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I Remember . . . The Second Version
I remember the day you asked me out, a frozen Friday in early January. There I was, milling in the halls after school with my best friends Jill and Phoebe, planning where to go next, wearing the green shirt that said “Don’t call me cute” with black skinny jeans, a Yankees sweatshirt tied casually around my waist, and my favorite pair of purple Converse. I remember the way you walked up to me, smoothly, enhanced with the hint of a swagger, a cocky grin spread across your not-yet-faded-tan face, the face I admired from afar.
You know, I can still remember the way Phoebe’s French manicure dug into my left arm as she saw you coming. “Oh my God,” her high voice breathed into my ear. ”He’s coming this way!” That did not help control the shaking of my knees.
I remember the way only Jill held her composure, asked you what’s up. I remember how you never took your eyes off of my face, watching it redden, even as she talked to you. I remember how I envied her, the way I wished I could imitate her behavior, except for the small problem that my tongue was tied in never-ending roller coaster tangles.
My memory of the way you said, “Girls, do you mind if I talk to Eliza alone for a moment?”, drawling out the word alone in your voice that seemed like melting milk chocolate is still crystal clear, making me feel like my body was just going to collapse in a muddle on the floor. And then the way my friends left, Phoebe giggling like an insane person, and Jill giving me a subtle wink accompanied by the “call me” sign. I remember the way you trapped me with your arms, forcing me to look directly in your soft, light gray eyes that I adored.
“What are you doing Saturday night?” you wanted to know, your voice quiet. You smelled of oranges and peppermint, two of my favorite smells.
I remember the way my brain was whirring, the fact that you were so close was dizzying my senses. “Er, um, well, nothing,” I mumbled back then.
“Good. Then dinner at Vivaldi’s? Seven?” you asked, arching one eyebrow, a trick I had never gotten the hang of. I remember the way I nodded. Twice, one to answer, and another to shake my head clear of this daydream I had accidently stumbled upon.
“It’s set then,” you said, releasing me. “And since you specifically asked not to call you ‘cute’, I suppose I’ll just have to call you beautiful.”
I remember the feeling of elation when Jill and Phoebe called me later, begging to know the details, dying to find out what I was going to wear. I remember the way they raced to my house in Jill’s older sister’s car, and drove as quickly as was legally allowed to the mall. The way they hit only the designer stores, practically robbing each store of whatever it had, demanding me to try everything on right that instant, and critiquing like crazy on whatever I was wearing is still etched in my mind.
I remember the agonizing speed of the clock on Saturday. The hands barely seemed to move. I remember the electric thrill running through as the doorbell ring echoed through the house, pleading my three younger siblings to act halfway decent, repeatedly reminding my parents to not overload the poor boy with a million questions.
The introductions are a haze, but I do remember being remotely pleased with them. I certainly do remember the car ride to Vivaldi’s, rock music on loud, my hair streaming in the breeze, you telling corny jokes that were cracking me up like anything.
The food was fantastic at Vivaldi’s, as I remember. But I also recall that I found you to be the most enjoyable thing there. The way we talked, really talked and had an actual conversation, I mean, was mesmerizing. Then you drove me home, the car ride just as fun, except now you had put in a country CD, and we were trying to trounce each other with riddles.
The months I was with you were some of the best months of my life. Jill and Phoebe were thrilled; I’d given up on guys when a former boyfriend cheated on me. The two of us often went on triple dates with Jill and Phoebe and their boys, and had the best times.
It wasn’t just that you were cute, funny, smart, and all that. That’s not the major reason I loved you. It was the fact that you could show up at my house early at Saturday morning after I’d had a rough, sleepless night, was still in my pajamas with no makeup on, and you’d tell me that I was as gorgeous as always. It was the fact that after I’d failed my History exam that I’d crammed like anything for, you took me in your arms and I cried on your shoulder. It was the fact that, even though you really deserved to celebrate after that fantastic soccer game, the moment you realized that I was horribly sick, you drove me home and since my parents weren’t there, stayed with me until they came.
Then I remember how my world came crashing down.
The May Sunday was gorgeous. Jill and Phoebe were over at my house, Jill lazily flicking through my enormous stack of celebrity magazines and Phoebe toying with her long blonde hair.
“When’s your date tonight with your soul mate?” Jill asked, immersed in an article about one of her favorite singers.
“Six,” I said, while painting my nails a very pretty aqua.
“A bit early isn’t it?” Phoebe commented, her hair in a funky side ponytail.
I shrugged. “School night.”
They stayed over the whole day, and we watched TV, gossiped, and ordered Jill’s ultimate favorite food, extra cheese pizza.
Six came and went.
“He’s late,” Jill said, furrowing her brow as she looked at her watch.
“He’s probably studying and sent me a text or an IM or something,” I told her, not the least bit worried. “I mean, I wouldn’t want him to blow off his grades for me.” To prove it, I checked me phone. “Huh. No text. Well, I’ll just check the computer.”
I trekked up to my room and switched on my computer. No IM or email. Strange. Well, he must be busy.
Jill and Phoebe went home. By that time, I was seriously freaked out. I’d sent you numerous messages, and not gotten an answer to any of them. I tried to soothe my fears, telling myself that nothing was wrong.
My answer was given as I walked into school the next morning, and heard snippets of hushed conversations.
“How horrible . . .”
“. . . and my mom sold my brother’s motorcycle . . .”
“. . . lying there smushed on the road, my aunt said.”
“Doesn’t look like . . .”
“ . . . she knows?”
“Hi, guys!” I said to a group of girls who I sat with at lunch, trying to speak through a throat that was full of dread. “What’s up?”
They all exchanged glances. “Haven’t you heard?” Cindy asked tentatively.
Biting her lip, she said, “Eliza, I am so, so, so sorry, but Zach had a motorcycle accident yesterday and he’s, he’s, he’s dead.”
I didn’t move. The words didn’t register at first. . It sunk in bit by bit, a shower of grainy, gritty pebbles thrown into a lake. A curious sensation was taking over me, similar to the feeling of anesthesia in my veins, yet without the peace. Numbing me and dulling what was just happening, but also forcing my eyes open to give me a full view of what I did not want to see. My hands were clenched into fists, but felt pitifully frail. My mind had left my body, my heart was not beating, my soul empty.
I escaped to the bathroom where I took refuge for the rest of the day- at least, until the principal found me crying my eyes out.
I’m remembering all this as I’m here looking at your face. Even in death, you dazzle my eyes.
What I wouldn’t have given for things to be different. What I wouldn’t have given.
I will always remember.