Valentine #15

I spent most of my junior year of high school standing outside a girl’s apartment building. The memory is that it was always winter. The frosted grass crunched under my school shoes and the snow collected on my head like a hat.

I stood across the street from the building, looking up at her window. I thought that the waiting, the desperate watching, was love. But maybe I was trying to shake myself, to learn something about human relationships that hadn’t yet revealed itself to me. I was obsessed. I was prepared for one of our classmates to step out of her apartment.

While I waited, I imagined what she was doing to him, and wished those things were being done to me. There were times when I shook from the anger, or I walked up and down the block nervously — later kicking myself because I was convinced he had slipped out while I wasn’t looking.

I’d been to her place, before the break-up. I’d lost my virginity in her bedroom, and watched her try to swallow a handful of pills in her kitchen. I’d been over for dinner. Her mother had made us rice with beans and chicken fingers.

The first time she let me into her apartment, she made me stuff snow down my pants. I hobbled all the way there, sucking my teeth, while she laughed. Was she nervous? Had she done this before? Who she had touched before didn’t matter to me as much as who she touched after.

What was I doing waiting outside her apartment building? What would I say to him? To her?

Sometimes my dad went out looking for me, driving across town from work, knowing exactly where I’d be. I tried hiding behind parked cars so that he wouldn’t spot me, but he often did. He waited for me to get in the car, sour-faced.

My dad often scolded me for acting like a hungry animal. But sometimes he was calm.

“Did you see the guy,” he’d ask me.

We were waiting at the stoplight, her apartment building still in view.

“No, I never saw him.”

Then we turned the corner.

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