Posted: Saturday, August 18, 2012 2:55:02 AM
I plug my headphones into my ears, shift through my song list, and turn on Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” to full volume. I blink.
It’s all coming back to me now.
He was my first one. I loved his tousled hair, his artistic taste in fashion, his everything. Everything about him made me smile — his beat-up Nike Airs, faded Empire jeans, and even his worn-down Bape shirts. Every grin, every joke, and every conversation made me smile. In his presence, my cheeks were never pearl-colored; they were always as red as a pickled plum.
But I could never have predicted what happened next.
“Will you go out with me?”
It stings; it really does. Like a pin in the foot, it hurts. I stand beneath the awnings in the shadows as I watch his mouth contort into a pucker for the “Will” and then relax into an oval shape to form the “You” and then wobble to spit out the “Go out with.” I stare as he ends with a grand finale, smacking his lips into a “Me.” His eyes brim with hope.
I shudder. Now I understand; it wasn’t me all along. It was her.
I watch as her black bob goes up and down, up and down, and I watch as he smiles and hands her poppies and daisies and peonies. I watch as their fingers brush against each other as she takes them.
I watch how a shade of baby pink lights up their cheeks when they finally comprehend the touch. They laugh as they take in everything.
Everything except for me.
Me standing in the shadows five feet away. Me turning the doorknob to head into Social Studies. Me ready to leave the scene. Me. Me. Me. He doesn’t notice me.
I look down, yearning to retreat to my castle of illusions of him and me, of the fantasies that will never be fulfilled, of what was meant to happen. But I can’t go back. It already crumbled. The drawbridge collapsed into slate and slab when he asked her out, and the twin towers fell apart when he gave her flowers. The sand and rock and stones from the chaos tumble on me, pushing and dragging me down, down, down.
But I refuse. I refuse to let this mark the end of me. I lift my head up high and take a step into the warmly lit social studies classroom. As I prepare to close the door, I take one last look back.
He turns his head.
I grip the edge of the door and let go.
During the days after that, I was a ship without an anchor, a girl without hope until I walked into Starbucks and heard the seven magical words.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
I gripped the biscuit that I was eating and straightened my back.
I could do this.
Heartbreak is inevitable in life.
But I won’t let this cripple me.
I will be strong.