Overload

Too Much Feeling is a Beautiful Mess

When I was in my junior year of high school, I was very in tune with volunteerism in the community and tried several ways to get involved in outreach. So when my school announced that an opportunity was coming right to our door, I signed up immediately.

On our last day before Christmas vacation, a bus from a special needs school dropped off about fifteen teenagers, most of them with Downs Syndrome and a few with more crippling diseases. I had never shied away from interacting with people who needed a little more patience, so I was there to greet them.

However, I had always met individually with special needs such as these kids had. I was unprepared to cope with the emotions that a large group of people stirred up for me. It overloaded my emotions. I don’t know what my face looked like, but one other student saw it and came to my aid when I should have been helping others.

The student who came to check on me was new to our school. I had seen her around, but had not met her. Her ability to see through me was alarming. She understood and admitted to feeling nearly the same thing I was feeling. She coaxed me back to confidence and helped me to engage with one of our visitors.

But guess what was the upshot? I became enamored with the girl, like a lost puppy. She didn’t intend it, she didn’t want it, but she tried to deal with it kindly. I sought her out, followed her around, and found ways to engage her in conversation. I listened to her life story and share a bit of my own, but I seemed to make no headway romantically.

She had only been in our school for about ten days, but she was already dating someone. I knew the guy. He was fun and confident and good looking, but he also had a different girlfriend every few weeks. It was just a matter of time. And so began a game of cat and mouse that lasted two years.

The first thing I tried was getting into the same classes and extracurriculars. Didn’t help. I tried letters with little stories, poems, or questions about her. That was fun, but it didn’t lead to anything. At one point, I put a two word question in the PS of a letter. “Marry me?” Can’t get much more direct (or desperate) than that, can you?

Instead of that leading to at least a date, it became a standing joke. She even wrote it in my yearbook to tease me before summer. And when I went in the service she wrote to me in boot camp and while I was in computer school in San Diego. Her letters got a very flirty, and she once replaced her first name with the word “Kitten” on the return address.

When I came home from San Diego, I called her up to let her know I would visit the school and hoped to see her. Her questions were very personal, especially about the girl I had dated in San Diego. She seemed jealous. Then she asked me on a date. I thought it was the breakthrough I had waited for.

On the date, we had drinks and talked about things that happened while I was away. She had been through a lot and was looking forward to graduation in a few months. She was planning to join the Air Force and just get away. This didn’t sound like a breakthrough.

After the restaurant, we went for a drive. It was a little snowy that day, so the ride was pretty with the house lights and street lights sparkling on the fresh snow. We parked near the beach and talked for a while. A cop stopped and came over to knock on the window. I rolled down the window, and she leaned across my lap to say hello. She knew the cop. They had dated briefly. How cozy.

After he left, she stayed where she was and lay back in my arms. I think I even got a kiss. But her words nearly killed me. She said that she had purposely avoided going out with me when we were in school. She was afraid of me, scared by how serious I was. She didn’t want to break my heart, and she didn’t want to have a serious relationship.

She didn’t want to date because she was afraid she would fall in love with me, and that wasn’t what she wanted. Her reasons were unclear, but it may have been that she had plans for her life and didn’t want to fall for some guy in high school and never see the world.

Whatever it was, I could finally see what was going on. I was too intense and scared her off. It would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so sad. It was just like how we met. I got overwhelmed with empathy for the kids visiting the school. Then she got overwhelmed with my intensity. It is a good thing that we never got together. That could have been a terrible mess.

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