10. Write about a dangerous obsession.
He was my obsession. My first love, if you can call an eleven year-old’s crush love. I followed him around the playground, and called him on weekends, and was seriously hurt when he started “dating” another eighth grader. He was mine, even if I was the only one who knew it.
Then he left school.
And I left school too.
What did I expect? I wasn’t in control of my own fate. I didn’t get a say in where I lived or what I ate or what school I was shipped off to. I just went with it because that’s what children who are not in control of their lives do. But I missed him so much. I wouldn’t know until more than fifteen years later what longing for someone actually felt like, but my young self thought my heart was breaking. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
I remember the first time I saw his adult face online. Still beautifully chocolate. Soft eyes, inviting lips. The way childhood feelings could, in an instant, grow and morph into something fully adult. I wanted him. I couldn’t tell him that, of course, I wasn’t insane. So I just watched. I looked through all of his photos—parties, graduations, promotions, girlfriends, funerals—and I read all his posts. I sent hearts and thumbs up. I let him know I was there without trying too hard to make him see me.
The first time I saw him….I was invited to a dinner party. Somebody in the group suggested we go to open mic night at a local coffee shop. I had to work the next day and really wanted to take a hot shower and get in bed, but they begged me to go out with them. I had a habit of ending my nights early, and I liked it that way, but I obliged and went to the coffee shop.
We arrived early enough to get a table close to the makeshift stage, and ordered tea and desserts. I was two bites into my passion fruit cheesecake when he walked by me. He was too close to my chair and knocked my purse off the wooden arm. Kneeling to pick up my bag, he apologized for not seeing it there. He looked up, our eyes met, my mouth went dry. I couldn’t find words. He must’ve said my name two or three times before I heard his “it’s good to see you again”. I let him pull me from my seat into a hug and for a second I couldn’t feel my toes. He smelled like the Dogwood & Ginger fragrance oil that I loved scenting my pillows with—warm, woodsy, cozy like sitting in front of a fireplace with hot chocolate in a cabin surrounded by a foot of snow.
Eventually he rejoined his group of friends at the table they picked on the other side of the narrow room. I really tried to pay attention to the poets and singers throughout the night, but my eyes kept drifting to the back of his head, the square of his shoulders, the way he leaned back in his chair when he laughed. I couldn’t let another twenty years go by without seeing him again, but I also couldn’t walk up to him at a table full of men I did not know and say…anything.
I wasn’t in a hurry to get to my car after the last poet of the night sat down. I lingered in the parking lot, saying slow goodbyes to the other girls and making brunch plans for the following week with a couple of them. My breath caught in my chest when I saw him walk out of the coffee shop and turn in our direction. I said my last goodbyes as he strolled across the parking lot, and turned to face him as he leaned on the side of my car next to me. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I agreed to spend a little more time out with him despite the fact that I’d be totally exhausted the next morning.
I let him drive. The muscles in his arms tensed and pushed against the snug fabric of his shirt sleeve as he controlled my car with one hand on the wheel. I had no idea where we were going, and I didn’t care. The love of my childhood was sitting next to me, taking me on an adventure. I could use the navigation system to get back home if I needed to. I just watched him, and every so often he’d turn to me and stretch those sexy honey-coated lips into a smile.
I don’t remember much after the first drink—if you call Peach Sangria a drink. I only remember staring at the strawberries at the bottom of the wine glass, how each of the little seeds had a tiny bubble on top of them. Even after everything went dark, I just kept seeing those tiny little bubbles. I imagined there being a while tiny little world in each of those little bubbles. A world where I was sitting at a table with a centerpiece of pink and yellow tulips, eating brunch with my best friends. A world where my wrists weren’t tied and I wasn’t locked in this room with no sunlight or fresh air. A world where my puppy wasn’t at home crying for his mommy like I’m sure he’s been doing for the past…hours? days? I should’ve gone home. When the girls asked me to go to open mic night. Or when everyone else began leaving. I should’ve gone too. I should’ve left that childhood love in the past where he belonged. I didn’t know he’d take my future from me.