It’s the turn of the century, for me grade 11, second year of High School. There’s this boy I find incredibly dreamy. He looks like he just walked off the page of a graphic novel. Taller and thinner than most of the other guys, he has this exotic looking face that if I explain it won’t sound nearly as beautiful as it is. His hair cut is a few years out of style but ironically has always been my favorite. He often wears these long, baggy, silver shorts with a black T-shirt and a jade Buddha on a chain that has been semi-popular among the Asian crowd.
I’ll call him Nguyen. There are 3 guys in the school who have the same first and last name as each other. One is in my homeroom class, another in my animation class. Of course, the one I really like is not in any of my classes.
I mention him to my friends sometimes, when they ask me who my love interest is. No one really says anything about him. One girl mentions having a class with him. Another lets me know when he’s passing by our group. Word must be getting around that I like “Nguyen” because I start to draw attention from the other two. Nguyen from homeroom starts talking to me and checking me out. I catch him doing this when he leans way absurdly over in his chair to check out my ass as I walk by. He doesn’t take into account that he’s fully visible in a window reflection I’m heading toward. Reflections girls… use them.
I’m sitting in animation class when the bell rings. I stay a few minutes longer to finish up what I’m working on. Nguyen from this class is at the computer beside me and also stays a few minutes longer… to ask me out. Yes, he’s actually asking me to go to a party with him tonight. I’m a shy girl though and at this moment my brain is telling me that he’s not actually asking me out, telling me not to get presumptuous. It’s a confusing moment because he’s quite clearly doing this. So I stay silent. He says it’s with some family friends at a house on an island near by. People will be dressing nicely for it and he wants someone to bring along. He’s cute and there’s nothing I have against the idea of going out with him, but he’s not the one I want to be dating – If I go out with him I feel it would diminish any chance I have of dating the one I want. What chance is that though? Oh god, I need to find a way to get near the one I like to see if he’ll even like me! – There are too many red flags around this invite for my comfort. A house party with what could end up being the Vietnamese gang of the school, on a small deciduous island that I’d have no way off of until 6 am – time of the first ferry. It kind of sounds like a set up for a scary movie. Perhaps I’ve got it wrong and all these uncomfortable feelings are flooding in from other parts of my life. It just feels too far out of my comfort zone and I’m afraid to say no. I should politely decline, but I don’t. I don’t say anything. Not until Monday when I sit down beside him and apologize for not answering him. He doesn’t say anything.
Oh wait, when he gets up to leave the computer he says something.
“What?” I ask.
“You heard me,” he says.
I think I hear the word “bitch”, but I really have no idea what he says. So it’s probably bad. I tend to block out bad things.
Then someone tells me that the Nguyen I like is playing basketball in the gym at lunch hours. I like basketball.
The gym is large and is divided into half courts. The two at the far side are for practicing shots. The 2 closest to the hallway entrance are for games. A friend agrees to come with me to check it out. We start by sitting on the bleachers. He’s not there. With her encouragement I get up to shoot a few practice shots with the others there. We return the next day. He shows. But he’s not practicing shots, he’s playing on the games. I spend a couple lunch hours just shooting on the practice court. Until, eventually I work up the nerve to join the games. I start, of course, on the one he’s not playing in. I have this weird paranoia of being outgoing. So I want to be as subtle as possible. Though I’m pretty sure he knows I like him now.
It’s not long before we do play a game together. Possibly the most energizing game I’ve played. We are on opposing teams, so we don’t say anything to each other. Though once it’s over, I work up enough nerve to say “good game”, then speed up my pace and rush out the doors before he even has a chance to say anything back.
We both play continuously lunch hour after lunch hour, never saying anything, but it starts to become apparent that he really likes me too. My friend points this out. He even trades lockers with the person right beside mine. We bump elbows once while at our lockers. I want to speak to him. I really do. But I am at a loss for words and I really want him to talk to me first. But he doesn’t. He’ll look at me as often as I look at him and whenever I cross by him and his friends in the hall, all his friends will look at me but he’ll pretend to not notice.
He sits against the wall next to the courts. He doesn’t play much today. It’s the most perfect opportunity to talk with him. My friend tries to talk me into going over to him. But the more I think about it the more insecure about it I become. I just can’t. Why doesn’t he come speak to me. Is it because I’m with a friend? Or because he feels the same way I do?
He stops showing up at lunch hours. The courts suddenly feels very lonely. He starts spending his time with the Vietnamese gang and with a group of girls extended from that gang. We exchange only glances. It crushes me. It feels like just like a break up. The pain stays with me for months. After the school year is over it starts to heal, but it leaves an unforgettable mark.