dear noelle.

dear noelle,

was it weird for you that there was a boy in our class named noel, too? i mean, yours was spelled differently, obviously, but i've always wondered if that screwed up your sense of gender or identity. maybe not. to be honest, i can't even remember when you showed up. fourth grade? sixth? but i do remember when we were gonna be friends. i thought we were gonna be good friends, and i never got to tell you how disappointed i was when it didn't turn out that way.

we were always paired next to each other, alphabetically because your last name started with "s" and mine with "t," and other times by height because you were as tall as i was. you got shit for being tall, i remember. granted, claire was taller than you were, but claire's family had money, and we all saw what kind of car your mom drove. she drove some beat up old thing, a stationwagon maybe, and there always looked like there were boxes or clothes filling up the backseat.

there were other clues that your family was broke, and this helped determine your "popularity status," which was present but never talked about. you wore your red, faded st. ignatius sweatshirt, and on free dress days, it was oversized white shirts with faded denim shorts. they looked like real hand-me-downs, possibly taken from your older sister. we never saw your dad, so we assumed you were one of the few kids with divorced parents.

you were good-looking, but you probably couldn't tell by the way most people treated you. you probably didn't think much of yourself, being so tall, lanky, and flat-chested. some guys would joke. "a real woofer," one would say. "a real bow-wow." i think secretly, though, you drove the boys wild. i remember seeing what ryan had written in your yearbook. it hinted at the possibility that something had gone on between you two. was there something there?

in the eighth grade, i had watched the movie welcome to the dollhouse, and i thought it was the funniest thing in the world when the boy tells dawn, the main character, "you'd better watch out because at three o'clock, i'm gonna rape you." i repeated the line to you once, assuming that you had seen the movie, too. i don't know why i assumed that, since it was a pretty obscure indie flick, but you seemed like the type of girl who would've been into such things. i mean, you did tell me once how you loved empire records. my friends hadn't seen dollhouse, so they didn't understand what i was quoting (story of my life, noelle). they just thought it was a crazy thing to say to a person, but i got off on that. i liked having other people think i was crazy. anyway, i never found out if you knew what i was alluding to. chances are, you probably didn't. it was a pretty messed up thing to say, so, sorry about that.

once, at a school dance, i saw you standing in the doorway, and you were singing along to hole's "doll parts." i must've been the only person in the room to see you doing that. i thought it was adorable, and i had the sudden urge to get up and ask you to dance. i didn't. i should have, but i didn't.

what i remember best is how we let each other cheat on vocabulary tests. we had to grade each other's assignments and tests, and we were supposed to use red pens to mark them up. but you and i were clever. we even went so far as to replace the red pens with blank ink, and then we'd just change the errors that way. i couldn't believe that you were down for something like that. i mean, jesus. a girl who cheats? who helps me cheat? we should've been bff! how did we not work out?

in my yearbook, i expected you to write down your phone number, or email, or something, but you didn't. i expected you to write something heartfelt, something along the lines of how you were gonna miss me, just as i was gonna miss you, but you didn't. you just wrote, "good luck next year. you'll have one less person to steal things off your desk." or some shit like that. you don't know how much that bummed me out. i was bummed all summer. i don't think i've ever gotten over it.

the last time i saw you, i was eighteen and working at tower records. you came in wearing a hooded black sweatshirt, and you were with two boys who most likely went to mira loma high with you. i wanted to say "hello," but something held me back. maybe this general idea that's stuck with me for so long, this idea that you're just supposed to say goodbye to certain people, things, parts of life. it's not good to cling. you can't be a clinger, therefore you can't just say "hello."

you were in and out. i didn't even get to ring up your purchase. i hope that you stole something that night, and got away with it.

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