Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Growing Apart

He strutted into the lunchroom like a butterscotch sun-kissed god. A simultaneous pause of breath cascaded from the mouths of on looking prepubescent girls. A black crushed leather jacket draped over his shoulders and swung side to side as he made his way to the boys table.

A southern drawl slid from his lips as I watched them move effortlessly. “Hi, I’m Aaron.” His vowels were elongated and different from the shorter ones that left our own tongues. He reintroduced himself to the class while the boys jumped up and down exclaiming, “He’s back!” and placed fives on his palms. The whispers started around the room. He left the school two years ago when his mother’s job was transferred to Louisiana. It was apparent that he’d immersed himself in their culture, judging by his speech & movement.

I had come into the school about a year ago, a transfer from Brooklyn to the burbs, and wasn’t as familiar with him as the other kids seemed to be. His mother was transported again, and once more he was planted back into his hometown. My new world.

I was still staring at Aaron, bewildered by his quick assimilation, forgetting I was knee deep into a journal entry. I heard the familiar cackle of crows behind me and turned around. My archenemy aka Bully Supreme—who seemed 6’2 at the time—stood behind me with a few of her tag-a-longs.

“Southern boy, cute huh?” She asked.

I knew better than to give her a real answer. I shifted my eyes back to my journal and continued to write.

“I know you hear me freak. He’ll never like you, so don’t even think about it.”

I smirked, “I guess that means you like him then.”

Her eyes flew open, “No it doesn’t. I’m just making sure I bring you BACK to the real world.”

She and her cackling friends dispersed back to their table of evil. Aaron looked over at me for the first time since he walked into the lunch room. He smiled. I returned the favor and then concluded my entry. He’d made his way into the diary. It was official.

Two Months Later

We were both assigned Assistant Marshall positions during fire drills. My hands were moist with anxiety from standing next to the boy I’d been admiring for the last eight weeks. He stood across from me, helping to usher and direct the other children. He asked, after everyone was in their rightful place, “Why don’t you ever speak to me?”

I smiled, “Because you’ve got all those other girls offering up their good conversation.”

He laughed, “Not the one who always looks like she has something to talk about, Ms.-Face-In-A-Book.”

I now pass the place we formed our friendship on the way to work, now that I teach in our old district. I’ve envisioned the ghost of his butterscotch arms around my caramel neck, laughing and giggling about whatever ten year olds chuckle at.

Sidenote: Your heart always knows what’s about to happen. I remember having a flighty sort of relationship with a guy I was digging in high school. There was one night he called, which rarely ever happened, frustrated at something that affected his day. I listened intently while he rambled on and on about it. My heart told me that THIS was going to be the conversation. The back and forth that would define our future. As I started to parade my advice around his ear, my father stormed up the steps having heard me on the phone. I was fourteen and still had a bedtime. I hung up the phone quickly, pretended to be asleep, and text the guy to tell him that I would talk to him the next day. The following day, right after I was out of school, I called him as soon as the bus pulled up to my house. I was all ears and listened for his longing voice once more. But the vibe was different today, “I mean, I worked it out. I’m cool.”

“Our” moment had passed.

It’s within these moments, small definitive intervals, that we either gain an everlasting memory or one that shall haunt winds of regret forever. In my case, I missed out on four:


Our 8th grade year, having separated into different middle schools, I happened upon a friendship with his stepsister. Our families soon started to mingle, sharing Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other occasions together. My heart grew wide watching his laughter erupt alongside my father’s and his own. At thirteen, I could envision them doing the same exact thing ten years later.

On one of those nights he peeked his head into the kitchen where my mother and I were washing plates, “Hey Mrs. B, can I ask you something about Erica?”

I shuddered, nervous as to what his mischievous behind was up to. I snatched his arm and pulled him into the other room, leaving my mother perplexed.

“What the heck are you about to do?” I asked him.

He stuck his tongue out and said, “Never mind, I’ll try the next time I’m around your mom and you’re not here.”


