Too Close

I couldn’t help it.

It was stuck in my mind for a while now. It still is. I had his gift in my hand. I folded it. It was a jacket that he said he wanted. I hid it in my bag.

My mom warned me. Don’t get close to him. Don’t get close to him. Don’t get close to him. You cannot marry him.

Marriage. She thought about marriage. I wasn’t going to marry or even think about dating him. It was just some strange image my mom had in her head, but I was getting more warnings.

From my grandmother. My dad. My cousin. My sister.

“I thought you were his ex-girlfriend.”

That sentence burns in my mind. That sentence came from someone who doesn’t know me. That sentence came from my friend’s friend. He was no one to me, but he says that.

It was an insult.

I sat on the bench outside, waiting for my friend to meet up with me so that I could give him his gift and get over it already.

It was a birthday gift for him. He was months younger than me. So many months that we were practically a year apart. We were in different high schools, but they were close enough that it was a walking distance to go from school to school in five to ten minutes.

I hadn’t seen him in a while. We used to ride the bus. Last year. But now we had different buses.

He won’t remember, I thought to myself as I waited at the bench.

Many, many years ago, I had met him. It was before high school, junior high, elementary—long ago. My mom and his mom were friends. It was inevitable that we would meet.

But I forgot him, and he forgot me. The only proof we had were old pictures.

Then I met him again, and he met me.

But then he forgot me, and I forgot him – but now I remembered. But I won’t tell him. It was good that he didn’t remember me. I didn’t want him to. I would become too emotionally attached to him.

I wanted to end our relationship.

I sat waiting on the bench, thinking about the past even though I knew I’m the type of person who gets stuck about thinking something. I was once attached to someone so much that I decided it would be best we get away from each other.

Because we would hurt each other. Because it wasn’t right.

So I pulled away from that boy even though we’ve been friends since the second grade. In sixth grade, we caused a scene that was so huge it divided the boys and girls in my PE class. When I was changing in the restroom stall later, a girl told me to go to the nurse if I didn’t feel well. And another one tried shushing her, telling her that it was my heart that hurt. I opened the bathroom stall and saw that all the girls, who were not changing yet, were waiting for me to say something about what happened between me and that boy.

That boy who has been chasing me for a long time now. Figuratively and physically. The boy that I used to chase and run after. Figuratively and physically.

But I walked out the restroom with my head held high, believing it would be the best for the two of us. We wouldn’t meet each other again after junior high. We would be going our separate ways. Our friendship was a useless and unfruitful one.

So I sat on the bench thinking. Alone. My senior year of high school.

I was waiting for a boy to meet me and so that I could give him his gift. I looked at my watch. It was late. He was late. He would forget. I would forget. It would be over. The end. That’s it.

Now was the perfect time to end this friendship.

I took out my phone and scanned through things, my mind dark and heavy, set on the boy from junior high. From second grade. The one who confessed his love three times to me, and the one I ran away three times from.

I saw my friend’s shadow but did nothing. I let him grab me in a choke hold.

I wasn’t in the mood.

“I saw your shadow,” I said.

I tried to smile. Tried to be happy. But there was nothing.

Because I knew that I had to end this friendship with him. This would be the last time I should see him. To give him this gift. End things on a happy note unlike the other times.

He slid next to me on the bench, which was wet from the early morning.

“It isn’t wet there?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said with a large smile on his face. “So what’s up?”

He had messaged me last night. We were chatting until it was almost midnight. It bothered me. I was too close to him. At this point, I might have even been closer to him than the boy in middle school. The only difference was that neither of us were in love with the other.

I hated it.

I took out his jacket and nearly threw it at him.

I wanted to end this quickly.

He quickly put it on and realized it was somewhat small on him. I mentioned the tag still there, but before I could say I could return it and get him another one, he took out the tag and threw it away.

“I was just kidding about this,” he said, looking at how tight it was. “Well, what do you think?”

I tugged on the jacket. “It seems small,” I said, trying to lighten not the mood but myself.

I couldn’t bring myself to smile or laugh. All that resulted was some emotionless chuckle.

“No, duh,” he said.

I turned around and flung my backpack around my back and picked up the rest of my stuff.

“You’re leaving already?” he asked.

I must end this quickly.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

Don’t say anything interesting. You’ll end up staying with him for the rest of lunch. Tell him you have something.

“The library,” I said.

“You already have work?” he asked. “We just got back from break.”

“I don’t have anything,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “I always go to the library.”

He smiled and assumed a fighting stance. “Come on,” he said. “Fight me.”

Our relationship was based on fighting and teasing one another. Jokes. Laughter. We acted like fools.

“No. I… I’ll find something to do at the library.”

I began walking towards the library, but he followed, walking with me.

This would be the last time I see him.

“The library,” he said. “Work. I hate the library. I have no reason to go there.”

“I know,” I said.

He laughed.

I needed to get out of that bench. It wasn’t good that we were together in school for so long. I didn’t want anyone to know about us. My friends were disgusted when they realized I had been friends longer with the boy from middle school. What now?

I remembered a boy from my sophomore math class. We were both friendly to each other. We laughed and told jokes. Then one day, this friend I gave a gift to mentioned him to me, asking if I knew about him, saying he knew that I did anyway because he knew we were in the same math class then.

But after that day, the boy from my math class stopped talking to me. He wouldn’t say hi. He wouldn’t even glance in my direction.

As for the other person who knew about my friend I gave a gift to? He thought of me as his ex-girlfriend. An insult.

“Don’t you have somewhere to go?” I asked. “Don’t you have friends to be with?”

“Y-yeah,” my friend said. “I just left them.”

“Go to them,” I said, not looking at him.

“Okay.”

He still walked with me towards the library.

I didn’t want anyone to see us together. I didn’t want anyone to even know that we know each other or that we knew of each other or that I gave him a gift. I wanted everything secret. This had to be done quietly.

This would be my final goodbye.

“This is where I go,” he said. “I’m not going to the library.”

He turned to leave.

“Bye!” I said, a slight crack in my voice.

“See ya.”

Until we would forget each other and meet each other again, this is my final goodbye.

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