I was sitting in the library doing some homework when I first met Kelly. Mr. Green, the librarian and resident puppeteer, walked over and introduced us. He explained that she was transferring to the Las Vegas Academy mid-year from a school in Burbank, California.
She was standing there, holding an armful of books, wearing a bright fuzzy pink sweater and jeans, with fair skin and light freckles. She reminded me of all the most popular girls in junior high. She was dressed stylish, radiated confidence, and was gorgeous. She was obviously way out of my league.
Mr. Green explained that she hadn’t been issued a locker yet and wondered if I could share mine with her. I jumped at the opportunity to spend more time with Kelly and we started walking off together. I noticed her struggling with her books and offered to carry them for her.
When we got to my locker Kelly was surprised to find that it was completely empty. She also noticed that I wasn’t carrying a backpack. “Hmm, no books in his locker or backpack… This guy must be a real loser,” Kelly thought to herself. “At least he is really nice. He did agree to share his locker and carry my books.”
Over the next couple weeks we got to know each other. We hung out in the library during her study period and would go off campus for lunch with my friends. We exchanged phone numbers and spent hours talking to each other after school. I suppose we must have had our first kiss at some point during that time yet I don’t have a clear memory of that moment.
I do have a vivid memory of a phone conversation we had. It was clear that our relationship was advancing quickly and I wanted to know if I needed to “ask her out.”
“I mean, isn’t that what kids do?” I asked, hinting that we weren’t kids anymore. “We have been talking and dating and kissing for weeks now. Lets just promise to be exclusive and call ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend,” I proposed.
“Oh no,” she replied quickly, “you have to ask me out. In fact,” after glancing at our horoscope in Cosmo, “it looks like our lucky love days next month are February 8th for me and February 10th for you. So either of those will work.”
A feeling of dread crept over me. Not only did I still have to “ask her out” but now she was expecting it. I hate doing things once it is expected and the only way I have figured out to overcome this feeling is to deliver more than what is expected. It is a way of raising the ante and making it special and a surprise again. I began to hatch a plan.
Over the next couple weeks I collected the materials I would need. Yards and yards of butcher paper in various colors. Packaging tape. Scissors. My bus always arrived at least 30 minutes before Kelly’s and I planned on taking advantage of the window.
On February 8th, 1995 I taped the first sign to a chain link fence in the parking lot which she walked past every morning. It was a landscape with green rolling hills and flowers, blue sky, a bright yellow sun and the words “Kelly, Will you …”
Kelly has a memory of walking past that sign and hearing a couple girls talking about it. “Oh that is so sweet. I wonder who did that?” one of them asked. Kelly wondered the same thing herself since she didn’t know it was for her.
On February 9th I taped the second sign in an even more prominent place. The overhead walkway linking two buildings. It was a black sign, shaped like an explosion, covered in random shapes with the words “…go out…”
By now Kelly had figured out the signs were for her but all the other students were still guessing. She remembers girls on her bus talking about how lucky this Kelly girl must be and how sweet the signs were. Of course she was so new at the school that the girls didn’t even know her by name.
On February 10th I hung the 3rd sign on the wall of a building facing the central courtyard of the school. It was a giant pink heart, covered with smaller hearts and it had the words “…with me, Jake?”
After all that build-up you think I would have a clear memory of the reveal but unfortunately I don’t. I know she said yes and we continued to happily date for over a year and a half. Eventually I transferred to a different high school in Ohio and after a stint of dating long distance we decided to break up. In my most private thoughts I believed that we might still end up together. Lucky for me this wasn’t the end of our story.
This is the first part of our story. Here is the next part of our story.