|No good pic for this story, but I do love this one with friends|
who always made me feel good about myself.
I didn’t understand what a feat it was that Tom Sear started going together early freshman year until he broke up with me less than a month later. Tom, a JV football player, was considered rather attractive in his olive skin and sandy brown, feathered hair. Many of the freshman girls who hadn’t gone to elementary school with him, and who weren’t immune to his cool look of suede loafers and corduroys, spent a great deal of time talking about his perfect hair, pretty green eyes, and pouty lips. I wasn’t too aware that he was what most would consider “out of my league,” for the most popular and desired girls usually had big blond hair, light-colored eyes, and long white legs that looked good in cheer leading skirts or shorts. I knew not to mention that Tom had given me several sidelong looks around campus. I got the feeling that no one would believe me anyway.
After hanging around after school during Tom’s football practice with my friend Brandy whose boyfriend was also on the team, and waiting to take the late bus home so we could all sit together, Tom and I began “going together.” We hung around one another shyly between classes, at first, but we’d soon be breaking the school’s PDA rules, kissing feverishly down on the wooded bridge which was surrounded by a grove of young, green trees in the middle of campus. Tom would grip his hands around my waist and hoist me onto the flat concrete railing and push himself between my legs, holding me tight around the back to keep me from falling. Our foreheads, noses, and lips, now almost level, met, and a charge of tongues conducted an electric volt, Tom’s grip tightening and loosing around my back as he leaned in and then pulled me tighter to him. My heart raced and my head felt light like the sound of the rustling leaves in the trees over my head.
Then a couple of days before my fourteenth birthday, it was over. Tom broke up with me.
Just the day before, he had been standing between my legs, his arms around my waist, kissing me in his hot, sweet way, and the next he was telling me it was over, saying nothing about the dark-haired, but much lighter-skinned girl, named Marcie he was going around with just days later.
At first, I couldn’t figure it out. I went over the entire month long relationship in my head: we never had an argument; he never looked at another girl; all we ever did was kiss and say nice things quietly to one another. I spent the two days leading up to my fourteenth birthday crying and wondering what I had done wrong. After school one day as I was waiting again for the early bus, Brandy found me and told me that she had talked to Tom, “He said that he just doesn’t want to be around you anymore.” Whatever that meant.
For months and months, it seemed like it meant that no other boys felt like being around me either. I didn't dare look at the few Mexican boys who went to Summerville High because it was better to go around pretending that we didn't know we were Mexican ourselves let alone hooking up and drawing attention to ourselves. And I didn't dare thinking I had a chance with older boys. And since there wasn't anyone at the school who looked like Paul Simonon of The Clash, there wasn't anyone that I was really even attracted to, but I really wanted to be liked.
It took getting my hopes up about Matthew Johnson, who I didn’t find remotely attractive, to get a sense of what had happened with Tom and why I wasn't one of those girls who boys spent time thinking about. Matthew had stared at me in history class since nearly the beginning of the year. Our classroom, a portable, had the desks arranged in an L shape, the teacher’s desk and chalkboard were at the front of the class; rows of desks descended down the left and the back wall, making it possible to sneak looks, or in Matthew’s case, stare. When Matthew wasn’t staring at me, I snuck looks at him, his pink skin, nose that hooked unattractively upward, and awkward haircut that insisted on parting down the middle, in spite of being too short to do so. Even though he had blond hair and blue eyes, Matthew was not particularly attractive; he was popular and well liked by for being smart and nice to everyone. He also played on the football team, which didn’t really impress me all that much, but he didn’t strut around like some kind of Adonis. He got straight A’s and impressed people in class by his thoughtful insights. By many important standards, he was a dreamboat, and if he had asked me to a dance, I would have said, “yes,” even though I wasn't physically attracted to him at all. In fact, in some ways, I found him quite revolting.
Thinking about Matthew one morning, while getting ready for school and taking special care to look my best, I saw my naked face, no mascara, no eye-shadow, or bright pink blush, when I realized something that had worried me about dating Tom from the beginning. I had black hair, dark skin and dark eyes, and no amount of blue eye shadow, mascara, or even perfectly feathered hair was going to help me blend in better or keep everyone from seeing who I really was – a shabby Mexican girl, trying to pass herself off as an all American girl worthy of a boyfriend.
Then I had the urge to spit, to spit in my own face, to yank the mirror from the wall and smash it to bits and pieces. I saw the glass shattered at my feet. It was me. I was the problem. Matthew stared at me because he was intrigued and curious. He wasn’t going to redeem or validate or save me. He went out of his way to stare at me long enough to catch my eye before looking away, but he wasn't going to ask me out. I finally knew that.