Last week’s short, short story started me down memory lane and helped me realize what a dweeb I was (back before there were dweebs). This week, we’ll try another slice of life showcasing a guy who was equally shy and inept at social relationships. Hope you get a chuckle or two out of it. Or maybe it’ll raise some memories in you.
TO AMY WITH OOOs & XXXes, FOREVER
I’d been in love with Amy Schulenmacher ever since she banged me on the head with a tin shovel in our kindergarten’s sand box. After enduring a lecture from the teacher for stubbornly refusing to tell her why I was bleeding, it seemed as though Amy began to respond.
In the third grade, I cemented our relationship when I took on Harold Hardcastle, a big kid a year ahead of us who delighted in yanking her golden tresses. I ended up with a split lip and a black eye and a trip to the principal’s office, but none of that mattered when she thanked me for being her white knight. Then she took a bit wind out of my sails by saying she could have handled Harold better. But that was just her cute way of bonding.
We were inseparable. Went everywhere together. She’d punch me on the shoulder and pinch me and call me Geeky Gene just like one of the guys, but I knew that was her being intimate. Funny how that word still makes me blush.
Even though we saw one another every day, we constantly sent text messages flying back and forth. When we were in the seventh grade, I started adding OOs and XXes to mine, but I’d always delete them before punching the send button. Until just recently, that is. I finally screwed up the courage to put three Os and Xes at the end of one text. She came back with a single X and O.
That was the clincher. She loved me just like I loved her. I frowned and screeched to a mental halt. Or maybe she loved me a third as much as I loved her. But that was enough.
The point was, she loved me. I was sure of that because we’d done it once … just last week. By done it, I mean we kissed. It happened when I mentioned I was a sixteen-year-old sophomore who’d never kissed a girl. She puckered up and planted one squarely on my lips before flouncing away, leaving me sprawled on a park bench tingling all over and absolutely boneless. Well almost, anyway. She loved me! No doubt about it.
Then Harold Hardcastle showed up again. Actually, he’d been here all the time, but I ignored him as much as anyone can ignore the school’s football quarterback and basketball guard. And tennis champ. But he couldn’t calculate the square-foot area of a turnip patch.
Then today came along. Today comes along all the time, so what was so special about this one? It’s the day my world fell apart. My life ended … aside from continuing to breathe, that is. It all started in the park near the school after classes.
“What time should I pick you up for the prom?” I admired the way a long tress fell over her left eye just like some old movie star. Veronica Lake, I think. Amy might be having trouble seeing through that cascade of blond hair because the other eye seemed to work harder when she looked at me.
“What do you mean? You didn’t ask me to the prom.”
I held out my hands in supplication. “We always go to the prom together. Ever since there’ve been proms.”
She sniffed and looked away. “Well, not this year. Harold asked me to go with him.”
“Harold Hardcastle? He pulled your hair. I had to fight him to make him stop.”
She sighed one of my mother’s sighs. One that dripped with exasperation. “That was in the third grade. Grow up.”
“But we’ve X’d and O’d our texts. That means I love you.”
“No, dummy. That means hugs and kisses. And I love you, too. Just like I love my other brother.”
Other brother! She only had one. A stuck up doofus named Peter who was away at college. “B-but we kissed!”
“That wasn’t a kiss. It was a peck. And a sympathy peck, at that. Anyway, I’m going to the prom with Harold.”
With that, she turned and stomped away, leaving me sitting on yet another park bench, boneless again. Completely boneless, this time.
I don’t know how long I sat there feeling my world was at an end. No reason to live. Maybe I’d have a heart attack. She’d see the ambulance whisking me away and come to her senses. She’d rush to my side and beg me to get better. Come back to her. We’d marry and have loads of kids, and she’d be mine forever.
Movement interrupted my misery. I sensed rather than saw someone take a seat at my side.
“What’s the matter, Gene? You look like you lost your last friend.”
I turned my head and saw Margaret Ann Mandalay – the girl the kids called MAM on account of her initials – perched on the bench beside me. Her black hair shone in the spring sun so much it nearly blinded me. Her green eyes spoke of care and concern. I swallowed hard and stared at her.
“Everyone wondered when you’d see Amy for what she is. But don’t worry, there are plenty of other fish in the sea.” She giggled, a bright, tinkling sound. “I might even be persuaded to be a minnow, myself.”
And just like that, my spine returned. My formless body filled up with bones. I sat straighter. Felt the breeze on my face, tasted pollen in the air, heard birds tweet and kids laugh. The hair on my arms stood up as if they’d received a shock. I smelled honeysuckle and wondered if it came from Margaret or the bush across the park.
“Hi, MAM. Do you have a date for the prom, yet?”
Were we ever so young and innocent … and dumb? As always, thanks for reading. I’d appreciate hearing from you.
New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.