The summer of 1988 resides in my mind as the last summer of true childhood freedom, the summer before I entered high school. Like a hot air balloon riding on a lazy air current, I was along for the journey, just hoping that the landing would be smooth.
I'd taken a job, per se, working at The Fry Shack during the baseball games of my brother, Taylor, for a lousy $2 an hour. Still, it was better than just sitting in the dusty wooden bleachers, watching overenthusiastic parents hopping about the stands and lobbing verbal threats at a bunch of 7 year olds.
The Fry Shack was a wooden box of infernal heat, serving up burgers and hot dogs to dusty, freckled-faced kids from all over the county. A two hour shift left my sizzling-echoed eardrums spackled with particles of grease, even though I was blissfully too young to work the grill. After an evening in The Fry Shack it would take two to three washes of Salon Selectives #4 to get the smell out of my hair.
Since I couldn't work the grill, I doled out a large collection of candies and worked the register. Milky Ways and Fireballs, Laffy Taffys and Sugar Daddies. A large industrial deep freezer held bomb pops and push ups and ice cream sandwiches. I also filled paper cups with Cokes from the fountain, trying not to guzzle all the soda myself in the heat.
So there I was one steamy June evening, while Duran Duran played from the Boom Box, and I turned around from the cooler to hand a kid his Dilly Dally bar, when I caught my breath. For a second or two, I couldn't breathe. My heart sort of shrugged its shoulders and declared it wouldn't beat again for at least 10 seconds. Because the next kid in line had stepped up sporting the most stunning, deep, and handsome pair of blue eyes I had ever seen. Tall, lean, and wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform, he didn't even look at me as he placed his order, "Two hot dogs, bag of Cheetos, large Coke". I took a thankful gulp of air and turned to the cash register to ring up his items, all the while mentally bemoaning my sweaty face and limp wavy hair. There I was in the heart of the 80s and I couldn't even rally up some decent bangs with Aquanet.
"That's $3," I muttered, head down, face flushed. I handed him his change and food, and completely ignored the other kids in line for just a moment, while I watched him saunter away. Maybe, just maybe, this Fry Shack gig wouldn't be all bad, I thought to myself. And so began my epic crush, a two year long stint of unrequited crushdom, of frantic notes to girlfriends for advice and longing hearts, and wishing, wishing, oh so much wishing that The Great J.T. would take notice of me.
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Next week's topic is "It Happened in Class".