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My leg bounced anxiously as the seconds before first period ticked down slowly. I glanced around nervously in vain. He hadn’t showed.
He hadn’t showed.
I took some calming breaths as the bell rang and his seat lay empty. Then the depression set in. I didn’t know if I could go a full day without seeing or talking to him at least once. I prepared myself for a bad day.
As the class started, I got increasingly grumpy. What was the point of even being here right now? I could literally plan out exactly how each class would go, what we’d discuss, what our homework would be. My foolish enthusiasm for the public education curriculum had waned off far before, around the beginning of second quarter. The only reason I came anymore was to see him. Heck, that was one of the few reasons I even bothered to wake up anymore. And he had dared to not show up.
As my teacher droned on about test crosses and pea plant experiments, I could feel the grimace set in on my face. Lynn was sitting next to me and a look of confusion flickered in her eyebrows, but she said nothing. I liked Lynn.
I began to get really irritated. How could he not show? How dare he!? I looked down at my clothes. He was the reason I had worn this shirt; he said he had liked it once. He was the reason I was trying to impress him with too-tight jeans and a belt that felt like it would rip right through my skin at any moment. He was the reason I hadn’t brought a jacket to cover up. If I had it with me, I would have used it, and so now I was freezing to death. He was the reason I spent two hours painting my nails. He was the reason that I had woken up at five for the past two quarters to straighten my hair, put on makeup, shave. He was the reason I had put in these damn earrings that made my ears all puffy and swollen. And he hadn’t showed!?
My jaw was clenched and my teeth ached as they pressed harshly against each other. I broke out of my aggressive reverie after a couple seconds and realized people could probably see my anger. I regained composure.
I was being tortured, plain and simple. And you know what? He was probably doing this to me on purpose. Surely he noticed that I flocked to him every class and laughed at all his jokes, noticed how I was always a little closer to him than others, noticed that I was always watching his antics out of the corner of my eye. He was doing this because he knew it would drive me crazy. But that would mean he must be into me, right? I shook my head agitatedly in confusion and pressed my fingers to my temples. Would I ever figure him out?
That was what I had originally been planning to do all along. Just figure him out. I had picked him out the first week of school as one of those people to watch during the year. One of the interesting ones. And I had been right.
This was how I had wanted it to go: I was going to play miss mysterious as usual, not really saying anything, just observing. I would make him come to me. Then somehow I would get him to talk to me and I would learn all about him. It became a personal goal, one of pride and persistence.
At first I was totally annoyed by him. He was the type to shout things out randomly in class, the kind who picked fights. But I could also see he was totally insecure. It got me interested.
Then came the turning point of my simple sit-back-and-watch relationship with him. I was walking behind him to math class, watching him interact with people as usual. But when we got there the door was closed, the lights were off, and we were the only people waiting outside the door.
I stood there awkwardly, staring at my feet. I would not talk to him. Yeah, he was unique, but I didn’t want to be associated with him. He was not the type of person I could generally hang around. He seemed shallow and I hadn’t heard the best things about him. Not to mention rude in class. Ugh, I never saw the point of that kind of behavior. I glared at the floor.
He made like he was going to walk away and talk to some guy down the hall, but then he turned back around. “Hey,” he tried. I glanced up, trying to covey my dislike for him in my eyes, saying nothing. “Why won’t you ever talk to me?” he asked innocently. Still no response. “What, do you, like, hate me?”
And that was the magic moment. As he said those words, his face lit up with a pouty yet amused smile, and my mind went blank for a second. I just stared for an instant, saw the wrinkles near his eyes, his playfully mocking expression. It felt like an eternity as I formulated a response. My brains and sarcasm came back to me just in time. “No, maybe I just don’t want to talk to you,” I said almost sassily. He turned back around.
And for a moment afterwards, I actually felt bad. I shook my head. I had heard worse about him; I was sure that my response hadn’t even phased him at all. But still… I sent the feelings of guilt from my mind. I had made the smart decision. Right?
Yet for some reason, I found myself staring at him all of that class period. I noticed as he answered a question that he was actually quite smart. I had never noticed that before. I liked smart.
I followed him more intensely than usual once the bell rang, cutting people off and almost running into trashcans. I hoped he hadn’t noticed. I blushed when he turned his head and I was only two people behind him. He grinned.
The next period was social studies, taught by the most annoying teacher in history. Everyone hated her. Everyone. This time, when he said his usual crude comment aloud I actually laughed. The kind of breathing/ snicker/ snort badly disguised laugh. Once it happened, I stared embarrassed at my desk. Everyone turned to look in my direction, including the teacher. Their stares were like lasers, and I felt my neck go red. After a few seconds I dared to look up, and luckily most had resumed their normal activities. He had turned his head back around but I could see a hint of a smile on his face from my angle. Maybe it was just my imagination…
Every day after that, he grew on me more and more. I started to understand his humor, his frustrations, his morals, all just by watching. Then I realized, what if I just talked to him like he suggested? Couldn’t I give the guy a chance? I had to learn to get along with him anyway since he was in all my classes. Plus, just being friendly with him couldn’t hurt.
