A Second Chance

Ron Karpinski  1995

 

In the fall of our senior year, many of my high school classmates thought it odd that I looked forward to Mrs. Posner's English Literature class each day.  They needn't have wondered; for fate placed my desk directly in front of the lovely Diane Conners.

Of all the girls in Central High School, few could compare with the charming, graceful, and exquisitely beautiful Diane Conners.  The year before, as a junior, she had been named a homecoming princess, an honor normally reserved for seniors.  By the time our Class of 1965 became seniors, Diane was already a living legend.

Diane had straight jet-black hair, smooth porcelain skin, big blue eyes, and a perfect hourglass figure.  Life is not fair, they say, and there was no better example of that old axiom than the physical presence of Diane Conners.

If I had met Diane sooner, her influence might have raised my love life to new heights; but don't misunderstand me.  Diane was not the object of my affections.

Diane already had a boyfriend.  This fellow had the build of a bulldozer and a very serious disposition.  My slim physique, on the other hand, intimidated no one.  A deep primeval instinct for survival warned me not to anger this boy-man.

As a result, I lived in constant fear that talking to Diane Conners in English Lit class might fall under some loose definition of flirting.  As much as I liked Diane, I tried to keep a safe distance; but keeping a safe distance from Diane proved hard.  She simply glowed with whatever it is that woman have and men want.  Over the ages, men have died and died happily for women like her.

When Diane felt an urge to whisper in class, she poked me in the back with her pencil. Tearing myself away from Mrs. Posner's riveting lecture on Macbeth, I turned in my seat . . . and found myself staring into those big blue eyes.

In the past, when confronted with a pretty girl, I had always broken out in a sweat, searching frantically for bright and witty things to say; but bright and witty things rarely found their way to my lips.  Instead, I stuttered, "I . . . uh . . . er . . . that is."

Diane changed all that, bringing a strange calm to my soul.  When her arm brushed mine, a warm velvety glow sank all the way to the bone.  Her soft, gentle nature put my fears at ease, and we shared an open, innocent friendship that year.

With Diane I could be myself, up to a point.  She had renewed my self-confidence; but an invisible line stretched between us, one that I dare not cross.  My raging hormones demanded more, so I went on the hunt.

*          *          *          *          *

Soon, a cute brunette caught my eye . . . and stole my heart.  A trim five-foot-six or so, she walked the halls with purpose and grace.  Soft, straight hair swept down, just short of the shoulders.  Green eyes flashed; soft lips parted in a gentle smile.

Pert and perfect, she had the very smile of the girl in my dreams.  In her, you had the classic high school sweetheart, the kind of girl every boy wants to meet.

But, we never met.  Oh, our paths crossed a few times, but I could never muster up enough courage to walk over and introduce myself.  Fear struck deep, the kind of fear that comes from never having done it before and not knowing what came next.

At lunchtime, students gathered at a small quad on campus to eat and socialize.  There, she sat among her friends, talking and laughing.  Turning sharply, she tossed her hair to one side . . . and seemed to be looking straight at me.

My constant staring from across the courtyard must have tipped her off.  The whole student body must have known.  Likely, they all wished I'd make my move and get it over with.

For weeks, I stalked the poor girl, trying to maneuver into position for a casual encounter; but, in the end, a single cell deep within lacked a trace of boldness. That small courtyard at school might just as well have been the ocean.

With sweaty palms, I withdrew from the hunt and gave up on romance.  June rolled around, and we graduated.  She crossed the stage, received her diploma, and slipped off into the crowd.  The world swallowed her up, and I never saw her again.

*          *          *          *          *

These days, I often fall into a whimsy and muse about how my life might have turned out better in places.  Always, nostalgia takes me back to that girl I never met.  I wonder how she is doing, hoping with all my heart that life has treated her well.

If only I had mustered up the courage to approach her.  How different might life have been?  Ah, don't we all dream of a second chance at first love?

Just give me one more try.  Bring her back, and I will not fail again.  Let me undo this one nagging blunder in my life.  Let me tell this woman how I feel.

She probably hasn't changed much.  I would know her anywhere.  Someday, a pert and perfect middle-aged woman will stop me in my tracks.

But not for long.  In a few short seconds, my heartbeat returns to normal, and I leap to the task.  Elbowing through the crowd, I find my way to her side.

Feeling my light touch upon her arm, she turns to face me.  All these years, this is what I have waited for.  This is my moment of redemption.

Those eyes, that smile, they haven't changed a bit.  At long last, I utter the words that have lingered on my lips, unspoken, for decades.  "Pardon me," I'll say, "but I . . . uh . . . er . . . that is."

 

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