I’ve started fixating on an attractive cashier at a local grocery store. He’s the first thing I look for when the doors whoosh open. My heart drops if I don’t see him, and it drops even further when I do.

I talk about A.C. often. I bring him up with my roommates, and I mention him to other friends. Practically the only person I don’t talk to about A.C. is, well, A.C. himself.

In fact, I’ve never spoken a word to him.

I look at him from afar, I admire his new haircut, I melt under his smile and kind eyes. When I’ve gathered all my groceries and proceed to checkout, I enter the aisle at least three down from him.

He’s an attractive cashier, but he’s more than just an attractive cashier. More than just any ole guy I could “crush” on.

This attractive cashier personifies much of my life struggle for the past two-plus decades.

~ ~ ~

When I was a kid, I fixated on a couple other boys in my class: the nice, popular, attractive ones who weren’t quite my friends. Especially one in particular.

Childhood Fixation was by far the nicest, most popular, and most attractive of all. In addition to being my classmate, C.F. also attended my church. We graduated together from our church’s father-son program, and his dad and my dad had a chummy friendship.

We practically saw each other every day, week in and week out. We should have been good friends. Best friends. Friends of some sort.

We weren’t.

C.F. always had his friends around him. The rare times when it was just him and me, I didn’t know how to connect with him. He was super athletic and hilarious and everything I wanted to be, and I was just okay. I was twelve, I had acne, I was quiet, I didn’t know how to talk to other boys in general, let alone him.

When I moved away as a kid, we lost touch. Were we ever “in touch”?

And yet as years passed, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I even dreamt about him — every other week or month. I journaled these dreams the first few times, and then they just kept happening to the point that I stopped.

Years later, my obsession reached the point of my reaching out to him via AOL Instant Messenger. I still remembered his screen name from middle school, and I sent him a big long letter while his away message was up.

He later responded with excitement. He said it was so good to hear from me again. To which I responded with even more excitement.

To which I haven’t heard a word from him since.

C.F is married now with a couple kids. I still stalk him online; I can’t help it. Much like A.C. in the grocery store, I peer at him from metaphorical aisles and Internet wires away.

I still dream about him, too. His figure always so far away and foggy. Unreachable. I’m always trying to “reach” him in these dreams, falling just short as I awaken. I dreamt about him in my teenage years, I dreamt about him in my twenties, and I recently experienced my first dream of him in my thirties.

I can’t lose this guy. No matter how many years or miles separate us.

No matter how much I wish I could.

~ ~ ~

Attractive Cashier and Childhood Fixation are one in the same. They’re the guy I hugged in a city park, and the same one who ran away. They’re people I’ve known my whole life, and they’re strangers on the street. They follow me from chapter to chapter and era to era, and I cannot lose them.

Whenever I mention Attractive Cashier, people tell me to “just talk to him” like any other human being. To demystify the relationship. To stop being so dramatic.

But three decades of residue does not easily disappear. Not even after all these victories in recent years. Of conquering counseling at boys camps and living with other men. Attractive popular men aplenty.

Call it envy, call it inferiority, call it lust, even. Call it whatever you like.

I call this feeling loss.

I look at the attractive cashier from three aisles over as loss throbs in my gut. Loss of friendship, loss of masculinity, loss of another life that could have been lived.

Loss that’s always been.

Loss that never leaves.

Do attractive bystanders trigger emotions or insecurities in you? What do you define as lack or loss in your life? How do you process loss?

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