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A Change of Heart.
He’s changed my life.
Cliché. But so true.
It goes back to just over two years ago, when I was just a lame freshman, a loser benchwarmer on my basketball team. But I had fun, surrounded by strong girls who laughed and didn't need boys. It. Felt. Great.
At the time, I was simply concentrating on knowing where to pass the stupid ball. I was absolutely content to sit the bench and watch my team, overwhelmed in the first place. I liked watching our point guard completely beast in every game, and she happened to be one of my new best friends.
And he was her brother, not to mention my coach's son. I’d never talked to him before. He was a senior on the varsity boy’s team, one of the best. It never occurred to me that I could ever talk to him. After our games, I would sit quietly in the bleachers with my team and watch him play. All I knew was his name and that he was the cutest 5’9 guy I had EVER seen. He could run, rebound, and get low on defense with such concentration in his brown eyes, holding the straightest game face I had ever seen. To this day we've never officially met; it was one of those things where I guess we just picked up each other's names by association. But I immediately paid attention without a word whenever he walked into the room, even as the girls and his sister didn't think anything of it. He was like a brother to all of them; they didn't care.
Basketball distracted me enough for the majority of my freshman season. I didn’t have time for guys. This was basketball. This was serious. He was out of sight, out of mind. But not for long.
I remember the moment he flipped the switch in late January. I was spending the night at their house with a few other teammates; we had plans to TP our coach's truck in the middle of the night. I was informed too late, however, that the plan was to be driven to Walgreens to get supplies- by him.
I wasn’t allowed to drive with boys.
He walked to her room. I already felt like an idiot, being the sheltered child who ruined everyone's plans of a master prank. He asked if we were ready to go as he bent over to pet their little dog. She said, “We have a problem. She’s not allowed to drive with boys."
Way to go. I could feel my face turning bright red. At that moment he glanced up from petting the dog, looked me in the eyes with a boyish smirk and laughed right at me, shaking his head. I swear I turned redder than a tomato. I mumbled sorry. He smirked again, flicked his keys back into his pocket and walked away with that strut of a guy who was born with natural coolness. My mind was spinning like a top. As my teammates were completely oblivious to the conflict inside me, I smiled a little and kept my thoughts to myself.
This was the start of something big.
The rest of the year followed uneventfully; after season ended, I didn’t see the guy for 8 months. Even when I went back to their house he was always gone or in his room. He was just a thought hidden in some forgotten corner of my head, completely overrun by the excitement of sophomore year. I was only 15. He was just a cute guy. That was it.
A month into the next season, we were at practice. Coach announced that his son was coming to help us with our defense; without fail, all of the girls giggled and made comments while I just smiled. I glanced over my shoulder at him; he was lacing up his shoes, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had the entire team wishing they had put just a little more mascara on.
He instructed us that night in some new defense drills. The girls laughed unnecessarily loudly at their mistakes. Although I was acutely aware of his presence, I kept my cool.I laughed quietly every time I saw him smile to himself; he was amused, quite aware of his affect on these silly girls. Our Christmas formal came up in December; I went to their house that year to get ready. Our mothers helped us primp, curl and pin our hair up. I was more concerned with looking inferior next to my two teammates, who were both in elegant floor length dresses, their hair softly curling around their faces, their stance completely comfortable in 5 inch heels. Then… there was ME. I was in a black halter knee length dress, my hair pinned up and sticking in all directions with a perfect poof. I hobbled like a moron in my silver heels. The finishing touch? A pair of hot pink lacy gloves.
We took pictures outside. I HATED pictures. Especially when my heels were sinking into the grass. It didn't get any better when HE walked out to observe. He was our chauffeur for the night.
He picked us up at the end to take us to downtown Disney, the annual tradition that was what everyone looked forward to because our banquet was SO lame. On the way, I made a comment about the retarded karaoke. He laughed and said something about better entertainment in previous years, including a band. I laughed about some moron who got on stage with the band 3 years before and sang Sweet Home Alabama at the top of his lungs. His response? "...Yeah that was me." I laughed. That was the first time we had ever talked.
In January we attended a friend's wedding. We were given bubbles to blow at the bride and groom; he took two bottles. I watched him as he seemed to be in his own little world, a grin on his face like a little boy who had done something bad. "Hey, they said to be responsible with the bubbles," I joked. He broke into a full grin and, without even looking up, he answered, "Oh, I’m so gonna throw these at them." he walked out and I laughed to myself. It was at that moment that I realized that there were layers to this boy. I wanted to know more. Most boys would have looked up and flirted; he had merely answered with his own thoughts. I think that was the exact instant that I officially began to crush.
At my 16th birthday, he had a cake fight with his sister and best friend, getting chocolate icing smeared all over his pure white UCF hat. I took a picture of him sulking in a go-kart. I stared at that picture many times over the next few weeks, studying his face. He had the best smile ever; not too much, but enough to be genuine. There was laughter behind it. His chocolate brown eyes sparkled with the danger of mischievous thoughts, making me ache to know what he was thinking.
