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Life on Maple Avenue is boring. Same people. Same houses. Same games played. All Nancy and I do is jump rope and play hopscotch. Throw the bottle cap on one, jump through the squares drawn on the road with chalk about a week ago, already half worn off from the rain. Throw the bottle cap on two. Repeat. Repeat.
Everyone knows everyone in this neighborhood. They also know everything about you. For the past few months everyone has known that Sandra, the woman across the street, is having money problems and is probably moving. Nancy and I always talk about someone our age moving in there. Because playing hopscotch gets boring. Repeat. Repeat. We have to think of something interesting to talk about as we play.
The day has arrived. Moving tracks are scattered around Maple Avenue. Sandra's moving out. A mysterious family is moving in. Nancy and I are playing hopscotch and repeat and repeat. It's my turn. I throw the battle cap on one. As I begin to jump, out of the corner of my eye, I see a boy about our age watching me. Just like all the other boys. He just stares and never says anything.
Not really concentrating. I lose my balance, catch myself. I hope he didn't notice. That's weird. I've never cared how I acted in front of boys. He is looking at me as if he is looking at a picture. A picture that is all bundled up and confusing to understand. He studies every part of me and Nancy as if we were extremely different from what he is used to. And he looks at me. Me.
I throw the bottle cap on two. Coca-Cola on two and near the edge of the chalk. Almost out. I see him approaching us, closer and closer. I feel his eyes on my left cheek as though he is seeing right through my cheek and down inside me. I feel like he knows what I am thinking. My palms are sweaty. It feels like I have just washed my hands and forgot to dry them. I jump.
Nancy is sitting on the curb, humming a song I do not recognize.
Closer and closer he comes. Throw the bottle cap on three and jump. My hair flies in the air and then relaxes.
I feel his eyes follow my ponytail. Closer and closer he comes. Throw the bottle cap on four and before I jump I take my barrettes out. Jump and let my hair flow in the wind. Not lazy hair anymore. Before the end of my turn, I hear his voice. I stop and turn toward him.
Hi, my name is Miguel, he says.
My throat is hurting, I need a drink of water and my palms are sweaty and my knees are numb. I guess he is not just like the other boys. He doesn't know the rules around here. Boys don't like us. They never talk to girls.
To the right of me and leaning on the mailbox. Our mailbox on Maple Avenue. Looking as though he has never seen the game we are playing. And well, handsome. I have never thought that before. I feel that if I say something it will sound funny.
Nancy is still sitting on the curb humming. I recognize the song but can't think of the name. Humming.
Hi, my name is Miguel, he says again. He is not like the other boys.
I find myself staring at him. Dark brown eyes like the color of a Tootsie Roll. He looks my age and a little taller than me. I don't know whether I should say something. Hi, my name is Nancy, she screams.
How come she can do that and I can't. I am so embarrassed.
I throw the bottle cap on four. I keep looking at him out of the corner of my eye. Nancy is staring at me. I hope I am not blushing. Hopefully my cheeks aren't the color of the red skirt I wear on Sundays to church.
It's my turn, Nancy screeches, you've missed. She jumps up. Excited.
What do I do now? Do I step to the right? Derecho? Do I step to the left? Izquierdo? Right, to the side, without even looking at him. And out of the corner of my eye. Closer and closer he comes. I look around. No one is near me and he is coming to talk to me and only me. I am so nervous. My stomach feels like it did on the first day of school. But different.
Hi, my name is Miguel, he says.
I open my mouth but nothing comes out. A long pause. Like the bus ride on the first day of school. Staring at my reflection in the window of the bus. Not knowing one person. Everyone fits in fine. Just like what is happening with Miguel.
Hi, my name is Maria, I finally say. I look toward the street and see Nancy throwing the bottle cap. Humming. Where have I heard that song?
Do you live around here? he says.
Yes, right there, I say shyly. And I point and my house doesn't seem that small and run-down today.
Well, it was really nice meeting you but I have to go unpack. I live over there. That house on Maple Avenue, he says. He points.
I guess I will see you around, I say. And he walks away. I look back at the mailbox. I still see his big Tootsie Roll colored eyes staring at my hair. My hair flying through the air.
He walks away. That feeling in my stomach. Doesn't.
Nancy screams over to me that she has messed up. She throws me my cap and sings. I throw my Coca-Cola on five now and jump. Jump.
Miguel and Maria sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G, Nancy sings softly but wants me to hear. I throw the bottle cap on six, ignoring her. First comes love, then comes marriage, she sings louder with a smile on her face. She throws her bottle cap hard to the ground. I continue to play and Nancy goes inside because she is mad and I am ignoring her.
Playing hopscotch. Repeat. Repeat. I find myself singing. Miguel and Maria sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage. 1