CHAPTER ONE: SARAH
I can still remember my first crush. I was only six years old and I didn’t completely understand what it all meant.
When I was four years old my family moved to Melbourne for three years. My memories of Melbourne are vague, unsurprisingly, but as with most childhood memories there are some things I still remember vividly, Sarah was one of them.
I’ve got no exact memory of meeting her. No one point where I stopped and thought to myself that I liked her. We were in the same class in Grade One, we didn’t hang around each other. We didn’t even talk to each other.
Being a first crush, the feelings weren’t that strong. I never gazed longingly at her and she never entered in to any of the stories I imagined in my head.
I couldn’t tell you just when I’d fallen for her, I think it was a gradual thing. I never told anyone about it. I don’t think she even knew I existed.
And then following the end of Grade One, we moved back to Canberra. Sarah would always be my first crush, but I wasn’t too hurt that I’d never told her I liked her. Hell, I still don’t think I ever truly knew what “liking” her meant. Then sometime in Grade Two I fell for another girl and as the years went by Sarah Mcnamara became a distant memory in my mind.
Little did either of us know sixteen years later we would be in contact again.
This was not the first time someone had said this to me. I did not think it was going to be the last. This time however, the line was delivered by Jamie.
I had just explained that the first girl I’d ever a crush on had been a girl in my class from the first grade. I also explained that I had moved back to Canberra that same year, and the girl in question hadn’t heard from me in the sixteen years since.
And then I had explained that I was going to travel the six hundred kilometres to Melbourne and interview her for this book.
Which, of course, prompted the fairly justified “You’re nuts!”
She had a fairly good point. The idea seemed crazy. No normal person tries to get in contact with the person they had a crush on sixteen years ago.
Of course, the book wouldn’t be anywhere near as interesting if I only contacted people who knew me.
“I think it’s genius,” I responded proudly.
“How are you going to find her?” Jase asked.
This too was a valid point. Really the only point of reference I had was a name and the fact that we’d been in the same class sixteen years ago. I also had determination, which I think is worth noting because without it I would’ve given up at this point.
“I’ll find a way, I mean, the surname Mcnamara, surely there can’t be that many Mcnamaras in Melbourne can there?”
I brought up White Pages on my computer, I defiantly typed in MCNAMARA into the Surname field and set the state to VICTORIA. I hit search.
Apparently I was very wrong about Mcnamara not being that common a name. 94 names came back with the same surname. I cursed the phone book, and told Jamie and Jason about the results. They both found this extremely amusing and asked what I intended to do now.
In an effort to prove them wrong I typed in the suburb in which the primary school we had both gone to was located and searched again.
This time 6 names came back. 6 was a MUCH better number than 94. Hell, I could call 6 numbers in the space of an hour.
But there was a seed of doubt. After all, I’d had plenty of friends in school who hadn’t lived in the same suburb as the school. It stood to reason there was a fairly good chance Sarah didn’t.
Calling six people was good and well, but what if she wasn’t one of those six people?
Luckily working at a law firm, in my first job out of school, had taught me tricks for finding people using perfectly legal public records.
“I’ll check the electoral roll,” I told them. “It’s a matter of public record. It’s like a phone book – you have to pay to have your name not on it, like a silent number.”
“What if she’s changed her name?” Jamie asked.
“Then I’ll have to call every Mcnamara in the phone book and hope that one of them is either her or a relative.”
I hoped that she was listed on the electoral roll. If she wasn’t, I was really not looking forward to making 94 phone calls.
As it turned out while there were 94 people with the Mcnamara surname in Melbourne, there was only one Sarah Mcnamara. Not only that, but she lived in the same suburb as the primary school I’d gone to. To cover my bases I scribbled down the details of three other Sarah Mcnamaras in Australia
After visiting the electoral roll office I drove home buzzing with excitement. It’s a great feeling with a plan comes together. Especially a plan where a lot of the people whom I told about it were skeptical about whether it would work or not.
Now all I had to do was build up the courage to call. For the first time my mind was processing the possibilities of how the conversation would go.
“She’s going to think you’re a stalker,” My house mate Stu contributed. “Are you going to mention that you’re writing a book?”
“I think it’s pretty much going to be the first or second thing I say,” I told him. A mischievous smile crossed Stu’s face.
