Lukas Garber* was a redheaded boy in my grade I’d known since pre-kindergarten. We’d both attended the same Catholic school from the age of 4 up until the 8th grade. Every year, I had nearly zero space for reflections on Jesus because it had all been packed with endless thoughts and daydreams of him. During our first communion, while everyone was supposed to be thinking about formally accepting Christ into their lives, I was wondering if my white dress meant that our priest would join Lukas and me in holy matrimony forever and ever.
Once we graduated and moved onto high school, Lukas and I fell out of touch. I heard only a few things about him here and there through mutual friends and eventually my interest transferred onto other people and more self-focused goals. It was in college that a Facebook time warp session led me on a hunt for Lukas and I discovered that he was no longer going by the name I knew him by. I added “Luke Garber” to my group of friends and soon enough I was sorting through snippets of his life via my computer screen: Lukas (but older) at prom, Lukas (but older) hanging out with college buddies, Lukas (but older) with some girl whose glasses looked stupid and Lukas would have totally left for me if he was solely about looks. So many years later, and while thoughts of who Lukas liked no longer preoccupied my days, every once in a while, the jitters I got from new crushes sent me back to the days that prayer circles were so important to me because I got to hold his hand.
Recently, two things happened that made me want to contact Lukas and look into our relationship. First, recently I moved across country to live with my boyfriend. The second came after seeing a group of kids heading off to start their first week of school. That’s when I realized it had been exactly a decade since Lukas and I had graduated from our own middle school uniforms and seen each other.
So, because I’m a mature adult who no longer feels like the person I have a crush on is my biggest darkest secret, I decided to finally ask if he looked forward to prayer circles for the same reasons I did. Were his hands still sweaty? Did he ever actually like me, the way I liked him?
I tapped out a message to Lukas on Facebook explaining my interest in asking him these questions and sent it off so I wouldn’t back out.
I waited a full 14 hours for Lukas to respond. Five hours later I was panicked and vowing to never return to my hometown in fear that everyone from my elementary class would be right there to taunt me. As my anticipation turned into deep regret, the haunting memory of a time I tried to confess my love to Lukas played on loop in my mind. In 5th grade I scribbled down “Dear Lukas, I love you” on a cutout piece of red construction paper in the shape of a heart and jammed it into his backpack. I realized that instead of a fun essay I’d concocted what actually might be perceived as a pretty creepy obsession over a memory of a child. I considered writing up a follow-up email, “Dear Lukas, funny thing, someone actually hacked my Facebook and I never liked you...”
The next morning, though, I got a reply:
L: I'm happy to hear you are doing well Alex. I'm sure that wouldn't be a bad deal. Just shoot me a text with questions. I'm open to it.
Immediately, I was sent back to my parent’s Gateway computer being invited over AOL messenger to Lukas’s birthday party. I messaged him back, trying to exert myself as a cool girl.
Me: So, you go by Luke now...
L: Lukas works, it was in high school that I changed it up.
Me: Gotcha. So what were your thoughts when I asked you to help me out with this?
L: Well I think I would say mostly I was surprised and it brought back a lot of childhood memories.
Me: Wait. Surprised that I liked you?
L: Yeah that for sure, but also that I would be asked about my life from when I was younger.
Note: as a kid I brought an extra sandwich for lunch every day (I’d heard food was the way to a man’s heart) and rubbed various eau de toilettes all over my body — after overhearing my sister’s friend say guys loved perfume — just for Lukas. I was never a paragon of subtlety. I was a walking Bath and Body Works medley of Sun-Ripened Rasberry and Cucumber Melon.
L: I did, to be honest, like you as well. Especially early on.
Be still my beating heart.
L: Ha yeah. I was just nervous about girls. I didn't know how to communicate and I didn't think I needed to work on it haha kind of goofy teenage stuff for middle school Lukas. What's weird is pre-K me was really, really into trying to get your attention
This is actually the point in the interview that I departed from the conversation and dialed my sister’s number to gloat. Look who could have been sitting in the tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G! Look who could have actually had a boyfriend years and years earlier. I could have kids with red hair, didn’t she know.
Eventually, Lukas and I got back on track and together, we did a little bit of digging into our relationship as kids. Our impressions of each other eventually became the central point of our conversation.
I mostly look back at that time in my life and cringe at how eager I was to get his attention along with the acceptance of our peers. How many stories did I over-exaggerate to make myself look cooler and could everyone see right through them? I once straightened and clamped two bobby pins to my teeth after Lukas had innocently asked when I was getting braces. At the time, a gap in the middle of my two front teeth was acting as the bane of my existence. I knew my dentist was attempting to ruin my life by insisting my future molars would fill in the space eventually. Didn’t he know Lukas probably liked perfect teeth??? The next day I told him they were a “special kind” of braces that would close my gap sooner.
L: I remember you in preschool as being super active and competitive and that stayed (the competitiveness). Elementary school, you were still active and more mature for sure. You never really got wrapped up in people's drama. In middle school, you were shy around me and I was nervous about talking [to you because] I felt I did something or should like I should act a certain way.
Me: This perspective is crazy. I definitely felt shy in middle school. I think by then I felt like we had been really good friends in elementary school especially in 5th and 6th grade before we moved to the other building and then puberty hit and I was like boys have pubes! And they talk about our boobs!
L: Oh I never had that impression. I kind of think I felt awkward when people were outgoing or rowdy haha.
Finally, our conversation had ended. It was long, but there were still so many questions I wanted to ask. I wanted to know about grown-up him. Where did he see himself going in life? Was he in a relationship? Did he notice by my profile picture that my gap tooth had closed and I had a “4th of July smile" like the homeless man who lived close to my college apartment used to tell me?
Lingering questions aside, I felt like I uncovered a treasure trove of boy emotions and thoughts that, as a kid, I only thought were felt by the girls. It was funny to realize that they were also feeling awkward and uncomfortable — concerned about what we thought about them. Did they scribble down their thoughts in diaries and hide them in the farthest corner of their closets too? Knowing what I did, though, I left the conversation feeling like I’d won the day. My 4th grade self had finally gotten an answer she never saw coming. Maybe, all those prayers had been answered and I hadn’t even known it. Maybe Nick Carter and I — of course I say this half-seriously, because I am in a relationship that I’m fully committed to — could “make music” together someday.
A week after talking with Lukas, I realized he’d changed his Facebook name from Luke to Lukas. I messaged him about it.
L: I just liked it better that way.
*Name changed to spare any further embarrassment.
Top photo via Flickr/tiff_ku1
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Alex Portee comes from the exotic lands of Orlando, Florida. She writes on politics, entertainment, marketing, identity and everything in between. Check out her writing on BUST and Women.com. If she's not at the kid's table she's by the desserts. Follow her on alexandriaportee.com.