a girl called Jessica. (We’ll get to her later) I tried explaining to him that we were just friends. He didn’t agree.

Looking back now, it’s nice to think that he thought that I, a guy who stood no chance against a school bully, actually had a shot with a girl he liked.

At that time I was avoiding getting the crap beaten out of me, though I was still hanging out with Kirsty (and to be honest, we weren’t close friends at the time so we didn’t hang out that much). Which some people said showed guts on my part. I didn’t think that at the time.

The threats from Jeremy lasted about a week, I would take different routes home so our paths didn’t cross. One day I didn’t hang out with Kirsty at lunch time, so Jeremy’s threats were the last thing on my mind as I took my normal route home that afternoon.

Jeremy, and one of his friends, had not forgotten about the standing threats against me. Finding me alone, with no teacher or friends around, they proceeded to beat the crap out of me.

I got home in pretty bad shape – which got the attention of my parents. Without my knowledge my Mum went to the school the next day and talked to the principal. When I found out about this I had an instant fear that I was in for another beating the next day at school.

The beating didn’t come. Jeremy had been called into the principal’s office and threatened with suspension. Months later I would find out this put the fear of life into him and he then avoided me like the plague.

So I was able to hang out with Kirsty without looking over my shoulder to see Jeremy waiting for me. Though, once again, at the time we actually didn’t hang out that much – we weren’t that close.

Jeremy changed schools at the end of the year.

Sometime near the beginning of Year Five Steven Hammond, my best friend at the time, and I were riding our bikes on a Saturday afternoon. As usual we went to the local creek to hang out.

When we got there I was stunned. There was Kirsty and she was hanging out with Jeremy.

This made no sense to me – I’d told her everything that had happened with him. His threats against me, him beating me up one day after school, all of it.

Yet here she was, hanging out with him. If I’ve ever made the comment “Nice Guys Finish Last” it has stemmed from that afternoon, which honestly is a phrase I personally hate… but I have still used over the years… depending on the circumstances and my mood.

Months later Kirsty and I became really close friends. Almost best friends, but I always hung out with Steven more. When you’ve got a girl as a good friend she can’t exactly sleep over or anything like that.

I never mentioned the confusion at the Jeremy thing to her – and she never mentioned Jeremy to me. If they had been hanging out since that day at the creek she’d never felt it was worth mentioning.

The school camp was at the end of the year and as such the guys and girls were split up accordingly. And it was in the cabin that night that I had a dream that I can still remember to this day. It went like this:

We were at the school camp, the sun was setting. The guys cabin was abandoned, except for Kirsty and myself. She was sitting on the bed across from me, Steven’s bed. We were talking. Talking about us…. getting together.

Kirsty smiled.

We’ll have to keep it a secret though, tell everyone we’re still just friends,” She said.

Then I got up and walked over, leant down, she leant in toward me, and we kissed.

I woke up with a start, it was the middle of night. I slipped out of my bed and went to the cabin toilets, all the time mulling over what my subconscious had brought to my attention. This was new.

After almost a full year of family and friends insisting that we liked each other, or that Kirsty was my “girlfriend” and me claiming furiously that she wasn’t, I found this curve ball thrown at me.

What the hell am I going to do?

Well the answer was simple, wasn’t it? She obviously only saw me as a friend. That was clear. And if she thought I wanted to be more than friends, then I wouldn’t have her as a friend any more.

So I logically decided the best thing to do was stay friends while also subtly trying to figure out if she felt the same way about me as I did about her.

This lasted months. Months of analysing her every move, is she leaning closer to me because we’re friends or because she likes me? Is she talking to me on the phone for an hour because we’re friends or because she likes me? Is everyone I know right and she likes me or are they wrong and saying it just to torment me?

Granted, it could have been both on that last one, but the point remains, I still had no idea if she felt the same way. I held a strong belief she didn’t.

It was this strong belief that stopped me from telling anyone about it. Though I did eventually tell Steven one day at the local creek who then confided that he knew where I was coming from – the previous year he’d fallen for his friend Amy and hadn’t told anyone about it. We lamented on the fact we knew nothing about women. Little was I to know that twelve years later that still wouldn’t have changed.

Stephanie was Kirsty’s best friend, and so the three of us often ended up hanging out with each other, rarely hanging out together without Kirsty around.

One day however Kirsty was sick and I cracked and told Stephanie about my crush. In retrospect this was a very bad tactical move on my part – if you found out someone liked your best friend wouldn’t you tell them at your first opportunity?

I never knew if Stephanie did but, she certainly taunted me with it for her own amusement.

Kirsty cottoned on to the fact that Stephanie and I were sharing a secret, and one day was questioning us about it when Stephanie finally said, in a purely joking voice

Liam has a crush on Kirsty!”

Immediately my mind went into panic mode. Out of all of the ways I’d imagined Kirsty finding out about it, this had not been there. Ultimately most of the possible scenarios that were in my head finished with me and Kirsty kissing and becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. Somehow I didn’t think Stephanie blurting it out as though it was a joke would result in that.

Though it could – if I was smooth enough. I looked to see if I could gauge what Kirsty’s reaction was going to be. Figuring if the situation called for it, I could be incredibly romantic in delivering our first kiss.

Kirsty laughed like it was the funniest joke she’d heard all day which caused me to feel simultaneously relieved and depressed. So that’s what she thought of that concept. Oh well, friends it is then.

Then primary school ended and went both went to different high schools, and while we would bump into each other in the years to come, other than a few minutes of conversation not much else would be known about each others lives.

—-

It was a few weeks after my trip to Melbourne. I’d written a letter to another crush, Jessica,, and I was awaiting her response or restraining order, and all I could really do was move on to the next crush and hope for the best.

