Ice Cream with a Side of Butterflies
A summer outing with my first lady crush that I'll never forget
August 3, 2017 at 10:07 am
This article is a part of Summer Lovin’ Week 2017.
Her name was Eva. She was a summer intern, new to the office, sitting in a cubicle not far from mine. The first time she came into view, she peeked out of her cube to take in a random office conversation happening around me. She was wearing fuchsia lipstick.
I was a fucking goner.
Having a crush as an adult is weird in ways I didn’t expect. I don’t mean an “ooh, this person is attractive, I’m blushing” crush. No, I mean the type of crush you had as a pubescent high schooler—the kind that turns your world over and makes your brain all swirly. The kind that finally makes you realize why it’s called a crush. And it’s even worse, even weirder, when your crush is on a coworker.
Fortunately, as an adult, there’s wine.
It’s also worth mentioning that this was my first-ever significant* crush on a woman, which made it something of a double-whammy. (*Like many LGBT women, I look back at attractions and connections I had in the past in a new light, but this one was the first one I didn’t have to second-guess or reflect on.) Whether that’s because I was finally mature enough to see it or because this particular woman happened to ignite exactly the right combination of neurons in my brain, I don’t know. Maybe a bit of both.
What I do know is that this crush hit me like a fucking freight train. I’ve written before about coming to terms with my bisexuality as an adult, but I only briefly touched on the crush that helped me get there. This is that story, or part of it, from the summer we worked together. In many ways, it was just another day. But it’s one I’ll never forget.
I’m refreshing my makeup at my desk in anticipation of a group outing for a Friday ice cream break. Nothing like a crush to make me obsessive about my appearance. Not long before it’s time to go, Beth, a coworker friend, stops by my office for a quick chat and tells me that my lipstick looks so good. The shade is called “spiced apple” and it’s one of my favorites year-round, sheer and buildable. After she leaves, I fish the tube out of my purse and give my lips one more swipe.
We gather in the hall, all purses and sunglasses, and there’s the private thrill of what’s to come rolled up in the collective joy of getting out of the office on a summer afternoon. Also, ice cream.
Eva is there in her sky blue lace sundress. I think she must really like that one, because I’ve seen her in it several times. It’s pretty.
By some stroke of luck, we’re right next to each other in line at the ice cream shop. Am I imagining it, or is she gravitating toward me on purpose? We did have a nice conversation about movies and college, once. She was wearing the same dress that day. Maybe we connected; maybe she feels comfortable with me. We order the same flavor, the shop’s signature sweet cream with generous chunks of soft red cake mixed in.
“It’s what I always get,” she says. Eye contact.
“Me too,” I respond. “It’s the best.” My portion is much larger than hers.
After everyone in our group has regathered and I’m starting to dig into my cold, heavenly bliss, Beth compliments my lipstick again. She has no idea about my crush. No one has any idea. I humbly thank her, and in my mind I fall on the ground and grab her hands and scream thank you because now everyone standing there is looking at my lips.
A second coworker, Amy, wants to take a group photo; it will give her something for the company Facebook page. We group up by the wall, and once again, I’m right next to Eva, and it doesn’t feel like an accident. It feels like . . . like our shoulders are touching? Our bare shoulders are touching. Is she leaning into me on purpose? There’s no way she doesn’t notice. It’s too obvious. Is she just making room for others—no, that’s silly; there’s plenty of room. I’m not scooting away. She’s not scooting away.
Is it weird that this is making me happy? Is this making her happy?
“I need to take off my heels so I’m not towering above everyone,” Eva says, suddenly, stepping out of her beige pumps and standing barefoot on the tile floor.
“That barely helped,” she says. “But if I bend my knees, that will look weird.”
God damn it. She’s so cute. I have no concept of what it’s like to be a tall, flawless goddess, or why anyone would be self-conscious of that, so I let words fall out of my mouth. I think she laughs afterward, probably because what I say barely makes any damn sense, my thoughts swirling like frozen yogurt.
“I’ll bend my knees, too, and then no one will notice.”
Dear reader, I did it. I’m short as hell and I bent my fucking knees in the ice cream picture, which was indeed uploaded to Facebook and then privately downloaded to my cell phone in all its shoulder-touching glory.
That moment with my arm against Eva’s in that ice cream shop on some random, sunny afternoon is still the gayest moment of my life. A little depressing, I know. I wish I could tell you that we eventually kissed or that we ever even went out for treats just the two of us. But the ice cream shop is all I’ve got.
I did take it upon myself to organize a final lunch outing for her before her internship ended. She sat next to me.
Did you know that the chemical responses that take place in the brain in response to a crush or initial attraction can be nearly identical to those that occur within an established “in love” relationship? Sure, the “crush” reaction may be temporary and fleeting, but this fact leads some to conclude that “love at first sight” is valid as a concept, at least biologically. For me, it’s more humbling. I know that what I felt for Eva wasn’t unique or profound; in reality it’s closer to being a universal human experience.
And as miserable as an unrealized/unrequited crush can be, it is beautiful to have felt those emotions in such depth. I cherish my memories of that summer—not just for Eva and our fleeting time together as coworkers, but the way I felt about her, the truths I realized about myself, and how much I was able to feel.