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The Times I Met Sam
The first time I met Sam, we were babies. His mom and my mom were friends when they were pregnant, so we were literally friends at birth. Our moms soon scheduled play dates for us every week, sometimes more than once. We crawled, colored, and took our first steps together. He played dolls with me and raced cars with him. He was the only boy I knew, and we were best friends. For five years, we were each other’s best friends. Then, the summer before first grade, Sam moved away.
To this day I still don’t know where exactly he went all those years. I believe he first went somewhere in Virginia, coming up for the occasional visit to my neighbor Joe and me. Then he moved somewhere in South Jersey, about an hour or two away from us. For whatever reason, our moms lost touch and didn’t seem to rekindle their close friendship. Anyway, Sam moved from town to town for about six or seven years. His visits usually consisted of us playing video games in Joe’s basement or swimming in the pool. Eventually, we completely lost touch, and when Sam visited Joe, I didn’t even bother to show up. I thought that that was the end of our friendship, but I was wrong.
The second time I met Sam, we were fourteen. It was late August, and we were at Joe’s new house in Johnsonville for his fifteen birthday. I hadn’t seen Sam in over three years, not since I had glasses, braces, and had not entered puberty yet. And when I saw Sam again, he had changed from the scrawny, nerdy eleven year old to a tall, deep-voiced, and cute fourteen year old. Oh, Lord, he was cute. With low top Nike’s, a gray v-neck, and shorts hanging low on his hips, Sam had transformed into a cutie. I, on the other hand, was painfully shy around him. At that age, I was socially awkward, especially around boys I liked. I couldn’t say two words to the kid. I avoided him at that party like he was a disease, and I left with wisps of regret and pounding heart. But Sam barely knew me and I him, so again, I thought that was it.
Over the next few years, I grew up. I finally hit my growth spurt (which lasted five months with the result of four inches), developed as a person, and became a social butterfly. I had a good amount of friends at the beginning of my junior year, and I had grown confident in myself. I was mature and ready to make strides in the world. The last thing on my mind was Sam.
The third time I met Sam, we were sixteen. I was in Wildwood for the summer, ready to catch some waves and some rays. About mid-July, two weeks into my sunny summer getaway, Sam showed up. My family and I were staying in a condo complex called Ocean Harbor, fifth floor, room 505. Sam was two floors down, room 302. He was in our complex for almost a week before I saw him. I was lounging by the pool, shades on, when he walked into the pool area. Just like that. I instantly knew who he was. The two years we spent apart had done him justice, and though I was over my social awkwardness, my heart ran a marathon at the thought of talking to him. He jumped into the pool with a splash, getting me wet. I took a deep breath and took off my shades. I leaped into the pool (at the far end from where he was) and swam around for a minute, building up my courage. Just as I was about to go over to him, he sprang out of the pool and walked away. Disappointed, I got out of the pool and sat back in the lounge chair.
Two days later, I was sitting in a chair on the beach when I saw Sam again. Determined to say something, I jumped up from my chair and walked up to him. Tapping him on the shoulder, I said,
“Excuse me, do I know you?” He turned around.
“Uh, I’m not sure. Should I know who you are?” Oh God, I thought, he doesn’t remember me.
“Oh, I must have mistaken you for someone else,” I said quickly, blushing and turning to go. “Sorry.”
“Wait!” he said, grabbing my arm. I whirled around. “I’m Sam. What’s your name?” Confused, I replied.
“Well, Kayla, do you wanna take a walk with me?” He smiled. Figured I had nothing to lose, I agreed.
We had walked for about a minute or so before he spoke again.
“So, tell me about yourself.” I bit back a laugh at the irony, because he once knew everything about me.
“Well, I’m sixteen and from Newport. Uh, I have one sister, a mom, and a dad, and I’m down here for the summer with them. I love music, writing, and the beach, and I’m going to be a junior at Newport Liberty High School.” I paused unsure how to proceed. Deciding to play along, I asked, “You gonna tell me about you now?” He laughed.
“My name is Sam, and I’m also sixteen. I actually lived in Newport for five years when I was little, so I know where that is. I had two sisters and one brother, and I’m here for the rest of July. I’m also going to be a junior, except at South Freemont High School. I love math, lacrosse, and watching reality TV.”
“Where’s South Freemont?” I asked, intrigued.
“It’s about ten miles north from Johnsonville.”
“My friend Joe lives in Johnsonville,” I blurted, even though Joe and I lost touch a year or two ago. He seemed curious.
“I have a friend named Joe who lives in Johnsonville, too.” He looked at me expectantly. Suddenly, I got nervous all over again. What if the reason he didn’t remember me was because he didn’t want to? Or that I was just some girl who he always hung out with as a child but didn’t really care about? Not wanting to ruin my chances of seeing him again, I quickly said,
“Must just be a coincidence.” He shrugged and changed the subject. A while later, we arrived back at my family’s setup.
“Well, it was nice to meet you, Kayla,” he said, smiling. I smiled back.
“Same. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime. Where are you staying?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.
“Me too!” I held back a laugh. His eyes lit up.
“Well, then I’ll definitely see you around!” He started to walk away. “Bye Kayla!” he added.
“Bye, Sam,” I replied softly. My mom looked at me expectantly, but I didn’t say a word.
