We both had a crush on John. My best friend and I. We would follow him around the school yard, and spy on him and scream at him that we loved him or put him down and talk about him incessantly when he wasn’t around. We agreed that he was the cutest boy in school. He was the smartest boy in school. We would argue with him incessantly. I remember standing in the front corner of our school once for two hours after class had let out calling each others names and one upping each other and being smart asses. It was amazing. This round robin of aggressive flirting.
Even at that age I understood what a turn on this was. That this repartee was what made him the greatest boy in my eyes. It felt like love, it felt real. In science camp the three of us were seated near each other during dinner hour and we would spend hours making each other blush. Once we got John’s ears to turn bright red by saying the word “peach fuzz.” Once we made all of Anna turn bright red and she ran from the table and John and I high-fived each other. It was better than a kiss. I still remember his face that day.
He would tell me off and talk about what a loser I was and vice versa and then we would both bust out laughing. Once, only once, he slipped, and said something nice. And it was embarrassing for us both but then I was walking on top of the world.
In the sixth grade John was prescribed glasses and suddenly lost his sheen. He lost his confidence and we lost respect and the crush became embarrassing for everyone and Anna jumped ship, disowning her former crush, but we both secretly harbored those traces of want, we both hoped he’d spring back, come around, be the boy we wanted to want again. I asked the most popular boy in school to “go” with me and he said yes. I had something like a crush, but it was strategic, it was smart, it was more a crush on myself as the girlfriend of the most popular boy in school. It was a relief. It was status, it was something I didn’t have to think about except when I wanted to think about it and then it made me feel good. No, it made me feel fine.
The only racing and bracing moment of our relationship was winning a swimming race in relay form, we made a good team. This was reasonably true.
We never argued, or discussed or bantered. We might have never spoken. We held hands, I wore his bracelet. And I suppose he was the cutest boy in school. Everyone said so. But in my heart of hearts I never ever believed it. I still knew who the cutest boy in school was. And I knew he knew me better and liked me more than my boyfriend ever would.