**Some names and details have been changed to protect the identities of the innocent and to preserve what shred of dignity I might have left. Ok, MOST names and details have been changed. I’m not going to say this is completely fabricated, but…**
The beginning (of this story, at least).
Gossip between teenage girls generally falls into one of three categories: who is cuter, who is bitchier, and she said WHAT? Which isn’t so much relevant to this chapter as it is to life in general. When I first moved to Italy, I wasn’t worried about making new friends. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hang out with an awkward, wiry-haired creature with the hips of a 30 year-old mother and the self-confidence of a naked mole-rat? Plus, one of my best friends happened to move to Italy at the same time, so naturally I planned to mooch off of her inherent social propensity like a parasite. It worked. I was popular by association. Thanks, Margo. That’s the real reason you’re my maid of honor.
Brad asked me to homecoming. Sometimes I think it was accidental. But that night, while slow dancing to Usher, we made the transition from acquaintances to new couple. It was glorious. There’s something about skipping friendship entirely and moving straight into hand-holding that makes a girl giddy and prone to drooling. My memory is hazy, but I imagine it went something like this,
“So…do you want to go out with me?”
“Sure.”*giggle giggle giggle*
“So we’re dating now?”
“I guess so.”
“Cool.” *Do you think he can see my smile through this vertiginous fog?*
“Yea. See you tomorrow.”
Awkward silence, followed by an even more awkward one-armed hug/pat on the back.
And then it was 8:00 and the dance was over so I ran away without kissing him goodnight. Because even though I told everyone else otherwise, I’d never kissed a boy before, and high-school dances don’t automatically grant you rights to your very own fairy Godmother and enchanted pumpkin carriage.
Margo and I played volleyball together. My mother bribed me to play. I think it was at a point in time where she realized that if she didn’t pay me to try out for a sport, I’d start developing bed sores, my muscles would atrophy, and she’d be stuck with me living at home forever, bed-ridden and bitter. Of course, I don’t know what her true intentions were. But I played. And so did Brad. I’d cut my eyes over at the boy’s court during practice. I’d lengthen my strides and suck in my tummy whenever we jogged past them, and I’d try really hard to look like I wasn’t winded after one lap, silently cursing my full-figured genes and wishing someone SOMEWHERE had taught me how to run, because contrary to popular belief, it is not a naturally acquired skill.
After a week or so of meeting him at his locker in between classes and begging for attention that he seemed unwilling to dole out, I sought advice from a few close friends.
Popular reactions ranged from, “Ugh, what a jerk,” to “You should just dump him. You can so do WAY better.” I volleyed back and forth between whether or not to end our whirlwind romance, but before I could come to any sort of conclusion, he made my decision for me.
“You just don’t talk enough,” he said during one of our complex and abstract debates on the difference between drinking beer through a straw or shotgunning it. That’s what high school kids talk about, right?
“I can’t help that I’m just more of a thinker,” I argued. Why am I arguing? This is what I wanted, isn’t it?
“Plus it’s high school. It’s not real.”
“But, I love you…” I love you? No, I don’t. I might luv him, but I don’t love him. There’s no simple way to verbally distinguish between the two. This is why I like writing better.
“No, you don’t.” He was stoic, like usual.
“Fine,” I said, probably crossing my arms and stomping away – channeling my only-child roots.
Had I been on Facebook at the time I would have immediately changed my relationship status to single. Because this was not the case, I was instead forced to wallow in self-pity, dampening my pillow with tears and seeking solace in a text-message relationship with the short Puerto Rican boy in my science class.
I guess all it takes to get one man back is to feign interest in another. We got back together. Because apparently a week-long break is enough time to harness a completely new outlook on life.
Chapter 2 next week! Maybe.