The One Who Thought I Was Pretty
I was riding high that Fall when school started again. I had finally kissed a boy. And he had a tongue ring. This, for whatever reason, inspired me to date an older man. I met Nick while playing for the water polo team. He was 18 years old and a senior. He smoked cigarettes. And he could play water polo like nobody's business. I was smitten.
Nick had this adorable face (with a legitimate five o'clock shadow, I might add) and a swimmer's physique. His abs could inspire romance novels. But I had gained weight over the summer and no longer looked all that cute in my Speedo during practice. Funny how I gained weight everywhere but my boobs. I'm still waiting for those to catch up with my ass. Nothing about me would appeal to him, or so I thought.
Nick and his group of friends would always walk to the pool ahead of me and my girls. We would keep a half block distance between us and the boys so we could giggle about them all we wanted. Carl, Nick's best friend, was tall and skinny. He looked like one of those emaciated Calvin Kline models. Drake was on drugs and constantly wore a beanie, even in the middle of summer. But by the time our first game had rolled around, the boys were tired of hearing us whispering behind them and our two groups finally integrated. It was amazing how many of my friends tried out for the team that year knowing I was now tight with some senior boys.
Nick and I would flirt during practice all the time. My favorite was when we played boys against girls because he would always swim close so he could guard me. Our legs would touch under water and my head would drown with lust. That, and he became really nervous if I put my arms around him while trying to reach for the ball. He would nearly always turn it over and I could make a clean break for the goal.
By the end of the homecoming dance that year, it was quite clear that Nick and I would be dating in the near future. I had invited my friend, Greg, who I was trying to convince myself to like. He was my age and kind of cute. Greg, however, could tell that I wasn't that into him and wasn't really into me either. Turns out I was using him to make Nick jealous, he was using me to get invited to our school's dance so he could hook up with some freshman chick in the bathroom. Classy.
Nick and I never actually danced at this dance. We flirted, shot each other seductive glances from across the room, and at one point, he even tried to hold my hand while my date was standing right next to me. We didn't say anything about our obvious flirtation, though I had my friends talk to his friends to see if he really was into me. Drake was too high to speak. Carl played dumb. I got nowhere.
But the next Monday at school is when I received my first note from Nick. It was a pretty basic note, folded in halves and had my name scribbled across the front. It read something along these lines:
What's up, Lydia?
You looked really pretty at the dance and I really wanted to ask you to dance but I guess I was too nervous. I can't wait to see you at practice today. I have something to ask you.
Isn't that just adorable? I was swooning! I showed all my friends and who confirmed that it was indeed the cutest thing in the world. Cuter than puppies, cuter than Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonathan Taylor Thomas combined.
I didn't walk to the pool that afternoon. I floated. I was about to be asked out by a senior - a cute senior at that! Nick played it pretty cool while we were in the water. He avoided guarding me but kept smiling in my direction and I caught him staring on more than one occasion. I was thrilled when coach announced we had to tread water with a brick over our heads because I was looking for anything to distract myself from the giddiness I felt.
On the way into the locker rooms, Nick caught up with me and asked me to meet him outside. I agreed with a nod of my head and small affirmative squeal. I showered and borrowed all the makeup I could get my hands on and arrived outside in record time, looking as if I had just finished taking my school picture. Nick escorted me to a more private area (we went behind a dumpster) and took my hand.
"Lydia, I'm guessing you know what I'm going to ask you."
"Um…I may have an idea." Come on! I wanted to hear him say it!
"I just think you are really great and really pretty. I wanted to know if you wanted to go out sometime?"
And there it was. Not quite as romantic as I had pictured it, but amazing nonetheless. I smiled a huge smile and answered 'yes.' We exchanged phone numbers and he said he would call me later that night.
Later that night meant the second he got home. I had just started my math homework when the phone rang. I jumped out of my chair and sprinted into my parent's room (because they NEVER let me have my own phone), knocking my father and dog out of the way in the process.
"Hello?" I asked, completely out of breath.
"Lydia? It's Nick."
"Hi," I giggled and my father rolled his eyes. "How are you?"
"I'm good. I just got home."
"So, did you have fun at homecoming?" He finally asked.
"It was okay."
"I should have asked you to dance."
"That's all right. You were there with your friends."
Silence. This wasn't going so well.
