When she says that it's someone you already know but will see in a new light, you listen even more.
I'm not the kind of girl to hit the bar on a random Wednesday after work, but I was really looking forward to seeing one of my besties who'd been going through a shitty break-up. She convinced me to meet her at the bar for drinks, wings and catch up. Before I got out of the car, she texted me "Oh, and let your hair down. You look so much prettier when it's not up in a ponytail."
I swiped on some lip gloss, blushed my cheeks a little, untwisted my bun, and strolled into the pub. It's a freakin Wednesday. Why on Earth should I care what I look like?
Oh right. Because there's my soul mate.
There he was, clear as day, sitting at a table full of firefighters I knew from around town. We went to junior high together, then separate high schools, but stayed in touch as friends. I haven't seen or spoken to him since 1998. "Kim???"
Oh. My. God. How did he recognize me?
"Holy shit, you haven't changed since seventh grade!"
I wanted to be insulted. Technically, I grew out my bangs, I stopped wearing all black, and baggy sweatpants are now banished from my wardrobe. Plus I like to think that at thirtysomething, I'm prettier than I was at twelve, but he's right. I don't look much older than a high schooler and as my mother constantly reminds me, "Some day, you'll be grateful for the compliment of looking younger than your age!"
Darren grabbed me in his arms and swung me around, the product of beer and reminiscence. "Guys, this is Kim. I had the biggest crush on her in junior high but I was too much of a chicken shit to ever ask her out."
What?!?!?!? "Shut the F up!" I yell at him and playfully punch his arm. "You did NOT have a crush on me. I had a crush on you. For like six years."
"Are you shitting me?" he stares in disbelief. "I liked you practically forever and then you went away to college and I didn't get up the nerve to ask you out. Cause I'm an asshole. That's me. I'm the asshole who didn't ask out the only girl he liked as a teenager."
"Bull shit!" I smile at him, wondering if this is a very elaborate set up.
"No, it's true." pipes up a scrawny kid at the far end of the table. "He liked you a lot. He was a punk for not saying anything but I had to hear about it. A lot."
Holy macaroni! The scrawny kid is Justin, who I always referred to as Darren's sidekick. They were best buddies in school and I can't believe they still hang out now. Actually, as I look around the table, I count five more guys I went to junior high and / or high school with. Each one throws his two cents in about how Darren talked about me then, and I can tell from the ridiculous grin on his face that he's super excited to see me now.
"Please, please give me the chance to make up for lost time. I was an idiot back then, but I'm not anymore. I promise. Can I have your number? I'd love to ask you out for real. On a date. With me."
Awww, he's nervous! Those awkward tall, thin, pale, junior high girl in sweatpants feelings creep up on me and I get nervous too. The entire fire department is waiting to drink their beers, hanging on my every word, suddenly invested in Darren's romantic future which is immediately dependent on me giving him my number.
"Sure. Yes. Of course." I say as he puts my digits in his phone. "Call me sometime. It'll be good to catch up."
I smile my sweetest smile as he hugs me another one of those big bear hugs boys with too much beer in their bellies are want to give, and I hear him high fiving the crowd as I walk away, suddenly desperate to find my girlfriend and escape to another bar in town.
"Where the hell have you been?" she pseudo whispers, grabbing her purse as we head out the door. "Sorry I'm late," I casually reply, "I think I just met my soul mate."