Posted in A Moment in My Life

“Her Pen Pal”

A Moment in My Life – Thursday, June 24, 2021

Jeannie Yee Davis

Word of advice—be careful what you wish for. That was from someone who didn’t take this advice—yours truly. The other day I watched the new Hallmark movie, “Her Pen Pal,” which was a delightful movie that left me wishing I had such a story to reminisce.

Wait. I did have a pen pal, briefly. His name was Thomas. Thomas from Malaysia. Whatever happened to him? How did we become pen pals? Gosh. Darn. I don’t remember, but this was back when I wrote actual letters with stationery and pen and supported the USPS system. I had a few pen pals–both guys and gals, but Thomas stood out during my teens. When I think of him, I think of riding horseback slow-mo on the twilight beach, just like in the movies. I’m not sure why since we never met in person, but something we talked about in our letters triggered this memory. Had we continued corresponding, who knows, “Her Pen Pal” might have been my story. Wouldn’t that have been interesting?

Not so interesting was another memory triggered by this wish—an old suppressed memory of my first major crush. He was EY to me, and to protect his identity—we’ll refer to him as EY. EY floated like an angel as he passed in front of me on Pacific Avenue in San Francisco just as I stepped out of my house that first morning of junior high school. We locked eyes, and that was it—I gave him my heart. How long had he lived up my street? Why hadn’t we crossed paths until that morning? I would’ve noticed this tall, lean guy with exquisite features and a gorgeous head of black wavy hair. He even stood apart from all the other guys wearing the same navy-blue Derby jacket. He made desert boots seem like the coolest shoes. 

I trailed behind him down to Stockton St, where I timidly stood hidden yet close enough to gawk at him without him seeing me while we waited for the 30 Stockton bus to Marina Junior High, where I started seventh grade. I later learned that EY was starting ninth grade. Ugh! I was a sophomore. He was a senior! He’ll be gone to high school at the end of that school year! On the first day of junior high, I fell in love and broke my heart all on the same day, and that’s a tragedy.

Nothing changed since day one. I spent the whole school year watching EY from a safe, hidden distance. Although we locked eyes that first day, I don’t think he saw me. I was “in crush” alone. At the end of the school year, I went as far as to spend what little money I had to buy a yearbook to cut out his senior picture and carry it in my diary, which I did for the next four years. 

I couldn’t wait to go to Galileo High, where EY was, but when it was my turn for high school, they started busing, and I ended up at Mission High instead. I should’ve picked up on the signs telling me it was never meant to be. I remained faithful, though, and my eyes blindly saw only him still. I don’t know what I was thinking. We had no connection or familiar anything where we might run into each other. We lived on the same block and managed never to bump into each other, ever. 

My resolve to remain faithful to EY began withering with time and distance. Then, suddenly one lovely spring day when I was in eleventh grade, my girlfriends and I were on the N Judah streetcar heading home from school when EY hopped onto my streetcar. My heart thumped so hard I couldn’t breathe or think, but I knew this was my one chance to do something, and I took it. I ditched my girlfriends. I approached EY and asked if we could talk. He said yes. He also agreed to get off the streetcar so that we could talk in private. We stood at the bus stop on 10th and Market, where I poured my heart out to him, and he seemed to welcome everything I said, but he didn’t indicate any reciprocation. He neither let on that he ever noticed me or not. He had a good poker face.

EY was just as handsome up close as I imagined he would be. He still towered over me now that I’m wearing heels instead of flats when I was twelve. From the exterior, he remained everything I dreamed he would be.  However, he was way chattier than I imagined. As he spoke, I realized that EY was merely a gorgeous man shell that I filled with who I wanted him to be. Not on purpose, but rather out of necessity since I knew nothing about him. So, I gave him a personality, character traits, and the whole gamut, making him my perfect dream man. The only thing terrible about doing that was meeting the real EY and discovering he’s nothing like my dream man. That’s still fine, except I was too naïve to dream up some things like values, which it turned out we desire very different values. He was more interested in marrying for money than for love. I don’t roll with money being the priority.    

I always imagine a fairy tale ending after meeting EY, but reality never resembles a fairy tale. My heart was heavy-laden that afternoon as I processed everything when my friend Anna called me. The first thing she said was, “Are you out of your mind?” From there, she repeated every word verbatim that I told EY. I felt like she slapped me in the face repeatedly. It turned out EY is a mama’s boy, and he tells mama everything. Mama is best friends with Anna’s mother. That was not the way I wanted to discover a connection between EY and me. 

I may be an open book. I share a lot, but I am a private person. I try to exercise discretion on what and how I communicate. I was embarrassed that my girlfriend repeated what should have been a private conversation back to me. All of the players in that scene were older than me, but none were mature. Granted, Anna was trying to be a good friend, and I appreciate that. In a warped way, and not at that moment—but in hindsight—I’m glad she told me. After that, I was finally ready to let EY go. That night, I shredded his photo and moved on.

Although I gave EY my heart when I was twelve, he never accepted it. Eventually, I met my dream man in the man who became my husband, and he wholeheartedly took my heart with both hands and kept it safe forever after. My first crush and my pen pal may not have worked out, but as it turned out, my wish came true, and I did have such a story to reminisce, just like in the movie “Her Pen Pal.”

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