When you need a sympathetic ear, sometimes a stranger is your best option. In times of trouble, I have found myself on both sides of that truism. Wendi and I were not particularly close. But when she needed some impartial romantic advice, Wendi searched me out between the book shelves.
My family moved to Great Neck between ninth and 10th grade. During our three years together in high school, I cannot recall being in more than one class with Wendi.
Flipping through our high school yearbook, I remember Wendi as average height, petite, with brown eyes and curly black hair. She wasn’t part of the theater scene, and I don’t remember her participating at Levels, the local youth center located in the bowels of the library. I considered myself a comedy geek and she was giggly, yet mousy. Based on my high school/low self-esteem persona, she was “out of my league.” This made our interaction that day even more improbable, in the vein of John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club, a movie that would not exist for another four years.
We worked shoulder-to-shoulder at the main branch of the Great Neck Library during my employment there. Perhaps Wendi witnessed my interactions with other pages, as we were called. Maybe she heard from someone that I gave them good advice.
I wheeled a cart of unsorted books to the furthest wall inside the library, which housed the beginning of the Dewey Decimal system. Wendi approached me with a chipper “Hi, Jeff!” then asked if I needed some help. Savvy enough not to turn away an extra pair of hands, I replied, “Sure.”
We bantered innocuously for a few minutes. Wendy asked, “Are you going to the prom?” The question alone indicated an absence of familiarity with my high school standing.
Some of the girls in my circle had received invitations, but none of my male friends had the gumption to ask our classmates to attend a milestone event like the prom. I had recently received my learners’ permit. We were more likely to drive to a local theater for a new movie than go anywhere near a formal dance.
Heading into the conversation, I understood that Wendi was going out with Terry, one of my original friends from when I first moved to Long Island. Between 10th and 11th grade, I segued from the computer room to the theater…