Note to my readers: My website is undergoing maintenance. While you can read and comment, I cannot post for a few days. This story should tide you over for awhile.)
Deep down, I knew it was harder to move a mountain, yet my greatest wish was to wear his class ring on Valentine’s Day. He (I’ll call him R) didn’t know I existed. In a high school that boasted less than 400 students, that wasn’t saying much.
I eyed R from afar in classes we shared together, his curly brown hair framing his deep brown eyes. Not a word was ever exchanged between us, yet my wish held firm. I wrote down my wish in my journal at least a hundred times, willing it to come true. At night, I prayed that a higher power could somehow intervene on my behalf.
Valentine’s Day arrived, in a bleak winter, much like this one. The ring would have turned the dreary winter day into a bright spot. As I turned to leave the school that day, there was a present carefully wrapped, sitting in front of my locker. My name was written on the box. The day that started out so bleakly, was starting to turn much brighter.
Once opened, the package did not reveal the ring I had hoped for, but rather white chocolate candy, laced with peppermint candy chunks. White and red sugary sweets.
The poem and accompanying card revealed that this Valentine’s Day Package was from a guy I considered one of my best friends. Just a friend. He hoped we could be more. (I will call him J.)
I looked up and down the halls, but J was no where in sight. I stepped out into the cold barren winter landscape, and saw J jump into the car, driven by his mom. I waved, and caught his eye just before she pulled away. She pulled the car into a parking stop, and I ran down to the car to thank him. I was flushed with guilt and awkwardness over accepting a gift from someone I had rather not given me the gift, worried over misleading him with my false gratitude. As I spoke, I was filled with sorrow over the fact that I was indeed forgotten by R on Valentine’s Day.
Now that I am a mother, my memory of that exchange has more to do with the reaction of his mom, rather than J. The twinkle in her eye revealed that she too knew about his secret wish; and this beautifully-wrapped package was more her idea of “what a girl want,” than his.
Still, for all her effort, the gift did not win my heart, and I know now how this probably disappointed her more than it did J.
After expressing my thank yous, she drove away. I turned to make my way home, looking down at the ground, sad that my wish was not wrapped in the package. Why couldn’t that candy have been enough?
As I walked, I continued my downward cast. There, on the ground, pushed down into the mud, I saw something shiny and gold. Reaching down to pull away the mud, I found a ring. R’s initials were carved on the inside. They really were. Here, on my way home from school, on Valentine’s Day, I was holding his ring, and slipping it, cold and dirty, onto my finger. Exactly how I imagined.
There was no logical reason for why his ring would be here on my path. He rode the bus, and would have never tarried down this way.
At home, I carefully washed off the ring, but still had trouble slipping it back onto my finger. This wasn’t right; I knew that even though in context my wish of wearing his ring did come true, this wasn’t really, exactly what I had hoped for.
At school the next day, I had to summon the courage to actually come face to face with him, and give R back the ring that I had found for him. There was more than a little hope in my heart that this was all his plan, and he would reveal his shared wish to me, once I delivered the ring. He would simply say, “Keep it. It’s yours.” This was my new fantasy.
When I finally spotted him, I could barely look him in the eye, and I’m sure my hands were shaking as I tried to tell him and show him what I had found. Suddenly, I began to worry that he might be angry, and accuse me of taking his ring. Instead, he simply said, “Thanks,” took the ring in his palm and moved quickly back down the hall, with his toes all wrapped up in his black, soft-heeled sneakers, with a bounce in his step. I swear he looked as if he had “escaped.”
Later, I learned why the ring had fallen in my path. He had given it to my neighbor. He had asked her to go steady. She had dropped it on the way home ahead of me.
He should have known better. He should have given it to me; I wouldn’t have lost it.