I’m a romantic. One reason is I’m also a late bloomer. By high school, when all the other guys had muscles and mustaches, I was still rockin’ the baby fat. Never had one date in high school. So, I spent my Saturday nights watching romantic movies, writing poems and listening to love songs.
I really didn’t start getting taller and hairier until I was a sophomore in college. That’s when I started dating.
Back then at UW-Madison there was a McDonald’s on Lake Street near Memorial Library. I love McDonald’s! Probably one of the reasons why I was a chubby little kid. Anyway, that’s where I first saw Rachel; behind the counter, dark hair, dark eyes, perfect. I decided I had to ask her out on a date.
OK, being a romantic, I wasn’t going to just ask her out. I needed to soften her up first. Sometimes humor works. So I wait in line, when I reach the counter she says, “May I help you?” “Yes, my doctor said I’m not getting enough cholesterol. What would you suggest.” Her laugh was music to me. Everyday that week I ate lunch at McDonalds and got a laugh out of her. I thought I was making some headway and then the most amazing thing happened.
I mentioned Rachel to my friend Joyce and she said, “I know Rachel! We were roommates last semester!”
I peppered Joyce with questions about her. Learned a bunch of stuff. Next day at McDonald’s I ask for my order to go. I’m heading to up to Sturgeon Bay because I’ve heard all the most beautiful women in Wisconsin are from Sturgeon Bay. Rachel says, “That’s where I’m from!” I said, “Huh, then what I heard is true!” Points!
For the next week I came in every day and dropped another little hint, some intriguing bit of trivia Joyce had shared. Nothing more than you’d know from looking at someone’s Facebook profile nowadays but intriguing back then. I actually figured that by this time she realized we had friends in common. Maybe even Joyce, but I kinda hoped she didn’t since I was enjoying my role as the mysterious, romantic cavalier.
I see Joyce and tell her, “Tomorrow I’m going to ask Rachel out.” Joyce said, “So you’re going to see Rachel?” (I didn’t tell her I was seeing Rachel every day.) “Do me a favor? Return this book for me.” I look at the book and see Joyce had been using a picture of her and Rachel and their other roommates as a bookmark! This is perfect! Can I borrow this until tomorrow?
So, the next day I got to the counter, ready to ask her out, I set the book down with the picture poking out enough for her to see and looked up at the menu. I saw her look down at the book. “You know what I really want today? You know what would make me very happy?” I looked down at her, she looked up at me, our eyes met and she said … “Why are you doing this to me? Leave me alone.” I felt the heat in my cheeks and ears. “Just leave me alone!” And I did. I ran.
Maybe you saw that coming. I didn’t. But outside it all became clear. I saw myself as the mysterious paramour, she saw a stalker. I didn’t intrigue her, I scared her! She wasn’t looking for me in her yearbook; she was looking over her shoulder to make sure I wasn’t following her. Ooops.
There’s no happy ending here. About a week later Joyce told me that she talked to Rachel and told her I was just a big, stupid, harmless guy. Still, as much as I love McDonalds, I resisted and stayed on the Engineering campus for the rest of the semester.