I turned into the hall of lockers and there she stood opening her locker. I had heard that she had transfered to my high school, but until now had not seen her.
Gail, her name rolled around my tongue like sweet candy. She had been my first girlfriend in grade school, and I was her first boyfriend. Then suddenly she was gone. Out of state someone said, but I never knew where.
Her blonde hair was short now, instead of down to the middle of her back, and she had filled out into a beautiful young woman.As she concentrated on her combination lock, I mused on how best to approach her. Hey Gail, what’s up? I scrapped that idea. Sweetheart, good to see you. That wasn’t any better. In the end I decided to be natural. I saundered over to her and said, “Hi Gail”
She turned those beautiful blue eyes on me and the half smile I knew so well, and said, “Hello. Do I know you?”
Crushed, I said, “Not anymore,” and I walked away.
I stared after Matt as he walked away from me. I wanted to talk to him but this wasn’t the right time. I just didn’t want a confrontation.
If only my dad had let me pick a different high school. If only I didn’t have to follow him around with his illegal job. If only my birthday was in two days instead of two months. Then I could turn eighteen and leave him—and Matt—behind forever.I sighed, closing my locker. If only is the only way to look at the situation now. It’s a lot easier than actually dealing with it. Still, I felt the smallest bit bad for hurting Matt.He would never understand the move with my dad after my mom died. He would never understand that even in middle school, I had loved him. He would never understand the hole I’m digging myself into by coming back to Atlanta, back to this town, back to him.It would just be a matter of time before my secrets pour out.
My thoughts were all a jumble as I walked away from Gail. I realize I’ve changed, but so has she and yet I still recognized her.I pulled open the door and entered the common area. It was a cool, fall day. The tiniest breeze was caressing the earth, stiring the golden leaves. It was between classes, so I had the area all to myself. I walked to the crook of the building and lit up a Marlboro.I squatted down staring at the concrete, thinking of Gale and how it once was.
“Yo, Marlboro man,”
Startled out of my reverle, I looked up at Van. “Van my man, what’s happenin’?”
“Nothin’ happening to me, but you look like crap. You been crying?”
I ran a knuckle under each eye, wiping away the tears. “Hell no,” I said, “friggin’ dust out here.”
Van lighted up a cheap smoke that smelled like wood chips. “You seen Gale yet?” he asked.
I thought of lying to him, but he’d know better. We’ve been friends since grade school. “Yeah man, I did, and it didn’t go well.”
“What happened,” he asked.
I flicked the cigarette away. “She don’t remember me, is what happened.”
“You’re bullin’ me.”
“Fact.—I walked up to her, cool as cool, and she said, ‘Do I know you?’”
Van shoved his hands into his pockets, said, “Are you sure she wasn’t just jerkin’ you around?”
“No, man, you had to be there. She looked me right in the eyes, no bluffing there.” I said.
“What are you gonna do now?” Van asked, dropping his cigarette on the concrete and grinding it out. “You gonna try to get her back?”
I stood up and grasped Van’s shoulder, “Bro, sometimes you just have to cut your loses and move on. We better get to class.”
I had to smile, Van seemed to be taking this even harder than I.
Being this was my free hour I entered the library. Like a magnet, my eyes zeroed in on Gail. She was seated alone, her books piled on the table. Her left hand toying with her hair while she read a book. I walked slowly toward her, willing her to look up. She didn’t.