The word "crush" is very well named. For unless it evolves into something more, an all-consuming infatuation of this sort nearly always ends up crushing you. You would watch her, breath hitched tight in your lungs, and look away quickly because it's like looking into the sun. Or you would focus upon blank spots on walls or inanimate objects and drift into daydreams of the smile on her lips after you kiss her. She would think you don't care for her in the least because you find it hard to speak to her and you rarely meet her eyes. And if it always stays this way without ever developing, it is a true crush and a very miserable situation.
I had become quite used to conditioning myself to this hurt over the years, bottling up my attraction to various straight girls and loathing my feelings as I chewed my lower lip and self-respect from the inside. From a teenager keeping my eyes down in the hallways to a doctor avoiding female colleagues, I had suffered and stifled so many crushes since puberty that it made my head spin. No one likes having rumors spread about their sexuality, and no one likes being rejected. In those respects, I was no different.
Sometimes when I was working long hours running lab tests and found my mind wandering, I thought back to women I had been attracted to over the years. There was Sasha Whitier, my lab partner from senior chemistry in high school. There was nothing very special about her, but she'd had dark hair, charismatic eyebrows, and a playful smile. I ended up meeting her later on at my ten-year high school reunion, and found that she had grown incredibly beautiful since graduation. She was also engaged, and couldn't be happier. Somehow I had managed to politely escape from that circle of old friends catching up and left quite early.
Then there was Julie Moyers, a professor of mine from med school. Dr. Moyers was smart, witty, and charmingly arrogant; something close to a likeable, female version of my future boss. I had always been too afraid to ever raise my hand in her class, and I always seemed to go very pink and lose my voice whenever I spoke to her. I doubt she ever noticed, though; most of the time, she didn't remember my name.
There were many others like this; beautiful, oblivious women from my past who were reduced to nothing but reminiscences and fantasies filed away in my memory for empty and silent nights. I would be working the night shift in the file room and grind to a halt, hunching over a metal cabinet and propping up on my elbows wearily. My eyelids would flicker and my breathing become shallow as I thought back to fill my time with secret dreams of elusive ghosts; dreams that couldn't hurt anyone in the dark like this. I closed my eyes and was seventeen again; the chemistry with Sasha such static that I pressed her to the wall of the empty classroom and kissed her mouth like I was dying of thirst. I drew a sharp intake of breath and I was twenty-one again; pinned beneath Dr. Moyers and gasping for air as her graded papers stuck to my sweat-slick back.
With an imagination like mine, who needed Pay-Per-View?
But then, every hundred safe vices will be punctuated by one risky indulgence that cannot be refused, no matter how wise it would be to do so.
The way she looked, it would have been foolish to think that I could resist falling for her. She was impossibly beautiful, with exotic-looking eyes and a puzzling smile that was just to die for. Of course, she was my coworker. Perfect. One never actually falls for a friend of a friend or a blind date; nothing convenient like that ever works. No, it always had to be a dentist or a teacher or a coworker, something unbearably awkward like that.
It was awkward, of course. Perhaps more so than it had ever been with Sasha or Dr. Moyers, who knows; it was hard to measure using sweat and fantasies. All I knew was that I was once again struck dumb and cursed quite clumsy, knocking things over often and blushing in the aftermath of thoughts involving her fingers on my skin. It also didn't help that she walked around with perpetual bedroom eyes; I knew that was how she naturally looked, but every glance she happened to throw my way set off a chain reaction of vivid mirages and heart palpitations on my part.
Of course, it was bittersweet to have such a strong crush on her. Same-sex attractions in positions such as mine are nearly always in vain, especially when the woman in question happens to be a colleague. From my experience, at least, developing feelings for women I hardly knew outside of the classroom or work setting never ended in success. They weren't really much more than acquaintances, ever, and more likely than not they were all straight. Sasha was a good example of that.
But my mental file cabinet of fantasy-lovers did enough for me. Well, perhaps not exactly enough; they still weren't real, after all. But it kept me sane.
Sane may not be the best word choice either. I had to admit, I was crazy over her.
It was late on a particular Friday night when I was alone in the file room, going crazy over her. A stack of files sat a foot away, but the thought of getting back to work now was a joke; not now, of all times, with her dream-hands scampering down my neck. What did it matter that they were really my hands, tonight my imagination was in rare form and I was just getting started.
"Mmmmm," I hummed, allowing my eyes to droop shut. Her fingers went from teasing my collarbone to skimming down further. "Don't stop."
The sound of the door clicking open jolted me; the next few moments dragged by in slow motion as I listened to footsteps shuffling into the room and stopping abruptly, then my eyes flew open.
Of all people, it was her. Her, of all people; the very same doctor that I was just in the middle of fantasizing about, and she had just walked in on me with my hand in my shirt. We both stood there, frozen, as though any sound or movement had been reprogrammed from our functions. She was as though suspended in an hourglass; a strand of hair swaying across her cheek, shock causing her brilliant blue eyes to sparkle and her lips to part. I, on the other hand, am sure I looked like Munch's The Scream.
Then we rebooted.
