Ah, Valentine’s Day, a dreaded holiday for many, indeed. Drew is no exception. The following is the Valentine’s Day chapter from Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year.
Your True Colors
I guess it didn’t really matter what day of the week Valentine’s Day fell on. Even if it had been a weekend, the SGA would have found a way to force us to celebrate it. All week long during lunches people could buy various colored anonymous hearts for their friends, crushes, girl or boyfriends, which in turn would be delivered during classes that Friday, the official V-day. Every delivery held the classroom occupants captive, everyone secretly hoping it was for them, but trying to be nonchalant about it, while those who were recipients would feign embarrassment. I had contemplated faking sickness myself that morning just so I could miss this torturous routine, but I could only miss four more days for the year in order to be exempt from any of my exams (I would also have to have an A or B average in the classes), so I decided to soldier on.
White meant someone thought you were cute. Red was love, of course. Pink was a crush, and yellow was for friends. It was sweet that my friends didn’t let me down, but a white or a pink would have been nice, you know, for variety and all. But, alas, only yellow came my way that day, and I had to watch so many others loaded down in pinks, reds, and whites. Anne was so adorably happy in chorus with her red hearts from Shane that I didn’t vent to her at all. Yet I was so frustrated with Mona flaunting her twenty-nine pink hearts, and I wanted to get out of that class as fast as I could, that I completely forgot to stop at my locker before photography. When I entered the room and didn’t see Adrienne, I unhappily remembered that she left early for a dentist appointment. Lucky!
Mrs. Ansel kept us busy that day, but Dustin kept sneaking glances and smiling at me. It was weird, even for him. In the last five minutes of class, three last minute heart deliveries were made, and somehow I received a white one. Someone thought I was cute. It was my turn to act like I didn’t care, but I was actually thrilled to be cute to somebody, even though these hearts were sent in secret and I didn’t know who it was. And then I remembered I would have to stop at my locker, the opposite direction from the bus. When the bell rang, I bolted. Without Adrienne, I would miss the bus on my own, and mom would be less than thrilled. Make-out girl, with more pink and white hearts than I had seen on any one person all day, and a huge teddy bear with several balloons, was lip-locked with yet another guy when I got to my locker. It took a while to nudge them out of the way, and all my belongings I had been hurriedly stuffing in there all year came tumbling out. As I scooped it all up, pulling aside what I needed and cramming the rest back into the locker, Dustin showed up beside me.
“You need some help?”
“Yes, please. I’ve still got to catch my bus.”
“Uh, they just pulled out.”
I closed my eyes and threw my head back in annoyed disbelief. “No!” I cried out to the ceiling.
“That’s pretty dramatic, Drew.”
“Not really. My mom is not going to be happy with me for missing the bus. “We practically live in another country and she likes to plan trips into town like they did back in pioneer days.”
“There’s a guy down my street who owes me. He gets home at about 5:15. We can give you a ride home then.”
“Ok. I still need to call her though.”
“Sure. I got a quarter,” he said, offering up the coin and gesturing towards a payphone at the end of the hall, close to the gym.
When I called my mom, she was unsure about a stranger giving me a ride home, but I told her Dustin would be there and I think her not wanting to drive into town won out. “Ok. Be careful.”
“Of course, Mom, always,” I replied. As I hung up the phone, Dustin grew a smile. “So, what are we going to do?”
“It’s actually a kinda nice day. A little warm for February. Let’s walk.”
“Ok. Where to?” I asked.
“Wherever. We’ll just go and see where we end up.” Flawless strategy. So we walked the opposite way from Dustin’s house and ended up under the bridge and by the river.
Along the way, I asked, “So, no plans with Alyssa today?”
“Nah, you were right about her. She’s with Jonathan. I’m trying not to get mixed up in all that anymore. She just makes me feel bad, you know?”
“I do. Have you ever been here before?” I asked, certain he must have been at some point since it was close to his house. It was a stupid question, but a distraction from the Alyssa topic.
“Yeah, but not in a while. This tends to be a redneck hangout. I’m surprised there’s nobody here now.”
“I discovered the rednecks last time I was here. Let’s hope they don’t show up again,” I said as I sat on a boulder. Dustin took a seat on another nearby rock. “It is nice out here though,” I said.
“You going to keep wearing those hearts?” he asked.
“Oh, I actually forgot about them. I guess I must have gotten one from Adrienne, Nadine, Anne, and Carmen.”
“And the white one?”
“It’s a mystery.”
He laughed at me. “Not anymore. That one’s from me.”
“So, let me get this straight. You think I’m cute or pretty or whatever, and you know I like you. You have to. So why don’t you want to go out with me? I feel like there’s something wrong with me.”
