He's What I Want But Can't Have

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HE’S my best friend. I roll my eyes though when Stacey dumps her drama on my head like pellets of freezing rain. All the time. “I like him so much. But I can’t tell if he likes me.” Since I’m not one for the drama, not even my own, I tell her she’s got two options, “Take a chance, Stacey, or just deal with it.” Of course she ignores my advice and complains about something else, then the next week it’s back to the same old dramatics.

WHAT a hypocrite I am. He’s taller than me, which never happens. But I always thought I’d fall for one with green eyes, like my first love had, not Old Spice blue. My open bullet hole for the blonde athletic ones was something he pushed his finger into immediately, like he knew it was there and for him to aggravate. Gym class was ground zero. Luck of the draw that I was chosen to escort my handicapped peer to gym, we were playing basketball off to the side. He was playing with his friends across the court.

I thought he must be a senior and I wondered why I had never seen him in any of my classes. Then I remembered that this was a sophomore gym session and the only reason I was there was because my buddy was a 10th grader. That was the day my heart began hiding from him inside of my stomach. So I admired from a-far. It’s not like I’d ever see him again after the semester ended.

WANT him, need him, forget him. That’s what it came down to in the Spring. Track and Field was starting. The sport that made it look so easy for me. The only sport. This year, I was going to make top ten in the state for discus. Life was looking distracting and shiny up ahead. As I was tying my royal blue spinners to my feet, a few other throwers are gathering near the cage, but I don’t look up until my flashy shoes are on. His white-picket smile and raspberry soda-pop eyes suddenly screened out all the light I had been seeing up ahead for me. His charismatic features imprinted like a spot in my vision. The way the sun does.

BUT who the hell has heard of discus or shot-put? It’s so obscure. My beloved coach wraps his arm around my shoulder and tells me to warm-up because he wants me to teach the newcomer. Since I technically don’t know his name—to his knowledge—except by the gym role-call I ask, “So what is your name?” “Ryan,” so thick the name peels off of his tongue, pushed along by a light-hearted huff. The name Ryan just seems so plain. For him anyway. Meant for the kid who showers only three times a week and washes his clothes once a month because video games are his extracurricular activities. But he’s Ryan. Football Ryan. Popular sophomore Ryan. Too young and out-of-my-league Ryan.

CAN’T pretend to ignore him anymore. Ryan comes to practice everyday. And now we’re acquaintances who notice one another in the hallway. A month later, we’re friends. And a year later I debate what to do about my heart. The wretched thing has knotted itself within my gut and strains my lungs, which in turn chokes up my words. My friends understand at first. Then one day, Stacey says, “Make a choice, Sarah.” The heart in my gut swells and I feel that I can never stand up straight anymore. I suppose a romantic would call that infected throb, the flutter of butterflies. It feels more like bumble bees to me.

HAVE him or never have him again? I collect my external spew and stuff it back inside. Wrapping it around the lining of my stomach for extra padding. My friends have had enough of my many circular analyses. How I say that his jokes are flirtatious, but I can’t tell if they are just that. How he hangs out whenever but it’s never just the two of us. Realizing my hypocritical ways, from Stacey of all people. She now changes the subject whenever I try to talk about Ryan. When it comes down to the grain of our existence, our friendship, I always want him to be there. Other kinds of love will come and go, but ours will be the kind that lasts. It’s the decision I battle inside every day. He’s my best friend.

And he’s only a friend.





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