i remember the first time i thought i was in love. to be honest, i dont even think i knew what being in love was back then, so maybe it was just the first time i ever got physically sick over a girl. where she affected me so profoundly, i felt it in my guts. perhaps this was simply a crush, but i think i had had one or two crushes by then. this was strong though, a memorable one. it left a scar.
it was a girl named Anitra and we were in third grade. she was a thin, light skinned girl with huge brown eyes and a perpetual half smile. she sat in two desk from the front of the class, surrounded by her giggling friends. i was on the opposite end, near the back of the class, next to a tall gangly girl who always raised her hand to answer questions and always got the answer wrong.
i didnt even speak to Anitra much less pay her much attention, but i suppose during a recess or a lunch break she noticed me at some point, because her friend one day approached me in the yard and asked if i had a girlfriend. i said no and she pointed to Anitra who stood nervously near a jungle gym peeking from the side of her eye at us, the girl said -do you want her to be your girlfriend?
i was a very shy kid, and i imagine i blushed a brilliant red before nodding absently. i didnt know who Anitra was but i liked two things about her immediately: that she was pretty and seemed unaware of it, and that she liked me. it would have been impossible for me to say no. never before had a girl been interested in me, at least that i was aware of, and it was obvious to me then, that this was the opportunity of a lifetime. i didnt know what a girlfriend and boyfriend did, but i knew what a couple was. i had seem them on tv.
the girl then went back to Anitra and said something to her and Anitra looked up at me and waved. i waved back. this was our first act as boyfriend/girlfriend. it went successfully. then the bell rang and we went back to class,
like i mentioned, i was a shy kid, so in class i snuck glances at her when she wasnt looking and then when i saw she was, i would pretend i was paying attention to something else. the graffiti on my desk, the blackboard, the teacher, the cursive alphabet that lined the top of the class walls. with every glance i snuck though, she grew more and more alluring. the way her braids were always so tight and perfect, the way the beads made a two color uniformed pattern that dangled at the ends of hair. her unusually long eyelashes and how she seemed to always blink and they would swing up and down like huge wings from her eyelids. her curious half smile and the way she would giggle with her friends. covering her mouth with her skinny hand to hide her amusement from the teacher. there was a confidence about her, a comfort in her skin without it being arrogant. by the end of the first day a full crush had formed in my heart. i couldnt wait to go home and think about her all night in the quiet of my bedroom.
the next day at school we met up in the yard again, this time both of us face to face. we said all of three words to one another and i cant remember what any of them were. i just recall standing and leaning against a wall and looking at the ground and her looking at the ground and us both smiling but not doing much of anything else. we were together. thats what counted. we were showing the world that we were two and not one.
there was another guy in our class named raymond. he had a supreme confidence about him. tall and good looking and housing manly qualities even at out tender age. he also was amazing at sketching things on paper. his most famous piece being a spitting image depiction of michael jackson on the cover to the Human Nature single. everyone liked raymond, even me, though we never spoke. he was one of the most popular kids in our school, even though he was only in third grade. i admired him greatly, and when he began to pay attention to Anitra in our class i was more jealous that she was friends with him than i was that he was talking to her.
i admit, i played it all wrong, but i was too shy and too nervous to play it any other way. i never let our relationship develop beyond those awkward moments, standing together in the yard. i never spoke much. i never held her hand. i never even attempted to get to know her further than what i already did, which wasnt much at all. at one point, even her friends tried to push us closer together, and typical in my failure with girls, i shyly ran away. evading her and her friends for the entire recess period. i didnt realize it then, but this was my downfall. i expected her to make all the moves, to force the issue a bit, to pull a better boyfriend out of me. it was the beginning of establishing a pattern of passive stances in my relationships. one i should have learned from but didnt. do i ever learn anything?
i should have known that raymond was going to one day spend a recess with her. he, unlike me, openly spoke to her in class. he was hardly shy about it and i couldnt blame him. he had the adoration of most everyone in the school, and could impress her with his sketches and doodles while still being one of the smartest people in class. what put it over the top though, was when he made a sketch of her. it was gorgeous. completely capturing her beauty while still evoking her shy, humble manner. even i, burning with jealousy (now of him and not if her) had to admit it was a remarkable portrait. so that afternoon, when i saw them standing together during recess, it wasnt a shock so much as an expected turn of events.
they stood there, her looking nervous and awkward like she usually did, and him standing next to her, moving his hands in a fluid, animated fashion, telling her something no doubt charming and clever. i was too much of a pussy to even walk over and take my position next to them, next to her, on the wall. i just looked from afar, a sickness building in my stomach, the sadness of loss swelling up in my chest. i spent that recess staring at them while sitting on the stairs fiddling with my food, not eating at all. i knew that the very next day the same scene would occur and again i would be helpless to it. i let myself go to the nature of things. the erosion of our minor affair. the inevitable distance and the silent break.
of course i didnt know how much i felt for her until after she was gone. this is how things go usually. you are left with the emotions you have but never knew were there. the sting of defeat lingers long after the race is over. i didnt want to go home even though i knew i would have to. and i would sit and think of her all night in the quiet of my bedroom.