Twenty four years ago, I had the opportunity to sing with a great singer at the church choir. This guy, Fred* was a consistent winner in singing competitions and compared to him, we were small fries. So, why he even joined the choir was a mystery to us. But a mystery soon to be uncovered.. only to me.
It couldn’t have been obvious because Fred was a very reserved person. He usually kept only to himself. So, I was probably just.. perceptive. For some reasons, I always caught him staring at one particular choir member, Jenny*, so I joked him about it. But when he turned red all over, I knew I hit on something.
So, that was the reason. He joined the choir because he liked Jenny. He made me promise never to tell anyone, and of course, I did promise, after all, it was his secret not mine, therefore, it was for him to tell not me, right?
Jenny, whom we called ‘Tiffany’ (Fred thought her voice was like that of the 80s singer Tiffany’s) was pretty, smart, popular and sweet. No wonder Fred went an extra mile to be with her. But Fred was also aware that he had a very slim chance, if he had any chance at all, of winning Jenny’s heart. He was not good looking, he was poor (not poor as in pitiful but literally poor, without money, that’s why he always joined singing contests) and he was in the last section which means, he wasn’t smart, under ordinary standards. Still, he wrote her a very romantic letter to tell her how he felt. Out of curiosity, I asked him why he did that, when he knew he didn’t stand a chance. And he said he liked Jenny so much it was killing him unless he expressed it. And he certainly did. Well.. I understood that much.
But after a few months, he asked Jenny what she felt about him. This time, I felt a little embarrassed for him. Why would he ask Jenny when he knew it was impossible for her to like him back. But he said, he had to know, he had to hear it from Jenny.
Wow! This guy had some guts. And in fairness to Jenny, she had been very.. polite in turning down Fred. She said she was grateful and flattered for Fred’s affection, in fact she liked Fred, but only as a friend, and as if an afterthought, she said she already liked someone else, as in romantically.
Fred took it.. valiantly. He still joined choir practice, he talked to us as if nothing (painful) happened, only I was able to see through him and felt the sadness in his eyes. But when Jenny and the star volleyball player of our school were rumored to be going out, Fred dropped the pretense. He left the choir and didn’t come near us again.
Ten years after that, I could still see Fred wearing a customized shirt with ‘Tiffany’ printed at the front and the title of Tiffany’s song at the back. It didn’t look like an old shirt, in fact, it seems freshly printed, so, I had to believe he still held Jenny at high regard.
Fred didn’t know it and wouldn’t know it, but I learned a lot about love from him, love is kind, and patient, and brave, love accepts that which is true, love doesn’t enforce itself to someone and love stands to reason, among others..
*not real names