Close Your Eyes, I'll Watch Over You, Just Tell Me What You Want Me To Do, Close Your Eyes, Just Remember To Breathe
He wasn’t the first boy I liked. He wasn’t the most intelligent. He wasn’t the cutest. And he definitely wasn’t the smoothest, the one with the most game. Nope, he was only modestly intelligent, fairly cute, and somewhat clumsy. What he was, though, was the first boy ever to like me back and the first boy ever to make me feel I was special. And for that I’ll never forgive him. It’s a hard thing to forget when an individual instills in you a sense of pride in what and who you are. All sorts of mishaps occur when you think you are better than you once were. You start to believe all the press and you start to act differently. You begin to take chances you had never taken before and you start to have feelings that you didn’t know you were fully capable of. You start to believe that there, indeed, is a way for you two. You start to envision what it’d be like to build a future around him. Nope, he wasn’t the first boy I liked, but he definitely was the first boy I ever loved. I can honestly say that.
I watched my bare feet hanging off the edge of the balcony. I had such pretty toes, unpainted and plain as the day I was born, but pretty nonetheless. I often came out to the edge of the balcony outside my bedroom. I would sit down, slide my legs between the posts of the guardrail, and stare down from my perch at the world below. I could see for a couple of block in each direction and people could see me contemplating from the same distance. All in all, it was a nice place to meditate on the sea of my life and memories. That day was different, though; that day I had accompaniment. Sitting beside me, with his slightly larger and older legs hanging off the edge, was Patrick.
“You have to think I’m a terribly wicked child,” I added to the conversation.
“Not at all. Why would I think that, Breanne?”
“Oh, everyone does. It’s alright, sugar. I’ve accepted I’m never going to be a saint.”
I felt his left arm slide around my shoulders as I saw him scoot closer to me. That day was the first I’d ever met him in person, yet he touched me like we’d been best buds for our whole lives. The manner in which he was unafraid to get close to me let me know that it wasn’t an act with him; he truly felt like I was special. I let him put his arm around me, possibly calculating that my off-handed comment would elicit such a response. The truth was I knew he would try to comfort me. I wanted him to comfort me. I had a plan, you see. Like I said, even at fourteen I had an idea of the wickedness that was inherent in my nature.
“Personally, I think sainthood is overrated. Everyone knows sinners are what’s hot right now. Sinners are what’s en vogue, Breannie. I know why I think you’re wicked, but why do you think you are?”
“Something Shelly told me.”
I had been at my cousin Shelly’s seventeenth birthday soiree when she had told me something that made me doubt myself. She had told me that God has a place for girls who let their hearts be overcome with lust for the opposite sex and that it wasn’t right my associating with a boy so many years older than me. Apparently, by way of mother, the gossip had spread throughout the entire extended Holins clan. Most had thought it was innocent and my mother had reassured them that my Eeyore was a stand-up guy. She had talked to him personally, she let the whole family know, and from what she had heard he honestly had no ill intent towards me. Yet there were dissenters, like Shelly, who thought no good could come of the friendship and she felt no timidity in letting me know so. You know where you’re headed if you continue, Breanne, she had said. The wicked are always punished in the end, she told me. Always.
I, of course, couldn’t let her bully me into tucking tail and deserting the kinship it had taken so long to cultivate. I had invited Patrick to come visit me two days after the party. I hadn’t expected him to accept. But accept he had and now here he was, in the flesh.
The closer his imminent arrival became, however, the more the self-doubt about the purity of my intention began to increase. I could play it off with mother and daddy that his coming was merely a case of one friend visiting another. But my heart held a terrible secret—I wasn’t exactly sure if friendship was all I was looking for. I, of course, would see how the visit progressed and make no attempts to instigate. Yet I knew to my core that, if the visit progressed to where I secretly hoped it would progress, I would expend no effort to halt its progress either. I wanted to remain neutral, neither encouraging nor discouraging the natural course of events from taking place.
Yet there I was, sitting beside him on the balcony, underhandedly forcing events in a direction I wanted them to turn out. I admit that now, though I could not admit it then. I was as much arranging the pieces to my advantage as playing the game.
“What did she say?” I heard him ask plaintively.
“She said that I wasn’t a good girl for being friends with you. Do you think that’s true?”
“No, I don’t think that’s true. You can be friends with anyone you want to be friends with. She shouldn’t tell you that you’re not good for being friends with me. If anything I’m the evil one.”
“When people see us walking down the street it’s not you that they think is taking advantage of me. They all think I’m taking advantage of you. You’re the innocent one,” he said, moving his left arm from around my shoulders and rubbing my head like you would a niece or nephew.
I playfully brushed aside his hand so that his arm once more came to rest around me.
“I’m not that innocent.”
He only nodded his head.
I swiveled my head to face him. I stared at the messy black hair, the slightly worn brown eyes reddened due to a lack of sleep, the smile that had never left his lips since the moment he arrived at the airport. I wanted him to know what I was feeling. I wanted him to know how utterly perfect I thought he was for me. I wanted him to care about me as something other than his friend. I wanted him.
I moved myself closer to him so that our legs were now touching, my bare skin to the feel of his denim. It sent shivers through my legs. I attempted to stifle any effort to how giddy I was. I couldn’t let him see the extent of my ever-evolving plan. I saw him turn his head to look at my right leg touching him. If he was nervous or put off he only smiled it away. We both turned our heads back to the horizon.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, B. You’re alright with me, innocent or not.”
