You were exotic. With a whiff of whimsy. Hazel eyes draped under lush eyelashes. Sensual lips that never chapped with our bitter winters. Well, and yours too – since we’re from the same town. A sexy Ukrainian boy who wooed me with his strong accent.
Oh, yes. In grade eight – as *Tesshua faded into the wind – enter tall, dark, handsome, talkative, athletic, easy-going, baby-faced Enrique.
Whose laugh echoed through the hall. The life of every party. Who every girl wanted, but few admitted because they’d be crossing the friendship line. And who wants to lose Enrique’s friendship?
I teetered on that line like a six-year-old gymnast.
Usher in auditions for our grade eight drama production. I wanted the role opposite you – not opposite *Harvey. Sure, it worked out in the end. Well, sort of. For a little while. Not really. But at the time, I was crushed.
I envisioned us sitting on that couch. I imagined us rehearsing the “almost kiss.” Without a “conscience.” a.k.a., the actor with a Christmas garland halo interrupting us. And you and I would kiss as the burning hot stage lights seared our skin.
But you and I would joke in class. Innocent. Fun. Flirty. And I fell for how you danced. I can envision it now: Enrique, dressed in a white button down shirt and black dress pants, doing air guitar rifts to “Funkytown” where there weren’t air guitar rifts. You were just so you.
And I fell for you – as grade nine girls can fall for someone. And you co-fell, and a week before Valentine’s Day, you asked me out.
Our fun loving conversations stopped. No words passed between us – only notes. And the odd volleyball in gym. On Valentine’s Day, you bought me a red carnation – which you handed to me then scampered away.
Our relationship was basically a silent movie. Two weeks later, you strolled up to me in homeroom. Uncharacteristically glum.
“Hey, Tessa. I think … we should breakup?”
“Yeah, me too.”
Our three week mute courtship ended, and we started talking the next day. All it took was realizing we didn’t work as a couple. Despite how attractive and totally handsome you were, friendship is more important than … okay, you kissed me.
August, 1993. Remember the pre-grad party? *Joshua came and left since I was there. Then a friend went MIA. I was searching an acreage in total darkness. Crying, yet completely sober. And I heard a voice behind me.
No, it wasn’t Keith Morrison.
It was you, Enrique.
“Tessa, what’s wrong?”
I could tell you weren’t sober. “Darwin’s missing,” I said, through blurry eyes. “And … I just want to go home,” a.k.a., “I just found out yesterday what Joshua did this summer. One moment, please.”
“Hey,” you said, “Darwin’s probably just fooling around.” You wiped a tear from my cheek. “You know, I’ve never kissed a girl with braces before,” and you stole an unreciprocated, one-Pennsylvania kiss. Guilt was plastered on your face when you heard me sniffle after, and you extended a hand. “I’ll lead you back to the party.”
“No, just find Darwin,” and I found my friends at the bonfire.
Sure, I decided to have fun that summer. But I just escaped a Bermuda Triangle rebound. The last thing I needed was a, “Hey, wanna play?”
No. This was my last year. I was finally healthy. I planned to focus on my grades. Blinders on. Future ahead. No guys. Proving one-month plans fail too.
I prepared to leave that party with my friends. I was sleepy, because I’d worked earlier. Sneezy from the trees. Grumpy because it hadn’t been a fun night. Happy and Dopey, you came up to me. We had almost all Seven Drawfs. But not a fairy tale.
Just a friendship.
“Hey,” you said, hugging me. “Still friends, right?”
And we still are to this day.
Enrique, you taught me physical attraction doesn’t equate a relationship. We proved that in grade nine – at fourteen. When we turned into frightened mimes. And entering grade twelve – at seventeen. When you kissed a dead-fish.
Everyone has a favourite “what-if.”
And you will forever be my favourite “woo.”
*Names changed for privacy