His hands flowed over the keys like a beautiful river, creating a sound so soothing that even an insomniac could fall asleep to it. He was only eight years old, but he already had a classroom full of people nearly drooling in admiration. I was among that crowd, wondering how a person could be so talented and perfect while I was nothing but a lowly 3rd grader. At that moment in band class, listening to the lovely notes floating from the piano, my life was perfect. There was only one small issue: I was completely obsessed with a person who had no idea I existed.
I was relatively anonymous at my school, but Alex, or “the love of my life” as I thought of him, didn’t have that problem. In fact, everyone knew him. He was known at our school for his ability to play a piano better than anyone, even the band teacher himself. (Apparently it was impressive back then to be more talented than a person who quit music school to teach a herd of whiny eight year olds.) Teachers constantly had whispered conversations with each other about Alex’s bright future and impressive talent. You would think that at such a young age, all of this attention would go right to his head. You would be right.
The problem that Alex and I had was that he was too in love with himself to notice me, and I was too obsessed with him to notice the constant stream of rejections. All of my years in Reynolds Elementary School were spent desperately trying to get his attention. I used every major weapon in the arsenal of flirting and none of them were successful. I tried being friends with his best friends. That didn’t work. I asked him if he wanted to dance with me at the Christmas dance. That was a disaster. I even wrote a love poem about him. That was so traumatic I nearly had to be hospitalized.
Despite all of my attempts to earn his affection, I was still nothing but another girl who would one day throw roses on stage after his Grammy performance. I simply couldn’t let myself live that way. Something had to be done.
I didn’t know exactly how to go about doing this, so I consulted the expert on all things boys- my mother. I was expecting an intricate plan, but she suggested something that I never thought of. “Just tell him how you feel,” she said with a shrug, and walked away. I sat at the kitchen table for at least a week, trying to process the simplicity of her idea. How could I possibly just tell him? It sounded too easy. Of course, I didn’t have any better plans, so it had to work.
The fact that I was in 3rd grade meant that I couldn’t just walk up to Alex and tell him how I felt. I would take my mother’s advice, but I had to complicate it somehow. After consulting with my closest friends, my dog, and my collection of stuffed animals (but not Betsy the Bunny because she knew nothing about boys), I formulated a plan that was sure to work. All I had to do was write him a note, slip it in his backpack, and wait until he found it. Then he would come running to me in slow motion, we would hug and fall into a field of daises, and we would live happily ever after. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
The day came and I was completely prepared. The note was written in the cutest handwriting I could manage, was sealed with a sticker in the shape of a heart, and was tucked away safely in my pocket. All I needed was an opportunity to sneak it in his backpack. That opportunity presented itself when my teacher announced that we would be watching a movie.
When the movie started and all the lights in the classroom were turned off, I walked into the sea of backpacks, pretending to look for my own, even though I saw it immediately. How could anyone miss a hot pink bag the size of boulder? But it wasn’t my bag I was truly looking for, it was his. Luckily he had tossed it near mine, so no one was alarmed when I kneeled down next to it. Just seconds later, the note was nestled between a planner and a notebook with dinosaurs on the cover. I walked back to my seat next to the projector screen, feeling accomplished. My mission had been completed. The only thing I had left to do was to wait.
Maybe if I did just wait, this all would have turned out fine. However, I wasn’t able to wait. I had to make things harder on myself, as usual. Instead of sitting there like a good little girl, I had to open my big mouth and tell people that I had a crush on him. Clearly this was Earth shattering news because it spread through the classroom before anyone even knew the name of the main character in the movie we were watching.
The next day, I tried my best to not make eye-contact with anyone. The gossip around the playground was that I had written Alex a “love letter”. I seemed to be the only one who realized how ridiculous that notion was. I hadn’t written him a love letter, just a note telling him I wanted to marry him one day. Those two things were completely different.
While being humiliated by my misunderstood note, the last thing I expected was to get a response letter from Alex, but that’s just what I received. It was simple, but enough to make my mind explode into a thousand little explosions of happiness. The crumpled, torn off piece of wide ruled paper read “I like you too.”
At that moment in my life, those were the four most influential words anyone had ever said to me other than “Santa is not real”. A glowing smile was stuck on my face for the rest of the day. I showed the note to my friend Maria while we waited for our moms to pick us up from school, and she was just as thrilled as I was. I wanted to tell everyone, but I decided to save the rest of the excitement for when I got home.
Later, I poured out the whole story to my mom, and she seemed happy. However, she did warn me not to get too excited, but I made another wise decision and chose not to listen to her. That was a big mistake.
The next day I was greeted with another note on my desk. Little did I know this note wasn’t quite like the others. I unfolded it and read “Dear Abby, I didn’t really like you; I just didn’t want to make you sad. Sorry, Alex.” Fortunately, school hadn’t started yet, so I was the only one in the classroom at that moment. Everyone was still on the playground, so no one saw the tears that welled up in my eyes.
Those words completely shattered me. They meant that I would never marry the love of my life, and we would never go on a piano recital tour together. Suddenly my life was meaningless. I had no future. I was sure that I would end up living alone with 47 cats until I eventually died of depression. How could I ever recover from this tragedy?
After that incident, most of my elementary school years were a blur. I do, however, remember buying him a Valentine’s Day lollipop. I also remember him throwing it at me after sucking on it for a few minutes. That was the highlight of my 5th grade year.
I moved away after 6th grade, and I never heard much about Alex or his predicted career as a musician. Last year, I was sitting in a coffee shop studying for a college midterm when I logged on to Facebook. I saw that I had received a friend request from an ‘Alexander Whittiker’. It took me a few moments, and some scrolling through his pictures, but I soon realized that it was him. The ‘love of my life’ from 3rd grade was now the one reaching out to me, instead of the other way around. I laughed to myself, and clicked “deny”. It was the first good decision I made regarding him since we met.