Sheila was the older sister of Julian, one of my hockey teammates. We met after a school football game during my sophomore year of high school. She had jet-black hair and olive skin and was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my whole entire life. And since she lived over half an hour away from me on the other side of town, she was also exotic—a temptress, even. The only problem was that at the time she was dating some other guy in my class, so, to shield myself from heartache, I tried to forget she existed. Then one day during my junior year, she sauntered back into my life, as temptresses often do.
“Sheila was asking about you at the football game this weekend,” my friend Todd told me at school one Monday morning.
“What?” I said. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know,” Todd said. “She was just acting all weird and asking everyone where you were.”
“What did she say?”
“I don’t know, dude. That chick’s a weirdo, anyway. Why don’t you ask Julian what the deal is?”
Todd was right—Sheila was a weirdo, if by weirdo you mean exotic superfox that I was now officially hell-bent on making my own. I ran into her brother, a freshman, in the school library the next day.
“Sheila says hi,” Julian said, beating me to the punch.
“What do you mean? What’s going on?” I asked, trying to keep myself from doing that thing where you grab someone by the collar and press them up against a wall in order to get them to start answering some tough questions.
“I dunno,” Julian said. “I guess she likes you or something.”
“Doesn’t she have a boyfriend?”
“Not anymore. Why don’t you call her?”
“Maybe I will,” I said, as nonchalantly as I could manage.
Since Julian was a whole two years younger than me, it would have been socially unacceptable of him to be protective of his older sister and not just go ahead and hand over his family’s home telephone number (this was all happening in pre-cell-phone times), so he scribbled it down on a piece of notebook paper and sent me on my way.
I was officially freaking out. The thought that Sheila actually liked me, Dave
Hill, a not-particularly-cool kid from all the way on the other side of town, was practically making my heart explode.
That night, I snuck down into the basement of my family’s house to call Sheila from the phone we kept in the laundry room, the most private place in the whole house, since everyone in my family absolutely despised doing laundry.
The phone rang a few times. “Is Sheila there?” I asked the lady who answered.
“Just a second,” the lady said.
It turned out the lady was Sheila’s mom. And the 20 or 30 seconds I had to wait for Sheila to pick up the phone felt like an eternity.
“Hello?” she said, probably not trying to sound sexy at all but still sounding totally, totally sexy to me.
“Sheila?” I squeaked. “This is Dave Hill.”
It was refreshing that Sheila didn’t hang up as soon as she heard it was me, as that tended to be most people’s reaction back then. In fact, it sounded like she was actually glad to hear from me. Weird, I thought.
“How’s it going?” I asked, trying and failing to sound like the coolest 16-year-old of all time.
“Great,” she said. Of course it was going great. She was the most beautiful girl in the whole world. Why wouldn’t it be? “How are you?”
“I’m really great. Thanks so much for asking.”
I hadn’t necessarily thought I would get that far into an actual conversation with her, what with Sheila being an actual girl and all, so I wasn’t sure what to say next. Angel that she was, however, she took the reins and I somehow managed to have a breezy, delightful discussion with her that—since my mom was at the grocery store at the time—lasted 10, maybe even 12 minutes as we chatted away about everything and nothing at all, finishing each other’s sentences, and laughing hysterically at whatever hilarious thing one of us had just said. When my mom finally came home, I even managed to play it reasonably cool after she picked up the phone in the kitchen and demanded I hang up immediately.
“Sure thing, Mom,” I said. “It was nice talking with you, Sheila. I’ll give you a ring tomorrow.”
I’m not sure where I got the moxie to throw in that last line, but I actually did end up calling Sheila the next day, and the day after that, too. And by the time the weekend finally came around, Sheila and I were hanging out. Together. We met up at my high school’s football game, and it felt like the most important moment in my life thus far. When I walked into the football stadium with Sheila, I felt like a champion—a champion of love, the best kind of champion. My hair looked good, too.
“So, do you like football?” I asked Sheila as we sat huddled together in the bleachers.
“No, I hate it.”
God I loved this girl. I hated football, too. We were made for each other. In an act of extreme social defiance, Sheila and I left the football game early to go hang out at the Burger King near her house, where we made two Cokes and a large order of fries last as long as possible as we sat there figuring out what other stuff we both hated. Football, school, curfews, New Kids on the Block, at least half the people we knew in common—the list was endless.
I’m sure I had been happy plenty of times, maybe even most of the time before that day, but being with Sheila somehow made me feel happy for the first time in my life. I couldn’t get enough of her. Since she used Finesse mousse on her hair, I used to sneak down the hair-care aisle of the local drugstore and spray a little into my hand to tide me over until I saw her next. A little creepy maybe, but I was convinced she was my soulmate, so I did what I had to do.
A few weeks into our courtship, I borrowed my parents’ Chevy station wagon and went for a wild night on the town with Sheila and a couple of other friends to Burger King, McDonald’s, and maybe even Wendy’s while we were at it. Since my friend Todd lived on the same side of town as I did, over 20 long miles away from Sheila’s house, he was the last one in the car besides Sheila and me when I went to drop her off at the end of the night.