With Kirsty I was a lot less nervous about getting into contact with her. This was no doubt because we’d been friends for two years and I felt I had lot more history to work with. It would seem less strange to get a call from an old friend than it would for some guy you barely knew.

I looked in the phone book and found only one person with the same surname living in the same suburb that she’d lived in. The address looked vaguely familiar and I figured that was her.

I was wrong.

Instead I found myself talking to a lovely young man living in a share house. I apologised for calling the wrong number.

I looked back to the phone book and counted up how many people there were with the same surname. The answer was 103.

I could remember Kirsty’s house from when we were friends. From the creek I could even remember how to get there, but I figured if she still lived there showing up at her front door would be a little confronting and slightly stalker-ish.

Sighing to myself, I realised there was really only one thing to do. So, praying she didn’t have a silent number, I picked up the phone and called another one of the names. And another. And another.

I came up with a system. I’d decided it was likely Kirsty’s parents would have moved to somewhere in around the same area as where she used to live.

Eventually I found myself calling a house that, according to the phone book, was located just around the corner from where I’d lived for three years. It was this house that would turn out to be Kirsty’s.

The phone rang, and someone picked up.

Hello?” A female voice said.

Hoping for the best I said my now well rehearsed line of:

Hi, is Kirsty there, by any chance?”

This is Kirsty,”

Instantly I tried to suppress a very unmanly squeal of excitement.

This is Liam! From primary school!”

To my relief she was happy to hear from me, which made me telling about the book a whole hell of a lot easier. She was excited to hear I was writing a book, describing herself as similar to a crazy cat lady, only with books instead of cats.

I told her that it was about interviewing every girl I ever had a crush on, and that she was on that list. She said she was okay with that, and so we arranged to meet up a coffee place in the city that weekend. I got off the phone excited and relieved. FINALLY, someone who was willing to meet up in person.

I wonder if Stephanie ever told her. I mean ACTUALLY told her, not just in a joking way.

Well, I was going to have to wait till Sunday to find that out.

—-

Sunday came, and I arrived at the coffee shop with a few minutes to spare. My plan had been to show up at the coffee shop about twenty minutes before we were meant to meet, but who would’ve thought it would be so hard to get up early on a Sunday morning?

I looked around and, seeing she wasn’t there, I slung my jacket over a chair and sat and waited. Barely two minutes had passed when Kirsty arrived.

To my pleasant surprise catching up with Kirsty was like catching up with an old friend. She was currently working in the Department of Health and had just finished her uni degree in Visual Arts.

I asked her if she ever knew that I had a crush on her.

No, but I was pretty naive when it came to that sort of thing,” She told me.

I related to her the story of Stephanie finding out, and she told me she had noticed her taunting me with something.

Let me give you an example of the smallness of Canberra: Kirsty had once hooked up with a guy who I’d gone to high school with. In Year Eleven she had a crush on a guy we’d gone to primary school with, and her sister was friends with two people I knew from the youth group I used to go to.

This is a girl I’d seen maybe twice in the last eleven years.

We reminisced on the fact that we’d been such good friends in primary school that teachers had often encouraged us to get other friends – to broaden our horizons. It had never worked.

She asked how many crushes I’d interviewed so far. I’d told her about the Melbourne trip, about my nerves on contacting the next crush, Paige. Kirsty actually helped by telling me that she had a few classes with Paige in uni that hadn’t been so bad.

I mentioned how this book might end up involving me organising a Grade Six reunion (more on that later). She thought it was good idea, but didn’t particularly think she’d want to go.

We got to talking about what we’d done since finishing school, I told her I’d worked at a law firm for a few years – Kirsty admitted she’d actually studied law for a while in university before deciding she didn’t like it. Which in my opinion, after having worked with lawyers for three years, was perfectly understandable.

In Kirsty’s first year out of school she’d worked as a receptionist and as a result she now hated answering phones; and she’d entered a few bikini competitions. This of course triggered an instant thought in my head: I can tell Josh I had coffee with a bikini model!

She had a boyfriend who was into wrestling and she shared a house with a friend.

I feel I owed it to my eleven year old self to ask if she ever had a crush on anyone in primary school. I knew if she’d liked me it would come up at this point.

She hadn’t. Which was okay. She admitted that she never really became interested in boys till about Year Seven.

We joked about people from primary school, swapped info about what certain people were doing these days. She asked about Steven Hammond, and I told her he’d moved to Queensland and afterwards we’d lost contact.

Kirsty thought the book was a great idea – though acknowledged that there was a risk some of the crushes I still had to contact might not see it as such.

Eventually Jeremy came up in conversation. She told me she never liked him all that much – which made sense to me, he’d never really been mentioned when we were friends. She was surprised to hear he’d beat me up one day after school – apparently I’d never told her. Which put a slightly different light to the whole “nice guys finish last” scenario, and how you can misremember things over time.

An hour and a half later we exchanged contact details and walked back to our cars. By the time I got to mine I was whistling. While I drove home I was singing along with the radio and playing air guitar at the traffic lights.

It wasn’t just a nice sense of achievement having now meet up with a crush for a chapter of the book, it had actually been really awesome catching up with an old friend.

Life was good.


Cross posted to crushedthebook.com

The book can be purchased from this link. Chapters will continue to be posted Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

All events in this story are true, with the consent of being told from my perspective on the situation. (It being a memoir and all.) Names and minor identifying details were changed to protect some people’s identities.

Chapter One: Sarah

CHAPTER ONE: SARAH

I can still remember my first crush. I was only six years old and I didn’t completely understand what it all meant.

When I was four years old my family moved to Melbourne for three years. My memories of Melbourne are vague, unsurprisingly, but as with most childhood memories there are some things I still remember vividly, Sarah was one of them.