"So, when do you want to go out?"
Now that was an interesting question. When did I want to go out? I didn't really think it was up to me. I mean, he initiated this date, he should choose. "Whenever."
"How about this weekend?"
"Okay." This is when I realized I did not have the ability to talk to a boy on the phone. I still don't. My husband knows to only send texts unless he really needs to talk.
"We'll find one for Friday then."
Nick paused and I waited. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Bye, Nick!" I hung up the phone without waiting to hear his reply.
The next day I received another note. Nick passed it to me in the hallway between classes with a small wink. This one was folded into a triangle. Interesting.
I can't wait for our date on Friday! I thought about you last night and how pretty you are and how great this is going to be.
Talk to you soon,
Well, Friday rolled around as it always does and Nick and I went to the movies. My mom dropped me off and Nick took the bus. He was 18 and didn't have his driver's license. I don't know why this didn't bother me. Our first kiss must have happened that night, though I honestly don't know if that is the truth. But the next thing I remember, we were boyfriend and girlfriend and I had started a trend of seniors dating underclassmen. I swear, it spread like wildfire.
The more and more time Nick and I spent together, the prettier I became, the more he thought about me and the more notes I collected. He would come up with these completely bizarre ways of folding each of them and by winter break it was taking me at least five minutes just to figure out how to open the stupid things. But his notes were always sweet. He would compliment me on playing well at the water polo game, tell me I looked pretty that day, remind me that he was always thinking about me. But everything was always about me. How I was doing, how I was looking, how I was playing. Whenever the focus turned to Nick, he just became depressed and I finally think I know why.
1. He was 18 and without a driver's license.
2. He wasn't going to college.
3. His friends were drug addicts.
4. He was dating a sophomore who had spent the majority of her freshman year looking like a little boy.
Not that these things really bothered me at the time. I mean, come on, I was 15 and there was no way I was planning a future with this guy. I was living day to day whereas he was thinking about what lay ahead. Things got really bad after I took my PSATs. I scored pretty well, especially in Math and Nick became insanely jealous. Turns out he didn't score well at all and couldn't accept the fact that I might actually be smarter than him. So, instead of pushing me away, he tried to pull me closer. I think he was afraid of losing me, afraid that I would wake up one day and realize that he was kind of a loser, no matter how nice he was.
As things went, he scared me off before that could happen. Water polo season had ended and swim team had begun. We were at our last practice before the holidays began and I found a note waiting for me at my locker. Sighing, I looked at it and realized it would take a rocket scientist to figure out how to get inside. I put it in my pocket and went outside to wait for my ride home.
"Did you read my note?" I heard Nick ask from behind me.
"Um, no. Not yet."
"Could you read it now?"
I looked at him and shook my head. "I can't figure out how to open it."
Nick laughed and held out his hand. I dug into my jeans and passed it to him. In a matter of seconds he had deconstructed his masterpiece and handed it back to me. "I'll wait inside."
"For what?" I asked, a little confused as to why he wouldn't be walking to catch his bus home.
"For your answer."
I blinked. What kind of question was he asking this time? I watched him walk back inside and sit down on a bench, his hands fumbling nervously in his lap. Then I returned my attention to the now creased and wrinkled paper.
I've been wanting to tell you this for a while. I've never said this to another girl before so I'm really nervous. But I want you to know that I love you. And I hope you love me too. Do you? Let me know.
I half expected there to be check boxes with a place for me to mark YES or NO. But there weren't. I would have to do this face to face. But what the hell was I supposed to say? I hadn't even thought about the word, much less the emotion. How did he know that he loved me? Could he feel it somewhere? I imagined I would feel love in my stomach or my side, kind of like a cramp but nicer.
I turned around and walked inside, sat down on the bench and stared at him. He stared back and I frowned.
"Why what?" He asked.
"Why do you love me? Why did you tell me?"
"I love you because you're pretty and I think about you all the time."
Even at 15 that sounded like a bullshit answer. But Nick was sweet and I didn't want to break his heart. I still wanted to be his girlfriend, we just had to come to a quick understanding.
"Okay," I started. "I'm glad you told me, because it means a lot to me, really. But I'm not ready to say that yet. So I hope this doesn't make things awkward between us."
"Do you think you ever will be able to say it?" He gave me a hopeful look which kind of made me vomit in my mouth, just a little.
