One hot summer day, to be precise, one Friday the thirteenth of August, at about a quarter to three in the afternoon, I fell in love for the first time. Wait! Maybe it wasn’t so hot. Was it a Friday in August? Was it really the thirteenth? Was I really looking at the clock when it happened? But one thing was for sure–I felt something I had never felt before.
I wasn’t looking at anything but you. I wasn’t paying attention to what time it was and where I was and who was doing what, for I could see and feel nothing but your eyes on me, a strange and new feeling for me to be sure. You weren’t the tallest, the handsomest, or the most outstanding guy in the group; in fact you were the most ordinary looking guy in the bunch of 15 and 16 year olds, with straight hair and glasses. My girlfriends who were busy discovering the boys in the group noticed the taller boys and the hip clothes and the confident laughter and chatter of the other boys. I saw your warm brown eyes, your hands, and your perfect smile and I was attracted to a boy for the first time in my life. I only wanted to talk to you and you were so nervous, so self conscious when you answered me. I wanted to tell you about my record collection and I wanted to talk about my English class, but you were so shy, answering everything in monosyllable words. Maybe you felt pressured by your friends, unable to fight their teasing later.
I suppose things I know about boys and men now could have helped us back then; then again maybe not. They couldn’t help me with my later heartbreaks. I was so confused with the new feelings. I really wanted you to like me. I didn’t like any of the other boys in the group in the back of that double decker bus taking us home, so I stayed quiet through the remainder of the long ride, only exchanging stolen looks with you. I remember getting off at the last stop with the lot of the boisterous and noisy group. I remember saying goodbye in the big square without having exchanged any information on how to find each other. I also remember your momentary disappearance and your reemergence just before the girls and I boarded our bus to go our separate ways. We shook hands. Your hand covered my hand and shook it warmly and strongly and as you pulled your hand away, I felt the softness and moisture of the tiny petunia bud you had left in my hand long before I opened my fist to look at it on the other bus. From the window of the bus I looked out and saw you one last time, looking at me and waiving.
I guess it is safe to say that I fell out of love on that August Friday the thirteenth at a quarter past four in the afternoon. But the tiny dried petunia, flat and brown with age but prominently laminated and displayed inside a bookmark I keep by my bedside occasionally reminds me of the promise that was, the very first fluttering of attraction in my stomach in those lost moments of my life, and the boy with the warm brown eyes and the shy beautiful smile. Where are you now?