“Yeah. You’re too good.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m not good, and I don’t really want to be good either, and I don’t want to corrupt you. I’ve thought about it,” he said, eying me up and down with his left eye, “but I,” a pause, “respect you too much. You know. You’re sweet and innocent, and I want you to stay that way.”
“Dustin, that’s a load of crap!”
“No, it really isn’t,” he said as he threw his hands up in defense. “I’m a typical teenage guy and there are certain things I want out of a girl, and I’d love that with you, but it’d be wrong ‘cause you’re not one of those girls. And don’t tell me that’s crap again because it’s hard to do the right thing with this, but you really do mean a lot to me. You’re the kind of girl I’d want when I’m done being a jerk, but I don’t have that kind of self-control right now.
“All those girls with all the hearts today are more or less targets,” he continued. “You know, the ones who put out. Once they’ve all been used up, guys will want a challenge, so be careful, ‘cause they’ll move on to girls like you. But you’re better than that. You’re special, and I need you to be my friend and keep me in my place.” His eye did not stray from mine through any of that, so I knew he was being genuine, even if the intensity of it made me uncomfortable.
“Yeah, I’m always a friend, never a girlfriend.”
“You don’t need all that anyway. You’ve got talent and a big heart. Hold onto your values and be careful. Trust me, more guys are going to start noticing you soon.” What was with the guys I liked being so full of wisdom?
“So, you’re going to hang out with easy girls like Alyssa, and I have to just be good, even though you might like me.”
“That’s a double-standard.”
“Sure it is, but that’s how it works, because guys are driven by pretty much one thing, so they do stupid stuff. I don’t want to be stupid with you…well, I do,” he said with a twisted smirk, “but I know I shouldn’t.”
“You are really confusing me, Dustin,” I said, annoyed. “You always confuse me. I even wrote a poem about it.”
“Really? About me? Can I read it?”
“Well, it’s kinda stupid.” Why did I bring it up? It just slipped out.
“Nah, I doubt it. Do you have it with you?”
“Well, yeah. We got our journals back today,” I said as I dug through my backpack, sifting through all the crumpled papers floating around in it. I opened my decorated spiral notebook to a specific page and handed it over reluctantly.”
“You’re not going to recite it to me?” he asked.
“If you don’t want to read it…” I said, grabbing for it.
“No, I’m just kidding. I can read it to myself.” And so he did, and I sat uncomfortably waiting for his reaction, and feeling like it was stupid to let him read it in the first place, especially after our conversation, but I couldn’t very well time travel, so I had to just sit and wait and avoid eye contact.
When Will Your Sun Rise?
When it is bright and sunny out,
What is it like inside your heart?
When everyone around you smiles,
Do you insist to wear a frown?
When all the world hears music playing,
Why do you keep the sound out?
When you are asked to join in something,
Is that when you run and hide?
When everything is over,
Why don’t you let it be?
When you hear the birds above,
Do they seem to turn to vultures?
When the day grows pale and dim,
What is it like inside your heart?
Tell me now about your life.
When will your sun ever rise?
“Wow,” came Dustin’s reaction. “Sure this isn’t about you?”
“Maybe we’re a bit alike, but I was thinking of you when I wrote it,” I said quietly to my feet as he handed back my notebook. “Like I said, you’re confusing. I never know where I stand with you. Well, I didn’t before anyway. And you’re always at least partly sad, like there’s so much going on, but you keep it all inside.”
“Not all of it. I meant it when I said you were special. I guess you’re really my best friend. I mean, I’ve told you stuff I don’t talk about, and when I was feeling so down at Christmas, I was thinking of some bad stuff, man. I was in a dark place. Knowing you were there helped me not…kill myself,” his voice quietly trailed off at the end of the sentence. “I wanted to talk to you about it the night we all went to Joey’s, but that douche Danny was there, so I didn’t get a chance. And actually I’m sure he’s a nicer guy than I am, but I just didn’t like him liking you.”
“Well, if you don’t want to go out with me, you can’t hate everyone who comes along and might like me. And he went home, and we talked and are also just friends. Apparently that’s what I’m good at. But I’m glad if it kept you from hurting yourself,” I added.
Dustin checked his watch. “It did, and now we should head over to my neighbor’s.” He stood and extended his hand to help me up, and then he gave me a big, yet short hug. “You’re more amazing than you realize. Thanks. And can I get a copy of that poem? I’m a big fan.”
So I had endured another satisfying yet confusing heart to heart conversation with a guy I liked, who needed to keep me at a platonic distance. I was cursed as a nice girl. I cannot even go into the details of the romantic gestures that came all the way across the country to Angela from Ryan that day. It makes me ill just to remember. And, yeah, she rubbed it in.
Copyright 2014 Terri Klaes Harper