All My Little Words is The Argus’ love-centric column. We publish personal essays, poems, humorous pieces, and other creative written work that focuses on themes of love, loss, labor, and loneliness—romantic and not. To submit an article, please send 1000-1500 words to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Serena Bloom had a huge crush on Matt Doyle. I knew because she was one of the more funny, popular, pretty, senior girls on the newspaper in high school that I secretly but also not so secretly wanted to be.
Serena was our columnist, because as one of the junior boys had joked with me—at the time I had found it funny but now it just seems like a shameful joke to have laughed at because I was being complicit in putting down another woman—she couldn’t really write or do anything well except for acting, but she was fun to have around.
About once a month our newspaper would gather around and do “beats and brainstorm,” in which everyone was supposed to come up with potential article ideas for each section. Serena would often just talk about what she thought her next column should be about.
During the October 2012 beats and brainstorm session, Serena spent about 10 minutes explaining to the paper, partly in jest and partly not, about how her next column was going to be about how she was “in love with Matt Doyle.” And, that was the first time I really noticed Matt Doyle.
The previous statement is not completely true. I had actually known Matt Doyle prior to Serena publicly declaring her love for him because he was the concert master (also known as the first chair violinist) in orchestra. I was the first chair violist, and even though Matt seemed to be mute most of the time with the exception of playing passages on his violin with near perfection for the entire 60 or 70 piece orchestra when our teacher asked him to demonstrate a section, I had noticed him because every day for at least an hour, sometimes more, he and I would play music about seven or eight feet from each other. I had noticed he was cute, but he was also very aloof, and that didn’t work so well for me because I was very aloof since my mother had always told me to “let the guy make the first move, if I didn’t want to seem desperate.”
But when Serena declared her love for Matt Doyle, maybe consciously or maybe unconsciously, he was on my radar. During our two-hour long nightly rehearsals I began to notice just what a catch Matt Doyle was. He was tall, about 6 or so feet tall, he had really pretty blue eyes, he played the violin well, but was also incredibly smart—a “genius at math” is what a smart guy whose opinion I trusted way too much in my Calculus A class called him—and, he was going to be an engineer, which meant that he’d be making a decent income when he was older and could support an artsy wife only interested in the humanities and professions that would not be able to financially support her.
On top of that, “Matt Doyle” was a hot name. Serena discussed this with me once during third period when we were supposed to be working on our articles. She was totally right. Even to this day, looking back on pictures from high school and seeing Matt Doyle make the occasional social media appearance, I can still never manage to say or hear his first name without his last. I still cannot explain why, but Serena knew, and I knew that Matt Doyle was a first and last name kind of guy.
We were all rooting for Serena to get with Matt Doyle, and by “we,” I mostly mean myself and my best friend Claire, who was also on the newspaper and in orchestra with me. As I mentioned before, we both thought Serena was “super pretty and talented,” and it seemed that most boys had crushes on her, so it came as a shock when Matt Doyle turned Serena down. It was, as she put it, a “failed attempt at seduction” that occurred during one of the times he was tutoring her in AP Statistics.
It still befuddles me to this day, how he could have turned her down, really how anyone could have turned down the confident and slightly crazy Serena Bloom. Actually, that’s not completely true. Looking back on it all last year, when a friend I met at Wesleyan said they had met Serena and hadn’t thought she was nice but instead kind of awkward and like she was trying too hard to be a “quirky” girl, but was really just an average Tisch theater major, I realized that I had incorrectly placed Serena on a pedestal. She was just a human being, and alas, no longer seemed so cool to me. In fact, I remember thinking that “I would much rather be myself than Serena Bloom,” a thought that would have never crossed my mind in high school.
But I am not here to talk about how I wanted to be Serena Bloom in 10th grade. I am here to talk about how I, like Serena, became utterly infatuated with Matt Doyle.
