He was the nicest boy I had ever met. He was handsome and smart, but most important of all, he would talk to me. We met in middle school and I was pretty much smitten from the very start. I can’t remember the exact day we came into first contact, but I do remember practically floating on a cloud whenever he came around me. I would try to sit by him in class, in the cafeteria, in the gymnasium, in the…you get the picture. Unfortunately, I was mired in my own insecurity issues and feelings of inadequacy (thank you tween years, for making me miserable) and I had absolutely NO game. I was happy, no, not happy, um, content with adoring him from afar as he went along in life being perfect (Blech! Oh, how I wish I could go back and slap myself).
I first knew that he was in love with me on the last day of middle school when we had our end of year gathering, where everyone had the opportunity to sign each other’s yearbooks and eat mostly melted ice cream. Everyone ran around outside the gymnasium with their books and pens, trying to snag the autograph of every person they ever knew in school and I was a little embarrassed to be holding a plain brown note pad. I wasn’t able to get a yearbook that year and I was feeling a little self-conscious going out and gathering signatures with my friends. Of course, I had nothing to worry about (I was hardly the only person without a book) and eventually I was able to lighten up and have a good time.
I flitted this way and that until I came face to face with HIM (I think the sun even made his light brown hair look like a golden halo) and I swear my heart stopped beating. Was I really going to hand HIM my notebook? I can’t do it, I thought. It’s too embarrassing. I will be mortified. No way. No way. No way. No…Oh, hey, you want to sign my book? Okay, sure. My eyes were securely fixated on my feet as I reluctantly passed it over. I stood silently, wondering if he would just write me a note or just sign his name. The suspense was literally killing me (sigh) and I wanted him to hurry up already, so I could see it. It took me a second to notice that he had stopped writing and was trying to hand his yearbook over to me so that I could sign. Fireworks! Life could not have been any better than in that moment.
He smiled at me and I smiled at him and we gazed into each other’s eyes and… God, I wish that would have happened, but he basically told me to have a great summer and that he would see me next year at the high school. I managed to hold off about three seconds before I ran to a little shady spot near a wall and began to tear into my notebook. Now, I already knew that he had a little saying that he had put in about five of my friend’s yearbooks: Yo! Stay Cool but Don’t Freeze! (Freaking adorable, right?) He would draw a little face with cool sunglasses and it was altogether so HIM and at the same time very generic and I was afraid that was what I was going to see in my note pad. After being a crazy maniac rushing over to read it, I hesitated. It was a lot of pressure to put on one measly moment, but I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to be disappointed.
I slowly thumbed my way through the note pad. I had watched him carefully enough to know that he wrote in the middle of the book (was there no one to shake me out of this mania?!) and I took my time. Finally, after flipping about ten pages, I saw his note. Everything centered on that one moment. My first thought was that there wasn’t a cool guy with sunglasses on his face– no heavily drawn “YO!” to be found anywhere. I stopped reading and put the book to my chest. (Could I have been any more damn dramatic?) I swallowed and pulled the book back up towards my eyes. The message was short and sweet and very basic as far as notes from eighth grade boys go, but it was special and it was for me. He let me know that he was very happy to have me as a friend and that he had a good time hanging out with me throughout the year. It was the most wonderful declaration of love I had ever seen! I slid down the wall and sat hugging my knees until the explosions in my head stopped and I was able to function as a normal human being again. Let’s just say it took a while.
Summer passed and we crossed paths again as freshmen. I don’t remember having any classes with him but I’m sure we shared space once in a while. My ardor for him hadn’t diminished much over the months and I always made sure to pass him in the halls at least once a day. He remained as nice to me as ever and my freshly teenaged heart never stood a chance. Freshman year turned to sophomore year and sophomore year to junior year and we still stayed friends. He started really getting into photography and became kind of alternative (this was back in the late 80’s, so alternative meant something completely different back then) and wore chains and baggy pants and styled his hair in such a way that it looked like a skateboard ramp. You had to be there. It was cute (no sarcasm here).
We ended up having the same science class our junior year and we spent a lot of time as lab partners. We would joke around a lot and I would help him with homework and sometimes use some loose change to buy him a soda and he sat there looking adorable, making me feel important. I know it kind of sounds like he was using me and being a douche (wait, okay he probably was, damn it) but it all seemed so…so…okay. I knew that he loved me because he would mostly hang out with me during class (forget that he was my freaking lab partner) and we would joke and be silly and he was just still so gosh darn nice. At one point we started hanging out between classes and I knew that we were heading somewhere special…
Well, until a day that still kinds of haunts me now. Everything about that one hour of class was off from the very beginning. We sat at the back of the room in our regular seats and joked around with each other. Whispering jokes and basically making fun of our teacher. But he was also distracted. Our lab tables seated four and he and I sat facing each other. It was easier for us to discuss science (and stuff) and keep an eye on each other when doing our work. I know that we weren’t working on anything that needed a particular amount of brain power, so I really noticed that he was acting kind of strange. He was hunched over his notebook and he seemed to be sketching all kinds of different words and pictures but he had his arm blocking my view—it was very obvious that he didn’t want me to see what he was doing. My very naïve heart immediately concluded that he was writing things about me (oy vey) and he didn’t want me to see them. (Really. I was that dumb.)
For forty-five agonizing minutes I surreptitiously (wow- that is the very first time I have ever used that word) glanced at what he was doing. I know that he knew I was watching and yet he continued on his merry way. I wanted to ask what he was doing so badly but I never got up the courage to do so. Looking back I can honestly say that I am so glad I didn’t push. It was his business and that was that. I couldn’t make him tell me about anything. I resigned myself to just dreaming about what was on that paper.
Towards the end of class he casually stood up, crumpled the paper and threw it in the waste basket next our teacher’s desk. He didn’t tear it up. He didn’t burn it. He didn’t do anything but throw it away. My stupid teenaged brain decided it would be the absolute best idea if I snuck over and snatched it out of the garbage. Yeah. I could have glossed over that part, but it perfectly demonstrates how much of a bundle of hormones I was back then that I would stoop to invading someone’s privacy. Go ahead and judge me. I was an idiot.
I froze in my chair waiting for the right time to casually make it over to the basket. I really should have just put it off until after class, but I knew that he would probably be waiting to walk out with me and I wouldn’t have the time. So I, oh so casually, broke the lead off of my pencil. The pencil sharpener was attached to the wall over the trash and it would be really easy for me to just bend down and get the paper after finished with sharpening. I jumped down off of my stool and took a little jaunt to the front of the room.
I swear that I could feel twenty pairs of eyes staring at my back and I broke out into a sweat. I wasn’t going to be able to do it. This was a bad idea. I felt like such a criminal. But, I still had an unusable pencil to sharpen and went on to have at it. I had just started turning from the sharpener when I accidentally dropped the pencil into the trash. I swear that I didn’t do it on purpose (*crickets*) but what was I supposed to do now? What any other “normal” teenaged girl would do with that opportunity—I rummaged through the trash until I had the pencil and the note. Success? The note was shoved into my pocket to look at later.
I held on to that thing for two more class periods before I was able to take a look. Two hours of unaccustomed bulk brushing against my leg. Two hours of boring classes and my unlimited imagination. It was imperative that I had a moment to myself to read that paper. When the last bell rang and most everyone else headed home, I hurried across the school to the choir room. I was lucky enough to be cast in the school musical that year and we had a rehearsal set up for that afternoon–so I knew plenty of places where I could be alone and reap the rewards of my crime. I made my way to an abandoned stairway, sat down and slowly peeled open the note and started reading.
To be continued…