A Note for Jori
I don’t know what possessed her to write me that love letter, but there it was, perfect penmanship, hearts and everything. She was the eventual 8th grade valedictorian; smart, popular, outgoing, preposterously beautiful. And she had written a love letter to me; a newb, an outsider, a quiet bookworm, the smallest boy in our class, complete with cokebottle-thick taped-together public-aid eyeglasses.
It just didn’t make any goddamned sense.
Apparently, I had caught her eye by twice being on the ass-end of one-sided fistfights against guys twice my side. Each fight was prematurely ended by a teacher intercepting my attempts to escalate the battles. The first deflected my well-aimed chair tossing. The second stopped me before I could decapitate my foe with my lunch tray. In her note, she mentioned the fire in my eyes; the defiant glare despite the bruises and bloodied lip. She said that I was beaten, but never defeated. Or defeated, but never beaten. I don’t remember exactly, but it was an adequately deep thought for a mind as brilliant as hers.
I wrestled with how to respond. Regardless of how it was framed, I just couldn’t wrap my brain around her interest in me. It had to be a cruel prank of some kind. Wouldn’t have been the first time a girl feigned interest in me only to laugh at my sincerely sappy response. I cherished the note as well as my radioactive crush on her, but I took no action. Even when she talked to me as often as she could. Even that one time when she grabbed my booty in the hallway and winked at me when no one was looking. OK, prank or not, that was pretty cool having the most popular girl in school grab my ass. I guess you can say that I peaked too soon romantically.
Finally, I summoned up the courage to write Jori back. (Yes, her name was Jori! Isn’t that the most beautiful name you’ve ever heard? Nearly 30 years later and I’m still swooning.) I poured my heart and soul into that four-page letter, letting her know how much her words, her gentleness and her kindness meant to an undeserving schmuck like me; letting her know all the things I wanted to do to make her feel as wonderful as she made me feel. That was a kitchen-sink letter. I totally brought metaphorical metaphysical gravity to the situation.
I just didn’t know how to deliver such a heavy letter. I was inevitably undone by my social awkwardness, and the letter was intercepted by other bullies, who took great joy in reading it aloud to the entire student body, as others held me back from my frantic, vain efforts to recover it and my dignity. I could only watch as Jori’s face reddened from the humiliation. I knew then that she was sincere. I also knew that she probably couldn’t risk her popularity by speaking to me again. I wish I could tell you some sort of moral victory to be gleaned from this tragicomedy, but I’ve got nothing for ya. All this situation did was confirm my fears that I was born to lose and that I was destined to be alone for the rest of my life. This fear shaped many unfortunate adult decisions for me.
Crimson autumn leaves
Spinning, falling around us
The barren branches
Written for dVerse Haibun Monday: A Little Romance prompt.