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THE HISTORY OF LOVE
by Janice Stensrude
published in Uptown Express February 1989

It all started with Robert. He was the best looking thing I'd ever seen. Every time I got close to him, I had palpitations, and I said dumb things (really dumb things) in an attempt to strike up conversation. He was so bored with me that I may well not have existed at all. So I hatched a plot to become more exciting, more daring. I was going to take his breath away. He was going to NOTICE me. I had day dreams of walking hand in hand through endless meadows of tall wildflowers, and he would be looking deep into my eyes with worshipful love.

"Miss Millard, Janice is cheating!"

Shock set in. Embarrassed, horrified, humiliated, I was banished to the cloak room to wallow in the pain of humiliation and utter failure.

I thought Robert would be impressed if I blatantly cheated on a spelling test. I made a careful list of the words (from memory) on a scrap of paper that I folded into my palm. When I was able to catch his eye, I put on my best impish, daring smile and flashed my cheat sheet. This was the moment. I had envisioned it all morning, looking forward to the culmination of my plot to capture Robert's heart. Firmly fixed in my mind was the look of astonishment and admiration he would flash to me. And then, later on the playground, he would seek me out to ask how I'd done it and marvel at my gutsy, daredevil feat.

"Miss Millard, Janice is cheating!"

Plummeted to earth by the sound of shattered dreams—tinkling harshly, they crashed around me.

That was my first love. My utter humiliation deprived me of the satisfaction of hating him. It was years before I would recognize that Robert was a pompus little shit who was jealous that he had to study so hard to make an 85, and my straight As were the result of glancing at the material to make certain I already knew the answers. He probably grew up and became very rich in the process of striving so hard to surpass mediocrity. I always envied people who knew how to try hard.

That was when I was 8 years old, and I don't recall any serious attachments until many years later, at the age of 10, when another Robert swept into my life. He had blond hair, blue eyes and rosy cheeks. He was not pudgy and pasty like the other Robert. How could I have ever been so foollish?

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