In Art Class
"Did you do that?"

I turned my head, startled, and there you were, staring at the picture I had drawn. I, in turn, stared at you. You reached out hesitantly. "Can I see?"

I was tongue-tied, so I just nodded and stepped away, clasping my hands awkwardly behind my back.

I knew who you were. A boy who had a wacky sense of humor that charmed teachers and students alike, who had been named "Most Cheerful" in the 8th grade (a black and white photo in a poorly bound yearbook, you looking like you'd just heard the world's greatest joke), who hung out with boys from the football team and flirted with girls with cute noses and laughter like little bells. A boy who did not talk to girls like me.

"I remember you," you said. You looked at me quizzically. "Weren't you in Mr. Cordell's art class in junior high?"

"Yeah," I managed.

And so it went that junior year. You'd come over to my table everyday in art class, sit down in the empty seat to the left of me and ask how I was, joke around for a bit. You had black hair, blue eyes and a way of leaning in towards the person you spoke to like you were about to tell a secret. And every time you went away, I kicked myself for not saying the right things, for not saying very much at all.

One afternoon, you brought over all your art supplies and your watercolor board and settled in the unoccupied table behind me. I turned to smile at you. You grinned and said, "You're hot, you know that?" just like that.

I blinked. Did a sort of half-laugh, half-choke thing.

You dipped your brush in the water and insisted, "It's true."

I half-laughed-choked again.

The very next day, you came over, sat down --- to my right this time --- and put your elbows on the table. I stopped working. You began to talk. No teasing jokes this time, just talk. You told me about your father. He was a sculptor and a carpenter. You told me about what you wanted to do once high school was over. You wanted to be a firefighter, always had since you were a kid. You wanted to be a hero, you said.

You blushed, looked at the table, and then you looked up and smiled so nervously, so hopefully that I almost hugged you.

That was the only actual conversation we ever had. You stopped your visits after that, and I was far too shy to do anything about it. You left a generic note in my yearbook at the end of the semester and when senior year arrived, I hardly ever saw you. When I did, you were surrounded by people I knew by name and reputation only.

I think about you every once in a while, when I think about what I regret. I wonder what might have happened if I'd simply walked over to your side of the classroom one day after that conversation.

If I'd sat down next to you and just talked.


Wednesday, February 07, 2001


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