I was in love with my piano teacher’s daughter. She was in my French class in 9th grade, and every Wednesday I rode the bus with her to Virginia Beach, got off on the same stop, and walked with her to her house.
This would imply there was the vaguest intimacy between us, and there was decidedly not. Even though our entire 9th grade class was 99 people, and her mom was a celebrated musician in a town where my dad was the symphony conductor, I got the feeling she could scarcely conjure my name. When I got off the bus with her, I’d walk twenty paces behind, faking a problem with my shoe or my backpack, to relieve her of the burden of pleasantries.
That was the only kind of romantic love I’d ever known – being so positive that my crush would find me laughable, that I’d deliberately keep myself completely out of the running. Forget about “the fear of rejection”… as far as I knew, I was from a different universe without a common language or genitalia, and approaching a girl seemed like breaking the laws of physics.
Carolina changed all that, and the repercussions of so many years in romantic utero came back to haunt me, but I digress.
One night I finished my piano lesson around 8pm, went to the foyer, and did something known to my family as the third circle of Hell: waiting for my mom to pick me up. She was, on average, about 45 minutes late each time, but it could vary wildly. So I settled into the vestibule bench.
Upstairs, I could hear the piano teacher’s daughter put on a 45 single, and before long, “My Guy” by Mary Wells conducted through the walls. Not being from the kind of family that would have played 20-year-old Motown hits at home, it was the first time I’d ever heard it, and thought the chord progressions were pretty cool. After the song ended, I heard the daughter walk over to the record player and play it again.
The second time, I noticed some of the lyrics:
No muscle-bound man could ever take my hand
From my guy-
No handsome face could ever take the place
Of my guy-
He may not be a movie star, but when it comes to being happy,
On the third and fourth time she played the song, I began to think I could be that person, the one who isn’t handsome, the one you can’t help love anyway. She didn’t want any of the boys I saw her with at school, not the lacrosse players or the wealthy studs she’d known since kindergarten – she wanted the guy who sneaked up on her, the one she adored despite all logic.
By the seventh or eighth time, I was sure of it. Each time the song ended, I could hear her bare feet walking across her room, the same number of paces, carefully taking the record player needle and placing it back at the beginning. She was trying to conjure this “guy” – didn’t she know he was sitting twelve feet below her?
By the tenth time, I was beginning to wake from my reverie. Where was my mom? Why was she always doing this to me? By the twelfth time, I began to feel sorry for the piano teacher’s daughter – doesn’t she crave at least a little variety in music? Could I actually be in love with someone who could listen to the same song that many times in a row?
By the time my mom’s headlights pierced the darkened raindrops of the foyer window, I had heard “My Guy” sixteen times in a row. I got into the car, and my mom apologized for making me wait, and then asked “how do you like the piano teacher?”
“She’s fine,” I said, “but her insane daughter drives me up the wall.”