The boys in my high school are, bluntly said, white trash. However, the males of the year above me are exactly the type of trash that I fall for.
As a Junior, I was already over Jack. Last year, when we spontaneously hugged after winning a medal together in Science Olympiad, a nugget of wisdom in my brain told me that it was the peak of our interaction. Some pitiful deity noticed my fondness for this derpy, freckled, blue-eyed older classmate and threw me a bone out of nowhere, but it was important that I realized nothing else was gonna happen.
I’m glad that I grew out of it, because it allowed me to function as his secretary on the Science Olympiad team with total professionalism — and total focus for a better goal: getting to States for the first time in our school’s history.
On that fateful day of the competition, as we were waiting for the awards ceremony, I conversed with the boys a little. Jack had been awake for 48 hours, partly because of his procrastinated project, but also because of a visit to his long-distance girlfriend. He looked at me with bloodshot eyes and asked, “Are you thinking about being president next year?”
Internally I screeched, YES! but I smiled meekly and said simply, “Maybe.”
Then, with utter conviction and in front of everyone, he said something very special: “Well, you should be.”
A few months and a State competition later, it became so.
The school orchestra played at graduation — old classics like Pomp and Circumstance, Alma Mater songs. The seniors had to play the first two songs before joining the rest of the Class for procession. Jack arrived in royal blue cap and gown, and he almost swallowed his tassel as he moved his head, looking for the empty seat next to me.
Once he sat down, my thumb hovered over the camera app. “I’m afraid to ask him for a picture,” I told my stand partner on the other side of me.
“Why? Just ask!” she said, but I couldn’t.
We finished playing “As Summer was Just Beginning” and Jack asked, “Can we go?” He then stood to follow the departing seniors without another word. Being unimportant in the eyes of someone who matters is a distinct and chilling sadness.
Last year, when I foolishly revealed the boy I liked, you laughed so hard you cried, and you announced my secret to everyone in the room. You pulled a prank on me about it later that night, and I hated you and the malice behind your black eyes.
As I got to know you, you continued to be a menace, but in a different way.
Like when I was taking selfies, and you insisted on photobombing all of them.
Like when you asked to “friend me” on Snapchat, which I thought was nice, but you only sent candid photos of my face, zoomed in to a horrific degree.
Like, when you sat down next to while I was eating that one time, without invitation, and grabbed some of my fries, whilst singing “Uptown Funk.”
My friend sitting across the table from us at that time, Arthur, waggled his eyebrows at me, and promptly sent a text: “I want you to kiss him.”
I texted back sternly: “No!!! He has a girlfriend!!!??? And a terrible attitude.” However, I didn’t dare admit that I did like how nicely tall you are, or your neat black hair, or your jawline (though my girlfriends and I discussed that daily).
You were strangely nice to me during the Science Olympiad State Competition, which threw me off a little. I was grateful that I was noticed at all within a club full of boys, to be honest.
And I saw something. I don’t know how this happened, as it was a cloudy day — no natural light could reach our underground team room in the first place. But I noticed, startlingly, that your eyes were a sunny brown. Something inside me hurt a little.
I honestly do not like your personality. The only things I like about you are your unabashed weirdness, your beautiful purple flannel shirt, and your knack for making me feel wanted. Usually when I need it most.
I knew I was in trouble when I saw him sitting on the gym bleachers, chatting with my friends. “Him” because I didn’t know who he was, but I glanced at him many times during Drivers Ed the year previous. His slim jeans looked good. So did his hair. When I joined them and learned his name, I repeated it in my head deliberately, so I wouldn’t forget.
I knew I was in trouble when he started sitting with us during lunch. Also when he gushed about Louis from One Direction being his daddy.
As I was leaving the library one day, I saw him walking down the hall outside the door, and he saw me. He smiled, but I didn’t expect him to backtrack and walk alongside me. “Hello Michele,” he said, and I felt so ridiculously pleased.
“You have second period free everyday?” I asked.
“Yep. You too?”
“No, I needed to print something out at the library, but right now I have Symphony.”
At that point we reached the music wing, and he looked at me with mock-disapproval at my confession. After he turned to leave, I grinned widely. A boy never walked with me to class like that before.
When I saw my quirky friend, Renee in the hall shortly afterwards, I squeezed my folders to my chest and squealed, “Grant just walked me to class!”, buzzing with girlish passion.
She laughed and jokingly asked, “What is wrong with you?”
I usually find eye contact hard to initiate and hard to maintain, but for him it happened with no problem. One thing I kept thinking about:
“What the hell’s the color of your eyes?” I once asked him, quite randomly. The previous day they were blue, but now I could swear they were gray. Maybe it was the lighting, or the color of his shirt.
“I don’t know,” he replied, as if he got that all the time or wondered it himself.
“I just had my last lunch with Grant!” I announced as I walk into Bio, weeks later. I wasn’t fishing for condolences; I actually didn’t know how to feel. In truth, my reaction wasn’t as strong as I expected it to be — there was a sense of loss and longing, sure, but it was muted, like a colored shirt washed too many times.
“Aw, how romantic,” one friend said with heavy sarcasm. But Renee, who I often call socially oblivious, noticed me looking at his yearbook message. Perhaps she’s aware that Grant is gay and somehow knows that I know. Perhaps she gleaned something from our interaction at lunch today that she witnessed. Or perhaps she truly knows me — better than I know myself.
“I feel like you have a girl crush on Grant,” she says.
“You know, a girl crush.” The fondness a straight girl feels about an inspirational girl, without actually liking them. “You admire him and how he looks but you wouldn’t actually date him if it came down to it.”
It sounded like gibberish, and in fact did not precisely fit how l felt, in its conventional definition. But it was still the most eye-opening, lucid thing she could’ve said about my plight.
“Yes, you are exactly right,” I affirmed.
During graduation, I watched as one by one, the superintendent handed my faves their diplomas, thus lifting them out of my realm of existence. Though I remained composed while clapping them out, I wanted to cry. I’m going to miss those fucking losers so much.