Matt Doyle and I did not really begin talking until the end of February or so when, as fate would have it—or at least I liked to think so, we wound up in the same chaperone group in the mini tour our orchestra took to San Francisco.
I hated awkward silences, and still do, so when Matt Doyle and I happened upon one, I said the only thing I knew concretely about him.
“Did you know Serena Bloom has a crush on you?”
Brutal, right? You’re probably wondering why I did that to my friend, but it really wasn’t like that because everyone knew that Serena had a huge crush on Matt Doyle because she told everyone about it.
“Oh, I know,” was Matt’s response. Everyone knew, so of course Matt knew, and I knew that everyone and Matt knew, but now I had broken the ice and Matt’s normally silent stature, which was all I had wanted.
I then spent the next few days of the trip befriending Matt and talking up Serena.
And then suddenly, I can’t pinpoint quite when, but I realized I was “in love with Matt Doyle.” Well not in love with him, but infatuated with him, which to a 16-year-old girl, might be more dangerous. I found myself saying the phrase, “I’m in love with Matt Doyle” a lot to my friend Claire.
So I did what any teenage girl would do after realizing she was “in love.” I created an excuse to see Matt Doyle outside of orchestra. A lot. I asked him to tutor me in my Calculus A class.
For the record, I was struggling in Calc A, and by struggling I mean that for the first time in my life I might not get an A, and would thus ruin what at the time was an unblemished 4.0. Matt Doyle was old and wise and probably thought I was being a drama queen, but he also understood it because he, too, was a high achieving, likely soon-to-burn-out kind of student. He was also too kind. So of course he said he would tutor me.
Most of our tutoring sessions went as follows.
Matt Doyle would come over to my house. The two of us would sit at my dining room table, and he would go over all of my homework problems with me. Sometimes we would do extra ones. I would try really hard to actually pay attention to what he was saying as we worked through the problems instead of getting lost in what I had deemed the “intense” gaze of his ocean-blue eyes. Sometimes, because the tutoring would go on so long, he would stay for dinner. I was in love.
Here is a sample of a Facebook message exchange that would often occur after a Matt Doyle tutoring session with Claire.
Claire: how did the tutoring sesh go
it went well
he’s absolute perfection
and you know when you get about 5 hours of sleep a night
for an entire week
and you should be fine
but suddenly on thursday night you feel really tired
and you’re perfect, wonderful tutor
and all you can say is I’m sorry
and all he can say is not to be sorry and get some sleep.
As you can tell, it was a lot of me imbuing a lot of meaning into interactions that did not mean very much.
Matt Doyle graduated in June 2013, and although the two of us would hang out and text a lot over the summer, neither Serena Bloom nor I ever wound up dating him or even receiving a kiss from him.
Except for this one time nearly a year later. Because although I had met a different senior boy during my junior year of high school and had actually fallen in love with him, not just infatuation, I had continued my correspondence with Matt Doyle.
How could I not? It was completely platonic. And although I might never love him, I really liked the idea of him: a smart nice engineer, emotionally unavailable, Spock-like in his lack of emotions, a nice challenge always hanging in the background of my life.
It was summer and Matt and I had just gone to dinner at a restaurant by my house, which he had insisted he pay for, and I hadn’t said no. It had been a nice time. He walked me up to my front door, and he said, “Is this a date? If so, can I kiss you now?” and began to lean in. I leaned out, just barely.
“I don’t think…that would be a good idea,” were the only words I could get out.
I didn’t say, “Dear Matt Doyle, I have a boyfriend,” and I didn’t say, “This is really poor timing because literally a year ago I would have possibly exploded with excitement at this entire interaction and wanted nothing more than to make out with your face.”
And that is where my crush on Matt Doyle died. It went to the graveyard where old crushes go. I texted Claire about it right away, but strangely, the one person I really wanted to tell about how I had almost kissed Matt Doyle on an accidental date with him, was Serena Bloom.
Camille de Beus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cdebeus.