Everyone wants to know.
No one can possibly understand how you and I, the “perfect high school couple”– both pretty, popular and so in love–could have possibly ended. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure no girl is complaining about the breakup. I bet as soon as they heard the news they all ran to their bathrooms, making sure they reapplied their makeup and fixed their hair. They’re merely curious how I could possibly throw someone like you away. Even considering what you did. I even ask myself that same question sometimes. I know you’re curious if I I’ll ever take you back. You’re always telling me how sorry you are. You even list all of the reasons why you deserve a second chance. But you don’t have to; I know that you’re everything a girl could ask for.
Then I remember you’re not.
The crazy thing is, after everything we’ve been through you still don’t understand. You don’t see that our relationship only had ten steps. I’ll walk you through it.
Step one – the chase:
You ask me out after class the second week of our junior year in high school. I decline, of course, because you’re the new kid and I don’t know anything about you yet. Are you good looking? Yeah, you are, but nothing that will make me point to a male model in some popular magazine and say he looks just like you. You’re not even the guy girls will hook up with at parties just so they can say they did. But, to my surprise, you quickly become popular. I go to your basketball games and see you win twice before you ask me again, and this time I say yes. You’re cute enough, and my friends think you’re funny when we all hang out. You’ve only been here for a couple of months and somehow you’ve already made the entire student body fall in love with you. There’s no reason I shouldn’t.
Step two – the first date:
You take me to see a movie. Some blockbuster we’ve both heard of and have wanted to see ever since the first trailer came out. I expect all of the typical dating moves, and you deliver. You put your arm around me towards the beginning, reach for popcorn the same time I do so our fingers touch. I would have to laugh at your middle school cliché if I didn’t realize it was a calculated move that you take seriously. At some point you kiss me, I kiss you back, and that’s how we spend the last hour of the movie. That’s why I blush the next day at school when my friends ask me how I liked the ending.
Step three–early dates:
You start walking me home after school. We often stop for ice cream on the way, and you take me out to see other movies too. You make me laugh during every possible opportunity. I like how you’re always finding ways to be busy, whether it’s taking your little brothers out or tutoring the kids who are behind or in basketball practice or volunteering. I like how everyone at school knows your name by the first month. I like how your smile lights up the entire room. I like you. Everybody does. Neither of us can keep track of how it happens, but soon enough I’m officially your girlfriend.
Step four – finding time to maintain a relationship during junior year:
This one is hard. You’re always busy with something. You say you miss me, but you need time with your friends too. You say I must understand, because I’m always going to the mall with mine. That’s because I don’t take any AP’s, or even more than one extracurricular. I’m just proud of myself for taking SAT prep. I’m not an overachiever and you are. I’m fine with that. I know who you are; it’s what got me hooked to your constant success in the first place. But you know I’m not like you–art is the only thing I care about and the only class I ever chose to sit in–so I hate how you compare my shopping in my spare time to you not having any spare time. It makes you sound pretentious, and that’s a side of you I haven’t noticed before.
Step five – Lela Green’s party:
It’s the biggest event of the season. Bigger than any game you’ve ever played or any test we’ve ever taken. Everyone at school is going. And her brother is twenty one now, so he can actually get us beer legally. You and I are going together, of course.
When you pick me up, I make a joke about how you manage to make time for Lela and not me. I’m obviously kidding, so I expect you to laugh with me. Only, you don’t. You take me seriously, narrowing your eyes and telling me you’re with me right now, aren’t you? I’m too shocked by the bitter tone to reply.
You drive me there in your new car, which you paid for yourself with all of your tutoring money. You love bragging about it, although it’s nearly twenty years old and smells eerily of fish. You turn on the radio, playing a loud rap song that you know I can’t stand. I ask you to turn it off, and you ignore me.
When we finally arrive, our friends are already drunk. It doesn’t take us long to get that way too, and before we know it we’re dancing together, standing closer to each other than we ever had before, holding empty bottles in our free hands. Neither of us can keep track of how long we do this, but eventually we do go somewhere alone. You put your hands on my waist, and they quickly escalate to places they have never been. I enjoy it at first, but eventually I have to shove you off because I don’t want to do this right here and right now. We argue for a long time before you eventually give up. You have a friend drive you home, leaving me alone.
Step six – we kiss and make up:
We don’t talk the rest of the weekend. I check my phone every two minutes to see if you’ve texted, but you haven’t. My friends buy me ice cream and we watch movies at my house all day long to try to keep my mind off you. Although I appreciate the attempt, it doesn’t help much. I check myself in the mirror every so often to make sure I look nice, in case you drive over to apologize. You don’t. I don’t see you until Monday at school. You come up to me at lunch to tell me that you’ve thought about it, you were drunk and out of line and you’re sorry. I forgive you. We hug and kiss even though I cringe when you stand so close. The disgust has never happened before when I feel your arms around mine, so I don’t mention it or do anything about it. After all, by now I am sure there are many girls who wish you’d touch them this way. I should be grateful you apologized, that I didn’t have to.
Step seven – three magic words:
We go out that night. You pay for a dinner I’d never be able to afford. You walk me home, and on the way we stop at a park. I lean against a tree as you kiss me, wishing that this night never has to end. I don’t want to go back to reality, when I never really have your attention. Right now I’m all your thinking about.
When we’re done, you tell me you love me. I say it back, because I’ve never felt this way about anyone and that has to be what love is. I kiss him some more, letting myself forget that you’ll never think I’m as good as you.
Step eight – you try again:
The next few weeks are great. You text me every night and tell me you miss me, you walk me to and from school and you choose me over your friends a lot more than you used to. I’m ecstatic, because I think that maybe now you’ll just assume I did well on a test as opposed to asking me if I failed, or offer to take a look at my art so I don’t have to ask, or stop trying to steer the conversation back towards you whenever someone asks about me.
One day, when we get to my house, you ask to come in with me. You know my parents aren’t home for the weekend. Even still, I don’t hesitate to let you in. We start the night by watching TV. I don’t remember when we turned it off and when you got on top of me. You touch me in places you only dared to once, but just like that night I have to push them away. I try to reason with you, but you just get angry. After all, we love each other now; this is what people who love each other do. I try to tell you otherwise. It can wait. It’s okay if we wait. We don’t have to do this right now. So you say okay, but you don’t sit so close to me anymore.
Step nine – the aftermath:
You grow distant. I come watch you at practice, but you barely look at me. I even offer to go to the library with you, but you say I’ll only distract you. I see you with my friends, every once in a while we see a movie, I come to all of your games, but when you wave to me in the stands the smile doesn’t reach your eyes.
Step ten – the truth:
I know her. She’s in my chemistry class. I’ve eaten lunch with her once or twice. She’s pretty. I never thought she was prettier than me, though, but I guess you did.
Even still, people actually expected me to take you back. After all that. You chose me, and that’s a big deal for me, I can’t do much better. You agree, don’t you? Even though I was never enough for you, you think you are for me.
Wrong. I deserve so much more.