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The Locker Postal Service
“Before I say anything else, I should tell you this: I hope you’re doing okay, after this week,” the letter read.
Not this. Not now. Not on top of everything else.
“That said, it was monumentally stupid of you to set your locker combination as my birth date. I appreciate the gesture and all, but, really, it was way too easy to guess. By the way, the fact that this is near the top of the letter means that I’ve been in here before; I knew your combination before writing this. I wouldn’t have told you that, but I’ve really lost all confidence in you since discovering your combination.”
Really, Krista? Really? Of all the things to put in a letter . . . of all the things to tell me now . . .
“Anyway, I’m writing this to register an opinion: Anne wasn’t worth it. I mean any of it, not just the past week. There was no way for it not to end like this, and you knew that when you asked her out. I won’t say more because I’ve already been too harsh, but I needed to get that off my chest, and I couldn’t bring myself to say it in person.
“Meet me in the tree if you have any interest in seeing me. I miss you. I’ll wait until five.”
It wasn’t signed.
Of course it wasn’t signed. Since when had Krista signed anything? She'd never needed to; I knew her handwriting as well as my own.
As far as classifications were concerned, Krista Bartlett was more or less the jealous ex. (Ex-what was another matter.) In reality, though, there was a lot more to it than that.
Krista and I had gone to elementary school together, where we’d hated each other until one day in second grade, when, in the heat of an argument, we’d made a bet about which of us could climb higher into the tallest tree on the playground. We were determined little kids, and we both climbed so high that neither of us could figure out how to return to the ground. Our friends, our teachers, and even our parents (who were called after we’d been in the tree for about an hour) tried to get us to climb out of the tree, but nothing worked—and no one else was both brave enough and light enough to climb all the way to where we were and try to bring us down. Finally, the fire department had to come and set up a ladder for us to climb down. Sometime during that ordeal, Krista and I realized that we actually had a lot in common, and, in a quintessentially second-grade way, we became best friends.
All through elementary school, we were partners in crime. We pulled pranks on our friends, our enemies, our teachers, our families—it was crazy how many tricks we played. We had the exact same sense of humor, the same genius for jokes, the same bottomless pit-like imaginations. Life was just one big game, and the two of us together were the best team on the playing field.
The main difference between Krista and me was that she was school-smart and I wasn’t as much. Sure, I did okay, but Krista was amazing. She aced every test our teachers ever threw at us and got perfect scores on every assignment. She wasn’t really a teacher’s pet—she wasn’t law-abiding enough—but, to our best teachers, the ones who actually deserved our respect, she was something of a protégé. She made quite a name for herself in sixth grade as the Punctuation Princess, favorite student and devoted disciple of our writing teacher, who we all called the Grammar God.
At the end of sixth grade, there was a dance, and I asked Krista to it. Before then, I hadn’t really been sure if I had a crush on her, but, when I heard she was considering going with our friend Rob, I realized how much I didn’t want that to happen, and, long story short, we went to the dance together. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, but we were comfortable enough with each other that it didn’t really matter, and we had a ton of fun anyway. During the snowballs, we slow danced together, and I couldn’t get over how much I liked feeling her slim waist below my hands, her hands on my neck. Even so, we were sixth graders, and we were both kind of shy about the relationship thing, so we agreed to just be friends.
Then we went to different junior highs. We kept seeing each other a lot in seventh grade, especially at the beginning, but we both made other friends, and our schedules filled up with sports and instruments and projects, and our time together petered off into nothing by the beginning of eighth grade. In the middle of eighth grade, Krista finally got a Facebook account, and we became “friends,” but we didn’t really talk.
This fall, we found ourselves at the same high school, sharing two classes but without much left in common. Apparently Krista had shaped up in junior high, becoming the sort of person who you can’t help but expect to make valedictorian. Sure, she still had a sense of humor, but she seemed to think that pranks were childish—and, thus, so was I.
Maybe I was. I’d fallen in with the class-clown crowd during junior high, and I was proud of it. I’d had the time of my life with them for the past two years—well, almost. None of my new friends could compare with Krista, or at least with the way she’d been in elementary. That had really been the time of my life.
I missed Krista desperately, but she wasn’t the same, and I missed the way she’d been. At the start of freshman year, she’d made it clear that she missed me, too, and we’d tried hanging out, but we both had really different ideas about how the other should act, and it didn’t work.
Then there was Anne. I’d met Anne in eighth grade but hadn’t thought about her too much at the time. Then, in the fall, just as I was realizing how incompatible Krista and I had become, I’d started noticing how attractive and, possibly more importantly, how funny Anne was. Her jokes were usually at the expense of others, and they could be pretty mean—a lot meaner than anything Krista and I ever did—but she definitely understood the class-clown thing and didn’t think it was childish. Besides, she was hot.
Stupidly, I asked her out.
The downside of dating Anne was that she was a huge drama queen. She went through boys like some people go through haunted houses—quickly and with more emotional expression than you could imagine if you didn’t see it for yourself. Being with her was emotionally exhausting—it was impossible to keep up with her moods—but, next to being dumped by her, being her boyfriend looked like a piece of cake. I hadn’t thought that such a messy, dramatized, and publicized breakup could be managed, but, four days and two hours ago, Anne had proved me wrong, screaming insults at me across the cafeteria while crying hysterically, despite the fact that I hadn't done anything to deserve it. It was one of the most humiliating and hurtful things that had ever happened to me. It wasn’t so much that my heart was broken—I’d never really felt toward Anne the way I’d felt toward Krista on that day when I’d danced with her—but I was embarrassed and shocked and my confidence, previously unshakeable, wasn’t just shaken; it was shattered.
And now Krista had broken into my locker and left me a letter that had simultaneously called me an idiot and given me a second chance.
Not a second chance. A five hundred thirty-ninth chance.
Our old elementary school was halfway across the city from our high school. It was several miles, but I was in shape, and I didn’t mind walking that far. In fact, I decided to run.
Sure, it was three years too late, but better late than never, right?