The other people I considered my friends were similar. Â Rejects, all of us. Â We had our own inside jokes, and we watched out for each other as best we could.
None of this explains Desiree, however. Â She was not an outsider, not a quirky weirdo, not a social reject. Â She was always, from the very first time I was aware of her, part of the social apex. Â She and the other popular girls held a death grip on what was acceptable clothing, music, slang and behavior. Â This started in grade school and the same small group of girls held that power all the way through high school.
The first time she noticed me, it was startling. Â I was doing my best impression of an invisible piece of nothing special, trying to slide past her and the girl power gang who had the very irritating habit of taking up all of the space, where ever they were, no matter how big the space was.
â€œsâ€™cuse me, sâ€™cuse me, sâ€™cuse meâ€ I muttered a steady monotone hoping theyâ€™d hear me but not actually notice me. Â Iâ€™d learned a long time ago that getting the attention of the popular girls was never a good idea.
I was sliding past her when she turned away from the other girls and faced me for no good reason. Â Suddenly I was eyeball to eyeball with her. Â Her gaze was curious and not necessarily unfriendly, but not welcoming either. Â She looked at me like she was trying to figure something out and I tensed up, bracing for the insult.
â€œYou have the most brilliant green eyesâ€ Â She delivered that statement, still staring at me, and I blushed a deep crimson red, which probably set off my green eyes nicely. Â I made some sort of awkward squeak in response and ran to the nearest bathroom, nearly hyperventilating. Â I was late to class, sitting in the stall farthest from the door, just sitting there on the seat, not doing anything except trying to get my pulse to stop racing and my face to stop looking like a reflection off a firetruck. Â I couldnâ€™t figure out what was wrong with me. Nothing bad had happened, but I felt like I might throw up and every time I thought about the way she stared into my eyes, my heart would start racing again.
Mrs. Davis found me, eventually, and took me to the nurseâ€™s office. Â The nurse told me I could lie down for a bit, until I was read to go back to class. Â Iâ€™m not sure what she thought of the situation, had other kids been coming in flushing and sweaty faced with racing pulses? Â Had I caught something?
Yeah, Iâ€™d caught something alright.
After that, the idea of being in the close vicinity of Desiree LaConner filled me with an excited dread. Â I fought horrible internal battles with one side being adamantly against being near her ever, ever again — after all it nearly killed you last time! — and the other side wanting to be as close to her as I could possibly be as often as possible. Â Sometime in the next couple of days, she walked by me in the hall, with her friends, while I struggled with my locker combination. Â I looked up just in time to see her glancing back at me. Â She winked and I thought Iâ€™d die right there. Â Desiree LaConner winked at me, at ME! Â What the hell was going on with the world? Â What the hell was going on with me? Â Why had my innerds just turned into warm custard all of a sudden? Â Was this fatal?
Though my condition wasnâ€™t fatal, it wasnâ€™t something Iâ€™d be cured of for many years.
That kind of sporadic flirting continued for quite a while. Â At the time, I didnâ€™t really know what was going on. Â Girls like her didnâ€™t pay attention to freaks like me unless it was to make fun of us, or maybe try to get help on their homework. Â Her behavior was completely unfathomable to me. Â Finally a friend of mine, Sarah May, witnessed it and sheâ€™s the one who told me that Desiree was flirting with me.
â€œWhat? Â No way! Â No way is she .. doing.. that!â€ Â I couldnâ€™t even say it out loud, it was too ridiculous.
â€œOh man, Buddy, you are really a guy arenâ€™t you? Â Canâ€™t even see whatâ€™s right in front of youâ€ Â She took a pull off her Dr. Pepper/Orange Crush and looked at me over her thick glasses. Â â€œShe is totally flirting with you, Buddy-boy. Â That smile she gave you? Â And the wink? Â Come on.. wake up and smell the hormones.â€
I stared at her for several moments, dumbstruck. Â Flirting? Â Why the heck would she be flirting with me? Â Did she not know I wasnâ€™t a boy? Â Oh wow, this wasnâ€™t good, this wasnâ€™t good at all. Â Once she figured out she was flirting with a girl, she was gonna be so pissed at me.
Sarah May rolled her eyes at me, an expression magnified to absurdity behind her lenses, â€œBuddy, you need to find a clue and hang on tight. Â Everyone knows you arenâ€™t a boy, for real. Â She knows, Buddy, and she is definitely flirting with youâ€ Â She peered closely at me and I felt uncomfortably like a bug in lab class. â€œAnd you like it, donâ€™t you? Yep, you do.â€
Not waiting for me to say anything in response, she stated her theory and came to her conclusions in one breath, as was her habit.
I walked around in a numb haze for a while after that, having serious arguments in my head. Â What if she was flirting with me? Â Did I have to do anything about it? Â If she wasnâ€™t flirting, what was it? Â I didnâ€™t have any answers to that, Sarah Mayâ€™s argument had been pretty convincing.
Did I like it? Â I thought about the way sheâ€™d set my heart beating just by looking into my eyes, I remember thinking she smelled faintly of strawberries. Â Since then, Iâ€™d been studying her surreptitiously. Â She wore a lot of pastel colors. Â She usually wore her strawberry blond hair up in pony tails, sometimes with a ribbon that complemented the sweater she was wearing. Â She wore a lot of sweaters and I found myself wondering if they were as soft as they looked.
Did I like Desiree flirting with me? Â Every day when I got up my heart would thump extra hard when her face floated up in front of my mindâ€™s eye. Â In the bathroom, Iâ€™d stare at my face, trying to figure out what it was that she found flirt worthy. Â Was it just my eye color? Â Â Â I had begun to anticipate seeing her at particular points during the day and Iâ€™d linger at my locker until sheâ€™d gone by with her friends. Â And when it didnâ€™t happen? Â It was like I had to pull myself to the next class, towing my lead weighted heart behind me.
Did I like it? Â Yeah, I liked it. Â Iâ€™d never gotten attention like that before, ever. Â When she looked at me and smiled, it was like I was suddenly filled up with bright sparkling bubbles of light. Â And I was not given to feeling sparkly or bubbly as a rule. Â This was weird and different and it made life a whole lot more interesting.
And she hadnâ€™t even touched me yet.
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