The year was 1993. I was midway through my college career, just beginning to get into my core curriculum and I had a class with "him".
He was quiet. He seemed shy but very smart. He had olive skin and big brown eyes. Somehow, I found out that his name was Thomas. Though, I was generally a friendly person and spoke, at least casually, to most of the people in our class, I never spoke to Thomas. I couldn't speak to Thomas. When I'd think about speaking to Thomas, my head would get hot, I'd feel flushed and light-headed, and my tongue would swell up. So, rather than risk breaking into a flop sweat before I said "Hi", passing out or drooling uncontrollably, I opted for silence and distance.
That silence and distance lasted for over a year. I admired him from afar, where I could maintain control of my consciousness and bodily functions, and never so much as smiled at him. Instead, I satisfied myself with just being in his general vicinity. Where Thomas went, I followed. In fact, I arranged my life to make sure I had the best possible chance of seeing him. I'd rush my roommate out the door for dinner, study whether or not I needed to, take the long way to class, or sit and wait outside a particular building, just to make sure I maxed out my "Thomas sighting" opportunities.
Though he was a creature of habit when I first started noticing/stalking him, Thomas gradually became more and more unpredictable...sitting in different places, at different times, on different days. It was highly challenging for me to keep up with his new-found randomness. But, I was undaunted, ever ready to use my powers of deduction and detection to track him down and enjoy a few precious minutes of sitting in the same room with him. Trying not to look like I was only there because of him. Not talking to him. Definitely, not talking to him.
My plan, my desperate hope in this endeavor was that, one day, Thomas would decide it was time he got to know that girl he saw everywhere he went. So, while I admired him from afar, I did my best to appear friendly, hilarious, studious, compassionate...I had to cover all of the bases since I had no idea what he was looking for in a girl. Friends scoffed at my plan. Some even offered to introduce us, to put in a good word for me, to set something up...but, I refused every time.
I didn't want to be too pushy or obvious.
Because, I was (clearly) Ms. Stealth up to that point.
So much so, that he barely noticed my near-constant presence and definitely didn't flash a look of sheer terror upon seeing me one night in the library when he'd done his best to hide from me.
(I'm shaking my head at myself, right now.)
Poor boy. How it must have traumatized him to know, wherever he tried to hide, I'd find him...that there was no escape from "the girl from government class." For the better part of the first year, I was certain that was how he referred to me (if he was being nice). Since we'd never spoken, not even to say "hi", I was sure he had no clue what my name was.
Yes, you read that right. I was stalking a boy I'd never spoken to.
John Hinkley, much??
Anyway...after that first year, things began to change. One day, right after we'd all returned from Christmas break, I passed Thomas in the hallway near the Government department and...
he looked at me...
and someone stepped in his way...
and he stepped backwards to look around them...
and made eye contact again...
and I smiled back...
and walked away non-chalantly...
and then the hysteria took over and I almost fell down the stairs.
Until that moment, I never understood girls who passed out when they saw The Beatles or Michael Jackson.
The next semester, after summer break, I was in line for dinner at the Caf. Thomas walked in and stood behind me. He said "Hi, Tina." He asked about my summer. I asked about his. He told me about his summer job. Then we went to our respective tables. I arrived at mine, shaking and smiling. My friends looked at me, clearly concerned, and asked what happened. I said four words and four words only:
"He said my name."
We were only at the same school for another semester or so, and during that time we had a few more conversations. Each lasted just a few minutes and left me near passing out. There were times when I literally thought I'd lose the power to speak or move my limbs. Mercifully, neither of those things happened. Yet, just as things were feeling less stalkery and more friendly, Thomas was gone...off to Baton Rouge to finish his degree.
It was a very sad day for me, and my friends who had to deal with the aftermath of emotion.
(I'm shaking my head at myself, again.)
Not too long ago, I reconnected with an old college friend via Facebook. Though I didn't ask about him at all, she told me that Thomas was currently living and working in my hometown.
Ever since, I've prayed daily that our paths never cross.
There are very few things about my past that I am truly ashamed of. My Thomas phase is without a doubt one of them.
It's one thing to share Thomas-related tales in this quasi-anonymous way or even laugh about them with friends who lived through the Thomas era (and are still speaking to me). But, if I should happen to see him, to face him, in person, I have no doubt that I'd turn a shade of red never before seen by the naked eye. I'd likely stammer a great deal, too. And, my tongue would probably swell up. I also wouldn't have words to explain or apologize for my ridiculous and creepy behavior all those years ago, except maybe "I'm sorry. I thought you were super cute...and...um... I ate a lot of Chinese food.Yeah, that's the ticket! It was the MSG!!"
But, if there is a God in heaven, I'll never see my stalkee again.
Unless He thinks I need to be humbled further.
In which case, I just hope I don't break into a flop sweat or start drooling before I pass out.
OR...maybe...that grown-up Tina and grown-up Thomas could have a good laugh at MSG-addicted, college-age Tina and leave it at that.
Either way, I'm good.