I fell in love with her in the eighth grade, with a bone in my lap.

A trombone, that is. She was a flute player, and the sun actually radiated from behind her, showing off the highlights in her blonde hair. Either that, or my vision was getting bright because my breathing wasn’t working right. We were indoors in a windowless room, come to think of it. We had never spoken, and odds are good my internal impressions of love may have been me mistaking a sudden flood of hormones for the real thing. Pretty sure my voice changed that day.

She didn’t talk to me until a year later, and for the life of me, I cannot remember the conversation. I was so nervous, all I could hear in my head was a static-y sound while I tried to not pass out. I’m pretty sure my unremembered monosyllabic response to her featured a few octave changes as well. Somehow, she was gracious enough to still become my friend over the next few years, with her somehow blissfully unaware that I was out of my mind about her. I still tell myself I wasn’t sixteen kinds of obvious, as she’d never shown a moment’s interest in me. Yeah, I wasn’t obvious. That’s the way it was, for sure. Yep.

A conversation I remember a little too clearly cropped up during our senior year of high school, during one of a hundred evening chats we’d had over the phone, when we both were doing one of our hundred geeky things. Somehow, only one of us was a geek, though. She had been pretty quiet all evening, when I asked her what was on her mind.

She confessed to me that she had feelings for a guy she’d known for several years, and had never had the courage to say anything to, but she’d always had a secret crush on him. That she wanted to finally say something, but that every time she tried, she just got quiet.

Um… quiet like she was right now? Apparently, yes. Quiet like she was right now.

When did they meet? After thinking it through, she decided it must have been around the eighth grade.

Jeebus, was this really happening?

As calmly as I possibly could, voice yet again warbling, and with a trombone strangely back in my lap, I strongly encouraged her to seize the day. Say something. It would be hard to imagine that any guy wouldn’t be interested in her. Just tell him. Before he passed out.

It took some convincing. She had no idea she was anything special, and truly feared my… I mean, his rejection. After six turns round the conversational mulberry bush, I persuaded her to just say it. She got really excited, and said she would.

Then she told me she’d call me right back after she called him to tell him, and quickly hung up.

Then I may or may not have said Samuel L. Jackson’s favorite swear word, a la Pivot:

Turns out she called one of my best friends, and he was receptive, as I’d enthusiastically told her he would be. A few weeks later, she and he and me and a few other we’s went out to dinner together before attending the Sadie Hawkins dance. She’d asked him, of course. They were dating. 

Samuel. Jackson.

I said that word a few more times during Tuesday evening’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, watching our odds for the postseason dwindle. It was a frustrating moment during a hope-filled season. But sometimes your hopes get really high, just to see things take a late and decidedly downward turn. Though the odds of making the playoffs are long, they’re not impossible just yet. That we’ll be able to say that into April is a smaller step forward than many Nuggets fans were hoping for, but it is a step forward.

That sure doesn’t change what it feels like to have your heart broken in the moment, watching one get away that you were desperately hoping would be yours. No matter who your team is, some nights the game is the hot flute player hanging up on you, and you watching the guy right next to you go to the dance.

Eventually, there was another flautist. Hallelujah. Similarly, Friday night brings another game and another opportunity to get better. Playoffs or no, we’re about to kick off a new season with what seems a clearer picture than we’ve seen in a few years. But that doesn’t make it clear enough by a long shot. We’ll see where the cards fall over the next eight games, and what new questions the season’s finish brings. There will be even more clarity to come. This year, we’ve had this conversation wend its way into April. One day soon, it would be fun to be having this chat in June.

Should Denver still beat the odds and make the playoffs, how much damage can they do to the one seed, Nuggets Nation? Should they miss the playoffs, what are the takeaways from this year, positive and negative? Where do they first focus their improvement efforts? I’ve got a few more Samuel Jacksons to say, and I’ll be right over. Just keep your flutes in your pockets. 

*****Conversely, if you’re dead tired of this topic, tell me about your Pivot questionnaire