I’ve got no exact memory of meeting her. No one point where I stopped and thought to myself that I liked her. We were in the same class in Grade One, we didn’t hang around each other. We didn’t even talk to each other.

Being a first crush, the feelings weren’t that strong. I never gazed longingly at her and she never entered in to any of the stories I imagined in my head.

I couldn’t tell you just when I’d fallen for her, I think it was a gradual thing. I never told anyone about it. I don’t think she even knew I existed.

And then following the end of Grade One, we moved back to Canberra. Sarah would always be my first crush, but I wasn’t too hurt that I’d never told her I liked her. Hell, I still don’t think I ever truly knew what “liking” her meant. Then sometime in Grade Two I fell for another girl and as the years went by Sarah Mcnamara became a distant memory in my mind.

Little did either of us know sixteen years later we would be in contact again.

—–

You’re nuts!

This was not the first time someone had said this to me. I did not think it was going to be the last. This time however, the line was delivered by Jamie.

I had just explained that the first girl I’d ever a crush on had been a girl in my class from the first grade. I also explained that I had moved back to Canberra that same year, and the girl in question hadn’t heard from me in the sixteen years since.

And then I had explained that I was going to travel the six hundred kilometres to Melbourne and interview her for this book.

Which, of course, prompted the fairly justified “You’re nuts!

She had a fairly good point. The idea seemed crazy. No normal person tries to get in contact with the person they had a crush on sixteen years ago.

Of course, the book wouldn’t be anywhere near as interesting if I only contacted people who knew me.

I think it’s genius,” I responded proudly.

How are you going to find her?” Jase asked.

This too was a valid point. Really the only point of reference I had was a name and the fact that we’d been in the same class sixteen years ago. I also had determination, which I think is worth noting because without it I would’ve given up at this point.

I’ll find a way, I mean, the surname Mcnamara, surely there can’t be that many Mcnamaras in Melbourne can there?”

I brought up White Pages on my computer, I defiantly typed in MCNAMARA into the Surname field and set the state to VICTORIA. I hit search.

Apparently I was very wrong about Mcnamara not being that common a name. 94 names came back with the same surname. I cursed the phone book, and told Jamie and Jason about the results. They both found this extremely amusing and asked what I intended to do now.

In an effort to prove them wrong I typed in the suburb in which the primary school we had both gone to was located and searched again.

This time 6 names came back. 6 was a MUCH better number than 94. Hell, I could call 6 numbers in the space of an hour.

But there was a seed of doubt. After all, I’d had plenty of friends in school who hadn’t lived in the same suburb as the school. It stood to reason there was a fairly good chance Sarah didn’t.

Calling six people was good and well, but what if she wasn’t one of those six people?

Luckily working at a law firm, in my first job out of school, had taught me tricks for finding people using perfectly legal public records.

I’ll check the electoral roll,” I told them. “It’s a matter of public record. It’s like a phone book – you have to pay to have your name not on it, like a silent number.”

What if she’s changed her name?” Jamie asked.

Then I’ll have to call every Mcnamara in the phone book and hope that one of them is either her or a relative.”

I hoped that she was listed on the electoral roll. If she wasn’t, I was really not looking forward to making 94 phone calls.

As it turned out while there were 94 people with the Mcnamara surname in Melbourne, there was only one Sarah Mcnamara. Not only that, but she lived in the same suburb as the primary school I’d gone to. To cover my bases I scribbled down the details of three other Sarah Mcnamaras in Australia

After visiting the electoral roll office I drove home buzzing with excitement. It’s a great feeling with a plan comes together. Especially a plan where a lot of the people whom I told about it were skeptical about whether it would work or not.

Now all I had to do was build up the courage to call. For the first time my mind was processing the possibilities of how the conversation would go.

She’s going to think you’re a stalker,” My house mate Stu contributed. “Are you going to mention that you’re writing a book?”

I think it’s pretty much going to be the first or second thing I say,” I told him. A mischievous smile crossed Stu’s face.

Can I listen in when you call?” He asked.

I thought about that for a moment. I knew that if Stu were present he would take great enjoyment in making smart arse comments, and trying to make me say certain things that would land me in hot water.

No, Stu being there was NOT going to happen. Stu then asked if I could record the conversation, which to be completely honest I did consider. After all, it would come in handy for the book. But then a friend made the point that doing so without her knowledge was a violation of the privacy act. And was slightly stalker-ish. So recording it was out of the question too.

Stu would have to live with my re-telling of it.

A few days later I’d made the decision I was going to call. I got home from work at about just before 8:30pm and sat on the couch processing what I was about to do.

My friends and co-workers all agreed that there was a fairly good chance the conversation I was about to have was going to go badly. I knew I couldn’t let that deter me though.

I got up off the couch and announced to Stu I was going to call the first girl I ever had a crush on, who hadn’t since me since we were six, and ask if I could interview her for a book I was writing.

Stu, of course, made one last play to try and be present when I called, but thankfully his girlfriend, Alyce, dragged him off to go to the movies.

Now with the house to myself, I wrote a list of what would hopefully be the best response I could use to her reaction. I picked up the phone and dialled the number, hesitating briefly before hitting the last digit due to what seemed to be a well founded fear that this phone conversation was going to go badly.

A very nice man, whom I’m assuming was Sarah’s dad, answered the phone.

Hi, may I please speak to Sarah?” I asked.

Sure, I’ll just get her for you, may I ask who’s calling?”

I quickly wondered what to say. I didn’t want to explain the entire situation twice, and figured my best chance would be to go with the truth – but the shortest possible answer.

It’s Liam,” I said as confidently as I could.

I then heard the sounds of him taking the phone to Sarah’s room. I heard him knock on the door and say,

Sarah, Liam’s on the phone for you.”

Sarah’s response was not surprising.

Who?”

