freckled face and green my eyes.


courtney showed up at our school when i entered the sixth grade, during the '94 - '95 school year. she was in the seventh grade, and like most girls in the class ahead of ours, she was a fully grown woman. she had strawberry blonde hair, and she typically kept her shoulder-length ponytail tied together with a scrunchie. she also had freckles and green eyes. in retrospect, there was nothing particularly special about her, other than her physical maturity and natural beauty. in fact, i probably wouldn't have thought much of her, had she not done what she did in the lunch line.

i was standing around with joseph in the lunch line, chatting about the usual stupid stuff we discussed in the sixth grade. we were into pogs, comic books like gen 13 and x-men, wizard magazine, baseball cards and super nintendo. we were probably talking about something like that. joseph's sister was in line behind us, and she and courtney were giggling. i knew it was directed toward us, and i thought maybe it was about how geeky and awkward we looked. i was wearing my big, puffy charlotte hornets starter jacket, which was turquoise and purple. it included a logo of a black and turquoise hornet holding a basketball in his hand. the jacket, even though i liked it, made me look like a fat turquoise ball. i wish i had a better description for myself at the time, but i don't.

so, this was it, i thought. this was the point in life where girls either made fun of you or left you alone. "doesn't he look so much better like this?" courtney said. she had pulled up my hood and covered my head with it. was this flirting? i wasn't sure. i couldn't tell if she meant that i looked good, but looked better a certain way, or if she was implying that i only looked good if i was completely invisible. should i be happy and confident or annoyed and hurt? i was mortified. i turned red and didn't say anything. she kept whispering to joseph's sister, and the two of them would laugh and laugh. joseph just stood there, and didn't say a word, either. courtney grabbed me by the arm and said something else to christine, something like, "don't you just wanna..."

it really wasn't a fair moment in life. mostly because i had no idea if this girl liked me, or if she was just so confident with herself that she knew she could get away with ridiculing people she didn't even know. either way, i liked the attention. the girl was attractive, after all, and even if she was just trying to be funny, i had been a part of her act. it was confirmation that i wasn't invisible. our school made us all feel invisible. we had to wear uniforms, and in class, we were often assigned numbers. i was usually number 38.

the following year, courtney only acknowledged my existence on one other occassion. our class was walking to p.e. she was sitting on the red benches outside the eighth grade classroom, and she stuck out her hand to stop me. "hey man," she said. "hey," i said back. and then i walked away. the following days, and the following weeks, i tried to do exactly what i had done in the morning so that i could recreate the moment, and hopefully have something more to offer her than a nervous "hey." i woke up at exactly 6:42 a.m., showered the same way, dressed the same way, an early sign of obsessive-compulsiveness, i suppose. it didn't work, though. i walked to p.e. and even slowed down in front of her, hoping she would say, "hello" again, but she didn't. she just kept on talking with her friends.

my classmate ryan said that he once saw her undressing in the girls' bathroom. "she's got huge tits," he said, "but they were all freckly." ryan had freckles, too. noel told me that he discovered she had a thing for filipino guys. this gave me some hope. "yeah, i would totally..." and then he went into some lewd detail, which gave me the creeps. i didn't want to imagine his skinny self doing anything sexual. ever. those were mainly the reports i heard back from other guys concerning this girl i never talked to. she might as well have been a ghost, a voluptuous figure of my imagination.

the weeks leading up to her graduation, i knew i had to say something to her. i mulled it over, thinking about what to say, what to ask. i had one more year, and then i was up for a four-year sentence at an all-boys school. i didn't want to serve it alone. get some balls, i told myself, but not aloud. at her graduation, she sang a song in front of the whole school. she was good. when it was finally over, and the class left the church, they were all standing around outside with their families and friends. i knew i wouldn't be able to go through with it.

like so many other moments, i had let that one pass, too.

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