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What They Said This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

There I was – could you even see me? I could barely take my eyes off of you. I wanted so badly for you to sign my yearbook. You hadn’t bought one – $40 just wasn’t worth it, you said. I also knew that you not-so-secretly hated the yearbook’s teacher advisor. As an editor, though, it was so hard not to take your unwillingness to buy one as a personal insult. You signing it would have made up for everything. Asking you to sign my yearbook, to me, was symbolic. I was offering you my heart, admitting that you were important in my life, begging you to stay in my memories. What if you said no? I don’t think I could have handled that kind of rejection. Even so, at my friend’s urging, I managed to slightly overcome my shyness, enough to make the choice and ask you. It was, after all, just a yearbook. Right?

I went to get my backpack, strategically located by a certain someone else’s. As you bent down to grab yours (right by mine!) and walk away, I called your name. I had to say it six times. Yes – I counted. Each time, my confidence shrank and my voice wanted to diminish along with it. Are you deaf? Or do you just tune me out? In the end, your friend nudged you and nodded in my direction, so you turned around.

“Yearbook,” I mustered, handing you the book and a choice selection of three different colored pens. Sparkly purple and blue – my favorites – and an orange. Getting words out felt like forcing a boulder out of a mousehole. I couldn’t manage more than one. I hoped you didn’t notice. Come to think of it, you probably didn’t.

You made some comment about the over-glitteriness of the purple and blue, picking the simple orange instead. I smiled at the irony. Orange – bright and cheery – hardly fit you, with your casually made depressing remarks, your constant wet-blanketness that at times seemed so hypocritical.

And you signed. I felt a thrill as you put your pen to the paper – my paper! – and your name to the page – my page! I anxiously took the book back, reading your signature with a rush of disappointment.

What they said…

What they said? What was I supposed to make of that? I scanned the other signatures – so many different messages with so many different tones and hidden meanings. Did you mean what my one girlfriend said, adding hearts and “I love you!”’s all over the place? I doubted it. Was it the sarcastic guy who commented on my so-called “good grades” and my lack of effort that somehow didn’t fit together? Perhaps. Was it the girl who wrote “I’m so glad we were friends this year!”, then crossed out the “were” and wrote “are” instead? No; you would be the other way round. You’d cross out the “are” to write “were,” wouldn’t you? If that.

Did you even read “what they said”? Do you even care? Do you even understand how much this means to me? Do you know how much I torment myself over this every minute of every day? Do you know how much I care? How much I suffer, watching you with That Other Girl nearly every single day?

No. Of course not.

The voice in my head turns hollow as I answer my own questions. What do you know about me? Nothing. What do you want to know about me? Probably nothing. I don’t matter in your life – you’re never going to ask me to sign your yearbook. Provided you buy one, of course.

Right?

Or do you secretly care, despite your continued association with That Other Girl? Do you actually want to know me? Are you just shy? Do you, perhaps, care for me? Or am I just hoping for the moon, not realizing that what I hold in my hands is actually a pebble?

I sigh, shutting the yearbook with a flourish. I can’t deal with such ambiguity. Do you know how much pain your indefinite, unclear, bewildering statement has caused me?

Everyone else wrote what they meant; meant what they wrote (I hope). I know how everyone else feels about me. I know how they see me, what they feel. I know what they said.

What do you say?



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