It was three quarters of a mile from my dorm to the florist. I was on crutches because I had torn my ACL playing intramural flag football, and I had joined the team because the girl I had a crush on was also on it. It was now the afternoon of her 21st birthday, her flowers were ready, and none of my friends with cars were anywhere to be found. So I walked. On crutches. Three quarters of a mile down and back busy Carnegie Avenue. I arrived at her dorm just in time to make my delivery before her girlfriends took her out for the night.
“Oh, Scott! You’re so sweet!” she gushed, but then added with a wistful sigh, “You and Rob.”
I never told her that I had walked on crutches to the florist to get her flowers, but in the end, it wouldn’t have mattered. By grouping me with her other male confidant, she had affirmed my status of trusted friend, but nothing more. I was a person to share a joke or a tear or even a day with, but never a kiss. Perhaps she never even realized how she shredded my heart even worse than my right ACL.
It took me several weeks to realize all this, and I was bitter for much longer still. There were others like her in my attempts at love, both before her and after. In fact, it would be two more years until the girl I longed for gazed back at me with the same light in her eyes that glowed in mine.
Maureen and I had been dating for six months when, on a warm April night, we had walked slowly around the lake beside her college’s campus talking deeply about our futures. We were approaching graduation, and our worlds were about to change, whether we were ready or not. That night, she had turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, “Scott, I don’t know if I’m the right girl for you.”
I remember thinking how easily it would have been to have hugged her, gotten into my car, and driven out of her life forever. But I also remember thinking how desperately I didn’t want that to happen. When I turned her face up toward mine and looked into her tear-glistened eyes, I said, “No, no we don’t know that. Not yet. But I’m enjoying finding out, and if it’s okay with you, I’d like to keep finding out for a long time.”
Nearly four years later, Maureen and I got married, and I could finally look back on that crutched walk to the florist and be glad for having done it. The bitterness is gone.
What I realized is that my failed attempts to find love had a part in making me the person I have become. To move forward in life, I must accept not only the person I have become, but also every experience that brought me there. I believe there is power in every one of life’s experiences to help me move forward, even when I can’t see it right away.
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