It's after school, and a couple of boys and I are playing a fun game that I'll call "Guess Who He Likes." Also in the room are some African kids practicing their dance for the international festival and a group of girls making 3D glasses. Don't ask about the 3D glasses--it wasn't for my class, but I was around, so they decided to work in my room.
The guys and I are playing "Guess Who He Likes" because one of them was laughing at the other for being "a vulture." Apparently, right after school, this kid wanted to talk to a girl at her locker, but he hesitated, and ended up walking past her a couple of times, sort of circling, before leaving without saying anything. So they came into my room and the one guy was laughing at the other one.
"You were such a vulture," says the one. The other looks sheepish. I ask about it. "Oh, he likes this girl but is afraid to talk to her," I'm told.
"Who is she?" I ask.
"Don't worry about it," says the vulture. "You don't know her."
"Sure he does, she's in his fifth period class," his friend says.
And so I pull up the class roster on my computer, complete with pictures, and ask, "Who is it?"
"I'm not telling you," the vulture says. "But you can try to guess. I'll give you two tries."
I look over the roster. I have no clue. Especially because it's my one class with 24 girls, so my odds of guessing are pretty low. "Give me a hint," I say.
"Based on what you know about me, who do you think?" he asks.
I have no idea. I tell him that and turn to the friend. "Describe her."
"Well, I think she's good looking, too," he says. "Which girls do you think are attractive?"
"Hey, I don't think about my students that way," I say.
And so the three of us are at my computer, the dancers are dancing, the girls are cutting out 3D glasses, and a fellow English teacher walks in and just stares at everything going on. "Hey," I say to her. "Come over here. We're playing 'Guess Who He Likes.' Which of these girls do you think this guy would like?"
She comes over. Looks at the computer. Looks at me. "You know, I came in here for a reason," she says, "but for the life of me, I can't remember what it was."
"When you figure it out," I tell her, "you know where to find me."
Later on, it's quiet. The vulture is the only one left. We're still talking about the girl he likes. I thought I had it figured out, but it turns out I was wrong. The one he does like is probably completely wrong for him, but I don't tell him that. Instead, I turn on some music. "Don't You Forget About Me" by the Simple Minds comes on.
"Turns out this song is very meaningful to me," I tell him. And I tell him this story: Back when I was his age, a junior in high school, I had a crush on a classmate. At the end of that school year, she wrote a really nice message in my yearbook. It was long and heartfelt, with definite feelings that I didn't quite understand at the time. Included was a comment about this very song: Basically, she said that songs like "Don't You Forget About Me" are worth remembering, not Pink Floyd's. The following year, I didn't have any classes with the girl and we lost touch.
"The weird thing," I tell the vulture, "is that she wrote that 20 years ago. And I still remember it. And every time I hear this song, I think about her message in my yearbook."
"That's really cool," he says.
"Anyway, don't listen to anyone that tells you not to follow your heart. If you feel a connection, go for it. You never know," I say. "In other words, don't chicken out like I did."
Which, in more ways than he can ever guess, is the story of my life.