She was sitting on the benches in front of the toilets, just sitting, like she usually did. It was behaviour which intrigued me; she had plenty of friends but chose to sit alone. In a way I was jealous, to get away from all the hearsay and scandal which plagued the conversations I put up with would be an enormous relief, although I usually only spoke when asked and alternatively spent my time observing people.
Well, by people I meant her.
I couldn’t help it really. The way that her warm honey coloured eyes shone as she greeted one ofher seemingly infinite acquaintances, or how she smiled at everyone as though they were all her best friends. It was that attribute, the true unconditional positive regard for every living thing, which got me. That and her soft skin, gossamer hair, cheery smile, impeccable dress sense… I undoubtedly had a crush.
I always used to imagine the circumstances which would ultimately lead to the two of us spending time together, because I was irrefutably too shy to approach her and ask to hang out in person. It would go something like this: The teacher would announce that we had to do an assignment in pairs. Then, the pairs would be picked out randomly and (surprise, surprise) we would be together.
At that moment her head would turn to look at me, and for once I wouldn’t blush crimson like I usually did when I was in her earnest gaze, and I wouldn’t steal a glance before hurriedly looking away.
“Hey.” She’d say, walking over with her usual grace and poise of a mystical fairy or ballet dancer, placing her tastefully decorated stationary next to mine and sitting. “Do you want to do the report on Tomorrow When the War Began or I Can Jump Puddles?”
I’d say: “Can we do I Can Jump Puddles?” and soon enough we’d be chatting and talking over an Australian book about a boy who contracted polio.
Well, that’s how it would go, I thought, drifting out of fantasy and back into reality, shaking my head briskly to clear the thoughts away. They dispersed back into my head, flittering away like small birds while I focused my attention back on the girl sitting not twenty metres away. She had turned to talk to a friend, laughter blithe and carefree making its way over to where I was seated ignoring the outrageous banter behind me. If only I could be over there…
She had talked to me once, saying only the words ‘Do you have any White-Out?’ Which left me blushing ardently and hastily answering that I didn’t, ducking my head back down to my maths problems to avoid being noticed red as a tomato in the face.
That had been one of the only times she talked to me, and yet how insignificant she had been in my life before, puberty had come along and suddenly I was attracted to her, like a moth to the flame. Stupid puberty, now all I could think about was ifshe might have noticed me, or how pretty she was with her eyes and hair and charm.
Why couldn’t we all be six years old for life, when nothing mattered except if you could swing on the monkey bars or run very fast? When love really didn’t matter because you loved everyone, a kiss made everything better and it didn’t matter who you hugged because hugging someone was normal and not an invasion of privacy or personal space.
When you were little the only fantasies you had were if you could have a house made of chocolate and that you could play forever, instead of imagining the ways you and a person could possibly be together without people judging you. Why couldn’t everyone be six again?
I looked up once again from my hands, where I was fiddling unconsciously with a piece of paper, bent and twisted crudely into a heart shape. It was a symbol which summed up everything I couldn’t have, what I day-dreamed about every waking moment.
The bell to signal that recess was over rang piercingly, and with my numerous books piled roughly in my arms, I regarded the paper heart. I knew what I would do: I would tape the heart to a note and slip it into her locker with a small message attached.
“Look what I found in my locker!” she’d exclaim to her friends, while my heart would swirl in my chest.
Then I’d shyly step forward and casually mention that I had made it… No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even give it to her.
Sighing, I reluctantly dropped the heart.
I had to face reality.
The paper heart was just a fantasy; a dream which could never come true.