"That's great! This is great. It will be great."
"Good. I'll see you tomorrow." I was glad that was settled.
"Will you write me a note?"
"If I have time."
"I can teach you how to fold them, if you want."
"No thanks. Goodnight." I kissed him and left.
That night at home, I started to freak myself out. I thought about the weight of that word and what it meant if he really did feel that way about me. My friends weren't much help. I called a few and their reactions were all the same: "What the fuck?" "You're too young." "That's weird."
I didn't write Nick back that night.
New Year's was here before I knew it and Nick and I had plans to stay at Hannah's house. Carl was there as well and in Hannah's good graces. She had broken up with him a few times but they were back together for the time being. I think she just wanted to kiss someone at midnight.
The four of us got there early and watched a movie, Nick tried to feel me up but I wouldn't let him. He was getting desperate, I could tell. We then went upstairs and played Pictionary which led to our first and only fight. I couldn't draw a bowl of salad. Or rather, my bowl of salad was perfectly depicted on the page, Nick just couldn't interpret my drawing. Either way, we had to quit before we started yelling at each other.
Carl then announced he wanted to take a nap before midnight and put on some incredibly irritating techno music. Hannah, I think, forced herself to fall asleep before her ears were permanently damaged. I got up and went back downstairs. Nick followed and we ended up making out on the couch, what normally happened when we were alone because talking was just never as much fun.
Pretty soon my shirt was off and he was going for my pants. So not ready for that! I grabbed his hand and put it back on my boob, attempting to distract him with my mosquito bites.
He looked up. "I thought we loved each other."
"Um, what?" He didn't just say that?
"I love you," he looked down at me with such intensity that I wanted to hide between the couch cushions.
"Yup," was the only response he got from me.
"Don't you love me too?"
I sighed. I did like him. Not right now, but most of the times. And I was clearly hurting him by not reciprocating his feelings. Maybe one day I could learn to love him. Maybe if I said it, I would start to feel it.
"Sure." That was close enough.
Nick's smile was brighter than any I had ever seen. He kissed me and I could tell that I had made him the happiest man in the world. So why did I feel like such shit? I'll tell you why: because I had just lied. I knew I didn't love him. I knew it was easier to tell him I did so he wouldn't look upset the entire night. It was wrong and I was scared.
I also knew I had to break up with him after that. I waited until we were back at school and then I wrote him a note. Really nice of me, I know. But I felt I could say everything I needed to say in a note and he wouldn't be there to look at me with his sad eyes and make me feel bad. I apologized for letting him believe something that wasn't real. I told him that I still cared for him and wanted to be friends. I promised that I would always care about him.
But he didn't take it well. He blamed my friends, he blamed my parents, he blamed everyone but Santa Clause for our breakup. None of it could be my fault or his because we were meant to be together. I was pretty and he thought about me all the time, why shouldn't this work? I received folded note after folded note, most with some sort of sketch in the corner just to prove that he was the better artist and if he had been drawing a bowl of salad, we wouldn't have fought. Those bowls of salad, always ruining perfectly good relationships.
But swim season ended and I didn't see him as much as I used to. We eventually stopped talking all together and I was happy to learn that he did decide to go to college. My friend Betsy, who had started dating Carl after Hannah dumped him for the third time, kept me up to date on everything Nick was doing whether I wanted the information or not. But the final straw fell when she announced Nick had lost his virginity to some girl at college. She was to report back to Carl, interpreting my facial expression for jealousy. I promise you, I showed none.
Nick and I saw each other only once after he graduated that year. He was lifeguarding at a pool my senior year. I was captain of the swim team and he was covered in tattoos.
"Those are pretty cool," I commented, wanting our incredibly awkward encounter to be over.
"Their tribal. Isn't your family Native American?"
I blinked my blue eyes and pushed a pale hand through my red hair. "My grandmother is 1/64th Cherokee."
"That's right," he said with a wide grin. "I knew I remembered that about you."
What the fuck?
"Isn't your family Russian?" I asked, slightly confused by the tattoos now that he had brought it up.
"Yeah, well, technically my parents were born there."
Never mind. I didn't want to know. "Okay, well I have to go give the freshman a pep talk. It was great to see you!"
"You too. You look really pretty."
Damn it. Do guys ever learn?