Much like most of the earlier crushes, I don’t have a distinct memory of actually meeting Kirsty. We were at primary school together and became friends in Year Four, not good friends, but friends. This did not go down well with one of the school bullies, Jeremy, who repeatedly kept telling me to stay away from Kirsty. He liked her, so I had to stay far, far away.
This put me into a dilemma. Kirsty was only a friend to me, at the time I still had a crush on a girl called Jessica. (We’ll get to her later) I tried explaining to him that we were just friends. He didn’t agree.
Looking back now, it’s nice to think that he thought that I, a guy who stood no chance against a school bully, actually had a shot with a girl he liked.
At that time I was avoiding getting the crap beaten out of me, though I was still hanging out with Kirsty (and to be honest, we weren’t close friends at the time so we didn’t hang out that much). Which some people said showed guts on my part. I didn’t think that at the time.
The threats from Jeremy lasted about a week, I would take different routes home so our paths didn’t cross. One day I didn’t hang out with Kirsty at lunch time, so Jeremy’s threats were the last thing on my mind as I took my normal route home that afternoon.
Jeremy, and one of his friends, had not forgotten about the standing threats against me. Finding me alone, with no teacher or friends around, they proceeded to beat the crap out of me.
I got home in pretty bad shape – which got the attention of my parents. Without my knowledge my Mum went to the school the next day and talked to the principal. When I found out about this I had an instant fear that I was in for another beating the next day at school.
The beating didn’t come. Jeremy had been called into the principal’s office and threatened with suspension. Months later I would find out this put the fear of life into him and he then avoided me like the plague.
So I was able to hang out with Kirsty without looking over my shoulder to see Jeremy waiting for me. Though, once again, at the time we actually didn’t hang out that much – we weren’t that close.
Jeremy changed schools at the end of the year.
Sometime near the beginning of Year Five Steven Hammond, my best friend at the time, and I were riding our bikes on a Saturday afternoon. As usual we went to the local creek to hang out.
When we got there I was stunned. There was Kirsty and she was hanging out with Jeremy.
This made no sense to me – I’d told her everything that had happened with him. His threats against me, him beating me up one day after school, all of it.
Yet here she was, hanging out with him. If I’ve ever made the comment “Nice Guys Finish Last” it has stemmed from that afternoon, which honestly is a phrase I personally hate… but I have still used over the years… depending on the circumstances and my mood.
Months later Kirsty and I became really close friends. Almost best friends, but I always hung out with Steven more. When you’ve got a girl as a good friend she can’t exactly sleep over or anything like that.
I never mentioned the confusion at the Jeremy thing to her – and she never mentioned Jeremy to me. If they had been hanging out since that day at the creek she’d never felt it was worth mentioning.
The school camp was at the end of the year and as such the guys and girls were split up accordingly. And it was in the cabin that night that I had a dream that I can still remember to this day. It went like this:
We were at the school camp, the sun was setting. The guys cabin was abandoned, except for Kirsty and myself. She was sitting on the bed across from me, Steven’s bed. We were talking. Talking about us…. getting together.
“We’ll have to keep it a secret though, tell everyone we’re still just friends,” She said.
Then I got up and walked over, leant down, she leant in toward me, and we kissed.
I woke up with a start, it was the middle of night. I slipped out of my bed and went to the cabin toilets, all the time mulling over what my subconscious had brought to my attention. This was new.
After almost a full year of family and friends insisting that we liked each other, or that Kirsty was my “girlfriend” and me claiming furiously that she wasn’t, I found this curve ball thrown at me.
What the hell am I going to do?
Well the answer was simple, wasn’t it? She obviously only saw me as a friend. That was clear. And if she thought I wanted to be more than friends, then I wouldn’t have her as a friend any more.
So I logically decided the best thing to do was stay friends while also subtly trying to figure out if she felt the same way about me as I did about her.
This lasted months. Months of analysing her every move, is she leaning closer to me because we’re friends or because she likes me? Is she talking to me on the phone for an hour because we’re friends or because she likes me? Is everyone I know right and she likes me or are they wrong and saying it just to torment me?
Granted, it could have been both on that last one, but the point remains, I still had no idea if she felt the same way. I held a strong belief she didn’t.
It was this strong belief that stopped me from telling anyone about it. Though I did eventually tell Steven one day at the local creek who then confided that he knew where I was coming from – the previous year he’d fallen for his friend Amy and hadn’t told anyone about it. We lamented on the fact we knew nothing about women. Little was I to know that twelve years later that still wouldn’t have changed.
Stephanie was Kirsty’s best friend, and so the three of us often ended up hanging out with each other, rarely hanging out together without Kirsty around.
One day however Kirsty was sick and I cracked and told Stephanie about my crush. In retrospect this was a very bad tactical move on my part – if you found out someone liked your best friend wouldn’t you tell them at your first opportunity?
I never knew if Stephanie did but, she certainly taunted me with it for her own amusement.
Kirsty cottoned on to the fact that Stephanie and I were sharing a secret, and one day was questioning us about it when Stephanie finally said, in a purely joking voice
“Liam has a crush on Kirsty!”
Immediately my mind went into panic mode. Out of all of the ways I’d imagined Kirsty finding out about it, this had not been there. Ultimately most of the possible scenarios that were in my head finished with me and Kirsty kissing and becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. Somehow I didn’t think Stephanie blurting it out as though it was a joke would result in that.
Though it could – if I was smooth enough. I looked to see if I could gauge what Kirsty’s reaction was going to be. Figuring if the situation called for it, I could be incredibly romantic in delivering our first kiss.
