When I was in first grade, I had a massive crush on a girl in my class named Karen.* This was a love-at-first sight type of deal—my feelings were intense, immediate, and based on absolutely no interaction at all. I was at a complete loss as to what I should do about this. My only previous faux-relationship experience had been the two girls I was “married” to in kindergarten; but I seem to recall being for the most part a passive participant in that strange polyamorous relationship. It quickly became clear to me that I wasn’t ever going to work up the courage to actually talk to her or anything like that, so the policy I settled on was a healthy combination of scrupulous avoidance and longing glances from afar. I didn’t expect this was going to get me anywhere, but it was the best six year-old me could muster.
To my surprise, though, that shit totally worked. My longing gazes were returned, which demonstrates the palpable truth of the Twilight principle that if you stare at things long enough, they will love you. This went on for a few weeks, and then, one day, out of the blue, she came up to me and invited me to her birthday party. This was a gesture fraught with meaning. She didn’t invite everyone in the class, so it wasn’t just to be polite. I decided the only possible motive she could have was that she too could sense our transcendental connection and knew we were meant to be together.
Were we? We’ll never know. Because here’s what happened next.
I should preface this next bit by noting that, as a kid, I was very manic. Very manic. Whenever my family went out to eat, for example, it was not uncommon for me to disappear under the table and then pop up at someone else’s like a little hyperactive gopher. For this reason, my parents were careful to ensure that I never, ever ingested caffeine.
My parents, however, were not at this party. What was at this party was a bunch of kids I didn’t know, the girl I loved but was too scared to talk to, and an everlovin’ shit-ton of soda. So there I am, standing awkwardly by myself next to the food, when one of the adults offers me some Pepsi. I try it, and find it takes the edge off. I start to feel a little better. “More Pepsi please!” My request is granted. This process is repeated. Again. And again. And again. And that’s when shit. got. real.
I don’t remember a lot about the party from this point forward. I don’t think my long-term memory was really operating at the time. The whole thing was sort of like being the guy from Memento, if that guy were on a wheelbarrow’s worth of cocaine.
The little I do remember, however, is plenty suggestive. At one point, I was running around the yard screaming, singing songs of my own invention into a frozen hot dog I was using as microphone. Also, you know those cars, the kid-sized ones that actually have a motor and you can drive around in? Karen had two. And I remember methodically taking them apart. Where’d I find a wrench? Who knows. But I had one. And those cars needed to be disassembled.
This goes on for a while. I have destroyed everything I can get my hands on and thoroughly, thoroughly ruined this party. A fed-up Karen finally comes up to talk to me.
Karen: Hi, Shawn.
Shawn: KAREN, YOU’RE UPSIDE DOWN!
Karen: You’re doing a headstand.
Shawn: WHAT? WHY ARE YOU TALKING SO QUIET?
Karen: I’m not quiet, you’re screaming.
Shawn: I’M NOT SCREAMING, THERE ARE THREE OF YOU! WHAT’S HAPPENING?!?
Karen: I have to go.
The party was pretty much over at this point, and my mother arrived to pick me up.
Shawn: HELLO MOM!
Mom: Honey, why are you running around me in circles?
Shawn: I’M MAKING A TORNADO!
Mom: Sweetie, that’s not how that works.
Shawn: IT IS IF I KEEP RUNNING!
Mom: What’s gotten into you? Wait a second. Shawn, did you have soda?
Mom: How much?
Shawn: TWO BOTTLES!
Mom: Oh no—do you mean big bottles or small bottles?
Shawn: BIG BOTTLES!
Mom: You drank two liters of soda.
Shawn: DUNNO! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH–
I didn’t get to sleep that night until 3:00 AM. My mother had to stay up with me and sing me songs until I stopped twitching. And as for Karen, those longing glances were no longer returned. I don’t really blame her. But at least I learned my lesson. Love and drugs are an explosive combination. Also, I think I hid most of her toy car parts in a tree. I hope she found them.
* This was her actual name. Karen, seriously, I am so sorry. I swear, it wasn’t me, baby, it was the Pepsi.