I like you. Do you like me? Check Yes or No.
I practiced writing those words over and over and dreamed of the day I would pass that prenuptial document to the man of my dreams.
I had finally mustered up the courage to complete the note. I boxed in the words with the straightest lines and positioned the yes/no boxes so perfectly, it was an engineering feat. Now when should I give it to him? I calculated the best times when we would naturally be in close proximity. The best strategy, it seemed would be on the bus ride home.
My heart was pounding as we loaded the bus. Today was the day I would profess my undying love or bow out gracefully if that dreaded No box was checked.
We took our seats and as the bus rolled forward, I casually turned to see him seated behind me. He looked like a god to me, so tanned and muscular with blonde ringlets hanging around his dimpled cheeks and those steely blue eyes. He was in the fifth grade and played football, he was so cool.
I was shaking on the inside but my hand seemed steady so I smiled, handed him my note and turned to face the front just in time to catch the glare of the bus driver. This driver would not tolerate horse play as he called it.
I could hear the rustling of the paper behind me as he opened it. My heart raced even faster with unknown anticipation. I hoped above all hope that he was busy putting a mark in the Yes box.
What’s that? I heard a familiar voice ask from behind me and I smelled her sickening jasmine cologne. She was in the seat beside him! That Hussy! That wicked, wicked dark haired hussy!
She was in the fifth grade also but dated a boy in junior high once. You could always tell when she was around even if you didn’t hear her loud, bragging mouth. You could smell that cheap cologne that she constantly sprayed on herself, it was her signature. Yuck! Now nausea was heaped on to my racing heart. I wanted to leap into the driver’s seat and press on the gas pedal. I would have considered jumping out the window but it was too small. She was giggling like an idiot. She had read the note meant only for him, for his eyes only. Oh how I hated her.
I doodled on my book cover trying to busy my mind. His stop was coming up soon. Maybe he would just throw the note away and make like it never happened. Maybe he would hand it back ever so gently with a big check mark in the yes box which meant I have always loved you too. Maybe, maybe-
I don’t like you, can’t you get that through your head? The words caused such a rush of blood to my head that I could not focus when I looked up to see him standing there. He tossed the note back into my lap with a huge red x in the perfectly square No box. As if that was not enough Yes had been scribbled through and No circled in that same ugly, red ink.
Can’t you get that through your head? Those words resonated far above the, I don’t like you. He had never said he didn’t like me. He had never really said anything to me.
Now he says can’t you get that through your head like he has told me a hundred times.
He stepped off of the bus, no longer looking like a god to me but a smug little punk.
All the adoration I once had for him was gone in an instant.
I thought for a second I would have my brothers beat him up but decided against it. I didn’t really want to see him hurt, not physically anyway.
We rode the same bus for the remainder of the school year. He avoided any eye contact and I curled my lip or rolled my eyes if I could catch him looking in my direction.
I watched him as I had when I was in love but now I noticed every imperfection. Some mornings he still had crust in the corner of his eyes like he hadn’t washed his face. That was nasty. His tennis shoes had a hole in them and sometimes his pants were too short. His dimples were no longer adorable and his blonde hair needed to be cut.
What on earth did I ever see in him?
I was glad when the school term ended and even gladder to hear we were moving into another school district, a different city. I tried to forget him and before long I did.
I started grade five in a new school, made new friends, a new town and a new start. Fifth grade flew by, so did junior high and high school and soon we were all out of school.
We [too often] partied while we pondered what to do with our lives.
Who would be a teacher, a writer, a stylist, an actor, a nurse or a politician?
We were all philosophers.
Our post high school group had extended beyond just locals and our gathering might occur anywhere, even in the mall parking lot. It was at such a gathering that he showed up. I don’t think he had any idea who I was but he had not changed, or not enough that I didn't know who he was immediately. He had the same steely blue eyes, blonde curly hair and dimples.
My gut fluttered for a moment and I’m sure I blushed when he looked at me so I downed the beer I was drinking, lit a cigarette and turned my back to him. I made every effort to avoid him while shoving back the childish hurt of a lifetime ago.
If he walked toward the group I was talking to, I moved to another circle of conversation.
I was running out of maneuvers and had just about decided to leave when a friend came over and informed me that a friend of his wanted to meet me.
I thought that was odd since we pretty much had the same friends. I asked him to point out this friend before making any introductions. He looked over the crowd for a moment then pointed, there he is.
I felt sick as I seen where his finger and gaze lined up. How were they friends?
I don’t think so, I murmured but it was too late. Mr. dimples was walking toward us.
My head was swimming and it wasn’t the beer. He introduced himself and all I could do was stare in disbelief. He really had no idea who I was.
Was it so easy for him to break a heart without any thought?
Did I look so different from that silly little girl on the school bus?
I was in fourth grade all over again only [now] getting the attention I had so hoped for back then.
I couldn’t understand most of his words for the ringing in my ears and the rushing sound of my own heart.
He was handing me pen and paper. Can I have your number? I finally heard him say.
He was a handsome young man, not as tall as I would have expected, but still very handsome. And he wanted my number!
But all I could think of was the note I wrote for him… all of the effort and…
It was so easy – all he had to do was check yes or no. And what about that dark headed hussy stinking of jasmine, was she here too?
Maybe he really did remember me? Maybe he felt guilty… maybe-
No. Like pulling the scab from an un-healed wound, the pain rushed in too fresh to endure.
I took the paper and positioned the pen to write but all I could manage was a large check mark as I shoved the paper & pen into his hand and spued his own words back at him I don’t like you, can’t you get it through your head?
“What” he asked with his face all crinkled so I said it again but slower, I do not like you, can’t you get that through your head?
I don’t know what I was thinking, maybe I was hoping that he would be remorseful and pour out apologies, but that didn’t happen.
He only shook his head, shrugged and walked away. Probably thinking I was totally insane but I had gotten my revenge!
Revenge however didn’t taste near as sweet as I had imagined, it wasn’t really sweet at all. I felt ridiculous and my fourth grade heart was still broken, with an added twinge of guilt.
Many times since I have wished that I'd had the maturity to handle the situation better and a few times I’ve even wondered where that reconnection might have taken either of us.
Should our paths ever cross again I wonder... could my middle aged heart have the courage to be open with him and laugh about it. Would he even remember?