Stay Strong

By , Staten Island, NY

     It wasn't an easy decision.

     But then again, important choices in life are never simple ones. They require an extreme amount of thought, planning, and dedication. My decision evoked a complex mixture of bubbling emotions that completely overflowed the confined space they were originally trapped in. However, my feelings became too strong. I knew something had to be done or I would never be able to think without seeing his face again.

     I liked him for nearly an entire year. And it wasn't just a crush. I've experienced several of those before, and the feelings of infatuation completely differ from what I felt around him. He was special. I don't really know why I started feeling this way around him. But whenever he came within proximity, my heart would soar. He was exceptionally intelligent, confident, never doubting his abilities or comparing himself to another student, true to himself, humorous, easy to talk to, and kind-hearted. Sure, these are all great qualities to have, but it was the little things that hooked me. Like how his braces shone when he smiled. Or how his face turned a cherry, rosy red when around his friends. Or maybe it was just how real, raw, and innocent he was, in addition to our compatibility. I sat across from him in English class every day, and from there, the millions of conversations, flirtatious remarks, and nerdy comments began. And I made the mistake of thinking it meant something.

     I couldn't live with elephants squashing any lingering butterflies remaining in my stomach. I had to get my feelings off my chest. With him pervading my daily thoughts, every single dream, and greatest fantasies, he was taking up an excessive amount of my time. When I encountered the quote, "In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take," I knew I had to take a leap out of my comfort zone. It was settled. Because I am better at conveying a message through writing rather than verbally, I would send him an email over the weekend, confessing how I felt. It wouldn't be too mushy, but at the same time, not too subtle either. It would be just right, coming from the deep fabrics within my heart.

     I wrote the piece and was quite pleased with its eloquent nature. I was sure he would appreciate it as well, being that his writing never failed to impress me. No turning back now. Taking a deep breath, I rapidly pressed the send button, all of the memories we had made over the course of last year flooding my head. I really thought about them. About all the meticulous details of his life he had shared with him. I really knew a lot about him. Maybe more than I could even take.

     Friday transformed into Saturday, which melted into Sunday. I would check my email multiple times per day, awaiting the response I so desperately wanted to see. Instead, my inbox was empty. Occasionally, I would receive a notification that I had one unread email, and my heart skipped a beat, then making up for it by pounding like a marathon runner's feet onto the ground. Nevertheless, it was always just a meaningless email from a friend, YouTube, or a dictionary newsletter I was subscribed to. Nothing I desired to see.

     Monday rolled around, and I had no way of knowing if he had seen the email or not. It would be difficult to face him, but admitting how I felt only gave me more courage and strength. I felt as if I could take on the whole world. If I could do that, I could do anything.

     When I arrived at school, I sought out my friend group among the myriads of students overwhelming the cafeteria. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him chatting away with his peers, and an unintended smile emerged from my mouth. That was another thing I loved about him. He didn't even have to do anything to make my day shine even brighter.

     My friends already knew I had told him through text messaging, but they shot questions at me like speeding bullets anyway. I explained that he hadn't replied yet, but that I needed their help. I quickly checked my Monday schedule and realized I didn't have any classes with him today. Fortunately, three of my closest friends had English with him immediately before lunch, where we could exchange any obtained information. They were ready for the quest. By period six, I would know if he liked me back. The thought alone caused my pulse to quicken.

     After what seemed like forever, the bell bringing the fifth period to a close rang, marking the end of the longest living environment class ever. I gathered my belongings and sprinted for the cafeteria, wiping my sweaty palms against my gray shorts. I was the first one to arrive at our table. When my best friend entered the room, I frantically waved her over. As soon as I saw the look on her face, I knew something was wrong.

     I interrogated her fiercely. At first, she said absolutely nothing occurred. I told her I knew she was lying. She said I was right.

