The Boy lay back on his bed and stared up at his ceiling. In his right hand he clenched a note the Girl had given him on Friday at school. It was Monday and he was thinking about being too sick to go to school. A few weeks ago the Boy and the Girl had had a Talk. It was his first time falling in love but when the Girl told him one day that they needed to have a Talk he knew it couldn’t be something good. The Boy figured they were talking all the time so “a Talk” was something else and probably not something good. He was right.
The Talk, when they finally had it, was mostly the Girl talking and she told the Boy that he’d changed. He wasn’t the same person she’d fallen in love with. She had a list of things the Boy was doing wrong, the ways he was being a lousy boyfriend and the hurts he was causing her. The Boy had changed and he didn’t give her the attention he once did and he was always out with his friend Don or doing stuff with the arts club and the making up just wasn’t doing it for her anymore. His world was getting so big she wasn’t sure she had a place in it anymore. And she was right.
But the Boy was in love with the Girl and he asked for another chance, “Let me try to change, you’ll see.” And he tried. But things were happening inside of him and after a week and a half of trying he realized he didn’t really want to. He wanted to change but not change back. He didn’t know what he was becoming but he knew what he’d been and that wasn’t doing it for him anymore, kisses or not.
So on Friday when the Girl handed the note to the Boy and the Boy read it on his way home part of him was crushed and part of him sighed with relief. “Ever since I let you try,” she wrote, “it’s only gotten worse.” And she was partly right. Their relationship had gotten worse but he was feeling better. He was still in love with the Girl but the Boy knew that going back was impossible. And maybe he wouldn’t do it even if it was possible.
On Monday as he lay on his bed and counted the bumps on his ceiling and decided whether he was sick he realized that arranging to have all their classes together and share lockers didn’t look so good now. They would be broken up but still together all day, every day and stuck on the seating chart together until the school year ended. Getting kicked once in the cojones (Spanish 102) was bad but getting them stomped every period of every day for the next several weeks would totally suck.
The Boy stood up and turned back to his bed and looked at the pillow. The feather pillow the Girl had given him. It still smelled like her. He loved the pillow but knew he couldn’t sleep on it anymore. He picked it up, inhaled deeply one last time and put it with his school stuff and took it with him when he left to face his first broken up day.
When the Boy got to school he walked with purpose, regret and fear to the Girl’s locker. She was there, talking to someone else, smiling. “She has such a great smile,” the Boy thought, “it lights up the whole hallway.” He was considering dropping to his knees and begging for one last chance. But then she turned and saw the Boy. The hallway went silent and her smile disappeared and was replaced by a look the Boy had never seen before. It felt like hate. The Girl’s eyes focused on the pillow and she arched her eye brow and looked back at the Boy’s face. He held the pillow out to her, “Here,” he said, “I thought you should have this back.” She took it without a word and then she did something that stunned the Boy and cut him more deeply than he thought he could be hurt. The Girl turned and tossed the pillow into a garbage can there in the hall.
The Boy walked to class, bleeding all over the hall as he went. He sat down in his seat and just stared into space. A few minutes later the Girl sat down in front of him in her assigned-for-the-rest-of-the-semester seat. At that moment the Boy realized he really was feeling sick at his stomach. He had always thought of a break up being a one time event, a painful moment but a moment, like getting a tooth pulled. Turns out it was more like a tooth-ache. Every minute of each long day.
As the days unfolded into weeks there were some days worse than others but seeing her every day, hearing her talk to everyone but him, smelling her hair as he sat right behind her in almost every class, every day was painful. And then it got worse. She started bringing pictures to class with her to show their mutual friend Darla who sat in the row beside her.
Pictures of her latest boyfriend.
8X10 pictures of him looking ruggedly handsome and zit free.
The Boy didn’t know this new guy, he lived in the city, but he hated him. And the boy wondered to himself, “who makes 8X10s of their own picture to give to someone?”
One night while the Boy lamented to his friends Don and Darla, who shared a class with the Boy and the Girl, Darla shared a secret. “She’s doing it on purpose,” she said, “the Girl told me that she wants to hurt you as much as you hurt her.” This was weeks later but hearing that from Darla hurt the Boy more than the break up had. He had no idea that he’d caused the Girl so much pain. He thought they’d been in love but now it was just about hate.
On the way to the car that night to go home the Boy’s friend, Don, told him one more secret. A secret he didn’t want to tell him but felt like he had to, that he’d want to know if he was the Boy. When he told the Boy the secret it drove a stake through the heart of anything left in the Boy for the love he’d felt for the Girl and all her kisses. It didn’t even matter if it was true, the Boy thought, just because he thought it could be true was enough. And 6 weeks after the Girl told the Boy it was over, it finally was.