Freshman year of college, and the smell of roses was in the air- a rather painfully obvious indicator to the season of love- and the hushed glow of twine wrapped candles flooded the room. I remember thinking to myself, “All it would take is one wave of my hand to turn the mood lighting into a trail of scented smoke,” but I persisted, and took the time to straighten my bow. The oven timer cut through the silence, and I took the notification as a countdown. I fixed my hair, straightened my collar, and lightly doused my crisp suit in that cologne you adore: like damp firewood with a sweet note of rum. The crew would have field day if they saw me now, knowing I wouldn’t be caught dead with my feet in any form of suede. In the past I mean. The past being post realization. The realization being how hard I had fallen for you. My nostalgia is cut short, as the small golden bell above the doorframe signals your arrival. I rise to attention, cheesy floral arrangement in hand, just as your dejected white heels click into view.
You walk in and see me.
Your lips curve to the sky.
Your smile lights up the room, and my scented lighting pales in comparison.
Sophomore year of high school, and my hands are shielding my ears. Another night, another party. Another room of underage drunks, another round of cops called. I remember that Thursday night, you dragging me out, regardless of the unconventional date. I remember the clock stiking midnight, but for just a moment before being drowned out by the blaring music once more. I remember holding your fierce locks turned timid, back out of your face, as you emptied the night into the toilet bowl. I remember brushing the hangover out of your teeth and your half conscious eyes, barely open, somehow still sparkling. And I remember your delicate frame, clinging to mine for dear life, stubborn to let go as I tried to tuck you into your laced satin sheets. My collar smelled like strawberries and vodka till Saturday.
7th grade was the year of raging hormones and prepubescent acne. My face was the epitome of what I envision the Appalachians to look like at a birds eye view, like a seasoned pilot taking his passengers for a bit of sightseeing. Of course, the weather conditions would have to be ideal, lest your don’t mind the turbulence. But your skin was like the creamy peach paint on popcorn walls, somehow make more breathtaking by the subtle bumps of texture. The most memorable experience of this unwieldy time was, unsurprisingly, you. Not once did your eyes falter when we spoke, as if my face of obvious puberty was nothing in comparison to my muddy brown pupils.
2nd grade feels like a fever dream. But I could never forget your twinkling eyes that rainy recess day. All it took were a few drops of icy blue to herd the stampede of toddlers to shade. But not you. You stood there in absolute awe as your golden head of hair became damp with dewdrops, then a warm brown, then as lucid as the rain itself. You stood till your navy uniform clung to your pale skin, and your shoes were like soggy sponges. You splashed and kicked and danced and pranced and in that moment you drowned my mind in thoughts of you. All I wanted to do was to rush out and feel the freezing crystal liquid on my skin and maybe, just maybe, feel as free and you seemed.
Deep thinking for an 8 year old? Possibly. Most people would call it weird, make me an outcast in this journey we call life. But this is how I’ve always been, and it seems I’ve just never shown it enough to earn a label. You however, saw right though it. You were the first to look me dead in my muddled brown, see it for all it is, then flash one of those internally blinding grins. Before I could notice, you had hooked onto my heart and claimed it your own.
It doesn’t matter that you didn’t know my name in 2nd grade, because I knew yours.
I don’t mind that you don’t remember my 7th grade natural disater, if anything it’s for the better.
I don’t care if you dragged me to that party because ‘I’d be a good place to meet some girls’.
And who cares if I spent my Saturday at a cooking lesson, simply in the hopes of returning the joy to your face after your boyfriend made the worst mistake of his life- and lost you?
Because as I enter the breathtaking hall, I know it is all you could have ever dreamed of. I know the dress frames you perfectly. I know the cake is tres leches. I know your bouquet is lined with babys breath. I know the guest list isn’t missing a single person. I know the framed picture at the grand entrance was a custom order; sized to fit perfectly between these two pillars, and spray painted gold in your garage on a cloudy Monday afternoon. I know that the groom in the picture, chin resting on your strawberry scented hair, is nothing short of everything you deserve.
Because you are my everything.
I just wish I was yours.
I remember the break-up in our freshman year of college. What kind of a loser dumps a girl on the 14th? It goes against all the day stands for. It was a pathetic excuse too, with a, "It's not you it's me" type beat. Had the guy even heard of originality? And although it wasn't too serious, I was now expecting to spend V-day in pjs, wasting away with rom coms and the tub of mint-chip in the freezer just begging to be devoured. I can also tell you what I wasn't expecting. I wasn't expecting to be greeted with my favorite rotisserie flooding my nose as I entered the house. I turned the corner in my brand new kitten heels, and I certainly wasn't expecting you, freshly groomed and wearing a tux. The faint smell of sweet rum was in the air. I was actually on the verge of tears- happy ones of course- as my unbridled smile stayed on my face and I shook my head in disbelief. I still can't believe you wore those shoes I got you, the very ones I recall you calling 'feet prison'. I'll never forget the scattered rose petals, nor the warm light of the welcoming candles. It felt all too good to be true.
Sometimes, I still think it was all but a wishful dream.
Sophomore year was a wild one. No weekend seemed complete without it's share of black out and sore feet (a by-product of shoeless dancing). One Thursday in particular took me by surprise, and I may have downed one too many in the good name of fun and peer pressure, though it was mainly the latter. I remember strong arms holding my hair, every so tenderly as I hurled. I remember minty fresh breath and a soft face beside me in the mirror. I remember cheeks rosy from embarrassment as you helped me change with your eyes glued shut. And I remember your wooded musk on my laced satin sheets 'til Sunday.
7th grade was a tough one, and it feels as though puberty is a period of one's life engineered for the sole purpose of targeting the raw confidence of a middle school child. But instead of showing it, I decided to make like the lead of a high school movie- post glow up of course- and act like I already was 'all that'. It seemed to work. And then there you were, in your thick rimmed glasses that were too big for your face, flashing me that goofy and so irresistibly lovable grin. I'm not sorry that your glasses broke that day. And I'm glad you got contacts after. Those thick rims had hidden your chocolate brown eyes from the world long enough.
I remember the 2nd grade rain. My mom was especially displeased at my soiled appearance, especially considering those white shoes were but a week old. I didn't mind though. Maybe you think I forgot it already, or better yet, didn't notice at all, but I did. I remember you watching me from the shade, every second of my clumsy splashing, as if I were some elegant skater flying cross the ice. Your eyes followed me till the teachers ushered me away, till I was finally out of sight.
I remember your 2nd grade awe though the icy showers.
In 7th, your eyes were free at last.
I'll never forget you as the reason for my missing hangover.
And I can never thank you enough for countering my post heart break plans.
Now, my day has come. I see you in the corner of my eye, tux pocket adorned with baby's breath, and I smile. The guest list is full. The cake is divine. My dress is heavy from endless compliments. And, my bouquet has a future, persevered between two heavy books. But when I look upon this golden frame, the fruit of our Monday evening's 'artistic moment', it isn't perfect.
His blue eyes are missing the warmth, and his hair shouldn't be so combed back. His tux is all wrong, and those shiny shoes feel much too suffocating to be seriously worn.
And then I realize.
So foolishly realize,
So out-of-time-im-too-late ly realize,
I wish it were you.