I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid my hometown. A town of 11,000, I felt very confined when growing up. There was no room for mistakes, no room for growth, no privacy, no anonymity. Something you’d done at 12 followed you as long as it could hang on.
My younger life was anything but peachy and people in my hometown knew it. I dealt with various health issues, the least of which was my weight, and these all drastically affected the way I felt others saw me.
I used my weight as a sort-of protective mask, and in my junior year I realized that I was close to escaping home and with that would come opportunities to fulfill my potential and seek my dreams. So I started to transition. I lost (a lot of) weight and began seeking out activities to help shape me.
Upon graduation, I almost immediately lost contact with most people I grew up with. I branched out. I moved. Far away.
I went through drastically different phases of life. I went from being a conservative little girl who didn’t even want to dye or cut her long hair to a more-liberal chick with her hair cut in a sharp bob at my chin and dyed black with a red streak in it. And then a more classically dressed young woman. I became a (sometimes) career-driven professional. I have developed my personal tastes and my amazing friendships. I have created a very anti-hometown home for myself here in this city, and I love it.
And as generally content as I am with the components of my life, when I go home I tend to feel boxed in again. I feel like I’m that invisible little fat girl all over. And people’s newfound awe over my current appearance frustrates me even more (some of which I touched upon in my earlier post). I have an uncanny facial/name recognition, so I know everyone around me and, while they may have known me back in the day, most fail to recognize me now. So then when I say hello to them in the grocery store, I feel so ridiculous when they don’t have a clue who I am.
It is for this reason that I avoid that town. When I’m there, I’m there to see my family, so I stay safe in my parents’ cozy house. And if I do venture out, it’s in the big city 30 minutes away, where I’m far less likely to run into people from my hometown.
But regardless, it does happen. I do run into them. Sometimes I duck and run. Or stop, drop, and roll. Sometimes I blatantly ignore them. And sometimes I say hello.
And I was at a sushi restaurant waiting for a table Friday staring at one of my former classmate’s older brother. I thought about saying hi, but I was sure he had no idea who I was, and, well, he was just so good looking I guess I was afraid he’d see right through it. So I just stood there and waited for a table.
“Excuse me, but are you a *insert my last name here*?” He reached out to me and asked.
Now, my family is large and quite well known in this town, so while remarkable he had said something, I still figured it was just because I look like my siblings.
I said, “Yes, are you a Lozano?”
“I am! You’re Jess, right?”
And five minutes or so into conversation, he and his friends were seated.
Damn it, I thought. That’s it? He is so cute!
So I took my last shot of sake over to his table when I finished eating. I set it down in front of him and invited them all to the bar we were going to later that night, thinking there was no way he’d show.
About 10 minutes into arriving at the bar, I heard there was a huge line. I was sure this would prove to be a major deterrent, should he have thought about showing up.
Forty minutes later he walked in, looking every bit as handsome as he had earlier.
It was obvious he was there for me. But then, I hadn’t been in the area for months so I had about 20 other people there for me as well. I talked to him for a little bit, then I started to circulate between my friends, leaving him hanging out with his friend against the wall.
I was chatting with my ex boyfriend (funny enough) when he stopped by to tell me they were leaving. He emphatically told me how glad he was we ran into each other. But he didn’t get my number or anything.
As he walked away, my ex said, “What was up with that? Did you get his number? If I liked men, I’d like him. He’s a good looking dude.” Fist bump.
I walked back inside and my married friend (and therefore my de facto dating coach) said, “You lost your guy. What is wrong with you? He was so into you! And you basically ignored him the whole night and didn’t even get his number! You’re stupid!”
That was all the encouragement I needed. I Facebooked him right then and there. On my BlackBerry.
“Should’ve gotten your phone number. Shoulda coulda woulda, right?”
I thought, well, I haven’t seen him in five years, so even if my message isn’t well received, what have I got to lose? I won’t see him anyway.
But 10 minutes later I had a response. With a number. Asking me if I wanted to go out the next night.
And I did, so we went.
And talked for five hours straight. And started to make plans to visit each other in our respective locations, his being the Pacific northwest.
He thoroughly understood my feelings toward home. He shared them. He made me laugh and feel so comfortable and amazing and valuable. He laughed at my jokes and by the end of the night, we had more inside jokes than I can remember. He was every bit the gentlemen. We could barely bring ourselves to part at 3 a.m.
He told me he wanted to stay in contact. I agreed.
He’s called me twice in the last 24 hours. We have plans for me to visit him soon. This one feels like maybe it could be legitimate.
And I just can’t help but wonder…after decades of running from my hometown and pushing away so much associated with it, how funny it would be to find a guy who had been there all along.