Weeks started to pass. I had been frustrated with my friend situation at that point in time; I remember that. I only had a few and they weren’t really in any of my classes. I was lonely. Two of them were “heading down the wrong path” as my mom would say, one was vicious, and the last one had gotten progressively boring. They were all in weird stages and so was I. None of us were connecting. All of them had WAY more drama than me, and it made me want to gag. On top of that, I was dealing with some self-image issues and sorting out my values and priorities in my head, as they tend to establish themselves during adolescence. Maybe that’s why I was so drawn to him in the beginning.
He started making weird faces at me in class. They were spontaneous, ridiculous, distracting, but somehow it was flattering. My response was the same every time. I’d just raise my eyebrows and make a “wow, that’s mature” face. Secretly, I loved it. I knew I was the only person that didn’t feel awkward when he did it, as he rotated his victims. Most others blushed, giggled oddly, asked him to stop, or rolled their eyes.
Then came the staring. When we’d watch videos, we’d be sitting sideways in our chairs. Then all of a sudden, at least twice per class, I could see the whites of his eyes in my peripheral vision. Sometimes I’d just smile and purposely ignore it. Other times I’d stare back and do the eyebrow thing. Most of the time I’d just sigh as if I were irritated and turn my attention back to the Smartboard. It was fun. It entertained both of us during our dullest classes, and it added drama and excitement to my day. Once I went home, I looked forward to school again. It became a thing.
We began to talk, and I found out he was a pretty honest guy. Maybe a little too honest sometimes; he barely had a filter, though he swore he held back a lot of things that he wanted to say. It didn’t really matter to me; he seemed genuine and that was a huge plus. I felt like I could joke around with him. He was one of my few guy acquaintances. I just liked the fact that it gave me experience for the future, when I got bold enough to talk to more guys. Yet everyone else’s general dislike of him nagged at me…
But somewhere between all the schoolwork, dances, and stress I started to like him. Like, like like him. I couldn’t stop it, and I started to get excited when I saw him. Before I would just have joked around with him, and now I’d just get this really big grin on my face, even if I just spotted him in the hallway. I flirted with him all of the time, and he returned the favor.
I started to love every little thing he did. I loved the way he said, “I have a question,” before asking something in class, which I always thought no one else but me did. I loved the way he pushed teachers’ buttons, even if it was just to get attention. I loved how he was argumentative, just like me, especially when about relatively trivial things. I loved how he texted in class or hopped up on a counter to sit, just to be controversial. I loved how he had to get up at least twice during a class, sharpening his pencil, throwing a gum wrapper out, going to get a drink, and it made me wonder if he had ADHD. His imagination, though slightly tainted sometimes, was absolutely outstanding. He had a lot of thoughts, I could tell that, and some of them were pure genius. He gave me inspiration and made me happy in general.
Then I began to notice how cute he actually was. He was not the type I was usually into, which is probably why I never realized it before. When he sat in front of me, I noticed how his hair was nice and trimmed and did this cool little swirly thing at the nape of his neck. When he hunched over to write, I could see how much muscle he had tried to build. His clothes were just plain awesome, he was clean, and his eyes were a nice shade of blue. I didn’t care about the weight thing so much, which was the first thing people ever said about him, the source of half his bad behavior.
It was nice, addictive, an obsession; I decided I just didn’t care what other people thought. He started complimenting me, asking to hang out, Facebooking with me.
I sighed heavily as images of him rolled through my mind. My head subconsciously drifted toward his seat again. I heard the door open and my head snapped back to the front at the sound. My face relaxed as I registered that it was just my teacher, and I realized with surprise that I had daydreamed right through the break between the lecture and lab periods. My heart sank all over again, but I couldn’t let go of my insane hope that he might suddenly appear…
All I knew was this: I didn’t want to become what my friends were becoming and I wanted to live my teenage years to the fullest. That included taking risks, though not too many stupid ones. It was a fine line that I had always had trouble walking, and I was confused. He was showing more and more interest in me, and it was flattering, but I didn’t know what I wanted. It troubled me all the time, but in the back of my mind I knew this is what I had wanted, what I knew I would get coming into this. I wanted to do soul-searching, I wanted drama, I wanted something to occupy me, and now I had all that. It was extremely revealing of myself, it helped me think about what my own morals and values were. It let me make decisions on my own, figure everything out.
He had told me the night before that he wanted to kiss me. I couldn’t respond.
He hadn’t showed.