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May 18, 2010
“I have to move early. July first, to be exact. That’s when I’ll be in Houston – permanently,” he said calmly, watching me for my response. Permanently. It was so final, so fixed. I didn’t know how fast my heart could shatter into a million tiny pieces, each piece filling with memories that would never happen, images I would never see, hugs we would never share. July first: a month and a week away. July first: when I would have to say goodbye. I couldn’t stand to look at him in that moment. I muttered, “I have to go,” and walked out of the house. In tears, I fumbled with my keys to unlock the car, and once inside, didn’t hesitate to let my tears fall. I thought back to this time last year, when our lives together had started. The memories flooded my mind and were as clear as the shattered glass – broken, but still cloudless and sharp. Our story started forming in my mind, and I thought carefully of the words that would describe it:
‘And now turn to page 326 and we’ll look at how to succeed when writing an essay for the AP English exam,’ the instructor droned on. I wondered, seriously speculated my decision to come to the review this morning. Why? What could I possibly gain? Except for insightful knowledge on how to write immensely astounding essays, but was it worth waking up for mediocre snacks and instructors that teach in a monotone voice, practically lulling me to sleep? Then, I looked up and saw him sitting at the table across from me. Immediately, I acquired a brilliant idea that would make the next few hours entertaining. I pulled out my phone and texted Tien, asking for Nguyen Tran’s number. My friend Allie giggled as I put his number into my phone, and we both tried to think of the creepiest text to text him, because he didn’t have my number. ‘Think of something extra creepy!’ Allie whispered, careful to not attract the instructor’s attention. Right then, I knew what I was going to say.
‘Nice shoes ;)’ I typed, pressed send, and immediately tried to look as inconspicuous as possible. We both looked over at him, anxiously waiting for him to respond, or to give some indication that he read our creeper text and was, most certainly, creeped out. He read it, turned around, and stared right at me, right into my eyes. I was so surprised he knew that it was me who complimented his shoes that I couldn’t look away. He smiled, and then turned back around facing away from me. My heart did a cartwheel as my phone vibrated, revealing a message from him: ‘You have pretty nice shoes yourself!’ Who said creeping was wrong?
After that, we were inseparable, at least through text. I wasn’t too shy, but I knew I was falling for him. The way he closed his eyes when he laughed loudly, the way his hair brushed ever so lightly onto his forehead, the way he walked confidently with his hands in his pockets, smiling at his friends who walked by, the way he told his stories with hand gestures and complete enthusiasm, and especially the way he looked at me forced my heart do more cartwheels.
Dance banquet was coming up in a few weeks, and I wanted Tien to come with me. On a whim, I asked Nguyen if he wanted to come along. He said yes. Tien was thrilled with the idea, but she didn’t know about my feelings for him yet. The day of banquet, Tien and I prepared together and talked about how excited we were. We met Nguyen there and sat at a table, the three of us, along with a few friends. Tien figured it out at banquet: she knew I liked him and confronted me about it privately, and I didn’t deny. I braced myself for the worse, but to my surprise, she was excited and completely enthusiastic. I was floating on Cloud Nine by then. When banquet was over, Tien went to get the car. Two of our friends had wandered off in the hallways, and we were forced to go find them. Was it a coincidence, or the workings of my best friend? I think we all know the answer to that one.
The hallways were dark by then, and the lights just happened to turn off when we needed to look for our friends. I hate the dark, and I was completely terrified of walking down that hallway. Here was my chance; a mind-blowingly incredible chance to get him to notice me, and all I could say was “I hate the dark.” I cursed myself for being so reserved and tongue-tied. I was tensing up, partly because I was walking next to him, and partly because of the dark. Then, he did the completely unexpected.
“Do you wanna hold my hand? Just because I know you hate the dark and…” I grabbed his hand right then and there. If I was on Cloud Nine before, I was now on Cloud Infinity. Infinity squared, probably. After we found the two people we were looking for, we went to Tien’s car. When she dropped of Nguyen, I told her the story in its entirety.
A few days after dance banquet was the Fine Arts trip to Colorado. I remember texting Nguyen the whole time, sharing our stories about the past, asking questions about plans for the future, and trying to know every detail about each other. At this point I knew he liked me back, and I was excited to come back home and see him in person. On the bus ride back to Carrollton, I remember one straightforward clear-cut text from Tien, ‘Look nice Tuesday. Something good is gonna happen.’ I shared the text with Allie, and she chuckled, saying that he was going to ask me to be his girlfriend on that day. Why else would I have to “look nice?” My heart did that cartwheeling thing that surprisingly I hadn’t become used to, and I started to think of all the possibilities. I slept restlessly that night, and Monday night as well. Finally, Tuesday arrived.
I dressed nicely as instructed, and didn’t pay attention in any of my classes. During lunch, Nguyen asked me to meet him at the Senior Balcony after school, and I thought to myself, This is it! When school ended, I met him there. He asked me if I wanted to go to the park, and I said yes. We walked to the park from school, me stopping to pick up flowers every now and then. At the park, we played on the swing sets and went down the slides, and then went to sit on some of the equipment, next to a slide and under a little roof. He asked me if I wanted to hear a song, and I of course said yes.
“The Truth” by Daniel D. played through the speakers of his iPod. I was nervous for what was coming. After tense small talk and nervous laughs from the both of us, he finally asked the question I was waiting for: ‘Will you be my girlfriend?’ In that moment, the colorful plastic of the playground equipment completely vanished, and it was just us two. In that moment, I only saw his eyes: a dark brown, like the melted chocolate. I only heard his music: the notes floating around us like delicate bubbles. The flowers I picked earlier blew with the wind around us, swirls of white, pink and yellow twirling past, mirroring the dance my heart was performing at that moment. A hundred million emotions flowed through me: happiness, bliss, elation, joy, and more. I said yes, of course.
Things were so simple back then; we didn’t have to worry about saying goodbye because our story was just starting. The days blended into weeks, which blended into months, which blended into a year. Our story kept flowing in my mind, from when we first met through that text message to our last date, which ended with my abrupt departure, when I realized there was no end. Not yet, anyway. We still had dates, we still had school, and we still had each other. I felt my phone vibrate and unlocked it, only to find a text message from Nguyen: ‘Nice shoes ;),’ I read, and smiled. I looked through the window to find him standing there, smiling, waving, and pointing to his phone. I opened the car door and found myself in a loving embrace when I realized my tears stopped.
“July first may be coming up soon, but our story doesn’t have to end,” he said, as if he could read my mind. His eyes looked the way they did when he asked me to be his: confident and reassuring with a hint of nervousness. I felt safer – comforted, calm and loved. “Besides,” he continued, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And, who needs the rest of the world when we both have nice shoes?”