Saturday, May 7, 2016

First Love(s)

Day 2 of my 30-day writing challenge: First Love.

Mark Mitchell was the cutest boy I had ever seen—floppy sandy brown hair and squinty eyes. In my memory he looks like a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I sat next to him for several weeks at the start of fourth grade and promptly forgot how to breathe. I had to retrain myself—in through the nose, out through the mouth, steady and even, not too deep, not too shallow. Sometimes I would feel myself start to hyperventilate when he sat next to me and would have to hold my breath in for a moment to regulate it.

Mark Mitchell wasn’t very smart, not because he wasn’t smart, but just because he couldn’t be bothered with being smart. He had more important things to do, like carve his name into the desk with his pencil and sneak candy in past the teacher. He was too busy being interesting to be smart.

I was smart. I was not interesting.

He was the first boy I combined my name with. I would fill pages—Hollie Mitchell, Hollie Christine Mitchell, Hollie Christine McLellan-Mitchell—all enshrined in hearts with arrows. Then I would carefully tear the pages from the notebook, ball up the paper, and throw them away.

One of these discarded pages found its way to my brother who found his way to Mark Mitchell, which wasn’t hard in our small neighborhood. A short bike ride, a friend of a friend, everyone was connected.

He came to my house one brilliant, warm Saturday while I was sitting in my second-story bedroom window, watching the world go by.

He came on his bike with his friends and my brother and my brother’s friends and looked up at me.

He rode onto the green grass, balanced his Huffy with one hand, and looked up at my bare feet hanging down. I wasn’t yet totally convinced I had fat legs at that point in my life, but the thought was beginning to form like an itch in my mind—there was something about my legs I wasn’t supposed to like.

He looked up at me and my legs that definitely had something wrong with them, his eyes squinting even more than they usually did because of the sun.

He looked up at me with one hand on his hip and said, “I don’t like you. Okay.”

He got on his bike and pedaled away as an icy cold shot through my heart and down into my stomach. My brother and the other boys made no attempt to hide their laughter.

I had no choice then, I went straight from liking him to falling head over heels in love with him. The pain of loving him was so achingly pleasant, the melancholy so comfortable, like a gift I never knew I wanted. I swam in that grief.

I loved him for so long, maybe even weeks, until I realized that Logan Garrett, the tallest boy in the fourth grade with silky black hair and deep brooding eyes that seemed to know some secret I would never know, was actually the cutest boy I’d ever seen.

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