I spent 1994 to 1997 harboring the same unrequited crush on a boy who, when he found out, told our entire 4th grade class as we lined up after recess, that this couldn’t possibly be true, because “if Meaghan O. liked me, I would be in the bathroom barfing right now.”
“It’s not true!” I yelled out, and wanted to die. I mean, truly wanted to die in a way you don’t really want to die anymore when you grow up. Don’t get me wrong, I want to die all the time still but not in that way. Not in that I am nothing way.
So I was ass over elbows for this kid for pretty much the rest of my adolescence, and eventually we became friends because I sort of leveled up in
popularity self-esteem after quitting Girl Scouts and refusing to wear glasses and reading all of my mom’s Anatomy books so that I told everyone I knew everything I knew about fucking and then got kicked out of the gifted program because I had a mouth like a sailor and was generally too much of a badass. Anyway we became friends and I would write poems about him and he would find out and I would do presentations in class about Madonna songs I considered to be about him and he would sit through them, and I would give him nicknames and send him long notes about how he PLAYED with my HEART and then we would hold hands during Anne Frank and he would tell me I looked really pretty in my new smiley face hair clip but that Michael Fowler was telling all the boys in PE class that I didn’t wear gym shorts under my pleated skirt.
Eventually things escalated and we talked on the phone every night from 4:10 (when he got off the bus and I finished my math homework) until 8pm (when my mom kicked me off the phone because…I…had… been on it for four hours) and when I was grounded he would pretend to have a homework question and we would do our homework out loud and then he would tell me he just did that so he could hear my voice I would hang up and run and sing and skip around the house and my mom would say, Baby, I hate to tell you this, but that ain’t ever gonna happen.
And I probably yelled at her then went and wrote in my diary and made plans to go to the skating rink over Thanksgiving.
We went and we held hands during couples skate to LeeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live (without you! srsly!)” but we- well, somehow, at 12, we managed to be in the sort of relationship gray area mostly tailored to people in their mid-20s! But much like now I was in no hurry to define things! I didn’t care about lousy titles! I just wanted to hold hands during the sad songs so I knew what it felt like and could yell at my mom that I knew what love was more than she ever would!
It was fall of ‘97 and I was literally living out a dream— a dream I had written about for years and years in my stupid diaries and in Petrarchan sonnets rife with simile and forced rhyme, in notes to my stupid friends who would always show them to him on the bus ride home, in elaborate math equations, the only time i enjoy it, attempting to predict the likelihood of our together forever-ness based on vowels and consonants and dammit our names had so many wonderful E’s! — but he told my friend he “wasn’t sure.” He was 12 and he liked to hold my hand but he had read my sonnets and he wasn’t sure. He had heard my ideas about the lyrics to Madona’s “Take a Bow” and all it meant and he still wasn’t sure. He could never really know, you see, if he really liked me or if he just liked me because I loved him.
He said we couldn’t be together because he could never love me as much as I loved him.
No seriously, he did. This was like 1997 and he was emotionally unavailable.
Anyway Christmas break came around and I went to Tallahassee to look for our new house and by the time I got back he was GOING OUT with a girl who was in HIGH SCHOOL and the rumor was that he did things to her that Romeo did to Juliet in the Baz Luhrman movie (sorry, couldn’t make that up).
Obviously I cried a lot but it fit perfectly with my overtly tragic (Lurlene McDaniel-influenced) sense of how things would pan out for me in the long run. I wrote him notes that would put a grown man TO SHAME. 10, 20 page notes with the rhetorical skill of Friends, Romans, Countryman but more along the lines of, and I quote, “thank you for teaching me what suck feels like.”
Eventually my rage subsided into deciding to pretend the girl friend didn’t exist and letting him call me every night again and letting him sneak up behind me in the lunchline every day and put his cold chocolate milk up to my cheek to scare me. This milk trick only genuinely startled me the first few times but months and months later it became something I would get excited about in the shower before school (what else is there?).
Soon enough we were passing notes again and I taught him how to write block letters and he taught me about the NBA and we’d do all our assignments together and his hand would always be on my thigh before we were old enough to know why we liked it. Soon we were getting in trouble for ‘giving each other googly eyes’ in class and people called me a whore for flirting with him and people gave him shit for leading me on but i didn’t CARE because here was my dream so we passed note after note after note and I still have most of them and most of them end the same way.
Every time he wrote me a note he would write 8 little ‘lines’ before he signed his name.
He wouldn’t tell me what they meant and I was never really sure but he wrote them every time. He would come over and write them on my math homework, on the margins of my social studies notes, on the cover of my religion book, in white-out on his backpack. I went utterly batshit begging him to tell me, but he never gave in. He just smiled and shrugged and made my heart pine for him to such an extreme it’s a wonder I didn’t pass out half the time.
Soon the lines became some other language between us, carving out a little 12-year-old Us vs. Them feeling before we knew that’s what people did; we wrote our names in block letters and we had nicknames for everything and we’d write Mariah Carey song lyrics in tiny writing at the bottom of our letters and I think that was one of the last times I participated in something, in intimacy, before I could name it.
And then one day he told me he broke up with his girlfriend.
And then a few days later he told me there were 8 lines because there were 8 letters in I love you.
And then we totally made out.