Steven McDonald. I loved him. He was tall and muscular, with curly blonde hair. When he smiled, he blushed, and his cheeks turned pink.
He was on the basketball team, the baseball team and the football team.
Somehow I knew that his father worked as a prison guard. I'd heard rumors that he had a brother in prison for murder-something to do with drugs.
Steven McDonald. I imagined kissing his fingertips, putting his hand to the side of my face, feeling the warmth of his palm on my cheek. I wanted to kiss the pain from his face, the suffering of having a brother who was a murderer.
I wanted to kiss that mouth that would break into a lopsided grin after he ran for a touchdown.
I had dreams where he was crying for his brother, and he was calling my name. He was sobbing and rocking back and forth and I was on the street, there to cradle his crumpled body and nurse him back to sanity.
He was a senior. I was a freshman. I called him on the phone sometimes just to hear his voice. Of course, I never spoke.
He had a locker next to mine. I imagined leaving him chocolates, roses, pictures of me, a hand knit sweater, an album, posters.
I usually didn't see him and when I did, I was embarrassed. I felt like I knew him or part of him. I felt like I had a relationship with him. I felt close too him. And of course when I saw him, I realized that it was all bogus and I would be totally humiliated if he had even a glimpse into my fantasy life.
I wanted him to look at me. I wanted him to notice me. I wanted to walk by his side.
Once I told my friend Dana how much I liked him. Later in the week we were next to him at the locker and she unzipped the back of my dress, right in front of him. He gave me that lopsided grin. I was so embarrassed.
I expected him to say something to me after that. But he didn't.
But later in the year, one day I was getting my books out of my locker, bending down. When I straightened up, he was there. "Groovy pants," he said. I looked down at my new corduroy bellbottoms. They were nice. But I would never use the word groovy. It rubbed me the wrong way, like chalk against a blackboard.
He smiled his lospided grin, the blush of rose spread on his cheek. And I fell back in love with him.
Later that year, something amazing happened. I was taking driver's ed and so was he. And when they gave out the car assignments, I was in the same car as him.
I totally freaked out. I would be sitting in the same car as him for 45 minutes each week. Maybe I would even sit next to him.
I worried about my clothes. I decided to wear perfume, Jean Nate, since we would be so close. And to wear my blue corduroy bell bottoms. And my blue velvet vest. And my clogs. And my name necklace.
The next week, when I got into the car, my heart beat like a cymbal. I was sure everybody in the car could hear it. Steven was the first to drive. I was relieved because I was nervous to sit next to him. I was afraid I would start to sweat.
Steven began to drive. We drove down Broadway, down Scranton, and then, down Ocean Avenue. I saw a small child on the side of the road, riding his tricycle, all alone.
Suddenly he toppled over. He lay there, crying, his mouth bleeding.
"Stop," I shouted to Steven.
"Why?" asked Mr. Barrett, the driving instructor. He had not seen the kid.
"A kid just got hurt, and he's all alone."
"Turn around," said Mr. Barrett to Steven.
"He doesn't need us," said Steven. "He'll be fine." And he kept driving.
"But he's all alone," I said. "He's bleeding."
Mr. Barrett finally made Steven turn around. By that time, the little boy's mother was there, comforting him.
When Steven took his place in the back seat next to me, I didn't care how he looked. He had lost his charm for me.
And I realized something. I had never really loved him.
I had loved the idea of him. I had loved the idea of love.
I had made him up.