“Dave, uh, why don’t you walk Sheila to the door and I’ll pull the car around so it’s facing the right way for us to drive the rest of the way home?” Todd blurted as we pulled into Sheila’s driveway.
A little awkward maybe, but I still thought he was the best guy ever for seeing to it that Sheila and I got a little alone time as, terrified teenager that I was, I had yet to muster the courage to actually kiss her.
Sheila lived on a cul-de-sac, so Todd drove my parents’ car as slowly as possible, his foot barely on the gas pedal, all the way down to the other end before slowly turning around and heading back toward Sheila’s house. It was freezing out, and that, combined with my overwhelming fear, had me shivering. I stood with Sheila in her driveway, knowing full well that I absolutely had to make my move before Todd returned if I didn’t want to spend the following week anxiously waiting for another opportunity like this to come around.
“So, uh, that was fun tonight,” I said.
“Yeah, thanks for driving,” Sheila said.
Shit. There were literally seconds to spare as I saw Todd begin to lurch back toward us in the Chevy, which by then looked like some slowly approaching phantom to me. Suddenly, a force I had never known before sent me hurtling toward Sheila’s face, my eyes closed and my mouth open as wide as humanly possible. Sheila picked up on my brazen cue and did the same. It was pure magic as our lips finally met for the first time, the moon shining down on us through the trees as if we were the only two people on earth.
Until Todd pulled into the driveway.
As the headlights of my parents’ car blinded us, Sheila and I slowly disengaged, returning to the awkward, stammering state we had been in only moments before.
“I’ll, uh, talk to you tomorrow,” I said, a huge smile spreading over my face.
I climbed back into the car feeling like easily twice the man I was before the kiss. Even Todd, not normally the sentimental type, couldn’t keep himself from giving me a high-five.
“Awesome, dude,” he said.
Sheila and I continued our unbridled romance through the winter, and it seemed like we were still going full-steam ahead the following spring, when she invited me out to her family’s lake house one Saturday afternoon. It was our first official getaway, like we were a real couple or something.
As we wandered toward the water in front of the house in what I assumed was just some casual lovers’ stroll, like the kind you see all the time in those karaoke videos, Sheila said to me, “I…need to talk to you.”
“Um, OK,” I said.
“My mom says I can’t have a boyfriend until the school year is over because I need to get my grades up and boys are a distraction.”
“Huh?” I gulped.
“I can’t date you anymore. Because of school.”
“Oh, you mean just for the rest of this school year, and then when summer comes you can have a boyfriend again? Like me, for example?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“But we can still talk on the phone and stuff, right?”
“No, my mom said I can’t do that, either. Sorry.”
I was devastated, but, blinded by love as I was, I figured that the school year would be over in less than two months and then Sheila and I could resume what I was pretty sure was the stuff of Harlequin romance novels, probably even better. As soon as we both finished finals, I went down into the laundry room and called her.
“Hello?” Sheila’s mom answered.
“Hi, it’s Dave, Dave Hill, from before,” I said. “Is Sheila home?”
“Just a sec.”
I waited breathlessly for Sheila to come on the line so we could pick up things right where we left off. Instead, however, Sheila’s mom picked up the phone again.
“Sheila can’t come to the phone right now,” she told me. “So I guess she’ll just have to call you back, maybe.”
“OK, great,” I said, and hung up the phone, totally oblivious.
And then I waited. And waited.
A couple of hours later my sister Katy discovered me sitting on the dryer all alone.
“What are you doing just sitting here?” she asked.
“Nothing. Get out of here!”
I spent the rest of the night in that laundry room and, while the phone rang repeatedly, it was never for me. Sheila did eventually call me again, but looking back on it, it was most likely just to get me to stop phoning her house every five minutes.
Do I still think about her, you ask? Of course I do. She was my first love, and, unless you’re made of stone or something, I guess you never quite get over that sort of thing. You spend your whole life assuming you’ll die alone, just you and your Smiths records in your parents’ basement forever, your lips untouched by anyone outside of the medical community. Then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, someone comes along and shows you that maybe you were wrong about all that and—worst-case scenario—maybe you could at least find someone to move down into that basement and listen those Smiths records with you, changing the course of your life forever. It sticks with you.
I realize there might also be some people out there wondering if any other “stuff” happened after that night Sheila and I totally made out in her driveway. And to that I say yes, maybe it probably might have. But if you think for one second that I’m about to go into graphic detail about what two teenagers got up to in the back of a Chevy station wagon, you’ve got another thing coming, thank you very much. Besides, it’s not like any of that stuff really matters anyway. The important thing to remember is that I’m now a major, major celebrity and there are so many chicks out there who totally want to make out with me that it’s actually a bit weird. Even so, I’ll never forget that first kiss in her driveway all those years ago. In fact, not too long ago, in a fit of wistful and maybe just a little bit drunken nostalgia, I decided to give old Sheila a ring.
“Hello,” her husband answered.
He sounded like he might actually be a pretty nice guy. And if I didn’t hang up right away, I bet I could have found out for sure. ♦
Adapted from Dave’s book, Tasteful Nudes…and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation, which came out today. Copyright © 2012 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.