When I was 16 the world was spinning with excitement. I was ready for all that it had to offer, unafraid of change, sure of my ability to survive. But at the same time I knew that I had a lot to get over before I would ever fly, life at home was difficult and I had a hard time fitting in amongst my peers. I could see the path ahead, a life without the screech of the hallway bells announcing the end of a period and the shuffling of feet and backpacks. I could almost feel the freedom that waited for me just at the end of the next 2 years.
16 tasted like Orange Crush and cheese puffs that would make up my lunch most of the days, sometimes when the cold wind would blow to take the chill off my hands I’d manage a salty cup of Cup O’noodles and sip it slowly as I watched the teens walk close together and whisper to each other about the strange girl. I didn’t want to catch the wisps of conversation that would follow as those blonde curls bounced past and they turned their perfect faces away, but they made no effort to hush their mocking.
But it was ok; my world of 16 wasn’t so bad. Most of the time I had a roof over my head, a room of my own, and my shelter from it all was hidden in the high school library in the far corner table surrounded by dusty books and the coolness of their shadows. There I could think and find peace. Few people ever looked in the library as it was outdated and the high windows made it dark and not good for writing. I could sit in silence away from the rest. I was invisible to all, except him… he always knew I was there. In fact I believe that the most about of time he ever spent at school his junior year was in the library trying to get me to talk to him in spite of the rules of silence.
I knew he was trouble; it was hard to avoid the rumors about him. In fact some of his more well-meaning ex’s often felt the need to come and inform me of just what a liar and cheat he really was and if I knew what was good for me I would leave him alone. And at times I would do just that.. I’d walk in the other direction when I heard his excited laughter echo through the halls as he finished telling one of his many stories to a wide-eyed boy, jealous of his abilities both on the motorcycle and with the girls. But no matter where I might hide, he would always manage to have a reason to be exactly where I was. He’d come bursting into my math class and sit in the back seats and pretend to be taking notes even though everyone knew darn well he wasn’t even in that class. The teacher though well used to his presence just would roll his eyes and continue on with his lesson.
At times it was comical how much effort he would put into making sure I knew exactly where he was, in spite of him dating multiple other girls at the time. There he would be leaning against the wall or the desk with his arms crossed over his chest and staring at me with those dangerous blue eyes.
It was highly uncomfortable when I dared to have a crush on a charming senior with a mustache and an “older” sense of humor who wanted to teach me how the “French” kissed. There HE would be just walking by, checking to see if I had notes for a class he might be in, if only if he ever went to class. I eventually gave up on dating anyone that year because he would take them aside and have little “talks” with them and soon after they would forget my number or suddenly make up reasons not to sit next to me in public. But it didn’t matter, nobody else had the ability to make me laugh like he did, nobody else would make me feel as safe and as happy as that charming dangerous boy. It wasn’t that I was blindly in love with him. It was more that I loved him for who we were for each other. We were best friends who had to fight the natural attraction of our teenage years, and even that we didn’t fight too hard.
There was something there at 16 that was the most intense time of all of my years. Each day was so long and filled with so much life. The emotions were so much stronger and scented with the heat of young love. I didn’t know it then, but those days would sing in my heart for the rest of my life. The way my heart would beat so fast when I would climb into the seat of his truck and we would leave the world behind for just a few hours and just drive out into the middle of nowhere and listen to the radio screeching out Axel’s Sweet Child of Mine and talk about the future. We would laugh as he would pretend to be The Fresh Prince with parents who just didn’t understand, long before that Prince became a movie king and we became parents ourselves. Never did he dare to push us to an uncomfortable place, a silent respect I suppose. Yet I knew he was with other girls without question, he guarded over my innocence and snarled at those who would make fun of me for it.
We made a promise that year, one not once forgotten. We promised that no matter what, we would grow old together. We pinky swore and crossed our hearts unaware that just a few months later we would be so far apart that it was questionable if either of us would survive to see our graduations. That summer we were rock stars and the world ahead of us was going to have to make way. How sad we had no idea that Darkness would come and take away the innocence of 16, leaving us both alone and broken at the hands of others who didn’t love us at all.
25 years we danced in and out of each other’s lives. Like that game we used to play in the hallways we would appear and vanish from each other for years at a time only to resurface with that unbreakable friendship that we swore to protect. As I type we count down the hours til we will see each other again, this time with our beloved spouses and youngest children. I’ll catch him leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest and his big blue eyes giving off that spark of mischief I’ve known now most of my life. We will talk about the funny times, skirt away from the reasons why we didn’t last as a couple, and make pinky swears and cross our hearts that we will grow old together as dearest friends.
Update: First Published Aug 2, 2012. His wife is amazing and lovely, our friendship is as strong as it ever was. And yes, he still leans on walls watching with those intense blue eyes and is always on the edge of mischief. Tell us about YOUR first crush and take this amazing challenge.