He says his name is Liam,”

I then heard the sounds of the door opening and a female voice said.

Hello?”

I know I said I had written up a list of responses to what I thought were her most likely reactions, but I tossed it aside on the grounds that I would work better naturally.

Hi, this will probably be the most bizarre phone call you get for….” I couldn’t think of the next time she’d get a phone call like this so I opted to go with “….a while. And I promise to explain this in a moment, but did you happen to go to Corpus Christi Primary School?”

A very cautious Sarah responded with:

Yes……”

Instantly I relaxed a little, at least now I knew I had the right person. I quickly explained that I was writing a book that involved tracking down all my previous crushes and interviewing them. I then went on to explain that she was my first crush and we’d been in the same class in Grade One.

I relaxed about a thousand times when she reacted perfectly fine to the entire situation. I’m not going to deny that she thought it was the strangest phone call she’d gotten in a while, but she was quite willing to meet for an interview.

She asked me how I came up with the idea, I quickly told her about the whole Jamie and Mark story, and explained how it intrigued me as to how my previous crushes have turned out.

She gave me her mobile number and I told her I’d contact her closer to when I’d be in Melbourne – in about a months time.

When I got off the phone I was ecstatic. I was bouncing off the walls. I could barely contain my excitement. Quickly, I called my friend Cat and told her the entire story. Predictably she was surprised at how well it had gone. I didn’t blame her – I was surprised at how well it had gone.

After getting off the phone to Cat I quickly called Sangas and repeated the entire story, he too was surprised at how well it had gone. Then I sent my friend Craig an sms saying:

Called my first crush.

Craig, being the smart arse he is, responded with:

Can I place my bets on when you’ll get your first restraining order?

I was in such a good mood not even the most good humoured smart arse would’ve been able to phase me. I responded, telling him that it had all gone well.

It had all gone well. For once, one of my plans had actually worked.

Now all I had to do was actually meet her.

Unfortunately it would seem that fate had something else in store. A rather annoying rock in the road that I wouldn’t seem to be able to get past.

About a month later I’d booked a flight to Melbourne, and the day before I was set to leave I picked up the phone and gave Sarah a call to make further arrangements to meet. It would soon turn out to be a shame I hadn’t called earlier.

Sarah was not going to be in Melbourne when I was set to go there, she was on a clinical placement for the university degree she was doing, in Torquay. Cursing my luck I told her I’d call her back.

I got off the phone and was, shall we say, frustrated. It all had seemed to be going to plan. I think I was beginning to understand why there seemed to be a conspiracy among my friends that even if my plans worked – there was always some unforeseen circumstance.

Venting my frustrations while on the phone to Sangas I wandered up to our pool so I could pace while I was on the phone. In the midst of my frustration I picked up a nearby plastic garden chair and threw it as hard as I could. It flew maybe a maybe a few feet before sailing into the swimming pool. For those of you wondering, garden chairs don’t float.

After venting for about twenty minutes, I got off the phone and talked to Stu trying to come up with some sort of solution. I came up with two:

The first would be to hopefully catch her before she went to Torquay.

The second would be to go to Torquay

Now the problematic thing with the second option was that I didn’t want to sound too stalker-ish. I didn’t want to give her the impression that I was just a crazy guy, which from her stand point I could’ve completely understood.

The third option was to call her up on the phone and do the entire interview that way. But I’d prefer to meet her. It would make logical sense to meet her. ANYONE could write a book about calling people up on the phone. There really wasn’t much talent or guts to do that.

So the next day I picked up the phone to call her. My plan was to really attempt to meet her in person. If all that failed, then I would settle for a phone conversation.

The first thing I asked was whether or not she would be in Torquay all week. When she confirmed that she would, my second question was, since it seemed to good an opportunity to pass up on with me being in Melbourne and all, whether or not she would mind if I met her in Torquay.

Now she never actually said that it would make her feel uncomfortable, but she did pause for a really long time then say that she wasn’t getting her timetable for shift work till Monday and that she probably wouldn’t be able to meet me. She then asked if we could the interview over the phone.

I told her we could and that I’d call back in about twenty minutes.

I would’ve preferred to meet her, it would’ve been a lot better if I could meet her in person. Like I said before, anyone could write a book about calling up their previous crushes. It’s nowhere near as interesting. But I had to resign myself to the fact that if she felt uncomfortable, I didn’t want to make it worse.

Besides, by this stage I knew another crush, Kari (see next chapter), was currently living in Melbourne and she actually seemed fairly keen to meet up. So the trip would hopefully not be a complete loss book-wise.

So I called Sarah back twenty minutes later.

Sarah didn’t remember me, which didn’t surprise me. She said she checked her class photo and saw I was there but couldn’t remember me at all. I told her that was okay: we’d never really spoken when I’d been there. She was surprised that I remembered that much.

Sarah was currently doing a nursing degree, hence the clinical placement that inevitably stopped us from meeting in person. I told her that one of my sisters and my mother both did nursing. (Well Mum had retired, but anyway…)

Who was your first crush?” I asked out of curiosity. She tried to think for a moment, but could only vaguely remember.

I think it was a friend of the family, but I can’t remember his name.”

I told her that a lot of my friends were fairly impressed that I could remember my first crush.

We reminisced about primary school, I’d told her I’d been friends with Wade McFadden.

So you were a trouble maker then!” She said jokingly.

Immediately a memory surfaced of being sentenced to spend half a day alone in the “Bad Kids” section of the classroom. For the life of me I couldn’t remember what I’d done, all I could remember was that spending half a day in the section of the classroom was nothing compared to the wrath of the seriously pissed off teacher who put me there.

Sarah asked me if I was in a relationship, to which I of course responded I wasn’t. She seemed to think that it was probably for the best. She didn’t think a girlfriend would quite appreciate me contacting all of my previous crushes.

