You never forget the first one

There’s something about your first crush’s facial structure that made your body respond as if you just consumed something highly allergic. You never really forget your first crush, as much as many crushes may wish you did.

In my head, your first crush should feel like they’ve been bestowed a high honor. It feels like it should be significant, like in the same way the first woman Supreme Court justice felt, only more prestigious.

A few months ago I with an old high school friend and we got to reminiscing. The topic somehow turned to women and first crushes, which is totally an OK thing for two straight guys to talk about because we were drinking and watching SportsCenter.

My first was a girl named Brooke. She had curly brown hair, freckles, a great smile and a cute button nose. Even her name was melodic. Brooke. When I first saw her, my body had absolutely no idea how to process these new feelings of excitement, dread, confusion, self-loathing, panic, despair, infatuation, sadness, itchy, slightly hungry, etc. I looked at her the same way a puppy would look at a remote control car with a piece of baloney taped to it: an intense desire to get closer to it maybe smell it a little but scared that it might turn its attention in my direction, forcing me to pee on the carpet.

Clearly it was the foundation for how I’d feel towards all to whom I was attracted.

Devout readers will recall this is the same girl I courted in elementary school by maybe accidentally on purpose following her and her friend home under the cleaver guise I was “delivering a letter” as I faked announced house numbers aloud, adding an element of authenticity to my clever rouse.

Of course, she was walking with her friend and I was on my bike for some reason, so I had to pedal really, really slowly to stay a distance behind that felt inconspicuous, which, of course, led to a lot of conspicuous falling. I also didn’t know the appropriate distance one should follow another person as not to be detected, and looking back, 10 feet probably wasn’t it.

She was also the girl that, to show my love, I more-or-less tried to buy, I guess, by Scotch taping quarters to the inside cover of what I perceived to be her favorite book: Charlotte’s Web and leaving it in her desk. Like she would open the cover, notice the $2.75 and instantly know how “loaded” I was and that “there was plenty more where that came from” even though there wouldn’t be until I got my weekly $0.50 allowance the next Saturday. I should note that she returned the book to me, kindly saying thanks but she already had it. She smiled as she walked away. I was in heaven. She talked to me. ME! I opened the front cover.

She kept the quarters.

Flash-forward a couple of decades to discussing this crush with my friend. It led to the thought: “What if you called her?” I don’t know what I expected would happen, but I imagine it’d be like below.

Her: “Hello?”

Me: “Oh crap.”

Her: “Excuse me?”

Me: *creepy nervous hyperventilated breathing*

*dial tone*

Her: “Hello?”

Me: “Hi. Umthis is Kelly.

Her: “Kelly”

Me: “Oh. Van De Walle. We went to school together.”

Her: “Really? When?”

Me: “25 years ago.”

Her: “25 years ago? I was, like, 10.”

Me: “Well, yeah.”

*awkward silence*

Her: “Did you just call here?”

Me: “I don’t know anything about that. “

*awkward silence*

Me: “Anyway, I was just calling to say, hi, I guess, and what’s up, maybe? I’m married and everything. Are you? Haha, I bet you are. That’s cool. But, anyway, did you know you were my first crush?”

*awkward silence*

Her: “I don’t know what to do with that.”

Me: I don’t know either. It feels like you should feelsomething. Honored maybe? Is that it?

Her: “I don’t think that’s it. More like confused and uncomfortable.”

Me: “Oh, good, then the shoe is on the other foot this time!”

Her: “What?”

Me: “So what did you ever buy with that $2.75 of mine?”

Her: “What?”

Me: “You don’t have to repay me or anything. It’s totally cool. I have a lot more money than that these days. Like easily double that.”

Her: “So I think I’m going to go”

Me: “So, yeah, that’s cool. You’re probably still pretty. What? Haha! I have to, ah, go deliver a letter. Talk to you in another 25 years?”

So after a few drinks and the Internet being an invention, someone had to look to find her Facebook page. After several unsuccessful attempts, Google was called into this totally not stalker-y but more like governmental reconnaissance mission.

What I found surprised me. Because what I found was not a social media page, but instead a funeral notice dated 2011 complete with a photo of what was, unmistakably, a grown-up Brooke.

Finding out she passed away really threw me. I’m still struggling with the news. And struggling with whether or not this is something with which I should be struggling. I’d lost contact with her after elementary school. You know, playing it cool. Giving her her space.

You assume your first crush is doing well or as well as can be considered as they continue to pine over the missed opportunity they had to be with you.

I don’t know the details of her death and, frankly, I don’t think I want to know. It doesn’t matter. To me she’ll always be the cute, curly-haired girl with the button nose, freckles and great smile. She may not have been the One, but she was the First, and that counts for something.

I want to forget I know what I know and just assume she’s out there somewhere, married and happy, but also wondering whatever happened to the little boy that made up a lame excuse to follow her home one day on his bike.

Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative & marketing writer for Briscoe14 Communications ( He can be reached at Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny