And So I Fell

November 11, 2007
By Maggie LaChance, Glen Ellyn, IL

I am alone at the edge. The edge of what? There’s no bottom to this abyss, and suddenly I am falling. My arm flies up, reaching for someone, anyone, to help me. My face is towards the sky and my back is towards the ground, I can’t see what’s coming. I am afraid. I want to run away so badly I can almost hear my feet pounding on cold, hard pavement, but I realize that it’s only the beat of my heart. Suddenly a hand grabs on to my wrist and I know that I don’t have to be afraid anymore. I am saved.

If you were wondering what falling in love feels like, you know now. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t understand these feelings, even though I know it was only a few months ago. A few months ago was before I met Daniel. Before I knew how it felt to know that I am only half of me, and that Daniel is my other half.

It was the very first day of summer vacation, and I was trapped. I was trapped in a meaningless job for the entire summer, I was trapped at home every day except Saturday, and I was trapped in my past mistakes. At first, Daniel was only a flash in a crowd of people as I walked to work.
Now that I think back it was that first day of work when I saw him for the first time. That first look was all I needed to know that he was the only one for me. And this was the falling part. I had never had these kinds of feelings before. I was shocked, confused, and disgusted with myself, but I was so happy at the same time. The hardest part of it all was that I knew, I just knew right then, that I could never have him.
And then he talked to me. Admittedly, this was only because he was ordering a grande vanilla bean frappuccino from the Starbucks at which I worked. I couldn’t even say “Welcome to Starbucks!” without stammering. It sounded more like “Wuh-wuh-wulcum to St-starbucks…” I wanted to cry, that’s how stupid I felt. He just smiled his angelic smile and ordered. My hand was shaking as I took his money.
He asked if I was okay. I wanted to die, but I responded with an apology. After that, every day he came in and ordered that same thing. I dreamed about him. I thought about him almost every day, and I felt guilty for it. I prayed though. Every night after I prayed for my friends and family, I prayed that he wouldn’t stop coming to Starbucks every day.
This was not an unreasonable request. I know it wasn’t. Apparently, though, it actually was too much to ask because finally one Tuesday, he did not enter the coffee shop at exactly 8:30 AM like he had every other day. His absence made my memory of him even more vivid, and after work that day I went home and locked the door to my room and cried.
However, these tears were unnecessary. It is true that the next day he didn’t arrive at 8:30 like he normally did, but on this hot summer day he came in instead at 6:00, escorted by the manager. He had gotten a job here. He was going to be working right beside me for the summer. I would be able to see him from 6:00-12:30 every day for the rest of the summer. For the rest of the summer.
Needless to say, I was shocked. I had never considered myself lucky before this, but now I felt like I was the sole heir to Donald Trump’s estate. That day, his first day, I had to teach him everything he needed to know about a job at Starbucks. I was allowed to talk to him consistently for six and a half hours, and he had to listen. I was in Heaven.
That day, at 12:30, he and I got off of work. He asked me if I wanted to go to lunch with him. I was amazed. Now I was heir to Donald Trump’s estate AND I was Oprah’s favorite cousin. Heaven couldn’t even feel this nice.
For lunch we went to some second rate pizza place and ordered one slice each. He told jokes, I laughed. I told jokes, he laughed. I think that we both had a good time, not just me. After lunch we said goodbye and I started to head home, he started following me. This was an interesting turn of events.
“Why are you following me? Do you have a crush on me or something?” I made sure to have a big, fake grin on my face so he wouldn’t guess the truth. He didn’t say anything.
I had been walking ahead of him, so I turned to see what he was doing, why he wasn’t answering. He just blushed and looked away. HE blushed. Him! I was dumbfounded. Was this… a good sign?
We walked in silence for a while. I was starting to wonder about just how close he lived to my house when he finally spoke. “Yeah… I live like… over there. See you around…”
“Bye…” I didn’t want to think about the possibilities of why he would have taken a joke like that so badly. Or maybe I did. Maybe I was so happy that I wanted to cry. Maybe my chances were him weren’t slim to none like I had previously believed.
When I got home I went straight upstairs to my room again. I figured that even if I tried to chat with my dad, all I would get was a cold stare. Both of my parents were still furious about what I had done. It was still hard for me to think about it too, and I missed normal dinners with my happy family. I was starting to get worried that they would never trust me again.
These days, however, I was too wrapped up in Daniel to even think about the accident. I almost appreciated the quiet dinners because they gave me time to think.
