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It’s Saturday morning and I just woke up. The last of the summer sun greets me through my window and I simultaneously throw the covers over my head. It’s 8:00. I am not getting out of bed any time soon. As I stretch in bed, my mom calls from the other room yelling at me to get up. Ugh… I roll over onto my back and look towards the window. The sun beams on my face, and my eyes squint trying to gain focus of the world outside of my bedroom. Ok… time to get up. And I push the covers off and jump out of bed and get ready to head back to school.
“Do you need anything else?” “No Ma…” “Are you sure?” I don’t even bother to answer. We’ve been at this for the past half an hour. I packed last night, but who cares. Its senior year, whatever I don’t have I’ll just buy when I get there. “How about this?” she asks, as she comes into the room with the teddy bear in her hand. All of a sudden my heart begins to race as I think of someone I have tried so hard not to think about for the past three months. My mom walks over to me, she knows. “I’m sorry baby… I forgot”. It’s okay. I’m okay. I slowly sit on the bed. Hanging my head in my hands I try to hold myself together. Three months, it’s been three months. My mom passes me the teddy bear. “You’re going to have to face it sooner or later”. I stare at the teddy bear. I pass my hand over its face; I rub my fingers over its eyes. I slowly begin to remember the day I got the teddy bear. And as I look into its eyes, I get lost into the memories of what had been…
* * *
“Babe, are you okay?” I blink back to the poorly lit room. I slowly look around trying to remember where I was and what I’m doing. My back is molded into the broken, old couch. I look at him. Then I see it- the smile. It’s our anniversary; one whole year of fights, and breakups and make-ups is all behind us now. I close my eyes and just feel the warmth of his body against mine. My legs intertwined with his, my arms held close to his, my head tilted toward his heart. I am honestly happy. I go home in three days and I’m spending my last couple of days until vacation with someone who brings a smile to my face. “So are you going to eat all that chocolate by yourself?” Which reminds me, he’s bought me white chocolate which is my absolute favorite, and as I open the box to share my eyes land on the teddy bear sitting on the couch. The golden brown fur shines in the pale light, the gold bow is wrapped tightly around its neck, and its deep, warm brown eyes watch me as I sit there with him. “Don’t you like it?” I love it. “Thank you” and with a kiss I seal the night. With a kiss I put an end to the beautiful evening, the romantic anniversary, and the image of how the eyes of that teddy would hold the feelings I’d never get the chance to share.
* * *
“That’s everything,” I sigh as I close the trunk of the car. I’m all set to head back to the small town life. We file into the car, me and my mom. As my mom starts the car, I look back at our New York City apartment building. The brown brick tower has been my refuge for the past three months. It knows I’m not ready to go back. It sat and watched me as I cried myself to sleep last night thinking of going back there, without him. Suddenly my phone vibrates; I freeze as I anticipate his voice. But instead it’s just a text from my friend from school. “You’re going to be okay,” she writes me, ending it with her signature smiley. I half smile as I think of my friends. They’re right. I’m going to be okay. It’s Senior Year; there are memories to be made.
I lock my phone and I’m reminded of a past memory as a picture shows up on the screen. The frozen frame depicts a smiling couple, on the swings, amongst the falling snow. The girl has her arms around someone; her arms were meant to be there. The guy in return squeezes the girls arm, protecting her, afraid of letting her go. Everything looked so sickly cliché. I put my phone back in my pocket, and the memory of the picture absorbs my mind as we make our way out of the parking lot.
“Come on, let’s go out” “But it’s freezing!!!” “I don’t care, let’s go” And so we went. Just like that, we were shivering as we waited for the cab to take us to Friendly’s for dinner.
“Table for two?” “Yes, please.” I grab a kids menu and a box of crayons and he shakes his head at me. “You’re such a kid” With no comeback, I simply kiss him. Surprised, he smiles. Scooting into one of the booths, the waiter introduces himself and then leaves us to decide what we’re going to eat. As I peek through the menu, he orders the one thing that I’ve been bugging him about for the last couple of weeks- loaded waffle fries. As I look up with arched eyebrows, he laughs, “I just thought you wanted some, since you’ve been complaining about them!” I smile and throw him an air kiss. He shakes his head and then looks through the menu, deciding what he’s in the mood to eat tonight. As I watch him I notice he’s wearing my favorite sweater, the navy V-neck, a white t-shirt just barely visible. His green wristband which he wears religiously lies on his right wrist. His hair is still wet from rushing to get ready. He looks up. Caught, I instantly look down at the menu. “Ready?” he asks. We order- him a burger and fries and me chicken tenders and fries, both with honey mustard. The waffle fries arrive, and the conversation begins.
“This is our first date you know,” he says with a sort of matter-of-factly air. “Really?” I ask, acting clueless. I actually was quite aware of this. After being together for more than a year, this was in fact our first date, off campus, just the two of us. I was nervous. And surprisingly so was he. But first date jitters soon went away when he reminded me of the kids menu. I watched him as he colored in the snowman with the blue crayon, critiquing me on what color I should make the scarf, and then teasing me on the size of the snowman’s nose. Laughing, breaking crayons, and scarfing down waffle fries, we acted like two little kids. It was the best time I’ve ever had at a restaurant.
The night finally came to an end. The cab dropped us off back at school, but before we went our separate ways- “Thanks for tonight”, I said. “Anytime” The normal thing to do would be to walk away now. But no one moved. We just stood there, both of us, hands stuffed in pockets. “Do you want to go for a walk?” he asks. “Sure”, and off we went. We walked to the small swing set behind my dorm. The snow began to fall again. He walks over and sits on the swing. I follow. He motions for me to sit on his lap and I do. I watch him, and then with eyes on the ground, “I had a really great time tonight” he said. I cup my hand under his chin and pull his face up towards mine. I smile and kiss him. “I love you, ” he whispers. It was the perfect end to the perfect night, a fairytale kiss in the snow, our own little happy ending.
“ Sweetie you have to wake up.” My head bands against the car door, as I blink away the nap I just took, I realize where we are. “Your last year, are you excited?” I can’t believe I’m back, summer just flew on by. Everything looks the same- yet different. And then I realized the change- he’s not here. It’s not a dream anymore, it’s not the future, it’s really happening.
And then I realized… That it wasn’t when he left after graduation that hurt the most. It wasn’t hugging him for the last time, or looking into his eyes sharing the intimate conversation we wouldn’t dare say aloud. No, it wasn’t waving goodbye as he drove off with his family, or watching the car drift farther and farther away from me. What hurt the most was coming back. It was realizing that he wasn’t here anymore. Not that he just left, but that he wasn’t coming back. What hurt the most is walking through the gym on a Sunday afternoon and realizing that he’s not there, he won’t be there. It was sitting at the corner table with my friends at dinner watching every single possible person walk in and realizing he’s not going to enter those doors. It was realizing I had no one to walk me back to my dorm anymore and no one who’d stay shooting hoops with me until curfew.
What would hurt the most is walking through this ghost of a campus and seeing him in every corner I look. Remembering every moment we shared, every conversation we had, everything… and remembering how good it felt to be with him…here…with me. It’s the remembering that hurts. And I can’t help but remember. It’s the one thing I have of him that won’t go away.