Kirsty laughed like it was the funniest joke she’d heard all day which caused me to feel simultaneously relieved and depressed. So that’s what she thought of that concept. Oh well, friends it is then.
Then primary school ended and went both went to different high schools, and while we would bump into each other in the years to come, other than a few minutes of conversation not much else would be known about each others lives.
It was a few weeks after my trip to Melbourne. I’d written a letter to another crush, Jessica,, and I was awaiting her response or restraining order, and all I could really do was move on to the next crush and hope for the best.
With Kirsty I was a lot less nervous about getting into contact with her. This was no doubt because we’d been friends for two years and I felt I had lot more history to work with. It would seem less strange to get a call from an old friend than it would for some guy you barely knew.
I looked in the phone book and found only one person with the same surname living in the same suburb that she’d lived in. The address looked vaguely familiar and I figured that was her.
I was wrong.
Instead I found myself talking to a lovely young man living in a share house. I apologised for calling the wrong number.
I looked back to the phone book and counted up how many people there were with the same surname. The answer was 103.
I could remember Kirsty’s house from when we were friends. From the creek I could even remember how to get there, but I figured if she still lived there showing up at her front door would be a little confronting and slightly stalker-ish.
Sighing to myself, I realised there was really only one thing to do. So, praying she didn’t have a silent number, I picked up the phone and called another one of the names. And another. And another.
I came up with a system. I’d decided it was likely Kirsty’s parents would have moved to somewhere in around the same area as where she used to live.
Eventually I found myself calling a house that, according to the phone book, was located just around the corner from where I’d lived for three years. It was this house that would turn out to be Kirsty’s.
The phone rang, and someone picked up.
“Hello?” A female voice said.
Hoping for the best I said my now well rehearsed line of:
“Hi, is Kirsty there, by any chance?”
“This is Kirsty,”
Instantly I tried to suppress a very unmanly squeal of excitement.
“This is Liam! From primary school!”
To my relief she was happy to hear from me, which made me telling about the book a whole hell of a lot easier. She was excited to hear I was writing a book, describing herself as similar to a crazy cat lady, only with books instead of cats.
I told her that it was about interviewing every girl I ever had a crush on, and that she was on that list. She said she was okay with that, and so we arranged to meet up a coffee place in the city that weekend. I got off the phone excited and relieved. FINALLY, someone who was willing to meet up in person.
I wonder if Stephanie ever told her. I mean ACTUALLY told her, not just in a joking way.
Well, I was going to have to wait till Sunday to find that out.
Sunday came, and I arrived at the coffee shop with a few minutes to spare. My plan had been to show up at the coffee shop about twenty minutes before we were meant to meet, but who would’ve thought it would be so hard to get up early on a Sunday morning?
I looked around and, seeing she wasn’t there, I slung my jacket over a chair and sat and waited. Barely two minutes had passed when Kirsty arrived.
To my pleasant surprise catching up with Kirsty was like catching up with an old friend. She was currently working in the Department of Health and had just finished her uni degree in Visual Arts.
I asked her if she ever knew that I had a crush on her.
“No, but I was pretty naive when it came to that sort of thing,” She told me.
I related to her the story of Stephanie finding out, and she told me she had noticed her taunting me with something.
Let me give you an example of the smallness of Canberra: Kirsty had once hooked up with a guy who I’d gone to high school with. In Year Eleven she had a crush on a guy we’d gone to primary school with, and her sister was friends with two people I knew from the youth group I used to go to.
This is a girl I’d seen maybe twice in the last eleven years.
We reminisced on the fact that we’d been such good friends in primary school that teachers had often encouraged us to get other friends – to broaden our horizons. It had never worked.
She asked how many crushes I’d interviewed so far. I’d told her about the Melbourne trip, about my nerves on contacting the next crush, Paige. Kirsty actually helped by telling me that she had a few classes with Paige in uni that hadn’t been so bad.
I mentioned how this book might end up involving me organising a Grade Six reunion (more on that later). She thought it was good idea, but didn’t particularly think she’d want to go.
We got to talking about what we’d done since finishing school, I told her I’d worked at a law firm for a few years – Kirsty admitted she’d actually studied law for a while in university before deciding she didn’t like it. Which in my opinion, after having worked with lawyers for three years, was perfectly understandable.
In Kirsty’s first year out of school she’d worked as a receptionist and as a result she now hated answering phones; and she’d entered a few bikini competitions. This of course triggered an instant thought in my head: I can tell Josh I had coffee with a bikini model!
She had a boyfriend who was into wrestling and she shared a house with a friend.
I feel I owed it to my eleven year old self to ask if she ever had a crush on anyone in primary school. I knew if she’d liked me it would come up at this point.
She hadn’t. Which was okay. She admitted that she never really became interested in boys till about Year Seven.
We joked about people from primary school, swapped info about what certain people were doing these days. She asked about Steven Hammond, and I told her he’d moved to Queensland and afterwards we’d lost contact.
Kirsty thought the book was a great idea – though acknowledged that there was a risk some of the crushes I still had to contact might not see it as such.
Eventually Jeremy came up in conversation. She told me she never liked him all that much – which made sense to me, he’d never really been mentioned when we were friends. She was surprised to hear he’d beat me up one day after school – apparently I’d never told her. Which put a slightly different light to the whole “nice guys finish last” scenario, and how you can misremember things over time.
An hour and a half later we exchanged contact details and walked back to our cars. By the time I got to mine I was whistling. While I drove home I was singing along with the radio and playing air guitar at the traffic lights.
It wasn’t just a nice sense of achievement having now meet up with a crush for a chapter of the book, it had actually been really awesome catching up with an old friend.
Life was good.
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.