When I was in seventh grade, I was in love with this kid CJ. He was beautiful. So beautiful, aliens probably wanted to abduct him. Tan all year long like well-stained wood, with these thick, almost red fingers like cheap hot dogs, CJ was the closest thing I’d ever seen to physical perfection in my twelve years of life. If he’d asked me to do something reckless, Charles Manson-style, I would have done it, no questions asked.
My love was a sort of mania. It had a sense of urgency that even then didn’t make sense. Sometimes I fantasized we were stranded together on a desert island, building sand castles in matching swimsuits made of leaves, drinking milk from sliced coconuts. It was unrequited, but not exactly pathetic. I didn’t wink at him in the lunch line or leave him love notes in his locker (Do you like me? Circle yes or no). I just watched him like he was some rare bird, as many girls do. Those boys with a reasonable balance of bony shoulders and early Bieber hair. We were frantic at that age; we had to find someone to love us, however vaguely, like one finds Easter eggs in the garden. We just loved the idea of them. We had to catch them, though, and fast, like hunters, trap squirrels and wear their fur for hats just as we would wear their baggy hockey sweat-shirts draped over our underdeveloped bodies, as we strolled the halls (we were too young for letter jackets then – and when we finally had them, I wore my own).
Girls were just so much simpler. I’ve often wished I was truly attracted to them, so I didn’t have to deal with boys. If they weren’t so cute I wouldn’t have anything to do with them at all. They were so dense and boring, their only real talents being Ultimate Frisbee and peeing very fast.
I was freer with girls. I laughed louder, sat with my legs as wide as I liked. I was funny. With boys, I became quiet and totally uninteresting. It was who I pretended I was, dumb and empty, but oh, how beautiful. How well she probably is at baking pies and vacuuming the carpet.
It might not seem like a problem, but it made me grow up doubting. Doubting I could really be capable of doing the things I saw other people doing, like whistling, shuffling a deck of cards, skipping rocks, math. I told myself, CJ can probably skip rocks. Probably really well. And I just can’t.
The most beautiful moment I had in college (aside from the day I bought myself a vibrator or learned to make poached eggs) was when I went to the lake, picked up a flat stone the size of a driver’s license and threw it. It skipped four times, just like that. I didn’t need CJ to show me how to do it, reveal any special secret to me. In the end, I didn’t need him, didn’t want him, at all.
Really, couldn’t I do anything I wanted?