Love, 1997

by rheeb

This is a good story.  A very good one.

It was April of 1997.  I was a fat, awkward nine-year-old in the fourth grade, who had no emotions (or emotional reactions) whatsoever.

It was a Thursday.

After all these years, I’m not sure if it was the 17th or the 24th, but it was near the end of the month and definitely a Thursday.  We had music on Thursdays, and our teacher, “418,” decided to take us outside to play for the hour.  I don’t know exactly how everything unfolded, but 418 decided to sit on the large, concrete base of one of the light poles in the parking lot.  I remember one of my classmates being with me.  And I remember talking to 418 for the entire hour.  And hell, I was nine, so we didn’t talk about anything too deep, but I remember feeling so present in that moment, just being able to talk without her judgment–without feeling awkward–without feeling like I wasn’t wanted.  And then the hour was up, and we had to go back to our classroom.  And I swear to you, as we stepped off the blacktop, it was like fireworks went off in my soul.  I remember distinctly saying to myself, “I’m gay.  I’m gay.”  And I didn’t feel any shame about it.  I didn’t feel any religious condemnation.  I simply felt absolutely alive.  Alive in the most amazing sense.  Like, I said, I didn’t feel anything emotional before that moment, unless I was in physical pain.  But that day, walking back to the building, I was real.  I was real, and I was alive.  Even today I still find myself smiling profusely just thinking about it.

Naturally, I kept this information to myself, but it didn’t stop me from being absolutely enamored with my teacher.  Thursdays were my favorite days, and I dreaded weekends like the plague.  On weekends, I would cry and cry and cry some more.  I felt like weekends were punishment.  I remember being in the downstairs bathroom, just crying my eyes out and counting down the hours it would take to get to Monday so that I could see 418 again.  Every love song I heard reminded me of her.  That was also the same year that Harriet the Spy had come out on tape, and there was a Paramount preview that had a remade version of the Happy Days theme song on it.  Anyways, I remember rewinding the tape to hear the song over and over again and just welling up with tears.  Oh GOD, how I missed 418 on the weekends!  And then Monday would come, and I would be up, dressed, and ready to go to school!  Once I’d get there, I would scan the hallways for her, and when I’d see her in the crowd, my heart would just flutter!  And I remember my hands aching.  Always.  When I would anticipate seeing her, I would get this intense nervousness in my hands.  As the school year finished out, like the little lesbian I was, I tried to get to know her.  My strategy was, well, let me explain.  She made us write an essay on Johann Sebastian Bach.  I got an A.  But this other kid in my class got an A+.  I truly didn’t care, but to use this opportunity to get attention from her, I said, “Where is my A+?”  She humored me, and the next time we had to do an essay, she gave me an A++.  When she handed me back my paper, she said, “And where’s my hug?”  And we hugged, and it was amaaaazingggg!  So, from that point to the end of the school year, whenever I’d see her, I’d say, “Like, where’s my hug?”  And we’d hug, because she was just…so amazing to me.

In the middle of May, I found out that her birthday was coming up.  I was determined to make it special for her, so I had all of my classmates bring in items for a party I was going to throw her.  Seriously.  I gave everyone my phone number, and the night before the party, I remember my classmates and their parents calling me over and over again, asking if what they planned to bring was OK.  Looking back on this is fucking amazing, because, again, I was nine, so it’s interesting that I had so much going on.  Anyways, the day of the party (and her birthday), everything was in place.  We had more food than anyone could have imagined.  Someone even brought in a large sheet cake!  Plus, I had one of the boys in my class “deejay” it.  The only music I had at the time was an old MC Hammer audio tape, but hell, I figured it would work itself out.  I remember just wanting to make the day extra special for her, and I made everyone in my class promise to keep the party a secret from her.  It was a huge success.  Even AntiM stopped by.

Now, as summer approached, I distinctly remember asking myself how I would survive without seeing her.  By that point, I was crying over her every weekend and counting down hours (we’re talking six to seven weekends, here).  Before I get ahead of myself, 418 was 22 at the time (and turned 23 at the party).  Her mother was (and is) AntiM.  Even though I wish I could pull young Rheeb to the side and tell her to not follow her feelings, I had also fallen pretty madly for AntiM.  They, naturally, look very similar.  So, I had two crushes at the time–mother and daughter.  Still kinda funny.  Now, in the beginning of the summer, I was being babysat by my dad’s ex-wife, “Hawaii.”  I know that sounds odd.  But it’s true, I stayed at her house during the day.  And talk!  I talked about 418 constantly.  Oh, I pined over her.  Hawaii lived in a cul-de-sac, so across the street, I saw a woman, at random coming out of the house, who looked just like 418.  I remember peering through the backyard gate, just hoping to catch a glimpse of this random red-head every time I went outside.  A few weeks later, Hawaii decided to move out of state, so I ended up at Fundie Academy’s summer camp.

For the first couple of weeks I was at camp, 418 wasn’t around.  But then one night, I had a dream that I saw her at the end of the hallway, staring at me with big eyes.  The next day, I swear to you, my class was walking in the line towards the school bus to go swimming, and there she was with big eyes, standing at the end of the hallway.  It was like heaven just to see her!  When we got to the pool later that morning, 418 jumped right in.  And she was wearing this gray bathing suit with a neck strap.  I must have been talking to her, because I remember looking down at her as she was floating in the water and thinking to myself, “Goodness, she has such big breasts.”  Even then, I just loved large breasts.  Good memories.

There are times when I am so happy–so ridiculously overjoyed that God allowed me the gift of being able to love other women.  I see it as a super power.  It’s memories like this that remind me of who I am, and for that, I am truly thankful.

Song of the Day: Have You Seen Her by MC Hammer