She was beautiful.

She was not and never would be a model. She had neither a model's perfect body nor a model's perfect face. But she had riveting green eyes, tousled blonde hair, and a nonstop electric smile. She was captivating, gorgeous, sexy, beautiful.

If I may indulge in the tired old cliche, it was love at first sight.

And it got better after I finally got to meet her and talk to her. Smart as a whip, funny, enthusiastic, always smiling, goofy when she could be, serious when she had to be. She even enthused over Guns N' Roses in my presence, so I had no choice but to fall madly in love with her...and I wasn't the only one--at least two other guys I knew were head-over-heels in love with her, too. We'd stand around and look smitten whenever she breezed through the room. I'm sure we looked quite amusing.

And when it's all written down here in black and white, it looks so damn trite, doesn't it? Reading over that last paragraph makes me personally ashamed, both as a writer (Who hasn't read this story countless times in badly-written potboilers? Or in the adolescent stalker-poetry scattered around E2?) and as a person (Why couldn't I have fallen for someone more fascinating and unique? And why didn't I know her well enough to be able to explain exactly why she was fascinating and unique?). Nevertheless, the cold, hard, embarrassing fact remains: I was utterly, completely, helplessly in love.

It took me so long to build up enough courage to ask her out, but when I did, I was surprised (surprised, hell--flabbergasted is closer to the right word) when she said yes, she'd love to go out sometime. We were coming up on midterms, so she asked if we could wait two weeks before the date--that was fine with me; to be honest, I needed that long to decide where we were going to go. I asked friends of mine where we should go and what we should do; most of them said I was a unique and interesting guy and should pick something atypical and out-of-the-ordinary to do. For a while, I planned on a picnic in the dorm basement, but I eventually decided that was too out-of-the-ordinary. I finally decided on the traditional dinner-and-a-movie...

So the day came, I picked her up, we ate a nice dinner, we ate some ice cream afterwards, we were too early for the movie, we browsed through a nearby bookstore, we went to the movie, I dropped her off back at her dorm, I drove back to my dorm and berated myself all night long. Did it go well? Would I have any way of knowing? Did she give off any cues or clues indicating whether she had fun? Sweat and worry, all night long...

When I saw her in class the next day...all I saw of her all day long was the back of her head. She never looked at me. She didn't wave. She didn't say hello. For me, that was the cue I was afraid of. She didn't have fun. She was in no way interested in another date. Bourbon was plentiful in those days...

It was three months after I had graduated and had left college behind forever, that the words "playing hard-to-get" suddenly forced their way into my forebrain. Was that my problem? Had I misinterpreted playing hard-to-get as disinterest? Or had my original interpretation of her behavior been right all along? Was there any way to tell for sure? I ran farther away, enrolled in a graduate school, and tried to start dating again. But I ended up comparing everyone to her: none of the eyes were green enough, none of the smiles electric enough. The few girls I asked out sensed that I was comparing them to someone else and turned me down cold.

Eventually, I got tired.

In the end, one cold, hard, embarrassing fact remains: I let her get away because I was too afraid to ask her out again. She may have said yes. She may have said no. But because I couldn't find the common courage to ask the question, I alone shoulder the blame for what-could-have-been. Someday, maybe I'll stop being a coward. Someday, maybe I'll stop living in the past. But first, I'll have to throw away the e-mail address I dug off her high school's alumni site...and I'm just not ready to do that yet...