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The Beginning of a Lifetime


Courtney Wilson

“A feeling of sadness and longing
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.”

It would have been four months today. On my calendar, red hearts and doodles of flowers surround the date. Written with a pink marker, in uncharacteristically loopy letters, ‘Anniversary’ stands out against the sea of gray penciled in homework assignments.

I can’t escape him. Everywhere I go I've gone with him before. No part of my life is my own anymore. I gave that up four months ago. In dining hall, the girl at the next table carelessly munches on Applejacks, oblivious to the pain she’s causing me. With each casual crunch, my heart breaks a little more.

Applejacks were his favorite. We used to sit at the last round table in Weatherall, the one furthest from the door. He ate his applejacks while I took the more adult route and opted for a real apple. I made fun of him for liking such a kid cereal but then I'd sneak a few from his bowl when I thought he wasn’t looking. He always caught me though.

He used to watch me. When we went to the library together, I’d be studying intently, flipping through my textbooks and notes. Glancing up occasionally, I’d find him watching me, his intense aquamarine eyes sparkling and a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. I felt like Daisy in The Great Gatsby. “The officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at…” He wouldn’t say anything, but just smile at me with those trusting eyes of his, watching me as if he was amazed I was actually there, sitting with him. I’d playfully hit him and tell him to stop being creepy but he would just shrug his shoulders, lean forward to kiss me and say ‘I can’t help it. I love who I’m looking at.’ I’d shake my head laughing and get back to work, but a few minutes later when I would look up again, he’d still be there, smiling at me.

I always told him that his eyes were his best feature. Thick Italian eyebrows made the blue in his eyes deep and caused the green to sparkle. His eyes were my gateway. I used to think that if he died, and I could only see one part of him I’d want it to be his eyes. They connected me to him. No matter how convincing his smile was, one look at his eyes and I knew what he really felt.

He would do anything for me. Knowing how important my grades were to me, one night after sobbing hysterically to him over the phone about a failed math test, (I refused to let him see me cry), I heard a knock on my door. I opened it to find my snow covered, hypothermic boyfriend smiling sheepishly. He explained that right after I hung up, he had rushed out of his dorm and run to Walgreens in the snowstorm. When I asked him why on earth had he gone out in the snow, he simply replied, “Because I love you. You were unhappy. I wanted to make you feel better.” And then he held out his frost bitten hands. In one, there was a pint of my favorite ice cream, Chunky Monkey and in the other, a simple red rose. He was 45 minutes late to check-in because of me and subsequently put on 7’s for the rest of the week, but it didn’t bother him. He just squeezed my hand and said that it was worth it.

He had dimples. He told me stories about when he was a kid; he used to complain to his grandmother about the ‘craters’ in his face. She would just laugh at him and say in her thick accent, “Tony - one day a girl is going to fall in love with those dimples, you just wait.” His grandmother was right. One day a girl will fall in love with his dimples. They’ll fall in love with his eyes, his smile, and his thick Italian eyebrows. They’re going to love his laugh, and his sense of humor, and the way that no matter how bad an argument is, he always ends it with an ‘I love you.’ One day, a girl is going to fall in love with Tony, and give him their heart, which was the one thing I never could.

The first time after we kissed, he looked into my eyes and told me he loved me. I plastered a smile on my face and politely thanked him, resisting my urge to pull away in disgust. When the end of the night came, he leaned down to kiss my lips, but I quickly turned my head away from him offering only a cold, platonic cheek instead. For the next week, I stayed in my dorm, venturing out only during classes or when I knew there was no chance we would run into each other. Why’d he have to ruin a perfectly good moment by saying ‘I love you? I thought angrily to myself. We had only kissed once and he thought he loved me? It was pathetic.

I had seen love and I knew what it did to people. Love was the reason why my cousin stayed with her abusive boyfriend for a year. It took reconstructive surgery, months of therapy and a restraining order to fix what ‘love’ had done to her. Love was the reason I lost my best friend ten months ago. Saturday nights used to be our time. After a long night of dancing, we’d make a quick pit stop at the grill before check-in to buy a pint of Chunky Monkey and then spend the rest of the night gossiping, reading magazines and watching movies.

Since she met her boyfriend though, “our” time has been replaced with “Tom” time. Now instead of hanging out and watching movies, the only interaction we have is a brief hello as she scurries off to her room to talk on the phone with him. Knowing how it felt to be abandoned for a boy, I vowed that I would never become so dependant on a man that I would desert my friends and hurt them like she did to me. I had seen love. I knew what it did! And I didn’t need it.

I knew Tony had liked me since the first time we met over a year ago. A call from his roommate saying, “Uh…Tony thinks you’re really pretty…and funny. And smart. And uh, he likes you a lot so you should go out with him,” was merely confirmation. Even without that call I would have known just from the way he smiled when he saw me, and how he treated me differently than all the other girls. Confident to the point of arrogance while with his friends, all self-assurance disappeared when it came to the opposite sex. Low self esteem made him think that they didn’t want to talk to him and so he refused to approach girls even if it was just to ask what the homework was. I got special privileges though. No matter what he was doing, once he saw me, he would drop it and come over and talk to me. He was sweet and funny and understood me. He was the perfect friend, and eventually he became the perfect boyfriend.

From the beginning I made things hard. Experience made me reluctant to allow myself to care about him and fear made me refuse. I didn’t want a man to have control of my emotions and so I shut him out. I did everything I could to push him away and not let myself truly like him. He stuck through it all, giving up his friends, his grades, and who he was as a person for me. All he wanted was for me to be happy and that’s what killed me. While I refused to change anything about myself for him out of fear that it would make me just like the other silly girls, he was willing to do anything just to make me like him.

His feelings for me were concrete, mine were mud. He needed me, and I didn’t want to need him. He loved me. I had built up too many walls to love anybody. I couldn’t stand watching him give everything of himself while I gave nothing and so I broke up with him. To the end, he was the perfect boyfriend. He didn’t ask me to explain myself. One look at my face and he knew. Tony kissed me for the last time and in a choked voice said, “You were the best thing that ever happened to me, Court. I love you.”

Someday a girl will fall in love with Tony and give him their heart. I wish that girl could be me. There’s an old quote I remember hearing. “It takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.” Well my minute is up, my hour long gone, and my day never came. But my life is just beginning.

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