“I’m just worried that I have holes in the fabric of my conscience. People always seem to worry about me being impulsive.”
Here, he paused a bit. I honestly thought I heard the gears working inside his mind and after a brief repose he said something I have never forgotten.
“I think your impulsiveness is cute. It’s one of the reasons I like you so much, Breannie. And, as for your holes, I think it’s our holes that allow the light to come through. It’s all the ways you’re imperfect that make you special.”
I began to blush, hopefully not noticeably, but I am still not sure how much he noticed. Inside I felt warm, like someone had wrapped a blanket around my heart. After being told by so many people that it’s only for how I am cute or for how I am talented that I was liked, that was the first time someone had let me know my flaws could be endearing too. I didn’t have to try and be perfect around him. I could be little ‘ole Breanne and that would be fine too. In fact, it would be more than fine, it would be great because there would be no pressure or guilt. I wouldn’t feel like I was letting somebody else down. I could be content to make myself happy through this friendship and not feel like I had to do all the work in insuring it succeeded. He made me feel like it was going to succeed no matter what and that’s a very freeing feeling to possess. I felt like I could say anything, do anything, be any type of friend I wanted to be and it would still be okay. I began to see we’d always be okay, no matter what.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” I asked, stealing from his own playbook.
“Do you ever think that someday we’ll be more than friends, Patrick?”
“Sometimes,” he laughed.
“And do you ever think what that will be like if we do?”
“Perhaps,” he continued. “Perhaps we’d get married someday and I’d build you a house where all the doors and ceilings fit you perfectly even if I had to stoop to get around. I think it’d be worth it to give you a place that was built just for you. I was thinking about that the entire plane ride here—how you said this house didn’t feel like your home. I was thinking how that’d be the perfect gift for you, a house you can tell your friends and family was designed with only you in mind.”
I could feel my cheeks getting redder by the second. I, too, had also pictured about owning my own home. I pictured the orange walls I would paint the instant I bought the house. People always told me that I couldn’t paint my walls orange because it wasn’t a “normal” color. It only made me want to own the orange-walled home more. And now here was Patrick telling me he would be willing to give me the house built all for me. I felt even more spoiled than people told me I already was.
I removed my legs from the railing and tucked them beneath me. If Patrick took notice of that he didn’t let on any. I then kneeled and started leaning into him. I saw him turn to face me.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m trying to kiss you.” And with that I kissed him quickly and without much finesse before he turned his head completely away.
“We can’t do this. It doesn’t feel right.”
“Sure, we can, Patrick. I want us to,” I said, making another attempt.
“Well, then I can’t, Breannie. Right now you’re like my younger sister. I said perhaps someday we’ll be more, but right now it feels weird. I’m sorry.”
I should have been crushed. There I was, prostrating myself in front of him, and being rejected out of hand. What was worse is that I had the sneaking suspicion that it wasn’t even the kiss he objected to, but his own guilt in the matter. Maybe it was true. Maybe the burden of taking advantage of me weighed heavily upon him, but at that moment I genuinely did not care. I wanted him. Straight and true, I wanted him. And I didn’t care if he knew it.
It wasn’t my first kiss with a boy. There had been a few others who had worked up the courage to peck, slobber, or otherwise mangle what I always thought should be a beautiful thing between two people who cared for each other. No, it wasn’t my first kiss. But it was the first kiss that should have mattered to me and because of his fears it was irrevocably ruined. No, it wasn’t my first kiss. But it was the first time I’d ever tried to kiss somebody special. And now the moment had passed, maybe to never come again.
“Don’t you want me at all?” I asked shyly.
But he only continued to stare at the far off distance. I had lost him. I had been too forward, too brazen, and too impatient. And now we would probably never get the moment back again. I had thought wicked thoughts and now I was going to be punished by never being able to follow through on my wicked thoughts again. That’d teach me to have wicked thoughts. It might just be the thing that returned me on the path to virtue. I wanted him so much. Yet by wanting him too much and acting on my wants I feared I’d lost him for good.
After about ten minutes of neither one of us talking, I gave up. I sighed, resigned to the fact that we’d only ever be friends and that my hopes of something more had gone the way of the kiss. I thought perhaps we’d look back on this day and laugh at what a fool I’d made of myself. We’d both say that we wished we had gone through with it, but then agree it was for the best we never got a chance to finish what I’d started. I may have been young at the time, but I knew how memories worked. I knew the stinging and bitterness I felt then at being thwarted in my efforts would fade to fondness and nostalgia with the intervening years. I was preparing myself for the inevitability of the stagnation of our relationship. We were going to be great friends, and only great friends, forever.
I stood up to go back into my bedroom, maybe to shed a few tears but definitely to get away from him for the time being.
But as I stood up he stood up as well. He embraced me in his arms and looked down upon me like you look upon the girl or boy you’re deeply in love with. His instructions were simple.
“Don’t stare at me and try to breathe normally, Breanne,” he said through a weakened smile.
When is she ever gonna get her turn
To hold onto something just for once?
I complied as best I could and then we kissed. It was a heartfelt kiss between two people who cared for each other and would continue to care for each other for a very long time. It wasn’t the last time we kissed and it wasn’t the best kiss we’ve ever had.
But it was the first we ever shared and it was the one this wicked, wicked girl absolutely enjoyed the most.