     Apparently, one of my friends had told one of his friends how I felt. Fortunately, they had a substitute teacher that period and were given no work. He marched up to the guy I liked, as instructed to, and told him. His initial reaction was pure surprise. However, after asked if he felt the same way, he had a two-word response. Two words that would forever haunt me and remind me of heartbreak, anguish, and shattered pieces of my heart: "Hell, no." It wasn't a "let's just be friends" nor an "I like you, just not in that way." It was a downright rejection. My heart sank. All the butterflies in my stomach abruptly died. He didn't like me. He didn't want anything to do with me. He couldn't have cared less about my feelings. That's what stung the most.

     "I'm really sorry. You're too good for him, anyway," were the words of consolement my best friend barely managed to breathe out. I couldn't think straight. Tears pervaded my eyeballs, and I really had to fight to keep them from fleeing. This couldn't be happening.

     "Are you okay?" she asked, deep concern prominent in her chestnut brown eyes.

     I tried swallowing the lump in my throat, but it refused to budge. "I'm fine," I remarked, my voice on the verge of cracking. He was my everything, but I was his nothing. Why did he have to lead me on like that? Why did he make me think we developed something? He could have just told me the truth from the beginning.

     I barely made it through the rest of the day. When the belated school day finally ended, and I made my way to my dreaded bus, I was given additional information. He was asked if he thought I was pretty. His response to that? Hell, no. That I could take. I had conspicuous imperfections, and some people are shallow like that, not using the energy to look beyond the surface. He was also asked if he thought I was smart. All he had to say was "hell, no." Okay, that was where I drew the line. I took pride in my intelligence. I received the highest grades in a gifted and talented school. No one was on my level except for him. And despite my mixed emotions at that point, if I were asked if I thought he was smart, I still would have said, after heaving a heavy sigh, "yes." He was. It was just a known fact. And so was I.

    My head was spinning. It would be so awkward every Tuesday when I shared gym with him. How could I ever look him in the eye again? When I checked my email again, I had a reply waiting for me, from him. A bit later than what would have been ideal. He had sent two of them. The first one was the shortest complete sentence he could have possibly written: No. The second one explained that he had shown the email to several other people, despite the clear statement I had provided him with, politely asking him to keep it confidential. I had been betrayed. My life was an infinite series of broken promises. Why did I ever love him? And if I had been so blind to his clear flaws, why was it so hard to let go of him?
     By the time I got home, my feelings could no longer be contained. I bawled my eyeballs out against my pillow, soaking it with bitter, salty waterfalls of tears. I wasn't sure what I was crying for. I reached for my evil phone and searched up rejection quotes. It's always nice to know someone else knows what you're going through. And that's when I came to a significant realization.

     It wasn't meant to be. I had a much better future lying on the road ahead, one that didn't involve him. I would find happiness, but it wasn't the right time. I had so much to offer, but he just failed to notice it. That's no reason to bring me to tears. If anything, he should be sobbing over his loss. I still had a lot of fight left in me. I would get through it. At the end of my life, I wouldn't have to deal with the terrible "what ifs?". I had taken a chance and now had a definite answer. It wasn't a guessing game anymore. There were always more reasons to smile than cry. Life is a beautiful thing. Every day may not be perfect, but there is perfect in every day. We just need to venture out and seek for it.

     And above all, I had to stay strong. I was no longer afraid of crossing his path. I would just smile, straighten my back, flip my hair back, showcase my imperfections, show him what he was missing, and prove that I was a lot stronger than I was yesterday. I was proud of my decision to tell him. It was by no means easy. It wasn't thrilling to face him every Tuesday. But you know what? I got through it. That's all that matters. I never knew what went through his head when he saw me, or when someone mentioned my name to him. But it was irrelevant to me. I was too busy enjoying my life, hanging out with my friends, and laughing like no one was watching. It felt good. Like a burden had been lifted directly off of my shoulders. I was finally free; no longer trapped by the chains he had tied me to. I was okay. 

     No matter what curveballs life throws at you, know everything will work itself out in the end, and every event that takes place happens for a reason. Above all, hold your head up high, smile with your imperfect, crooked teeth, and stay strong, because you are amazing and will go places in life. Never forget that!






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