I asked if she had a boyfriend and I can tell you from the way she spoke about her boyfriend of 8 months that she really cared about him. She also mentioned that it had been a while since she’d had a boyfriend before him. Sounds like you were just waiting for the RIGHT guy, I thought but I didn’t tell her this.

You probably think this is crazy, a guy who had a crush on sixteen years ago ringing you up to interview you for a book he’s writing,” I said.

She laughed.

It’ll be something good to goss about with my friends,” She replied.

I told her if the book ever was published I’d send her a copy, then hung up the phone and looked at the clock. I would be leaving for Melbourne in a couple of hours. I hadn’t packed.

But I did have to call Kari.

———

Cross posted to crushedthebook.com

The book can be purchased from this link. Chapters will continue to be posted Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

All events in this story are true, with the consent of being told from my perspective on the situation. (It being a memoir and all.) Names and minor identifying details were changed to protect some people’s identities.

Prologue: In The Beginning

PROLOGUE

I still blame Jamie and Jason. If it hadn’t been for them, none of it would’ve ever happened. They were the ones who’d given me the idea. Of course, they hadn’t known just what they were starting. Realistically it had been an innocent conversation.

I have a full time job doing data entry for a private company. My days consist of typing in hand written information into a computer. It sounds mind numbingly dull to most people but I don’t mind it. I find ways to make the days interesting. Like talking with the people sitting either side of me.

In this particular case I had Jason sitting on one side and Jamie on the other. We got along fine, though Jamie managed to lose her temper occasionally. In her defence I was generally being a smart arse to her at the time.

Jason, I’d gotten to know because we worked on the same help desk for a while. A job which, while most definitely NOT being mind numbingly dull, was most certainly a job I’d not like to repeat, but we’d became friends because of it.

This of course lead to both of us working as a team to be a smart arse to Jamie. Which in turn lead to Jamie’s, often fairly justified, losing her temper.

But we were all friends – there was no denying that. When I was being a smart arse I kept the day flowing by making conversation, hypothetical situations, and talking about life experiences. This lead Jamie and I to find out that we’d gone to the high school at around the same time. She’d been in Year Seven when I’d been in Year Ten. And it was this revelation that caused the spark that ignited the fire that was this entire situation.

It started with a name.

Mark Raets,” Jamie had said. “He was in your year wasn’t he?”

Of course he had, I’d actually found myself in his circle of friends in my graduating year. The very year that Jamie had also been at the school. So I knew we were both remembering the same version of Mark Raets when she dropped the following little bombshell on me.

He was so hot, I had such the biggest crush on him.”

I was floored. The Mark Raets I remembered was a goofy joker, mildly popular guy who liked high school purely for hanging out with friends, picking up girls, and playing in his band. He was a nice guy, don’t get me wrong here, but I certainly never would’ve described him as the teenage Justin Timberlake Jamie was making him out to be.

Jamie explained to me that it was the musician thing. Apparently chicks dig guys in bands.

So it’s because I’m tone deaf that I never had a date in high school. I thought Though for fear of giving Jamie excellent material to use against me later, I kept this to myself.

Instead I went about trying to decode how a guy who in my eyes was always kind of goofy, appeared in Jamie’s eyes as a teenage Justin Timberlake.

Even after ten minutes of her explaining I still didn’t see it. Jason backed her up saying that girls dig musicians, despite having never met Mark himself.

And then I had the idea that was about to shape the next few months of my life.

I could set you up on a date,” I said.

Jamie scoffed at the idea. By that stage however, it was already too late.

I could write a book about it,” I thought aloud, ideas in my head spinning.

You’re NOT going to set us up!” Jamie firmly told me. But the idea had gone past that now, in the space of a few minutes, it had changed and evolved. It was like a flood gate had been opened in my head and all these ideas were suddenly spewing out. I was so full of excitement I could barely sit still.

That’s it. I’ll write a book about it. It’s genius!” I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before.

I then realised I’d become lost in my thoughts, and that neither Jamie nor Jason knew what I was talking about.

I’m going to find people’s high school crushes, and I’m going to set them up on a date.”

The following day, I was talking with Jamie and Jason about my brilliant idea. One of them made a good point that writing an entire book about tracking down other people’s crushes was going to take time and money.

Time, I had plenty of.

Money was another issue entirely.

Then there was the trouble of finding people who actually wanted to participate in this. Then finding the crushes themselves.

I was certain I could do all of these things. And I had intended to at the time, but they had a few fairly good points. I didn’t have a lot of money. I actually had a credit card debt I often tried not to think about nor acknowledge its existence.

There were other questions of course, like would each chapter be divided up into finding the crushes? Would each couple get their own back story? Would I feature prominently in the book?

Of course I will,” I told them “I’m the guy finding them. I’ll write the book about tracking people down people’s crushes, and that includes the journey it takes to find the crushes.”

So I proceeded to spend the next few days trying to recruit people for the book. Unfortunately it seemed friends and co-workers were rather reluctant to take part in it. They thought the book was a great idea, but none of them were willing to participate.

Jamie flat out refused to let me set her up with Mark Raets, and Jason was one of the lucky bastards who actually got to date his high school crush when he was still in high school.

Then, when I was trying to come up with people to use, Jason raised a fairly good point.

Why don’t you try and track down your high school crush?”

It was a good question. My answer was based entirely on a rumour, that was almost certainly inaccurate, that I’d heard years before.

Well I would, but she’s gay now.”

Jason and Jamie both laughed, and then admitted I had a good point.

So of course my thoughts drifted to my high school crush. Picturing in my head what it would be like to meet her in the present day in my head. Wondering how much she would’ve changed. Wondering what her view of me was like then, and wondering how differently I remembered her to how she actually was.

