UnoBack in High School, he was an afterthought, the wispy kind you would keep to yourself, because you knew if you told your girlfriends they would make too big of a deal about it. One airy crush going nowhere would suddenly turn into a marriage with children, and soon the whole school would think you were a desperate crazy stalker all because of your silly little friends who wanted to live vicariously through you.
It’s not like Dante and I even had anything going on. We had been best friends since Freshmen year, but Junior Year changed. Suddenly, he was only interested in smoking and experimenting with drugs. Because the school we went to was Private and small, everybody knew about everyone’s business. Rumors spread that he was dating a freshman and that they frequently had “chemistry” sessions in the Sin Bin after school hours. I could only imagine the things he would tell her-probably all lies.
He never really opened up to people. Usually, you could find him laughing and hiding under the façade that he had it all together, but I knew he didn’t. I knew his secrets because when no one else would listen to him, he would turn to me-every time.
We had had a couple of classes together, Spanish and an absurd Advanced Placement Class; but we had always had a few classes together. Whether Study Hall, Lunch or PE, we always managed to bump into one another. He always made sure that the bumping was quite literally a bump, and more often than not I would end up spilling my water bottle, my books or my papers all over myself. He liked to bother me, but we both had our own circles. He did not like girls like me, and I was not supposed to like guys like him.
However, despite the different social circles we, somehow, ended up sharing his musty, gray locker. Somehow, his locker was at the most convenient spot for me to keep all of my textbooks. People liked to snicker at the two of us and usually tormented me as to why I just didn’t “date him already.” I would usually come up with some sort of lackluster response, “he’s not really my type…I don’t think of him like that…he’s like my brother,” and while I was okay with my stance on not-dating throughout high school, sometimes I would daydream about him. But I would keep those thoughts to myself, too scared to dwell on them for too long.
I am still not sure why he took the AP class; maybe he took it to prove that he was slightly more educated than he acted. Hah. Mostly, he slept through the class and failed the exams. Sometimes, he would cause a ruckus in the corner by the window, so that for the hour we would be forced to listen to him rant about the difference between Blacks, Africans and all the other colors of the rainbow. Usually his rants would end in the principle’s office, or out in the hallway. I used to feel sorry for him because I thought that he was simply misunderstood.
I don’t feel sorry for him anymore.
During the summer after my senior year, I tried not to think about him. He had broken my trust too many times through his various sexual escapades. For the most part, he had tried to keep his secrets hidden, but nothing is hidden at a small private high school. Nothing. But he was one of those things that kept popping up in my head, no matter how much I wished he wouldn’t.
When I was younger, and more naive, or at least I like to think of myself as being more naive, I had planned of dating him, of allowing him to be my first boyfriend, first guy I would hold hands with, first guy I would kiss and the first guy I would love.
Silly, silly, me.
I should have known better to allow my heart into the hands of an ignorant and obtuse human being.
His first mistake, in his long list of mistakes, was the girl. He never should have gone back to Jamaica. He said it was to get back with his roots, and to experience all of the things he missed growing up. Instead, he came back with a conquest story and probably a whole host of STDs.
Because our school was small, his travesties were instantly made public. This ensued in him being instantly shunned by all the decent, self-respecting girls while simultaneously becoming an instant pleasure toy to all of the other girls. I can still remember their leer. Their-thick, pouty red lips would open and tease and their bright, wide eyes were suddenly made bigger and more innocent with the help of mascara. He was their plaything now.
It didn’t happen overnight, but he quickly became the laughingstock of the school. His name would suddenly become the butt of a joke in the midst of societal pleasantries, a guaranteed laugh in any sophisticated conversation. My friends would tease me about him in hushed voices, “such a good thing you didn’t end up with Dante,” they would prattle, their dark eyes opening wide as they gasped at the assumed horror. “He would’ve absolutely ruined your virtue you know.” His name became sprinkled into their conversations, a definite discussion-saver whenever their chats would become too sordid. “Don’t want to be a Dante, you know?” they would muse and laugh while continually reminding one another that their mistakes were futile because after all, at least they weren’t a Dante.
I used to chide myself for not standing up for him and trying to protect his…his what? His valor? His virtue? But somehow, I had convinced myself to believe in the floating mendacities. I mean, if he didn’t do any of it, wouldn’t he have tried to at least deny the scandalous rumors? So, instead my senior year passed in a blur. He would hang out with his social group and I would hang out with mine. Anytime spent together was kept to a minimum: short pleasantries and minimal eye contact and formalities.
On graduation day, I remember him requesting a picture with me. Because I didn’t want to look like an imbecile in front of my family, I politely acquiesced. The next day our picture became his profile picture, and I was forced to endure the taunting jeers of my friends for the rest of the summer. And, by the end of summer, the name Dante was already a curse to my ears.