BY TR BRADY
On my last day of high school I walked up and down the halls of the elementary school where my mother worked trying to decide if I should tell you I was in love with you. When I was younger I ran down these halls jumping a reach for American flags hanging from the ceiling during summer breaks, skidding the linoleum, getting yelled at by Nell the janitor who always smoked too close to the building. On this day though every step was a truth, a gut-churn, a text from my friends saying: you’ve graduated, you can do this and how could this ever go wrong and age is just a number, she’s just five years older than you are and, the best rom-com advice that couldn’t possibly just be applied to the girl getting the guy in every blockbuster ever, you’ll never know if you don’t try. And in that walking moment the fact that my mother was just down the hall in her office completely unaware that I was about to confront a teacher didn’t matter.
I knocked on your classroom door. I knew your shoes, the gait in your walk, and nothing else. That day you were wearing the light brown ones, the Oxfords. By this point I’d been self-diagnosed with highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM) or maybe it was just you and your shoes. I tried to remember anything else—every other time we’d met in passing. The first was two years prior. I was wearing green and you shook my hand. I’d just been in love—still feeling the after effects of teenage heartbreak—I attached to you. I made sure to wear green again, my lucky plaid shirt, so maybe you’d know why I was there to talk to you. Maybe you’d see the plaid and smile and we’d both smile.
While knocking I imagined your light brown Oxfords and my scuffed Chuck Taylors so close. Maybe the laces would overlap and the aglets would touch. And maybe one day our elbows would touch. At this I wondered if you liked Rocky Horror. Elbow sex. Sex. Sex. I’d only done it once and I kicked her in the face. I really hoped that I wouldn’t kick you in the face. I liked your face, even though I’d spent most of my afternoons at the school chancing a look at your shoes in the hallway. I remembered that I liked your face.
When you finally opened the door I told you: I think you’re awesome and I don’t like to assume things about people but I think you and I might have some things in common. You were half-sitting on your desk, smiling a smile that made me need to look away. Mostly I focused on a piece of masking tape on the carpet where the children line up by the door—tapped the end that was curling up with my sneaker. Tried to listen to you over the buzz of my phone, the: how’d it go and are you really doing this and no one really expected you to go through with this filling up my pocket. We shook hands and you gave me your number on a post-it note. I kept it in my pocket for months.
After I went to my friend Maggie’s house—jumped, hollered, rolled around in her front lawn. The next day I texted you (everyone told me to wait at least a day) about my AP Euro exam. Then felt childish. I asked you about God and love and art. Things one can’t get away with on a first date, but I felt it was okay since we were texting. Looking back it may have been a little fast for that. Two months later you told me you didn’t want me to text you anymore. I didn’t. I wrote poems about the post-it note.
Three years later I ran into you in a bar. We made eye contact as I was walking to the bathroom. I looked down at my Oxfords. Smiled. Didn’t turn back.