Whenever that happens, I recall an incident that occurred my senior year in college. I had spent my junior year abroad and had come back a little early so I could move into my room, find a thesis advisor, maybe catch up with some friends before the last year of classes began. I was excited to be back but I had not counted on the fact that few of my friends would also be back early. So those first days back were a little quieter, a little less populated than I had originally expected. Which meant when my friends did appear I was VERY excited to see them.
So one sunny day, there I am, walking through the Yard, and across the green lawns, between the big trees and almost-as-big squirrels, I see my friend Beelee.
(Digression: Beelee’s name is Bill. But we had met during a first-year French class where he was called Billy in English and ‘Beelee’ in French. So he is usually ‘Beelee’ in my world. Beelee’s dad and my dad worked together in
So, back to the story: sunny day, quiet lawn, spotting my friend Beelee. I then broke into a huge grin, flung my arms wide and start running across the Yard yelling, “Beelee! Beelee!” I was waving, smiling, leaping, yelling, running – so excited to see him that I was making quite a spectacle of myself as I sped toward him. If a golden retriever starred in a musical – that’s about what it would look like. It was a tad effusive. But if ever I could get away with a big ridiculous reunion in public, it was going to be with my friend Beelee.
“Beelee! Beelee!” Something was very wrong. Beelee’s face was visibly draining of color. He did not look thrilled to see me. In fact, he looked horrified and terrified all at once. He appeared to be frozen in one place, as if he were afraid to move. As I got closer, his eyes widened until there was a clear rim of white all the way around his irises. He glanced back over his shoulder, maybe to make sure I really was talking to him. By this point my gleeful open-armed flight across the Yard had slowed. I got closer and realized that while the guy in front of me bore a STRIKING resemblance to Beelee, especially from far away, up close he looked like a pasty, scared, about-to-faint *cousin* of Beelee.
He was not Beelee.
He was, in fact, just some poor guy, whose worst nightmare had come leaping at him in public, like the loudest toothiest gazelle in history.
Not-Beelee threw his hands up in front of his face, stuttered “N-no, n-not… ssstop!” in a near-whisper and backed away from me. He literally backed away from me like I was waving plague-ridden hankies in his face or something. I was mortified. I stopped moving toward him (truly, as I got closer he looked like he might throw up) and called to his retreating back, “Sorry! I’m so sorry. I thought you were my friend Beelee!”
He was DEFINITELY not Beelee.
There was a postscript to this story. I saw Not-Beelee one more time that year. He was walking down a city street, and I was walking on the other side. He saw me a moment before I saw him. I was in time to start down the same wrong path of thinking, “Oh hey there’s…” and then when he turned pale and fled I changed my thought “…Not-Beelee. He REALLY looks like Beelee.”
And that’s how I know I’m not shy. Not-Beelee was definitely shy. I am the loud loopy girl who scared him to death in college. I am, apparently, shy’s worst nightmare. At least, sometimes.