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Lover Boy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I was born sick. My rare condition has dictated the majority of my decisions, and though I've searched the globe, there is no cure. While the final diagnosis was only revealed to me the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I can recollect specific symptoms that appeared as early as age five. I do not ask for sympathy, only that my voice is heard, so that I may unveil some of the rationale behind the many seemingly unreasonable actions I take on a daily basis. I am a victim of “HR”: hopeless romanticism.

I have come to the conclusion that the HR virus remained dormant in my system until it sensed the opportune moment to activate. This moment was, naturally, when I began my formal education. The year was 1998, I was in kindergarten, and my emotions boiled behind the beige brick walls of St. Agatha's School.

My mother, an aggressive woman behind the wheel, whipped the car around corner after corner in fear that I would be late for school before I'd even started. It was only a half-day of school that didn't begin until noon, but it was paramount to her that I not miss a minute. The seatbelt around my chest was chokingly tight, and the fact that it was shoving my tie and collar into my neck only reminded me that I was on my way to Catholic school.

As we pulled up, a new bride and groom emerged from the colossal doors of the adjacent cathedral. Both young. Both glowing. Church bells rang and guests were cheering and throwing confetti. And though my body was on the verge of whiplash as the car swung in, this moment appeared to me in slow motion. It was, without a doubt, the most magnificent thing I had ever seen. And I thought, I want that.

My time spent in the classroom was a blur. I daydreamed about the Biblical figurines on the shelves and looked out the window, but mainly studied the lovely ladies who surrounded me. All of them, I posited, were just like me: Catholic and single. I was in love with every one of them. The way they colored inside the lines, put together puzzles, and wrote in cursive – it drove me mad. I began to suffer from stomach butterflies and intense blushing. By the second day, I decided the only way to end my woe would be to let my feelings out.

But there was no chance to express my earnest emotions with adults patrolling the halls and classrooms. It became clear that recess was my time to capitalize. It did not take long to realize what a commotion recess was at my Catholic school: five hundred kids, grades K-8, running amok in what was essentially an unused parking lot. The boys played epic four-square and basketball games of warlike proportions. One was lucky to return to the classroom without tears in his eyes.

Nevertheless, recess was the romantic opportunity for which my heart longed. 'Twas a glorious break from the prison of emotion in which I was confined. Finally, my time to humbly approach the Goddesses had arrived. Much like The Bachelor, I arranged generic dates with the objects of my admiration. Each day I suavely begged a different dame to join me by a quaint little spot I'd picked out beneath an oak tree in the far corner of the blacktop, where students were not allowed.

Here we were beyond the hubbub, the riffraff, the brutality of the world, and in a place of magic. Though there were no flowers, a rich aroma of roses filled the air, and though no birds were in sight, doves serenaded us with a harmony so charming it would bring Mozart to tears. Even on the cloudiest of New England days, the sun radiated pure joy onto our flushed faces. It was a dream.

Because I had only fifteen minutes each day to convey my passion, I tended to get right down to business:

“Do you love me?” I would ask immediately upon arrival under the tree.

“Um, yeah, I think so,” was the typical response of Lady X.

“Do you think we'll get married some day?” I'd prod.

“Um, yeah.”

Our eyes would lock as we beamed for what felt like an eternity. Normally her nose would wiggle and she'd ask, a little disgusted, “Harry, are you wearing perfume?”

“It's my dad's cologne. I wear it because I love you. I brought you a gift as lovely as you are.” This is when I'd hand her the dandelion I had picked from the patch behind the dumpster.

“Wow,” she'd say as she put it behind her ear, “I love daisies!”

Then, if I was lucky, she would sneak me a peck on the cheek just as the bell would ring.

That was my daily romantic encounter, until the Lord caught wind of what I was up to.

It happened on a delightful day, just like the others. I was professing my adoration for yet another young lady beneath the oak tree, when suddenly an enormous shadow fell over my princess and me. I turned to discover our principal, Sister Judy, looming over us like a gargoyle. Of all the nuns, she was the most feared. While the others wore blue robes, Sister Judy chose black, and the deep lines on her face made her a frightening sight. She yanked me up by my ear.

“Well, well, well … so the rumors are true. Mr. Bacon, I had been told that you are a busy bee, but I had to see it for myself. And you, young lady. My oh my. Get that wilted weed out of your hair and beat it.” I do not blame my sweet queen for fleeing. The fearful presence of Sister Judy was too much to bear.

“The sisters tell me this has been a regular occurrence since September. Is that true, Mr. Bacon?”

Frozen in her bottomless black eyes, I had no answer.

“Mr. Bacon, you are disappointing not only me but your faith. God does not wish for you to waste your time obsessing over the many girls here at St. Agatha's School. You will gain nothing from our teachings if your head is plagued by these perversions. I cannot have such a poison in my school, Mr. Bacon. Do you understand? You leave me no choice but to … are you wearing cologne?”

“Maybe ….”

Beyond appalled, she said, “You leave me no choice but to call a meeting with your parents. Come straight to my office after school. The four of us will have a conversation about this. Now go, boy.” She released my ear, and I strutted away wearing the pout of a thousand men.

Though an experience such as this would have been traumatic for most five-year-old lads, I did not spend much time sulking. Rather, the remainder of the day was spent contemplating her words. She spoke of faith and God. An adult had never challenged me to think about a higher power. I simply accepted my faith for what it was. I knew the basics of the Bible – Jesus's whole “cross situation,” Goliath versus Davy Crockett, and something about an animal cruise – but none of it had ever seemed to apply to my life. Then it hit me.

Didn't Jesus die because he loved us so much? Didn't Jesus die so we could be free to love? Doesn't it make sense to love as much as possible to honor Him? And I love at least twelve girls, so aren't I a good Catholic? Aren't I doing the right thing?

By the time I arrived in Sister Judy's office and met my parents, I was mentally all over the map. I do not know how long the meeting lasted or what was discussed or what their ultimatum was. One simply does not multitask while pondering the mysteries of love.

The next day, my mother sped me to school as usual. The halls were glum as usual. The teacher taught the lesson as usual. And my empresses were elegant as usual. And when recess came, I was right beneath my oak tree, wafting in the aroma of roses, enjoying the tunes of doves, and beaming into the eyes of another beautiful girl, as usual.

“So even though you got in trouble yesterday, you're still here with me?” asked Lady Z.

“I'd risk anything for our love.”

“Wow,” she exclaimed, nearly speechless.

I pressed the freshly picked dandelion to my face, took a deep breath, and held it out to her.

“Do you love me?”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Vanaheim This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
today at 5:55 pm:
I remember reading this months and months ago, but completely forgot about it until I saw it was published. Congratulations! This is a knockout story, and you're a very talented writer. Here's to one of many successes you're sure to have if you keep at it. Congrats!
 
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