When I remember, now, how I first met you, it seems like a different life, or a great cosmic joke. I was thirteen years old and had just begun my first year of high school, in a very privileged small town in Orange County. That summer before my freshman year, I’d gotten my braces off. I’d learned how to straighten my already-straight hair so that it fell like a solid sheet of black metal and hid my shoulders as well as the curves that had just began to find their homes on my little girl body. My mother picked me up after school at 3:30 and my favorite shirt was a sea green Hollister tank top. I’d just read The Virgin Suicides and it had affected me profoundly, as expected at that age.
The first time we spoke was at the art night our high school hosted every September, where I stood with my arms determinedly crossed tightly across my chest, sipping occasionally from a plastic cup of cranberry juice. You, two years older, stampeded with your pack of boys across the concrete quad, all of you howling and laughing raucously under the buzz of our electric night lamps. There was an unusually clear sky that night, in which the stars twinkled with furious urgency when you stopped breathlessly in front of me and told me we had the same third period. I blinked and was too afraid of saying something decidedly uncool to say anything at all, which made you laugh again and grab me around the waist, prompting me to follow you. You chased me to the football field and, flanked by your untamed friends, I felt like a wild animal as well. I remember thinking that I liked you, even though I didn’t know you, and two days later you asked me to be your girlfriend because that is what fifteen-year-old boys do.
You stole my first kiss after the beginning of the year school dance. We snuck, giggling, out of the gymnasium to hide behind the marquee where we could hold hands and suddenly you fit the jagged angle of your nose against my face. There was no pretense, no warning, and I remember struggling to hold the breath that had been in mid-exhale as we clumsily got to know each other with our barely open mouths. The headlights of my mother’s SUV flashed around the corner and we broke away from each other, neither able to make eye contact. I clambered into her car without saying anything.
One Saturday mid-morning, I lied to my parents and met you at the park, where you were waiting for me with a caramel apple lollipop, my favorite kind of lollipop, and I took it from you happily. We sat on the swings, then, and you told me that you liked me because I had nice hair and because I was funny. You asked me to tell you why I liked you back. I told you it was because you play the guitar well and that your eyes were the perfect color (like molten gold, like a story untold). Later, when I got tired of my lollipop, you would take it from my mouth and put it in yours, which to this day is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen.
And even though we were very happy in that way that children who are in love with each other tend to be, the winter season brought a doubt I could not overcome. You asked me to meet you at Starbucks and so I went there, sitting cross-legged in my cut off denim shorts on those patio chairs so that the metal made indentations on the backs of my thighs. You didn’t show up for two hours and, when you finally did, I did not let you explain yourself even though I could tell you were flustered and upset. I broke up with you on the first day of December and you were crushed but, somehow, not quite as upset as I was. Later, your friends would tell me that I dumped you the day before your birthday and I would sit in my bed listening to Imogen Heap and crying for the rest of the weekend. Eventually, we’d both say we don’t care anymore.