Gary Rinsem

First Contact
Condensed September 2020 from several earlier writings

"Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I made a mistake and promised myself I'd never do it again. That mistake is my life's second regret. This is the story of a lesson I've never forgotten. I was an abnormally horny lil twelve year old boy. Two years before, in fifth grade, puberty hit early and hit hard. Needless to say there weren't many girls that young who were willing. I can count them on no fingers. I was excited at starting seventh grade in the fall of 1971. Pueblo Elementary School was brand new. It still had new school smell, no more than a couple weeks old on this day. For reasons I don't recall, I was very late leaving for home. I saw the parking lot empty for the first time and for a moment, it was a bit exciting to be alone at school. Spotting another bike in the rack it became clear I wasn't alone. It was a girl's bike. I was alone at school, almost, there might be a girl here too. Rushing around, she was found at her locker. As I approached she turned to face me. Without hesitation I walked up to her, stopping far too close I said: "Show me yours and I'll show you mine." With five decades of hindsight it's clear that this was out of line as well as a risky maneuver, but at twelve and horny enough to be painful, it was a perfectly reasonable thing to say even to a complete stranger. There was no immediate response to my proposition. With no reaction from her, I continued to take the lead by quickly dropping pants and shorts to my knees. Her head tilted down and her eyes fixated on the view below my waist. She stared for a moment before asking permission to touch. My reply was simple: "show me yours." Her pants dropped as quickly as mine had. She grabbed me, hard, violently, it hurt. I didn't complain, just grabbed her. It was the first time I'd touched a girl, anywhere. Prior, there'd never been even a sweet innocent encounter. Never a hug or hand holding. I'd not yet had my first date or my first kiss. I was friends with two girls since third grade, but nothing more than friends. This encounter was exactly what I needed. My mind was two years into a puberty induced all consuming fixation on the possibilities presented by the existence of girls in the world. My reality was ruled by it. Two years of my life had been a train wreck as a result of it. The notion that I needed this encounter is a ridiculous understatement. It appeared she felt the same. We were in the same place at the same time, literally and figuratively. We explored together for five minutes before she quickly turned to face her locker, and put her clothes in order. I was doing the same without even realizing it. Standing beside her she stood motionless, staring at the ground in front of the lockers as if I were not even there. Confused by her reaction I was overcome with irrational fear. It made no sense and the only cause was my inability to understand her actions. I stared at her a moment and then ran away as fast as possible. At home I rushed to my bedroom and closed the door. Until late that night my thoughts were only of her. Fear subsided and was replaced by joy. She was a stranger, a girl I'd had not seen before. I never would've had the courage if she'd been a girl I'd grown up with. Being someone new made the event even more exciting for me. I concluded that she was ready for a boyfriend. I was determined it would be me. While planning possibilities for the next day, I thought my best chance was getting to school early and wait for her at the bike rack. She never came. I looked at every girl's face all day and didn't see her. I loitered by the lockers but she didn't show. For all of seventh and eight grades I constantly hoped to see her, but never did. Over time I concluded two possibilities, she moved or didn't go to my school. I suspect she was an older sister getting homework for a sick sibling. It's pure fancy on my part, but the most likely of everything I've imagined to explain never seeing her again. By that evening I understood what I should have done. I should have stepped up behind, wrapped my arms around her waist and gently asked her name. I should have ridden bikes home with her and started a relationship. I needed a first love at that age. The fact that it didn't come for another four years had a big impact on my life. If we had become a monogamous couple at that age, my life would have taken a completely different, more traditional course. I mourn for the person I might have become, the life I might have lived, if only I had hugged her instead of running away. Somewhere in the world... there is a woman regretting staring at the ground instead of smiling at me while telling me her name. It's my life's second great regret. A single small event like failing to ask her name, most likely had a major impact on the course of my entire life. A case of... what might have been. I suppose that's the basis for most regrets.