I remember you sat next to me in first grade. We had the same last name, and I thought that was weird. There was someone with the same first name as me, and that was exciting and funny. But we shared the same last name, and it made me scared that you were my long-lost sibling.
Then a week passed, and we both came to the realization that we would be grouped together all the time because we had the same last name. I remember we both made faces – yours one of the gross ones that only boys could do, and mine a sad imitation of it. I remember you laughed at my face.
I remember that we ignored each other because my best friend said that we would have to marry so that our last names wouldn’t change. So I socked her like my older brother had taught me, and then I told you that you were ugly and had better stay away from me. I never told you why.
Your friend came up to me the next day and told me that I had hurt your feelings. He told me that he wanted to hit me, but boys can’t hit girls. I rolled my eyes and thought he was either too goody-good or too scared.
Looking back, I guess I could have been more polite, but I wasn’t polite back then. And I really wanted you to stay away.
We sat next to each other without talking for the rest of the school year. The teacher didn’t really like that.
I remember that we were in different classes for second and third grade. We only saw each other at recess and lunch. In two years, I only said two sentences to you:
“That’s my ball. Give it back.”
Then in fourth grade we ended up in the same class. I made a face when I saw you sitting in the desk next to mine. By then, my faces were awful enough for anyone. You looked up and saw me, and almost smiled. But I was frowning and making a disgusted face, so you quickly scowled back. But I saw that smile.
I remember that we did talk to each other that year. At first it was because the teacher made us, and then later I think he regretted it. We wouldn’t stop arguing.
By then, I had a reputation and most boys were scared of me. But that summer I had vowed to be nice. I figured that my family needed at least one peaceful person. You didn’t know that, and neither did anyone else, so you and all the other boys kept up our love-hate relationship, minus the love. The truth was, I might have stopped yelling at boys and pushing them around, but I kept on beating you all in sports and being a know-it-all in class.
You, in particular, didn’t like that. Your face turned as red as an overripe tomato whenever you missed a question and I didn’t. I remember winning a beautiful, brand-new book at the end of the year. It was because I got the best grades in the class. You didn’t like that. You had been the second-smartest.
When my book disappeared from my desk, I knew you had taken it. I was angry with you, so at recess I shoved you and you fell and broke your wrist. You told the teacher that you had fallen off the slide – I guess you were too proud to say that you had been injured by a girl. I felt bad, but you had taken my prize and you didn’t even read novels.
I remember the next day was the last day of school, and you had a blue cast on your wrist. You let everybody sign it but me. I pretended not to care. But I spent the whole summer mad at you.
When I walked into my fifth grade class, of course you had to be sitting there, right behind my desk. I remember glaring at you, and this time you didn’t hesitate to mirror my expression. And for the first few weeks, it seemed like you had made it a goal to annoy me as much as possible. I didn’t dare sit back in my seat.
But on my birthday, exactly twenty four days after the first day of school, I remember walking into the classroom. You were busy fiddling with something in your desk, so “busy” that I got suspicious. I thought you were hiding the laugh in your eyes, a trace of the planning of some elaborate prank.
I remember when I sat down and reached into my desk for my workbook, and there was something in my way. I pulled it out, and it was my beautiful book that you had stolen. And I sat there, holding it, still as a statue.
It was new and beautiful and perfect. I couldn’t believe it. I thought maybe you had written all over the pages or something, but I fanned through and they were untouched. There was no note, no message of repentance or outpouring of love. I might have been a little disappointed. Except then I heard you behind me, whispering “sorry” so faintly that I thought maybe I had imagined it. But you avoided me the whole day, and didn’t even touch me when I leaned back in my seat.
I remember our silence after that – not angry or hateful, just awkward. I wrote one word on a scrap of paper, and managed to slip it into your desk while you were in the bathroom. But in that chaotic mess within, my “sorry” was crushed in a corner and lost.
One day at recess, you and all the boys were playing kickball. I wanted to join, but your friend, the same one who was too chicken to hit me, wouldn’t let me.
“You can’t play kickball; you’re a girl and you’re wearing a skirt.”
You overheard and walked right up to him. “Because you know that she’d play better in a skirt than you ever could.”
All the boys “Oh-ed” properly, and I think I might have glowed.
That day, somehow everybody found out what had happened, and they all started teasing us again. We were “true loves” and “made for each other,” simply because our last names were the same. This time, though, I didn’t punch the people who sang the K-I-S-S-I-N-G rhyme. I just sat there, and maybe I blushed, and glanced at you. I know that you blushed.
I remember waking up every morning after that and almost jumping out of bed. I couldn’t wait to get to school and sit in front of you. Even though I was too shy to talk most of the time, I was happy just to know that you were slouched in the seat behind me. And when we did talk, I spent the rest of the day walking on clouds.
In December, I started missing you even before Christmas break had begun. On the last day before we were let out, I found a note in my desk.
My grin almost cracked my face in half. But I got nervous, I think, so I turned around and told you that you forgot to capitalize the “m” and the “c.” You turned red, just like you used to, and mumbled something that I couldn’t hear. When I turned around, I could tell that I was blushing, but not in the good way. I felt bad, but I didn’t say anything. We went back to our work, and when the bell rang, I got my things and left without saying goodbye.
I remember coming back from vacation and your desk was empty. I remember everybody, teachers and students, talking about the car crash, and I remember listening to every word and not hearing anything. All of it was drowned out by my mind, repeating over and over again:
Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry.
I remember going home and crying and crying, but most of all, I remember missing you. And more than anything, I thought of all the things I was sorry for. All I could say was sorry, hoping that maybe you were in heaven and you would hear at least one of my apologies.
Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorrysorrysorry.
Sorry for hurting your feelings in first grade and ignoring you for years and years. Sorry for pushing you away instead of being friends. Sorry for shoving you and causing you to break your wrist and sorry for not being brave enough to say “sorry” even after you did. Sorry for lingering on your lowercase letters when I really didn’t care about them except that you had written them for me.
Sorry for our horribly warped fates and our tale of love being cut short.
I remember hoping that you, up in heaven, would forgive me.
I hope you have.