“Can I listen in when you call?” He asked.
I thought about that for a moment. I knew that if Stu were present he would take great enjoyment in making smart arse comments, and trying to make me say certain things that would land me in hot water.
No, Stu being there was NOT going to happen. Stu then asked if I could record the conversation, which to be completely honest I did consider. After all, it would come in handy for the book. But then a friend made the point that doing so without her knowledge was a violation of the privacy act. And was slightly stalker-ish. So recording it was out of the question too.
Stu would have to live with my re-telling of it.
A few days later I’d made the decision I was going to call. I got home from work at about just before 8:30pm and sat on the couch processing what I was about to do.
My friends and co-workers all agreed that there was a fairly good chance the conversation I was about to have was going to go badly. I knew I couldn’t let that deter me though.
I got up off the couch and announced to Stu I was going to call the first girl I ever had a crush on, who hadn’t since me since we were six, and ask if I could interview her for a book I was writing.
Stu, of course, made one last play to try and be present when I called, but thankfully his girlfriend, Alyce, dragged him off to go to the movies.
Now with the house to myself, I wrote a list of what would hopefully be the best response I could use to her reaction. I picked up the phone and dialled the number, hesitating briefly before hitting the last digit due to what seemed to be a well founded fear that this phone conversation was going to go badly.
A very nice man, whom I’m assuming was Sarah’s dad, answered the phone.
“Hi, may I please speak to Sarah?” I asked.
“Sure, I’ll just get her for you, may I ask who’s calling?”
I quickly wondered what to say. I didn’t want to explain the entire situation twice, and figured my best chance would be to go with the truth – but the shortest possible answer.
“It’s Liam,” I said as confidently as I could.
I then heard the sounds of him taking the phone to Sarah’s room. I heard him knock on the door and say,
“Sarah, Liam’s on the phone for you.”
Sarah’s response was not surprising.
“He says his name is Liam,”
I then heard the sounds of the door opening and a female voice said.
I know I said I had written up a list of responses to what I thought were her most likely reactions, but I tossed it aside on the grounds that I would work better naturally.
“Hi, this will probably be the most bizarre phone call you get for….” I couldn’t think of the next time she’d get a phone call like this so I opted to go with “….a while. And I promise to explain this in a moment, but did you happen to go to Corpus Christi Primary School?”
A very cautious Sarah responded with:
Instantly I relaxed a little, at least now I knew I had the right person. I quickly explained that I was writing a book that involved tracking down all my previous crushes and interviewing them. I then went on to explain that she was my first crush and we’d been in the same class in Grade One.
I relaxed about a thousand times when she reacted perfectly fine to the entire situation. I’m not going to deny that she thought it was the strangest phone call she’d gotten in a while, but she was quite willing to meet for an interview.
She asked me how I came up with the idea, I quickly told her about the whole Jamie and Mark story, and explained how it intrigued me as to how my previous crushes have turned out.
She gave me her mobile number and I told her I’d contact her closer to when I’d be in Melbourne – in about a months time.
When I got off the phone I was ecstatic. I was bouncing off the walls. I could barely contain my excitement. Quickly, I called my friend Cat and told her the entire story. Predictably she was surprised at how well it had gone. I didn’t blame her – I was surprised at how well it had gone.
After getting off the phone to Cat I quickly called Sangas and repeated the entire story, he too was surprised at how well it had gone. Then I sent my friend Craig an sms saying:
Called my first crush.
Craig, being the smart arse he is, responded with:
Can I place my bets on when you’ll get your first restraining order?
I was in such a good mood not even the most good humoured smart arse would’ve been able to phase me. I responded, telling him that it had all gone well.
It had all gone well. For once, one of my plans had actually worked.
Now all I had to do was actually meet her.
Unfortunately it would seem that fate had something else in store. A rather annoying rock in the road that I wouldn’t seem to be able to get past.
About a month later I’d booked a flight to Melbourne, and the day before I was set to leave I picked up the phone and gave Sarah a call to make further arrangements to meet. It would soon turn out to be a shame I hadn’t called earlier.
Sarah was not going to be in Melbourne when I was set to go there, she was on a clinical placement for the university degree she was doing, in Torquay. Cursing my luck I told her I’d call her back.
