I couldn’t wait until my mom dropped me off at day camp.
At 10 years old, you’d made me forget about what’s his name.
With your, oh, so perfect chocolate brown hair, perfect complexion and perfect smile. And those deep dark chocolate brown eyes.
After arts and crafts, we’d walk through the woods to swimming lessons. The day I confessed you were my crush? I ran through the forest. You chased me. Madonna’s “Live to Tell” played in my head. You didn’t say you felt the same. But you liked me better the another girl. In my 10-year-old world – that meant you liked me.
When the curtain fell on day camp that summer – we exchanged phone numbers. What if I never saw you again?
After all, you went to school. Far away. Far in the mind of a 10-year-old – twelve miles. Little did I know, our families lived less than three miles apart. And our dads were friends. When you finally did call, you crushed my tender heart with: “I have a girlfriend.” Eventually, I was fine. I had *Martin. And *Spencer.
I couldn’t expect you to treasure memories from that summer. “Will Ethan call. Ever?” and “Ethan lend me Phil Collins tape. He must like me,” was etched in my diary, not yours. We became two canoes passing at sunset. And inter-school activities.
The usual story in a small town: a social, 1995. I was at a table. My feet were killing me. Foolish shoes with a short dress. And you dragged over a chair.
“Ethan!” and we hugged, because I’m a hugger.
“Are you living in the city?”
My eyebrows raised. “No, I’m at home. I’m moving this September.”
“Really? I never see you around,” you said. “I noticed you right away tonight.”
We hadn’t seen each other in person since grade nine. I hadn’t changed, except my appearance. Aligned teeth, fuzz-free face, contact lenses and Noxzema cleansed skin wrapped in a mid-thigh sleeveless forest green dress. For all you knew, I had the personality of an Octopus. My 10-year-old heart was torn. Half chanting, “stay, stay, stay.” I tuned out the other half. My younger, speech therapy-self – telling me to “wun, wun, wun.”
As socials do – it ended. And as all socials goers do – they go to the bar. And as all good friends do – they arrange for the guy who’s obviously crushing to drive the girl home. Then, as all good friends do, they scamper from the bar.
Sure, it was logical for you to drive me home. We lived close. But we were practically strangers. Yes, our parents were friends. But we’d barely spoken since grade nine. Why did my adolescence mirror Dateline?
We parked in my driveway, and you said what I wanted to hear ten years earlier, “I’d like to go out sometime.”
“I’d like that.”
Then you said, “Guess I should … ” and kissed me.
That was unexpected. Sure, my stomach flopped. But did you kiss me because we might date? Or in lieu of gas money? Were you being polite? You drove me home. No kiss required.
You called, and we went on a date. And you asked me out. Sadly, not romance novel-style: “Oh, Tessa. When I look into your eyes, I see our children. I see our children’s children. My thoughts are consumed by you. Please, say you’ll go to movies, dinners and stand by my side … for at least six months, and we’ll see where this goes.”
Reality. You picked me up. We putt-putted around the neighbourhood. You pulled over and asked me out. I said “yes.” You kissed me. You drove me home. You said you’d call day after tomorrow since you’d working late at your night job.
I liked you because you were smart, hardworking, handsome and aggressive. However, you were fresh off a breakup. You assured me, you and *Aynsley were finished.
It was strange, because we bickered like a married couple. Argued for fifteen minutes when renting a movie. And when you claimed I was spending too much time with your brother.
And when I almost stalled your stick-shift at the gas station.
“Press the clutch first,” you said.
“I’ve got it.”
“Tessa, not the–” I pressed the clutch and gas at the same time.
“You said you knew how to drive a stick!”
“I said kind of,” as I shifted into third gear.
“Stop shifting,” you said. “You’re going to … ” and then the car stalled. You bolted from the passenger side to the driver’s. “Tessa, out!”
Excuse me for trying to recreate the scene from “Say Anything.”
On our one month anniversary, we went to the bar – your second job – to shoot pool. Then to the jetty. Where you asked about my relationship with *Harvey. You could practically hear a record scratch interrupt the PG-13 moment.
“You dated for ten months and you guys never had sex?”
I shrugged. “It was ten months.”
“Exactly!” you said, a vein pulsed in your forehead. “What about us?”
“It’s only been a month,” I said. “How long did you and Aynsley wait?”
“Three months. Maybe four,” you said. “So, how long are we … waiting?”
“It’s not like that,” I said. “I want to know everything about the person. Plus, I can’t go on–.”
“Then you’ve slept with other people,” you said, sweat beading. “Right? Like, *Joshua?”
“No,” I said. “I’m a virgin.”
Two days later, we went for another putt-putt drive around the neighbourhood. You said you needed the physical side. You couldn’t wait ten months or more. You didn’t want to be my first because of the emotional attachment. And you wanted to reconcile with Aynsley.
In a tiny voice, I asked, “Are you breaking up with me?”
I sniffled like a 10-year-old broken-hearted child as you return-to-sendered me to my parents’ house.
“No, Ethan. It’s fine,” I said, unbuckling my belt. You wouldn’t even look at me. And I left the car. In 19-year-old virgin tears.
Years later, I appreciated our relationship’s swan song. Because you told me the truth. Others filter the awkward truth. Concoct lies. Twist tales. You were willing to face the music with honesty and integrity.
As the saying goes, it’s best to hurt someone with the truth than pacify them with a lie.
Ethan, it really is fine.
*Names changed for privacy