I mean, Jamie proved that we both had entirely different versions of Mark in our heads. It would only stand to reason that my crush appeared slightly different to me than to everyone else.

That was when the idea for this book evolved.

I’ll track down my previous crushes. All of them, and I’ll interview them for the book.”

Once again, they both seemed to think it was a good idea.

So where would you start?” asked Jamie.

The only logical place to start,” I responded. “With the first girl I ever had a crush on.”


Cross posted to crushedthebook.com

The book can be purchased from this link. Chapters will continue to be posted Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

All events in this story are true, with the consent of being told from my perspective on the situation. (It being a memoir and all.) Names and minor identifying details were changed to protect some people’s identities.

Crushed… is coming in a new form

I was on a date a couple of months back. Lovely girl. We’d met online, got along like a house on fire, agreed to meet up for dinner. Dinner went well, she was really easy to talk to, we made each other laugh.

As the night went on we got to talking about our past, as you do, and it came up that I’d once written a book about tracking down and interviewing every girl I’d ever had a crush on from age six to present. Not a surprise, I’d mentioned it in my dating profile.

I confessed that I hadn’t had much luck with traditional publishers. Which was due to a mixture of rejection letters and me getting rejection letter fatigue. (Plus, submitting a book to a publisher is much like doing a job application… and we’re all aware of how much they suck). I had it up on a self publishing site where you could purchase it.

“Oh, have you sold many copies?”

Off the top of my head the real answer is something like 100 copies. I didn’t say that though. I just laughed and gave her my honest answer.

“Not nearly enough. I’m terrible at marketing though. I just want to people to read it. So if friends or co-workers or family show even the slightest interest and I have a spare copy at home I just give it to them free of charge.”

While this was the honest answer, I could see by the expression on her face it wasn’t the right answer. I guess when you’re trying to win over a girl’s affections you’re meant to show yourself to be more ambitious, more… determined.

Still though, I thought she was lovely, and even though there were a couple of minor hiccups. (That particular conversation being one of them) I thought we might have something. There was a sneaking suspicion the feeling wasn’t mutual however, which I dismissed as first date nerves.

It wasn’t. She texted me the next day very complimentary but commented she felt not real chemistry between us. It’s okay. It happens. And to her credit – it was the nicest  and honest rejection I’d received in a while.

Still though, the conversation about the book stuck in my head. Not that I hadn’t sold enough copies, or that I hadn’t cared about copies not selling (and how that had been taken), but that my answer was completely honest… I just wanted people to read it.

Cut to months later, specifically last night, when I had an idea. I checked with my childhood friend Kirsty (who I got back in contact with while writing the book and re-igniting that friendship was probably one of the best things to come out of it) that the idea wasn’t totally crazy and she agreed.

So here it is:

I’m going to release my book chapter-by-chapter in a series of blog posts. One every few days. Edited, so those missing words friends and family have mocked me about over the years aren’t present, and in at least one circumstance with further name changes to stop a lawyer coming after me.

So you can read it in all of its glory. If you want to buy the full version then I’m all for it. It’s available at: crushedthebook.com

I’ll aim for a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.

I’ll post here if you are following it, but I’ll also setup a blog separately for it at the above address (crushedthebook.com). So stay tuned. Fun is coming!

​”Yeah, so this happened…” Tuesdays #1

So I thought a new writing piece that would work is me telling humorous stories from my past (much like my book), these stories will often be ones my friends know but perhaps in fuller detail.
I had originally thought to call this “Stories I Tell My Friends” but found out that Rob Lowe had the indencency to call his autobiography that years ago. (Cool title anyway)

The title “Yeah, so this happened”, while actually being a common phrase, jumps to mind because it was the subject of an email for this titular story.

I was late for work. Again. (It concerns me how many of my stories start this way) 

I parked my car in the carpark in Woden. I leaped out of my car… and saw having just exited the car next to me was an extremely cute girl. My mind debated, glancing at my watch.  I was already late, I was already getting in trouble. 

I couldn’t be any later. Had I been thinking clearly I could’ve stopped and said

“Hey, I’m running really late for work so I can’t really stop and talk. If you feel like grabbing a drink sometime give me a call.”

I know I COULD have said because I proceeded to quietly beat myself up for it for the rest of the day. Why didn’t you just say SOMETHING you fool?! 

And all those platitudes of 

Rejection doesn’t suck as much as regret.

and

“‘What’ and ‘If’ are fine on their own but can be suck if they’re put together.”

all kept repeating over in my mind.

At the end of the day of a long day of work I walked back to my car and realise the girl’s car was still parked next to mine. Even though I’d had to stay back late, she hadn’t left yet.

I surveyed my options.

1. I *could* wait at my car to ask her out.  Although this, to me at least, seemed a little stalker-ish and might freak her out.

2. I could hope to bump into the carpark again another day

OR

3. I could write a note on the back of one of my business cards and leave it on her windscreen.

Number 3. Seemed like a solid option. So grabbing a pen I scrawled the following note. (I have a photo I will post below… no… I didn’t take a photo of the card… we’ll get to that shortly)

“Saw you this morning and thought you were cute but do my being extremely late I didn’t get a chance to ask you out. If you’re for a drink give me a call. -Liam”

So I placed it under her windscreen wipers and drove off. 

About two hours later I got a text on my phone from my friend Kirsty.

“Saw you tried the business card thing. Nice work!” 

I was genuinely perplexed. I had mentioned the business card idea to Kirsty in passing earlier that day but deliberately didn’t tell anyone I tried it. Kirsty worked in the same building, could she have walked past the girl’s car and spotted the business card there? How the hell would she have known that’s what it was?!

Figuring there was only way to end my confusion I called her.

