Before We Were Plural
Kevin might tell you that we met at 8th grade graduation practice, at what was soon to be our high school, but I remember him from way before that. We had gone to the same school together since we were in 5th grade when he moved to Phoenix from California. We were in the same grade together (even lived in the same neighborhood), so I knew of him in elementary school. We never had a class together though, even through junior high and high school. It wasn’t until 8th grade that we had the same circle of friends. He was closer to some and I was closer to others in that group, which is why we never hung out outside of school until that day. Although at some point I did sign his yearbook, “Hey! I’m really glad we got to know each other. Hope to see you around next year. Call sometime [phone #] Love, Heather Rae” After graduation practice was over that day I invited the group back to my house for popsicles; that’s when we started the building blocks of our friendship.
I couldn’t tell you much about that summer, if he ever called, or how we came to be better friends, but I can tell you during freshman year of high school we were talking on the phone and hanging out together. We mostly hung out with a group, but he did walk me and my next door neighbor (another pretty girl) home from school almost every day (even though he could have taken the bus straight home). I’m pretty sure on occasion he carried some of my books for me, but I hardly paid mind to it, cause I was too young and naive to realize the importance of a gesture like that.
Over the course of our freshman and sophomore years of high school Kevin remained in the “friend zone”. He was sweet and attentive. I always knew that I could call him when I was having boyfriend trouble and needed to vent. Most of the guys I dated then had no idea how to treat a girl (we were only 14,15 &16 yr olds then). Some boyfriends I liked more than they like me, and just treated me like I was unimportant. While others just wanted to mess around and had no desire to actually have a relationship with someone. One flat out bet his friends that he would be my first (that was over immediately after I found out). My friend Kevin, on the other hand, always cared and treated me with respect. He was witty and funny, but was never the type to make a joke at my expense or talk behind my back. At that age those traits were rare, and although most of our conversations those years were light and frivolous, I always knew that he was the type of friend I could go to if I ever needed to talk on more serious subjects.
If you know Kevin at all, you know he is geek. Unfortunately in the early 90’s it wasn’t cool to be geeky. In part because of that, Kevin was shy and guarded with his romantic feelings, so he never came right out and said he liked me or asked me out on a date. I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that he had a crush on me, but I was busy chasing my own crushes (I wasn’t as shy). I was happy just having him for a friend.
Side Story: Early my freshman year I dated a football player who was a junior. He wasn’t part of the most I mentioned in the previous excerpt. He was someone who had a crush on me that I friend zoned, but at the urging of my friends I agreed to go out with. He was sweet and treated me well, but I wasn’t attracted to him. I couldn’t stand to string him along on the off chance that those feelings would eventually develop, so I broke it off and broke his heart. He had no interest in being my friend after that, and I was devastated.
You can probably see now where this is going… Kevin was a reminder of what happened with that relationship. I was even closer friends with Kevin than I was that ex-boyfriend. I was afraid to even acknowledge the possibility of a relationship with him. After 2 years of dating a string of “not right for me” boyfriends and the fact that Kevin had a girlfriend (which stirred up some feelings of jealousy), I started allowing myself to be more open to the idea of dating him. He ended up breaking up with said girlfriend, and I started flirting with him A LOT (which he was oblivious to). He really made me work for it, but he asked me out on our sort of first date. On Monday, June 3rd, 1996 he paid my city bus fare to go hang out at the Arrowhead mall area with a couple of his guy friends. We all hung out for a while, and on the way to the bus stop to head home we stopped at the Baskin Robbins that’s still on 77th Ave & Bell Rd and he offered to buy me ice cream. I was nervous and didn’t know what size or kind to order so as not to look like a pig, so I just declined. That’s pretty much when I realized that I liked him more than just a friend. He walked me most of the way home from our bus stop, and just before we got to my cul-de-sac we stopped to part ways and had our first kiss.
5 days later on Saturday, June 8th, 1996 after a 2nd date (which for some reason was completely unmemorable to me) we stood in the middle of my cul-de-sac, and he said to me “I know it’s just a formality, but do you want to be my girlfriend?”
I said yes.
He was 15. I was 16. And that was how we became plural.