One, Little Scar

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My first crush, Robert, had a scar over his eye, cleft his brow right in half like a nectarine. I thought that scar was the neatest little quirk I'd ever seen. He'd sit next to me at lunch, the sunlight from the tall windows at the other end of the cafeteria shining on him like a spotlight, and he'd talk about whatever. His brows would rise and furrow, the creases on his forehead would pinch together and relax, and I'd stare at that scar and make up all kinds of wild stories.

Robert struck me as a tough kid. Listened to punk music. Worked out all the time. Played basketball with his shirt off because he liked getting attention. Honestly, I had no idea why I thought Robert seemed so tough, he just did. So, I imagined him getting into an altercation during a heated basketball game, some curly-haired kid walking up and pushing him and making a big deal out of nothing, and Robert—superhero that he was—reeling back and knocking the curly-haired freak onto the squeaky gym floor.


Boy, but when that kid got back up. Robert, sweetest boy I'd ever seen, got knocked right back, but this time, he got cut. Over his right eye.

"Hey," he asked me, drawing my attention off the scar and from my daydreams. "You want to walk home together today?"

We had been suspended from the bus. For what, I can't remember, but we lived close enough that we could hoof it home without much effort. The roads round where we lived were famously uncared for. Maybe it was the conservative governor or the cheap taxpayers or both; whatever it was, the cracked bitumen always turned into a searing rod, drawing in sunlight like a kid sucking the last bit of juice from a carton (popping its lips and saying, "Ah!" afterward). Not just that, but the shrubs actually reached out of the forest, crossed the tree line, and crept onto the roadside.

"What're you going to do after you get out of high school?" I asked him, both of us still too young to be thinking so far ahead (then again, according to adults, "too early" doesn't exist when considering one's future).

"Join a punk band," he said with the same certainty other kids would've announced their intent to become surgeons or pilots or disgruntled Wal-Mart employees. I'm sure all fifteen years of him believed it, too. "What about you?" he asked.

I didn't have any talents. I just sat in my room all day, writing poetry. "I guess I'm going to be a writer."

"What're you going to write?"

"Poetry," I said, unsure of any other answer.

"That sounds boring."

In his defense, it did.

Although we passed my house before we got to his, Robert had asked if I wanted to come over, so I agreed. Mainly, we sat in the carport while he shot a basketball through a hoop suspended over his garage. He blared Minor Threat and asked me if I liked them, and, because I wanted him to think I was edgy, I said yes, even though I hated the incessant yelling. He commented on how much black I wore and said he liked my style. That left me grinning like a kid in a toy commercial.

I watched his chest rise and fall as he spoke, watched sunlight shimmer on his buzzcut blonde hair, watched little beads of sweat dribble down his neck like honey, watched his lips pucker and widen with every syllable, and those eyes—those painful blue eyes with the mysterious scar—I watched them dance alive as he rambled about things he was passionate about. I didn't care what he was talking about. I just wanted to be there, around him.

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