"Um, wow," she muttered, blinking and shaking her head quickly, "Sorry."
I jammed both my hands into my pockets, wishing this whole scene was just my vivid imagination at work. If not, I prayed the floor would open and swallow me up. "I was, ahhh…" I mumbled, casting about in my mind for a viable explanation. "One of my bobby pins fell down my shirt." My furious blushing may or may not have given me away. She merely raised her eyebrows at me.
"Um, okay," she said slowly. "Well, I've got to pull something up on a patient, so I won't be long." She edged past me awkwardly and began flicking through a file cabinet, as I turned my back to her and shuffled my stack of files, mortified. It was extremely uncomfortable as we both riffled through papers in silence.
The rustling of paper on her side of the room stopped, and I could feel her thinking. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled.
"So who is it?" she said abruptly. I didn't dare turn to face her, but from her voice I could tell she was smiling.
The papers slipped in my hands and I flushed. "What are you talking about?" I snapped, still staring straight ahead; the amused gaze that I knew was aimed towards me tickled my back like a couple of skittering fingers.
"Who were you thinking about that made you touch yourself like that?"
My face burned furiously. "I wasn't, I said-"
"Please," she interrupted, "Late night like this, all alone? You're not the only who's done it, believe me." She sounded amused. "Now who is it?"
Her words were reassuring, but that hardly registered since she was still pressing me to spill. Damn it, why did she have to be so intuitive and see right through my lie?
"There isn't anyone," I said tersely, chewing on my lip. I was floundering.
"Mhmm," she purred suspiciously. The image of her eyebrow quirking skeptically, as I knew it must be behind me, was overwhelming. I was becoming delirious and slightly woozy from the continued interaction with her, which was mortifying enough in itself, but this whole episode was humiliating and I desperately wished that it would end. Besides… creative thoughts concerning what I could do to her right in this room were beginning to creep up on me like the heat slowly seeping into my face. They were gradually flickering into focus with increasing persistence, and now was really not a good time. No, it was not a good time to be picturing her sliding up behind me and wrapping her arms around my waist (the tamest of possibilities running through my head) when she was right in this very room, in the flesh. The teasing was not helping at all, either; her cajoling, almost flirtatious attitude was extremely tempting.
Luckily for me, she kept quiet, and I tried to at least pretend to focus my attention on the papers in front of me. As the silence dragged on, I got more and more uncomfortable. She was just trying to be friendly, and I was acting all frigid and being tight-lipped… no, I was keeping everything under wraps. How could I possibly give anything away? Should I have just said, "Ok really, I was imagining you were all over me because honestly, I'm crazy over you"?
I doubt she would run screaming from the big, scary bisexual, but it would certainly not be good. It just never boded well to put things like this out in the open when nothing but humiliation and rejection would come from it. Besides, better safe than sorry. I took a deep breath and blew it out of my nostrils, trying to get myself under control. What a train wreck.
I put the folders down and frowned. I had spent the better part of my adolescent and adult years squashing my feelings for women and moving on to the next unsuspecting target, all because I was terrified of rejection. Years I had wasted, cautiously covering my tracks and guarding myself, for what? To be alone? Was it really better being untouched and undamaged than taking a risk and falling? When I compared what I had to lose from gambling and what I had to gain from staying safely in the shadows, it made my head swim. I couldn't believe what I had let pass me by.
I couldn't believe what I was about to do.
She looked surprised when I whirled around and stepped forward, but it seemed to spark something in her and she came to life, as if remembering something she wanted to say. Her mouth opened as she stepped forward too, but I beat her to it.
"Listen, I've got to be honest, I-"
"I can't hold it in anymore, I really want to-"
Whatever she was about to say or whatever I was about to say, both of which seemed to be along the same reckless lines, was cut off when I closed the gap between us and captured her mouth in mine, a maneuver that surprised me more than it probably did her. I didn't let myself think about the stunned clumsiness with which we kissed, or the incredible odds that this was actually happening; all that registered was my shock that my wildest dreams were coming true. I kissed her with reckless abandon, cupping her face in my hands and tasting her tongue with an energy borne out of years of hibernation. She gripped my waist and leaned into me, breathing heavily, seeming just as excited as I was.
Thirty seconds later, I tore myself away, staring at her wild eyes just a few inches from mine.
"Is this what you-"
"Yeah!" she blurted hoarsely. "God, Allison, is it ever. I just had no idea that you-"
"I know, surprise, huh?" I panted.
"I never would have guessed in a million years!"
"I never knew you swung that way either. Well, this way, I guess. I've had a thing for you for ages…" I exclaimed in a rush.
"Same here. What the hell took us so long?"
We never did clarify what took so long, because once again the dialogue was smothered when we leapt back on each other, crushing our lips and bodies together like our lives depended on it.
All in all, I discovered that it was very well worth taking the plunge. And as luck would have it, she was working the late shift too, and we both had a lot of paperwork to keep us busy in the file room all night…
I also learned a valuable lesson that night: fantasies have nothing on the real thing. And crushes have nothing on lovers.
Author's Note: I really hope you readers thought the narrator was Thirteen the whole time. ;)