You had a goofy smile. In shades of your grin I could see the child you were before, building forts in the living room and racing matchbox cars along plastic, malleable tracks. You thought your old fancy car, the one your Dad gave you, was the only reason anyone liked you. That is probably why you cried when I broke up with you outside the auditorium that Friday afternoon. You cried in frustration.
You had a gold, four door Audi. What more could I want?
You were a good kisser though, my first kiss. It happened at the homecoming dance while Boyz II Men played amid the swirling lights. It was cliché and electric. My lips tingled. The pain of my too tight, high heeled shoes evaporated. In that moment I learned atmosphere is everything. Atmosphere can make the dull turn shiny.
For homecoming the next year I went alone. I bought myself a corsage of hot pink roses, baby’s breath and white carnations. It complemented my jewel blue dress perfectly. No one’s mother had a hand in picking my flowers. I watched you dancing with your new girlfriend, Christy. I watched you watching me, dancing with a new boy each number. Secretly, I felt more alive than ever. But I also felt guilty. Because I knew you would always be with a girl like her. Safe. Never a girl like me again.
You and your friends crashed my gym class. Coach didn’t care. You were his all-star lacrosse forward. You could do no wrong. I remember how you tried to block me from the goal during floor hockey, but I twirled around and hit you in the head with the wooden stick. It made a small crack as it hit your skull. Only you and I heard it. Everyone else was cheering because the rubber ball had swooshed into the net. I had won. Me, the weird artsy drama girl had out maneuvered the captain of the varsity lacrosse team. When I looked back at you there was a bright red dribble of blood running down over your eye.
After class, you chased me down the hallway. You were out of breath as you asked, “Can I call you sometime?”
No. That was what I replied for weeks. That was how I learned a very important dating adage: ignoring a guy only made them want me more.
Finally, I went out with you. You were three years older than me, nearly a grown man. But your hands still shook as they slid under my shirt. I wrestled with your tongue pushed too far in my mouth. I could feel you quiver beneath me, like I was stealing your energy.
I had never felt so powerful. But then my mother barged in the room. She threatened you with the police, told you never to come near me again.
That only made me want you more.
You were in love with Carly. I knew that but I still made out with you on Saturday afternoons in secret. Was it you or the sneaking around I found so enticing?
The first time, I really intended to study for our upcoming English midterm. I thought of Carly as we rolled around on the basement carpet, that smelled vaguely of mildew, fumbling with each other.
She had long auburn hair that looked unnaturally shiny. She wasn’t the kind of girl that would roll around on your dirty carpet and pick gray carpet fuzz out of her hair later. She wouldn’t have a burn on the small of her back either.
But we kept “studying” and you kept mooning over her. I was the one who ran my fingers over your scars from the operation, who kissed them as if to wipe your skin clean. You had your eyes wide open. I kept telling myself that was good because you were still seeing me there. Not her. I thought if you tasted me enough times she would fade away.
She never did go out with you and that taught me something else: You weren’t worth it after all.
I’m pretty sure that saved me from dating a slew of married men later.
You were dark and brooding with your black leather jacket, ripped up jeans, flannel shirts and combat boots. And you played the drums. In a band. Your long, wavy hair was almost as long as mine.
I wanted to smell it and see if I could pick up the trace of conditioner. Maybe we used the same brand that smelled of coconut.
You smoked cigarettes behind the school, even on frigid days where breath became a cloud.
“What are you doing here?” you asked, but didn’t wait for an answer. You just laughed at me. “Here, try this,” you said. I took that bottle you shoved in my hand. I let it kiss my lips, thinking his lips touched this. The whiskey burned. I tried to stifle a gasp, but I couldn’t hide it from you. You pulled me close, so close I could smell my own alcohol laden breath. You said, “I’m no good for you. That’s the only reason you want me.” Our lips barely touched. Then you pushed me, hard. I leaned against the brick wall and watched you walk away. You never looked back.
And I wondered who had taught you all your truth. Had you learned it from a series of girls just like me? I met so many more versions of you. None of you ever looked back.