I have a vivid memory of Blake’s penetrating brown eyes. As a birthday present, a couple of his friends gifted him a double date in which they acted as our chauffeurs and drove us to various surprise locations. The date itself was extremely fun and memorable, but there was this moment. The two of us were sitting in the back of the car and I caught him looking at me. It was an unwavering stare. And it lasted and lasted, maybe for a full minute, his body angled toward me and a little grin on his face. He wasn’t even trying to be sneaky about it, and I was jumping out of my skin a little bit.
I was pretty young when we first met. My mom bribed me to go with her to a reunion in her hometown, Lake Arrowhead. She and I made some bet about how many people would say, “Wow, you look just like your mom.”
Okay maybe not that many, but it was a lot. It was also the first time I met my mom’s old high school boyfriend. Along with his son, Blake. Talk about keeping it in the family. I talked with him and about four of his guy friends, but it was Blake who got my number. He really stood out and was definitely the leader of the crew. He smiled a half-smile, had curly red hair, and could make me laugh. Actually, he can make anyone laugh, which is part of his charm. I have a lot of memories with Blake, and for some reason I can remember so many details about our dates.
As I mentioned before, Blake somehow got away with taking me on a non-double date when I was 16. I guess he just showed up by himself, said hi to my folks, and out the door we went. It just goes to show he was someone my mom trusted. It was a beautiful, warm evening, and I remember, after some delicious dinner (was it Italian?), walking along a brick path and enjoying the temperate night and the easy conversation. We ended up at the movies–he spent the first half of the movie trying to get a hold of my hand, and the second half actually holding it. It was a simple, wonderful night.
When I think about our dates as a whole, I recall feeling a little uncomfortable and sometimes out of place. I was fairly confident as a teen, but I wasn’t completely myself with him. And that may have been in part due to the fact that we were often hanging out with a bunch of his guy friends. They were totally a click, and I wasn’t part of it, but I liked him and just kind of went with it. It was definitely something for me to learn from.
We spent the days in the sun on the lake, smelling that delicious mountain air, and passed the nights watching movies or eating out. Eventually things fizzled. But in true Jessica-fashion, the old flame came back for me a few times. We got together a few more times. I went with him to his senior prom and we sang “A Whole New World to each other, even though he had a certain “Rosie” on his mind. And since my family vacationed sometimes on the mountain, we’d get together, naturally. I think part of the problem was that Blake liked the idea of me more than he liked the actual me–I had other guys back in Riverside who were sure trying harder than he was. And I think the other part of the problem was simply that we weren’t in love. But I definitely was “in like” with Blake, and my memories of him still bring a smile to my face.