I got a Facebook not long after, and took the opportunity to talk to him. I found a few times to strike up a conversation; these conversations turn to what we wanted to do with our lives. It was through these I found he loved life. He was a concert junkie; like me, only worse. He wanted to do crazy things like sky dive; he had a passion for the military. He played piano. I felt I could listen forever. I keep a quote of his on my phone: "I want to burn out, not fade out in life."
We ran into each other at my school's graduation. By coincidence, him and another guy I was interested in ended up standing next to each other, and I compared my two interests. The one was dressed in a baby blue shirt. He had a cute little boy face, his brown hair sticking up at his cowlick in the back, a laugh on his face. He was loud and hilarious, and talked to me all the time. And then there was him. While the other was laughing and talking to me, he was standing to the side, off in his own world in pensive thought. He was in dark jeans and a black pinstripe button down collared shirt, his dark brown hair completely in place, curling just slightly at the ends. I saw a boy next to a guy. At this exact moment, I lost interest completely in the boy. From then on, my only thought was him.
At 16, emotions start evolving from the little puppy love thoughts of middle school into more complicated feelings. His attraction was beyond the appeal of a cute boy; there was something to him. He was not a vapid, shallow guy who would talk just to flirt. He was the first person to ever keep me in quiet awe as I simply wanted to observe.
I took a painful break from basketball the next season due to some family issues. It was two days after this decision that I made a stupid, stupid move. Facebook is a wonderful thing. I had lifted his AIM screename 6 months prior; for lack of a better word, I stalked his statuses. One night I accidentally said hello. He asked who it was and I told him, and in desperation my excuse for having his screename was that "my friend hijacked my computer". ...*slaps forehead* "Ohhh....okay..." then we talked. I cringed inside when he told me he was assistant coaching my team. Perfect.
A month later, his sister invited me swing dancing. I LOVED TO SWING DANCE! Most importantly, I got to dance with him. Four times. Do you have ANY idea how that felt? The first time, he grabbed my hand and pulled me out onto the floor, flicking me in front of him. He laughed. “You are so short.” “Thanks?” He was smiling and having fun, I could tell by his face. We laughed, bounced, stepped, and twirled all over the place. He tried to dip me and I freaked. “You’ve gotta do the dip. It’s no fun if you don’t do the dip!” the 2nd and 3rd time, I failed miserably, terrified of falling. “Look, you gotta trust me. I’m not gonna drop you!” he laughed at me. The fourth time I freaked again. “Look. I’m not gonna drop you,” he said as I gripped his shoulder. He dipped me for emphasis, inches from my face with that little amused smile. “See? I’m not gonna drop you…I got you…I got you…I got you.” He dipped me slowly each time for emphasis. I was completely thrown off guard by the fact that he was so close, one hand in mine, the other at the small of me back, holding me above the floor. That night, I went home completely blissful. It had been the best event of my life.
In November, I was at one of the basketball games to watch. I walked in early and he was the only one I knew there, sitting by himself in the bleachers. In fear, I stood against the wall, feigning ignorance. The truth was, my heart was pounding. So freaking HARD. Ten minutes later he walked up; I deftly pulled out my phone to text. I could almost feel his Chuck Taylors hitting the gym floor as he approached. “What’s up, bum?” I looked up, my heart nearly in my throat as he shot the crumpled can perfectly into the trash can beside me with that smile. “Hey,” I managed. “What’s up?” he leaned against the doors and pushed out. “Nothing much.” That’s all he said and disappeared. I let go of my breath and sank to the floor.
Later, I was in the hall on the phone with my mother. I barely noticed when he walked in the hallway and stood there for a few minutes, finally took out his phone, and texted before walking back in. when I hung up, I found a text that said “hi”.
During the boy’s varsity, me and my two best friends took a break to walk the halls. Just as we walked out, he and his best friend came walking towards us from the other end in conversation. My pulse quickened. I WOULD take the initiative. The three of us got quiet as we walked by. I smiled which his best friend picked up on and said hey. That was easy. But my smile was for HIM. And his damn apathy crushed my efforts. He looked away a millisecond before I could look him in the eyes. My retarded friends burst into laughter as we passed. “He looked at you, dummy!” “What?” “He looked over his shoulder at you when we walked by!”
Over the months, my emotions had morphed. I could not say I loved him; we weren't close enough. But he held my heart in a way I had never felt. I wanted desperately to hear him talk to me with ease the way he could with other girls. I wanted him to see how much we had in common.I wanted him to look me in the eyes for longer than two seconds, to just pay me some attention.I wanted to hear him talk. I wanted him to WANT to tell me things, like he had momentarily in the spring when we discussed his love of concerts,the military, of doing crazy things. I wanted him to want to be my friend. He was the most interesting person I had met in my life. There were so many layers. On one hand, I could almost predict when and what he would say, what he would like, how he would respond. But he always continued to surprise me. Just when I thought I had him figured out, he would show that there was more to discover.
And in addition, my heart had been teased with that night of dancing. I wanted to very badly to feel that close to him again. I loved the rush of heat that burned of fear,embarrassment, excitement. My cheeks flamed when he was close, my heart would pound, my breathing got tight and I had a compulsion to flex my hands and bite my bottom lip.
