He let me wear his coat during class that day.
It was brown corduroy lined with cream shearling. It was too big even for him but such was fashion in the 90s. Swaths of fabric pooled around my body. I pushed the thick sleeves back whenever I needed to take notes.
Tim* sat in front of me, stoic without his armor. The coat smelled like CK1 and cigarettes. I didn't know for sure he smoked until then. I breathed in his scent, knowing this might be my only chance.
Our school's heating system heated indiscriminately and this wing of the building ran cold. There wasn't always time to grab my winter coat from my locker before class. I couldn't believe he'd offered it to me when he could have offered it to Stacey instead. I could never compete with one of the most popular girls in school. But no, he'd overheard us talking about how cold we were and settled his coat on my shoulders before I even understood what he said. My shoulders. Not hers.
What was this life?
I barely had a chance to thank him before class began and we took our seats.
Doc Wilder started the lesson as I stared at the back of Tim's head wondering what had just happened. It didn't make any more sense to me but a lick of hope curled through me. Maybe this meant something. Maybe this crush would not end unrequited.
I looked at the way his hair fell and the shape of his ears. I took in his posture and how he always seemed at home in his body, something I appreciate more now as an adult. He was funny and irreverent and smart. He embodied the grunge look so well and God help me but I wanted to be Courtney Love to his Kurt Cobain- if they'd had a healthy relationship. Like a much, much healthier version.
The day he gave me his coat was not the first time we'd talked but it was the first time I wondered if he was paying better attention to our pre-class conversations than I thought. He saw me and nothing makes me fall harder for someone than that.
Class ended and it was time for lunch. I peeled off his coat and gave it back to him, immediately chilled. We strolled through the hallway, chatting as usual, and then headed in different directions. He gave me his usual smile and my stomach flipped in return. I wondered if anything had changed. If anything would change.
A week later, desperation clawed through me. What had his kind gesture meant? I needed a sign.
"Can I borrow your coat again?" The question slipped out as I looked up into his clear blue eyes. I immediately wished I could lasso the words back. My face turned red and electricity snapped through me. I was a live wire of vulnerability. I was asking for his coat but I was asking for so much more.
Annoyance swept over his face. After all, it was freezing. Whatever had motivated his gentlemanly behavior before was no longer in play. But he still shrugged it off and let me borrow it once more. I knew better than to ask again. I tamped my feelings back down. When class ended, I shrugged off the coat and put my crush back on the shelf.
And that was that.
A year later he started dating one of my friends, a bubbly Pollyanna type. I was mystified how this bad boy could see something in her he didn't see in me. He was a perpetual question mark.
Why had he given me his coat that day? Did he ever think I was attractive? What could I have done differently to call him mine?
Not too long ago I caught a whiff of cK1 and I was transported back to the classroom, his face smiling at me, and the heft of that coat pooled around me. I felt the ache of wanting him. More than 20 years have passed but I still wonder.
*Names have been changed because you may feel like writing about your high school crush but that doesn't mean you want your crush to Google himself and find out about it.