Kyle came to the first day of a university radio lab I was teaching with a simple, jaw-dropping proposition: He had a crush on a guy he’d never met and he wanted to record — in real time — his encounters, his thoughts and feelings. A sort of audio MRI of his emotions. The class and I gasped, and then roared approval. Or, in
retrospect, was it bloodlust?

Is there anything that can make you feel more ridiculous, or emotionally seared, than a full-throttle crush that goes off the rails? And that’s usually what happens. I worried that Kyle might be as vulnerable as I had been.

I was totally unequipped to handle high school crushes, meaning I had a very, very hard time playing it cool. And I fell for all the wrong guys. The kind of guy who steps on your heart and twists his heel as he turns to leave.

My girlfriends discreetly played for hunks with varsity letter jackets. These girls could coolly walk down hallways, eyes straight ahead, while chatting with a friend and hugging their books to their chests, knowing, with absolute certainty, the guys would turn around to check them out.

When my love interest, Brian, came into view, I felt weak and flushed. If he glanced at me, I would beam at him like some romantic rube. He was a loner, who wore black leather jackets and biker boots, slicked his hair back and smoked cigarettes. A dark-haired James Dean type with a killer crooked smile. He was a “greaser,” and I was a goner.

We didn’t mingle much at school, but we boarded horses on the same farm. On horseback, we tore through the countryside. We listened to music in the barn where he taught me to blow smoke rings. A few times, when we both got real quiet, he kissed me. I was delirious when he swooped me up in his arms when the song, “Wild Thing,”
came on the radio.

Then, he disappeared without saying a word. One day he was in school and the next day he wasn’t. His horse was gone, too. I waited dumbly with a dull, throbbing pain in my throat for him to come back, to call me. And, of course, he never did.

Whenever I hear “Wild Thing” on the radio, I feel just a little bit more alive, and I swear I can smell freshly cut hay and his Brut cologne.

Crushes are dangerous. They should have warning signs. And now, here was Kyle offering to perform open heart surgery on himself. Each week, the class waited like soap opera fiends for Kyle’s next installment. His stories were funny, inspiring and sometimes cringeworthy. And, then, he stopped coming to class or responding to calls or emails.

The author is Karen Lowe, a producer at Bending Borders.

This is part one of the six part ‘Love is Complicated’ radio series that has been adapted and will appear on Medium each Friday.

To hear Kyle tell his story with every excited gasp and churn, click here.