In November, I went to his band’s first concert. I watched him on stage as he concentrated on pounding the keys of his keyboard; it was so fascinating. It was almost beautiful to watch; I loved piano players. He had texted me the day before asking if I was coming; I told him yes and he said to get front row. Afterwards, I stood quietly with his sister and friends as they congratulated him. When he noticed me, he said “You didn’t get front row!” I laughed. “Sorry!”
Our Christmas formal came again.I had the cutest dress, my hair perfectly styled. I knew how to walk in heels, and as we stepped out of the car me and my friend slipped on our aviators just for fun. Within seconds, I recognized the athletic, comfortable frame of a guy with a cell phone to his ear. I was caught completely off guard. My heart raced. “Oh my God oh my God oh my God,” was all I could say. My chest tightened and I felt like passing out. I waved. He was just hanging up his phone when he saw me. And for the very first time, he seemed genuinely interested. For the first time in my almost 17 years, I got the look-down, as if he finally noticed me as more than just a background figure. He said hey, his eyes observing. I smiled and walked away. When we stopped inside, my entire body was trembling.
That night at downtown Disney, I was looking for my friend who didn’t have a phone. I was his ride home, and it was getting really retarded how hard it was to find the boy. I was pissed. In hopes of finding the boy, I tagged along when he and his sister escorted some younger girls to their mom’s car. When I walked off a little to see if my friend was coming down the road, he yelled “Hey, where are you going?” “No where, just trying to see if he’s coming this way.” He looked at me seriously. “You’re not walking off by yourself.” It was a statement of fact, not a suggestion. As we walked back, I was becoming more and more agitated. “I can’t find him,” I complained to my friend. He suddenly asked, “Who is this guy?” I told him. As we walked he said, “Can’t he drive?” “No.” “Oh… didn’t he already graduate?” me and his sister both turned and answered “No, he’s like 16!” “Ohhh. Call his phone?” Oh my goodness. I had already said this 50 times. “He doesn't have a phone; he’s using other friend’s phones.” He answered with a smirk of wow-this-is-so-dumb, “well, you can go to your call log and call the last number.” OH MY GOD! This was the first time I had ever wanted to slap him. He was acting like I didn’t know how to use a phone? Really? I turned in exasperation. I had already said this 50 times too. “He’s not with them! He doesn't have anyone’s phone!” he looked surprised. “Oh.”
That was the last time we talked until mid January. I had started attending his church, even sat in his row with his sister. He had no idea I was there. The church had a mission’s festival. I walked into the auditorium and was immediately caught off guard by the sight of him selling tee shirts. When I finally waved hello, he seemed surprised. “Wait, so you come here?” “Yep, have been for about a month.” “Oh wow. I don’t think I'v ever seeing you.” Wow. “Well, I sat in your row.” He looked even more surprised. “You did?” “Yep.”
I bought a tee shirt a little later. “What size do you want?” “A small.” He looked at me with those laughing eyes. “Too bad. You can’t have one.” I raised my eyebrows. “Yeah right.” “Nope. Sorry. You can’t.” I rolled my eyes. It took five minutes to get the shirt. We laughed . “Bye, Jessie.” That was the first time he had ever called me by my name. It still makes me smile.
A month later, he had a concert for his band again. I ended up going home with them after church to hang with his sister and to get a ride. The whole car ride, me and her talked. He never said a word. But I used the opportunity to let my personality show, because I was totally comfortable talking to his sister. In their kitchen, we continued to talk; he walked in at one point and listened. Perfect timing. I could see him laughing from the corner of my eye at some of the things I said.
That night at his concert, I was again fascinated by the sight of him playing. His face was full of concentration, those brown eyes sparkling in the stage lights, his fingers knowing exactly what to do. Afterwards, when we were standing around congratulating him, I was (as usual) initially overlooked. But then he saw me, and I smiled and said good job. He smiled too, and stepped forward to give me a hug. Not a boring old side hug, but a good, solid, “hey!” hug that made me smile inside. that was it.
If you can’t already tell, encounters with him are few and far between. But each one over the past 2 years have been huge. no one has ever held my heart so tightly in his hand; he has no clue. …Okay sure, he may have an idea. He’s not stupid. I’m just scared that maybe my reservedness has not allowed him to see me because I am so guarded. Who knows.
I cannot SAY there is a happy ending. More than likely, this is just the dream I’ll never reach. We’ll probably remain at the level we are now, not quite friends but acquaintances, one terrified of the other, the other puzzled. I will probably stand by and watch as he finds himself a gorgeous, fun-loving girl, and I will cry my tears and be forced to grow up and move on. I’ll find some “realistic” boyfriend, a part of me always fascinated, wondering what it would be like to be that girl. Kind of sad, really. Part of me thinks that if I stepped up, we’d fall into sync, and he would notice me for more than just the mildly interesting friend of his sister, that we would become great friends and the rest would fall into place. But another part tells me to grow up. I’m caught in limbo between the two and cannot move forward. I must make a move towards him, or he must move away; until then, in the famous words of Sandy from Grease, I am “hopelessly devoted to you.” Pathetic, really. :P Oh well.