I got off the phone and was, shall we say, frustrated. It all had seemed to be going to plan. I think I was beginning to understand why there seemed to be a conspiracy among my friends that even if my plans worked – there was always some unforeseen circumstance.
Venting my frustrations while on the phone to Sangas I wandered up to our pool so I could pace while I was on the phone. In the midst of my frustration I picked up a nearby plastic garden chair and threw it as hard as I could. It flew maybe a maybe a few feet before sailing into the swimming pool. For those of you wondering, garden chairs don’t float.
After venting for about twenty minutes, I got off the phone and talked to Stu trying to come up with some sort of solution. I came up with two:
The first would be to hopefully catch her before she went to Torquay.
The second would be to go to Torquay
Now the problematic thing with the second option was that I didn’t want to sound too stalker-ish. I didn’t want to give her the impression that I was just a crazy guy, which from her stand point I could’ve completely understood.
The third option was to call her up on the phone and do the entire interview that way. But I’d prefer to meet her. It would make logical sense to meet her. ANYONE could write a book about calling people up on the phone. There really wasn’t much talent or guts to do that.
So the next day I picked up the phone to call her. My plan was to really attempt to meet her in person. If all that failed, then I would settle for a phone conversation.
The first thing I asked was whether or not she would be in Torquay all week. When she confirmed that she would, my second question was, since it seemed to good an opportunity to pass up on with me being in Melbourne and all, whether or not she would mind if I met her in Torquay.
Now she never actually said that it would make her feel uncomfortable, but she did pause for a really long time then say that she wasn’t getting her timetable for shift work till Monday and that she probably wouldn’t be able to meet me. She then asked if we could the interview over the phone.
I told her we could and that I’d call back in about twenty minutes.
I would’ve preferred to meet her, it would’ve been a lot better if I could meet her in person. Like I said before, anyone could write a book about calling up their previous crushes. It’s nowhere near as interesting. But I had to resign myself to the fact that if she felt uncomfortable, I didn’t want to make it worse.
Besides, by this stage I knew another crush, Kari (see next chapter), was currently living in Melbourne and she actually seemed fairly keen to meet up. So the trip would hopefully not be a complete loss book-wise.
So I called Sarah back twenty minutes later.
Sarah didn’t remember me, which didn’t surprise me. She said she checked her class photo and saw I was there but couldn’t remember me at all. I told her that was okay: we’d never really spoken when I’d been there. She was surprised that I remembered that much.
Sarah was currently doing a nursing degree, hence the clinical placement that inevitably stopped us from meeting in person. I told her that one of my sisters and my mother both did nursing. (Well Mum had retired, but anyway…)
“Who was your first crush?” I asked out of curiosity. She tried to think for a moment, but could only vaguely remember.
“I think it was a friend of the family, but I can’t remember his name.”
I told her that a lot of my friends were fairly impressed that I could remember my first crush.
We reminisced about primary school, I’d told her I’d been friends with Wade McFadden.
“So you were a trouble maker then!” She said jokingly.
Immediately a memory surfaced of being sentenced to spend half a day alone in the “Bad Kids” section of the classroom. For the life of me I couldn’t remember what I’d done, all I could remember was that spending half a day in the section of the classroom was nothing compared to the wrath of the seriously pissed off teacher who put me there.
Sarah asked me if I was in a relationship, to which I of course responded I wasn’t. She seemed to think that it was probably for the best. She didn’t think a girlfriend would quite appreciate me contacting all of my previous crushes.
I asked if she had a boyfriend and I can tell you from the way she spoke about her boyfriend of 8 months that she really cared about him. She also mentioned that it had been a while since she’d had a boyfriend before him. Sounds like you were just waiting for the RIGHT guy, I thought but I didn’t tell her this.
“You probably think this is crazy, a guy who had a crush on sixteen years ago ringing you up to interview you for a book he’s writing,” I said.
“It’ll be something good to goss about with my friends,” She replied.
I told her if the book ever was published I’d send her a copy, then hung up the phone and looked at the clock. I would be leaving for Melbourne in a couple of hours. I hadn’t packed.
But I did have to call Kari.
Cross posted to emptyfortunecookie.com
The book can be purchased from this link. Chapters will continue to be posted Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
All events in this story are true, with the consent of being told from my perspective on the situation. (It being a memoir and all.) Names and minor identifying details were changed to protect some people’s identities.