Over the course of the next few days, I hung out with Sam and got to know again. He overall hadn’t changed much, except for the love of reality television. He still didn’t remember me, but that was okay with me. The more I got to know him, the more I liked him – the more I liked him as more than a friend. There was a definite chemistry between us, but he seemed to either not notice or not care. Friendship was what he wanted, and that’s what I gave him. I didn’t want to ruin our rekindled friendship, so I didn’t try to make it something more. At the end of the week, on Friday, I heard a knock on the condo door. Confused, I went to open the door.
“Sam!” I exclaimed, surprised. “Hi, what are you doing here?”
“Well, I was wondering if you wanted to come with me to the boardwalk tonight.”
“Um, yeah, that would be great.” Omigod, I thought to myself, did he really just say that?
“Okay, cool.” He smiled. “I’ll come get you at like eight okay?”
“Sure, that’s fine.”
“Okay. See you then.” He turned to go.
“See you later, Sam.” I closed the door.
I ran to my closet like my life depended on it. What to wear, what to wear. Ugh, I thought, is this a date? Or just friends? I debated for twenty minutes before deciding on a cute patterned dress with woven flip flops. It was around three o’clock, so I walked down to the beach for some R&R before the big date (if that’s what it even was).
At 7:55, I heard a knock at the door. Oh s***, I thought to myself. I checked my reflection one last time. My dress fit perfectly, my hair looked great, my makeup was light and beach-y, and yet I was still nervous as hell. I walked casually up to the door and opened it. Sure enough, there was Sam, looking totally hot, I might add.
“Hey, Kayla. Wow, you look great.” He smiled, and a rush of butterflies hit my stomach. Thank God this wasn’t a dinner date, or I would have been eating nothing but a ginger ale.
“Thanks,” I replied. “Let me just get my stuff, and I’ll be right out.” I grabbed my purse (stocked with breath mints, just in case) and shoes, and yelled a quick goodbye to my mom. Closing the door behind me, we walked the couple of blocks to the lovely Wildwood boardwalk. We chatted and laughed, and as the night progressed things got flirtier and flirtier. We went on all the rides, screaming and laughing. By the end of the night, I was exhausted and exhilarated. It was the perfect night. Sam walked me up to my apartment, and we stood outside my door.
“I had a really great time tonight,” I said, trying to hint for a goodnight kiss.
“Yeah, me too.” He smiled big. There was an awkward moment of silence, and then Sam said, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” I said, disappointed.
“Bye Sam.” Well, it was almost the perfect night, I thought to myself.
Early in the afternoon the next day, I went downstairs to room 302. I gathered my courage and knocked. A tired-looking woman answered the door.
“Hi, I’m Kayla from 505, is Sam here?” I asked politely. She sighed.
“Kayla, I’m sorry, but Sam can’t see you. We’re heading home soon because we just got word that his grandmother passed away.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said sincerely. “Will you tell him I stopped by?”
“Sure,” said the woman, and she shut the door in my face.
That was the last time I saw Sam for a long, long time. He didn’t return to room 302 for the rest of the summer, and I went home in late August heartbroken. The next year or so, I pushed Sam to the back of my mind and focused on SATs, colleges, and careers. I didn’t date anybody and rejected the guys who asked me out. I was still hoping Sam would show up, like he had done when I least expected it. But, he didn’t, and I soon gave up hope. I headed off to Syracuse for college and quickly forgot about Sam.
The fourth time I met Sam, we were nineteen. I was in the cafeteria with my psychology textbook, eating and studying for an upcoming test. I was in the middle of my freshman year of college, and I was enjoying the freedom of college life. I was so engrossed in my studying, I didn’t notice the guy until he was seated in front of me.
“Psychology, fun stuff,” he nodded to my textbook. I reluctantly closed it and looked at the stranger.
“Do I know you?” I asked rather irritably.
“You should. We knew each other in the womb.” I gave the guy a funny look and stood up.
“Weirdo.” I rolled my eyes, grabbed my textbook, and walked away.
“Wait!” he cried and grabbed my arm. I turned to give him a piece of my mind when I saw his eyes. Those eyes that were so familiar, then so strange, then loved, then lost. All at once, I knew who he was.
“Sam,” I breathed. He smiled.
“But…but you didn’t remember me.” I didn’t bother to explain what I meant.
“Kayla, how could I forget you? I knew who you were the moment I saw you on the beach. I’ve always known you.” He pulled me into his arms, and I dropped my books.
Sam kissed me. The kiss I yearned for the past three years. The kiss I waited for that night outside room 505 that never came. The kiss I searched for the next morning, only to find it gone. I pulled away.
“I know I’m a little late on this, but I love you, Sam.” He smiled.
“I’ve always loved you, Kayla.”
The fifth time I met Sam, we were twenty-three. I stood at the end of the aisle in a white dress, and Sam stood by the alter in a black tux. My dad took me by the arm and walked me down the aisle, past my friends, my family, and my crying mother and sister. But I didn’t see any of them. I only saw Sam, who I had known since birth, who I colored with and shied away from, who I loved from a distance and let slip from my grasp, who found me when I had given up and hadn’t left since. Sam. My Sam. The Sam I loved. The Sam I still love. And as we said our vows, I looked into his eyes and said the three words I had held back for so long,
“I love you.”