“How the hell did you find out about it?! Because I deliverately didn’t tell ANYONE.”

“Because I’m friends with and she posted it on facebook!”

I froze. And laughed. Got off the phone call and fled to my computer.

As Kirsty had commented on the photo, I didn’t even have to track down the girl’s profile, it popped in my feed. 

I have screenshoted it below but I have to say, you had to be me to live through the next few minutes of reading comments and stay level headed, and at the end of day, even amused.

Nicole, who was indeed the name of the girl in question, posted the following:

“OMG just found this on my car windscreen and his a marriage celebrant! Wtf??? Lol”

(The business card was for my side job as marriage celebrant. The fact it lists me as ‘Best Marriage Celebrant In The Universe’ may have either worked for or against me.)

And then the comments. Oh the comments. Luckily, for the most part, they were positive.

“Hahaha Go Liam!”

“Hahahaa I worked with a few blokes who have actually picked up this way”

“You love it.”

“Baha! Best! That happen to me only a month ago… Guys these days lol. #YOLO”

(I like the YOLO at the end here. Really speaks to the spirit of the incident.)

And one of my personal favourites:

“SHOW YOUR DAD IMMEDIATELY! He will be so happy you have found a husband!!!”

the same commenter followed immediately with 

“A marriage celebrant to boot! DIY Wedding!! Mr Ganting! Look!” 

(I changed the surname there to protect her identity.) 

And then there were the pessimists among them, thankfully, they were largely in the minor numbers:

“Haha Liam could be 12 yrs old with that handwriting lol”

To be fair now… I was writing on the back of a business. It’s really hard to fit all that it in and write neat. 

“I’d be concerned about that handwriting” 

Someone else chimed

“I got mates with worse hahah” a third comment followed somewhat defending the handwriting.

And a fellow who just commented

“Sleazy.”

Which I strongly contest with.

Thankfully, my good friend Kirsty defended my honour here with the best comment of 

“He’s MY marriage celebrant. And best mate from school!”

It’s a strange feeling to see something like this blow up so quickly. Admittedly, it wasn’t the first time (the previous time involved an ad for a new housemate) that made the newspaper, but that’s a story for another time.

Figuring there was only one way to handle this which was to look at the humorous side and walk through with a smile. I took screenshots and sent them to all my friends, with a brief description and the added final line of “And me emailing to all my friends? That’s called owning it!”

I sent to my co-workers in the mailroom I worked in at the time as well. I was out on a mailrun (internal in the building) when my mobile rang. I answered it and heard Dave, one of the other mailroom guys, talking. Or at least trying to talk because he was laughing so hard.

“Did…. did this actually happen?! You didn’t make it up?”

“Dude, if I had made it up I think it would have a much happier ending.”

“This is hilarious.”

He found it so funny that when I returned from the mail run, a whole 30 minutes later. He was still laughing while showing the screen to Gina, another mail room worker, laughing, clearly reading off the comments one by one.

“And… this guy haha… says haha ‘Shaky handwriting Nikki, could be old and Rich.'” hahahaha”

What can I say? I live to please. And even though I never heard from the girl in question (though I did drive past her once years later walking out of the same carpark) I did learn that life is awesome. And sometimes even the most bizarre rejection can have positive side and be funny.

Something For Jenna

I actually wrote this post months ago. Then I deleted it. Then I undeleted it and showed it to a few close friends. Then I contemplated posting it. Decided against it… but today I was feeling nostalgic and I’m in a good place in my life so it felt okay….

I sat in Hellenic Club, drink in front me. I was meant to be meeting the guys here but oddly was the first to arrive. Which is a surprise, because unless it’s a wedding, I’m always late.  I texted Jason an amused
“I’m on time for once and everyone else is late!” A few minutes later a guilty Jason called to say no one could make it and he’d forgotten to text me.

I took a sip out of my drink and glanced over at a very cute girl sitting at the table across from me. She glanced up from her phone and smiled at me.

Though I’ve gotten marginally better at it now, at that time even attempting to make conversation I would have completely over thought it and wussed out. However, completely uncharacteristically, I found myself saying

“Friends just totally bailed on me,” I told her. “I can only assume it’s because I’m black.”

THIS is a reoccurring joke I make. The humour being in the fact that I am actually the whitest guy ever.

The girl hadn’t heard me do this joke to death though and laughed.

“I’m Jenna,” she said “My friends bailed on me too.”

So smiling back, I walked over to her table and sat down.

 I watched the movie ‘Before We Go’ the other night. Good film. At least I thought so. Had a very “Before Sunrise/Sunset” vibe to it. For those of you that haven’t seen either, which you should – maybe the latter two more so than the former as they have the best reviews – both films are about two strangers who meet randomly, spend the night wandering the city together talking.

I have a special sort of affection for these films. It’s why I sort out ‘Before We Go’ as soon as I saw the trailer. I mean, I watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunset in 2006, so I liked them before 2012. IN 2012 however, that changed… because it actually happened to me.

“I have a cousin named Jenna,” I told her. “We were close, well, okay, I was closer with her younger sister Lyndal, when we lived in Melbourne. Kinda drifted apart when we moved to Canberra. 600km and being six years old does that I guess.”

Jenna laughed.

“Well I don’t have a cousin called Liam. I like the name though.”

“I’m quite fond of it myself. Could take or leave the middle name though. But it does differentiate me from the other seven other Liam Smiths in town though.”

 The night went on. We talked, played the pokies, ate dinner together. We walked through the quiet Woden area at night holding hands. We sat outside the quiet Sirius Building, where I would work in multiple times in the years to come.

 And at about 2am I found myself leaning to kiss her.

And her leaning in to kiss me.