This is why I was completely disoriented when my mom stopped staring at the food on her plate and started talking to me at dinner that night.
“Your father and I were talking earlier today. You have been complacent and well behaved recently we’re thinking of lightening your punishment.” My mother sounded nervous as she spoke.
“Yeah, we think that it would probably be okay if you quit your job at Starbucks and started having a normal summer. It’s been two months and you’ve been doing so well…” My dad’s voice was delicate, like he was searching for exactly the right words to say.
If this had been offered to me at any other time, I would have been ecstatic. Now, however, I was racking my brains trying to figure out how I could keep my job (my heaven?) without raising suspicion.
“Well that’s great guys,” I said cautiously as I searched for a responsible sounding reason to want to stay at work. “But I think that having a job is improving my morals and giving me a lot of necessary real life experience.” Well, that was definitely responsible. Dad kind of jerked back in his chair for a moment, surprised, but a look of enlightenment shot across his face in the next instant.
“Hmmmm… there’s a girl, isn’t there.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. I felt heat rising to my face and I was a bit dizzy for a moment. I didn’t answer. The blush was answer enough for them, and they didn’t really need to know the truth, did they?
The next day I got up early. I was excited at the prospect of another day at work with Daniel. I paced around my room for a while and waited impatiently for the bright red digital display on my alarm clock to read 5:40 so I could start walking to work.
I couldn’t wait. I left ten minuets early. To my surprise, I could see a Daniel shaped form in the distance. He couldn’t wait to see me either? It was too much to hope for. I started jogging so I could catch up with him before we got to work.
I was surprised when he didn’t respond to my cheery “Hello!” I was even more surprised when his only greeting was a cold, hollow stare.
“…Dan… what’s wrong?” I was starting to get worried. What did I do wrong?
“Dude… that was cold-blooded, what you said to me yesterday. So how did you find out, anyway?” All right. Confused, definitely. What did I find out?
“I don’t… I don’t know what you’re talking about…” I’m sure I sounded sincere because I was telling the absolute truth. He seemed to consider this for a minuet. He put his left hand over his eyes, almost like he had a headache, and he was blushing furiously. It was the cutest thing I had ever seen.
“Well I screwed that up didn’t I? Let’s start over. Pretend you didn’t hear that. Hello. My name is Dan, nice to meet you!” With this, he held out his hand like we were meeting for the first time. I just stared at it like an idiot.
“All right, I know that’s not going to work. Let’s be completely honest here. Oh, crap, and I really liked you too, I mean, whatever... When you asked if I had a crush on you I thought you knew that I was… well… you know… and that you were making fun of me for it.” I definitely knew what “you know” meant. I was stunned. So did I maybe… really have… a chance? I looked down at the ground and my hair flopped over my eyes.
“So do your parents know?” I asked, thinking it would be a good introduction to telling him that I knew exactly how he felt.
“Wha? Oh umm… yeah… but why would you need to know… Oh, what? You’re not… you too?”
“Yeah. Me too.”
“Wow! Really? That’s so cool! I mean… well…” he was blushing again. I loved how he was so sensitive. I loved everything about him, though, so I didn’t know if this was a particular thing that stuck out, or not.
“So have you been in a serious relationship before?” I was really trying to ask if he was available, and I think he knew it too.
“Yeah, I have, but I’m not in anything… right now. See, the truth is… wow… I didn’t think I would ever be able to tell you this… I mean it’s so… wow.”
“Yeah, I think wow really sums it up.”
“So let’s just clear this up!” He was looking straight down. His eyes were squinted, almost hopefully. His manner was dramatic, like the hero of a movie who was bout to reveal is love for the heroin. This thought stopped me cold. “I started working at Starbucks because I really liked you. Like… a lot. That’s the truth. There, I said it. There.”
I burst out laughing. I covered my mouth immediately embarrassed. “No, sorry! It’s not that I think that’s pathetic or anything, really! It’s just that I felt the same way from the first day I saw you… I’m just… in heaven right now… it’s really heaven…” My voice started trailing off after the confession and became progressively quieter. The last word out of my mouth was a whisper.
In truth, I was shocked at my own courage. I never thought I would be saying anything like that to him. I was unprepared for it. I was even more unprepared for what happened next.
Dan grabbed my hand and drew me closer to him. I was close enough to feel his breath on my face. I am shorter than him, so I had to look up to see into his eyes. I wanted that moment to last forever.
It did.
He hasn’t stopped holding my hand yet.
And I hope he never does.

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