Today at lunch L. looked at me and I almost died. I was just sitting there with my sandwich in my hand while the girls around me talked about things I couldn’t care less about, and I guess I was staring at the side of his face, the way his sideburn lines up exactly with the middle of his ear, and the scattering of freckles across his cheekbone. And the next thing I knew, he was looking back at me. I jumped like I’d been caught stealing and I hope I didn’t blush but I probably did. I immediately kept my eyes glued to my sandwich. If I’d just looked back for a second, smiled, and looked casually at someone else, it might not have been as obvious how I feel about him. But I think he knows anyway, even before today.
When did I start liking him? It wasn’t when I was dating his younger brother, who’s closer to my age, but who dumped me and started dating another girl that very night. Sure, L. was super nice to me after his brother did that; he told me his brother was “stupid” and I took that to mean he thinks I’m cute. So my feelings probably started there, and now I think L. is much better for me than his brother; even if his brother is somewhat better looking, he is not nearly as much of a gentleman as L, and that counts a lot with me.
But L. doesn’t ask me out, and I wonder if he’s still crazy about K. They only went out for a little while, but when she picked a different guy, L. took it hard. She IS the prettiest girl at our school, with her blond hair, big blue eyes, and perfect figure. All the guys want to go out with her and all the girls want to BE her. I don’t necessarily want to be blond, but she’s exactly the height I wish I was: 5’6”. I hate being short, especially since L. is tall. And I look nothing like her, so if she’s L’s only type, then I’m in trouble.
I know I shouldn’t have written that poem for him, because that was right about the time I really started to have feelings for him, and here he was asking me to write a poem about how he feels about her. I just used my imagination and the words came flowing out—okay, I used some of my feelings about him, too. I thought he would be impressed. And he was: so impressed he COPIED IT IN HIS HANDWRITING AND GAVE IT TO HER AND LET HER THINK HE WROTE IT.
She was impressed, too. Flattered. She didn’t get back together with him, but you could tell she liked having a poem written about her. How would she like it if she knew it wasn’t really about her at all?
He apologized later. I had to forgive him; I couldn’t help myself. But just because he felt sorry for me doesn’t mean that he suddenly realized how we are perfect for each other, like we would if this were a teenage movie. It’s more like Cyrano de Bergerac, the play I read once where a guy who has a gigantic nose falls in love with a girl named Roxane,* but she’s interested in the gorgeous guy who’s so dumb he can’t even talk to her. Cyrano writes the guy’s letters to her, and even hides in a bush to tell him what to say to win her heart. At the end of course, she realizes that she’s fallen in love with the man who could come up with those words to express his feelings, not the pretty face.
Which didn’t happen here. K. has the pretty face, and I am the guy with the giant nose. (Not literally, thank goodness, but I might as well, since L. isn’t interested in me.)
Maybe I should cry a while, or listen to “On My Own” from Les Miserables over and over again. I always cry when Eponine sings about loving Marius even though he barely knows she exists because he loves that sickly sweet Cosette, and then Eponine bravely dies on the barricade the next day. Then I’ll be in the right frame of mind to write some more poetry. It will be either inspired by T.S. Eliot or Emily Dickinson, because all my poems sound like one or the other. I like the Romantics too, but I can’t write like Keats or Shelley since they are so old-fashioned sounding.
As far as the rest of my life, it’s fine, I guess. My mom and dad are trying to be understanding about L and why I cry and cry whenever I realize all over again that he doesn’t like me. But they don’t get it. I bet they never felt about someone the way I feel about L. My feelings are a burning flame deep in my bones and I wish I could just burn into ashes; instead, I just burn endlessly like a torch in the arid desert air.
Hey, that’s pretty good—maybe I could use it in my poem. Why can’t we write poetry for English instead of diagramming sentences? There is no scope for imagination in diagramming sentences.**
*There’s a Steve Martin movie called Roxanne based on this play, which is by Edmond Rostand. But I hadn’t seen the movie, and I had read the play. I read everything, even my parents’ old college literature textbooks.
**Yes, I know I shamelessly stole this from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. But my mother says I AM Anne, especially when I was fifteen. Plus, I am giving her credit, which is better than L. did with my poor little love poem.