About the same time last year, I loved you. I think the feeling was mutual. It must have been. We used to trade music on flash drives, back and forth. After four straight weeks of being at our boarding school, I was sitting on the bus that would take me home. Peace at last. I finally had the time to check what music you'd given me. I noticed a song called "Listen to this!.m4a." When I clicked on it, I heard soft guitar music in the background, then your voice, asking me out to the Sadie Hawkins dance a few weeks away. You ended by inviting me to answer in my own creative way, so two days later, at my house, I took pictures of objects arranged in the shape of the letters 'Y' 'E' 'S.'
I'm not sure what happened the night of the dance, on Valentine's Day. We got to the gym late and didn't stay long. You wore a dress and make-up and I wore a hoodie over a polo. I would have worn something more formal if I thought that it would make you like me more. I danced terribly, but you were laughing, so I didn't think it mattered, even though you've taken dance lessons since you were eight. When we left the gym, there was still plenty of time, so we walked over to swings and sat down. Your best friend left us to ourselves to talk. But instead of words there was just silence. You looked around and said, "It's so depressing... all these couples around us." I thought this might have been an anvil-sized hint. I was too shy to seize the moment then.
I saw you in hallways and in class. You saw a picture of a painting I'd done and asked for one of your own. I obliged, spending hours and hours at my desk piecing together your picture. Finally, I delivered it to you outside your hall. You liked it. The following Saturday, I saw you lying under the trees on a towel reading Franny and Zooey. I came a few minutes later with my own towel and book. You said nothing, but kept reading.
I read it in your blog when you said that boys were frustrating and you couldn't wait much longer. I thought your impatience was directed at me. You laughed at the things that I said even when they weren't very funny, so I'm blaming you. You asked me out to the dance, so I'm blaming you.
Of course you will remember when I asked you out. (Through email, naturally, because I am a coward.) I checked my inbox every hour waiting for some response. There was a meeting in the lecture hall that Wednesday, an interest meeting for people who wanted to take the American Film Seminar. I was interested of course, and so were you. You got there before me; when I sat down next to you, you gave me this sideways glance and moved away to sit with some other friend in the next row. I don't think you even said 'hello.'
I knew it then. I think something burst inside me, and although the meeting started and they explained what we would be doing the rest of the semester, I wasn't paying attention. I sat in the back and doodled intently on the back of a handout. When it ended, I left quickly. I never went to another one of those meetings. I walked back to the swings. I must have swung for close to an hour, and although I had work to do, I just kept moving and thinking, staring up at the clouds. It felt like some part of me had already known when I hadn't immediately gotten a response.
When I did get a reply later that evening, you said that "we wouldn't work out." I've always wondered what you meant by that. As I saw it, we were almost perfectly compatible. Maybe I was just too awkward, too quiet, too depressed. Maybe I wasn't as exciting as I seemed at first.
I floated through the rest of the year. Eventually I learned to avoid all eye contact with you. I tried to pretend you had never existed. I didn't wave when we passed in the hallways. Before, I used to spend half my time on the weekends with you. Then I disappeared from your life. I don't think you minded. I was even more depressed than I had been before we were friends. Just when I had been getting better.
Once, at the end of the year, I was sitting alone at a table in the cafeteria, as I often do. There were so few other people, you didn't have anyone to sit with, so you sat down next to me. You practically slammed your tray down as you took the seat to my right. You greeted me and you were polite. I gave brief, noncommittal responses to the one or two questions you posed. I don't think I looked into your eyes even when we talked. I just stared into my food. You smiled. You seemed to be doing well. It was too awkward for you though, and you left quickly, leaving me alone again.
During summer, I thought about you, but only a little. I had stopped trying to pretend you didn't exist, but I didn't pay you any attention. When school started again, despite what I thought I should feel, I began to like you again. Then it stopped. After that, I hated you. Then I liked you. Then I ignored you, then I loved you. You didn't notice any of this, of course, because we weren't friends anymore. While your best friend fell in love with me, I started replacing you with another girl. After a few months, she got tired of waiting for me to ask her out. I used to be cautious; now I'm paranoid, because of you. Then I was the one replaced. The new girl started to hang out with another guy, and I was gradually pushed out of the picture.
Which brings us up to date. It's snowing outside, and I'm beginning to wonder if it will ever stop. This time last year, the sun was out, and you asked me out to that stupid dance. But on Friday, the girl who sits in front of me in my Spanish class asked me to the same dance, out of the blue. She even used Spanish. How lucky am I to get asked out in a creative way two years in a row? I said 'yes' even though I knew your best friend would want to ask me. I didn't want to be mean. But I still think it will end in disappointment for the girl. Just like last year.
I still keep that music file you sent me. Listening to it on my way home last year, I thought your voice was the best thing I'd ever heard. You said we would go "just as friends," but the way you laughed after you said this and how you spent the time putting together the track suggested otherwise. Today I tried to listen to the track again for the first time in almost ten months. I clicked on the file, but the computer stalled, then froze. I had to restart my laptop. The computer insisted on checking for disk errors. It found only one, specifically naming your track. After that, the computer started normally, but when I tried again to listen to it, a window popped up and told me the file had become corrupted.