I took him serious, and he took me for a child.
The first time I walked into the new pizza restaurant, I saw him building pizza boxes behind the counter. He talked to my mother, sister, and me. I batted my long, thick, black eyelashes up at him. He smiled as I stared into his green/gray eyes, and he said, “You’re kinda cute.”
My heart soared, and I replied, “Thank you.” I had a new crush, and he had won my heart with those simple words, “You’re kinda cute.”
I would dress as sexy as I could in my red and white striped leotard, my red mini skirt, my red leg warmers, and my silver tennis shoes. My hair was teased high, toward the sky, with enough Aquanet to expand the hole in the ozone by an inch. Red, silver, and blue metallic streaks were combed through strips of of curly, crunchy hair. Hair clips with bright red satin ribbons braided through thru them with red, silver, and blue beads fixed on the ends of the ribbons pulled my hair back over my ears. I wore my long shiny red beaded earrings Grandma made for me.
I would enter the restaurant to play Galaga, just because he was there. Many, many quarters were pumped into the machine in hopes that he would notice I was there again. He would stop to ask my score, and I would smile and say I received high score once again. I flirted, but he did not seem to notice.
Now, I know it was just a twelve year old girl’s fantasy, but then, I would have sworn it was love. It was a love so fierce it burned in my heart and consumed my thoughts. I was lost if I didn’t see him every day.
The summer was nearing it’s end, and I knew he would be leaving to New York soon. I wrote him a love poem and took it to the restaurant. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach, and a lump caught in my throat.
I sat at a table this time because I was too nervous to play my game. He arrived to take my order, so I asked for a Dr. Pepper and a small thin crust pizza with Canadian bacon, onions, and bell peppers.
He went to get my drink and returned to my table. As he sat across from me, he talked about him going home and how happy he was to be going back.
My hands trembled with excitement that he was sitting there talking to me. Of course, other than his father who was fastidiously preparing my lunch, I was the only other person in the entire restaurant.
He told me about New York and how different it is being in Texas around all of the empty space. He said he had never seen a bigger sky or truly seen the stars, as they were all blocked out by the tall buildings of the city. He said he had never heard a locust call or a cricket outside his window because the sounds of the city drowned them out. I learned how laid back Texas is to the point it was foreign to him, as the city people were always in a rush.
He left his seat to bring my pizza. He sat back down and said, “Regardless, I love New York so.” He talked of how there is always somewhere to go and something to do unlike my small town. He said, “I can’t sleep here. It’s too quite. My city noises are like a lullaby. Here, the sounds of coyotes howls across the wind frighten me awake.” He sighed.
I asked how much different his friends here are from his friends. He talked about them not being into farming or ranching, stock shows or 4-H, or driving. He said that if you knew the city well enough, you could get along with no car. He talked how his friend were into music and dancing. How they hung out at the skate park with their boards and bikes. He said the only thing his friends here had in common with his friends in the city was their love of basketball.
He soon began to talk of a girl at the deli a block from his home, and my heart sank. He painted a picture of her beauty in a poetic fashion that sounded as if he were singing an ode to his muse. He sang of her long red hair and her milky white porcelain skin. He praised her bright green eyes that would swirl into an emerald abyss when she would anger.
He said he planned to ask for her hand in marriage when he returned home. The lump in my throat returned, my blood ran hot beneath my skin, and my eyes stung. I had to fight to keep from crying.
He fished a solitaire diamond ring that he purchased from the local drug/jewelry store from his pocket. He asked if I thought she would like it.
I gulped some soda down washing the lump down before I answered, “She would be a fool not to.” I prayed the pain didn’t show in my eyes.
I pushed the remaining pizza forward and told him I had to go. I handed him some money for the lunch and a tip before I bade him farewell.
On the way home, I realized this was the most he spoke to me all summer. I didn’t really know him at all. Regardless, a sunless tear ran down my cheek leaving a streak in its wake. Empty handed, I arrived home and spent the evening alone in my room.
As he bussed my table, he noticed a crumpled damp sheet of paper beneath the edge of my plate. He opened and read the poem I wrote for him. He left the next afternoon.
It would be a week before I learned he had found the letter. His father asked how my score was, and I replied it was the highest. He told me that Tony liked the poem I wrote, so he took it with him. He said they made a copy in case I needed one, and he handed me a paper stained with grease and oil. He told me that Tony really thinks that I am a good kid. The words stung, but my heart was fine.