 “Wait,” she said suddenly, but ran her arm over mine and held it, not wanting me to move away. “I… can’t. It’s not you, you’re great… it’s just… I have a boyfriend, we had a fight and then I was meant to be meeting my friends….”

 Her voice trailed off.

 “And they couldn’t make it and you met me.”

 We sat there silent for a moment. Foreheads still leaning against each others.

 “Any other time…”

 More silence.

 “It’s okay. We should go though.”

 And so, hand in hand,  I walked her back to her car. We swapped email addresses, which is when I found out her last name. I told her to look me up if things didn’t work out with her boyfriend. She got in her car and drove off.

 And I never saw her again.

 I have thought a lot about that night. Interestingly for someone who tells his close friends so much information, arguably at times TOO MUCH, that this night never came up. I only told two people about it since it happened, and even then I fudged a couple of details. Not JUST to protect her identity, but because I didn’t want anyone ruining it for me. I wanted to keep to myself, keep it how i remembered it, and not tarnish it with other people’s thoughts.

There’s a plotline from the old tv show Ed, about the bowling alley lawyer, in which the lovable awkward character Warren uncharacteristically has a moment of confidence and finds himself dating the most popular girl in school Jessica Martell. After one perfect date and kiss he immortalises the event by getting an infinity symbol tattoo. Unaware of this, Jessica breaks up with him the next day for unrelated reasons.

Warren’s teacher friend uses this an opportunity to teach him that the tattoo was a bad idea. Warren however, still bummed at the breakup, tells her actually he doesn’t regret the tattoo at all: for one brief moment of time the laws of the universe turned on themselves and “Warren Cheswick was with Jessica Martell.” Even though it didn’t last he will always have that tattoo of a memory of that one perfect night.

And this is why one of the reasons I never told anyone about that night. So many wouldn’t get that, evident in the fact that one of the only two people I did tell had a rather cynical reaction to the whole ordeal, which only enstilled in me further to keep it to myself. I knew how I felt about the night and didn’t want anyone to take away from me.

Because they can’t.

When I first sat down to write this I think I subconsciously hoped she would read that. Like the movies I mentioned earlier, in Before Sunset the character Jesse admits he wrote his book about their night together in the hopes she would show up to a reading. (She does, which is what kicks off the second film.) Richard Linklater who wrote the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy has hinted in interviews that he hoped the girl whom he based the first film on would show up to a screening.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t searched for her fb over the years. Not often, because it made me feel just a little bit creepy, and very little info was born was due to her high security settings. (smart girl.)

And yes, I checked the boyfriend’s profile once or twice too. We’ll call him Charlie Mallory. Charlie had his privacy settings even stronger than Jenna did. He didn’t have a profile photo. He did… however… have a mutual friend with me.

The girl, Jacqui, was a friend of mine and her boyfriend’s last name was also Mallory. So I came to what I thought was an obvious conclusion… clearly Charlie and Jacqui’s boyfriend were related.

For a few weeks upon discovering this I contemplated whether I could subtly ask this, and one Friday afternoon when it was slow at work I called Jacqui to say hi, as I often did at the time, and casually asked “So how do you know Charlie Mallory? Is he related to your boyfriend?”

I knew she would eventually ask why I was asking… and I hadn’t quite come up with a reasonable excuse, I was kind of improvising here.

“CHARLIE MALLORY?!?!” A surprised, very vocal response came from the other end of the phone. “How do YOU know CHARLIE MALLORY?” Shit. Shit. Shit. My brain went into overdrive trying to come up with something, anything, to get me out of this. “Charlie Mallory! I wasn’t expecting to hear that name. He was a guy I kind of dated for a bit. Charlie Mallory!” Shit. Shit. Shit. SHIT.

 “Ummmmmmmm……” I tried thinking stretching out a word would help buy me more time, and glancing over at the co-workers who were now clearly intently listening after hearing Jacqui’s very vocal reaction from across the room. “I kind of… tried to date his girlfriend.” I stammered out.

“Wait, what?” Jacqui’s surprise continued. “Tell me the story. Now.”

Since this conversation was already going south I didn’t want that night taken from me in the moment so I mumbled “we met online… it’s a long story…”

So Jacqui proceeded to raid Charlie’s photos.

“Awwww Liam, they look happy together.” Jacqui commented. This simultaneously stabbed at me but also made me feel better.  Well, wherever Jenna was, she was happy. The curiousity in me wanted to see what Charlie looked like, though in part was because I wanted to see Jenna again. I had figured the photo Jacqui would send would show the happy couple together.

It didn’t. It show Charlie. Which did absolutely nothing beyond quelling curiousity. No revelation of ‘oh my god, she choose him?’ or ‘wow, that guy is ridiculously good looking. I didn’t stand a chance.’ Nothing.

He just was.

Like I said, despite what everyone says about Canberra, it’s big enough in the years since we’ve never run into each other again.

Shortly after writing the first draft of this, and deciding not to show it, Jacqui was the one of the people I showed it to. She looked up Charlie on facebook and learned through a friend of a friend that he and Jenna were getting married.

Now, as a result of me being a marriage celebrant I follow a lot of wedding related pages and people on facebook, so it really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise as it did when I was scrolling through facebook on my phone one day and Jenna’s wedding photo appeared in my feed.

I was having a pretty bad week at the time, so it affected me more than I thought it would, but still, no matter what, it doesn’t change that night. It doesn’t take away from me. While I don’t have an infinity tattoo on my back, I still have the memories.

I currently work in that very building we sat in front of that night. I walk past the spot almost every day and still smile. Which is probably what brought about the nostalgia in me enough to post this.

I hope wherever she is she’s happy, and yes, I even hope her and Charlie live happily ever after.

No matter what, that night always happened and will always be with me.

Of course every time I go into the Hellenic Club I look around, just because. Just in case I can see her smile one more time.