Our high school marching band coach often made us practice and perform in the rain. On the day of our sophomore pep rally, we’d decided we had enough. We sat in the instrument closet long after our band members had departed for the football field. Having never been on campus when it was so eerily silent, we set off exploring. Soon we found ourselves snuggled up in front of a heater in the ninth grade wing. We were twins; matching black and gold hoodies, the school name embossed on our chests, tenor saxophone straps dangling from our necks, and snickers lingering in our throats.
He pulled his knees to his chest and asked, “Are we best friends?”
I laughed and fidgeted with the strap around my neck, “Of course dummy.”

He placed his hand on my own and my heart sunk somewhere into the pit of my stomach. Placing his face close to mine, I could feel his words tickle the skin on my lips, “Remember that night when I came into the kitchen? The question I had to ask your mom?”

My heart did flips through the butterflies in my stomach, “Yeah, I remember.”

He moved his hand from the back of mine and placed it on the side of my face that was dangerously close to his butterscotch.

“I wanted to ask them because I know they’re strict, but they trust me. I wanted to know if….”

The thunder of our band coaches’ voice could be heard echoing through the hallways, “I’M MISSING SOME BAND MEMBERS!”

We grabbed our knapsacks and headed to the third floor. We were up to our usual shenanigans: Missing band practice, hanging out in the “no boy/girl zones” of our houses, and lying for one another, never missing a beat. Something was different this time. The visual, usually detailed by a fleeing boy and girl, steps apart, looking over their shoulders were now parallel and holding hands in their race.


It was the summer before college. I caught him taking the prom queen to Houston’s with white roses in one hand, her in the other. He found me filing through record stores with one of the emcees I adored. Passing each other, when we were alone, in school hallways was uneventful. We smiled, said hello, and caught up on one another’s life. However, when we were with our “significant others” a look of guilt spread across our faces, like we’d committed the worst of sins.

At graduation he ran over and congratulated me. “When are you leaving?” he asked. I told him that I was leaving two days after the ceremony. I’d just received notice that I’d been accepted into pre-college. He was shocked and I could see his sadness pool into his eyes, too much of a man to let them become waterfalls.

The next day, stuck in the madness of the moving boxes in my living room, there was a knock at the door. Aaron stood at full build, broad shoulders, a defined face, and his butterscotch skin peeking through his loose shirt. We spoke with our eyes as he helped me with a few things I had left to pack. While placing a frame with our picture in one of the boxes he turned and kissed me full on my lips. I ignored the stop of my heart, knowing that if I acknowledged his attempt I’d immerse myself into a situation that would never embrace reality.

As he left and I wrapped my arms around him for the last time, the circumference of his own arms made me feel extremely small and vulnerable at 5’11.


We instant messaged, threw a few texts here and there, and rarely called during the first year of school. The memory of his perfection spoke to me through quick glances at the old pages of my treasured journals.

He called one night, “I’m in Hampton, for a band trip. Come see me.” I dropped everything, packed a night bag, and took a cab to him. He answered the door, his glow less vibrant than the one I’d become accustomed to. I slipped into the hotel bathroom after embracing him to pull myself together. I was trembling with excitement. In the bathroom, I noticed a curling iron, a few items of makeup, and a pack of pads. He had a girl with him.

I walked out as he was settling down on the bed to watch a game. I asked, “Who did you come here with?”

He smirked, “Does it matter. They’re not here and I wanted to see you.”

I reassessed my best friend. The hometown boy next door with the slight hint of a faded deep southern accent had an unfamiliar slur in his words. His loose shirt, jeans, and keyboard/saxophone fingers were replaced by fresh kicks, a tight white beater, and a sinister smile I’d never seen cross his precious lips.

I pulled my things together and called a cab back to campus. The cab driver must’ve sensed my fury and rush to leave because he showed up within two minutes. I reenacted our ten year old conversation as I left the room, “Guess you let those “other” girls get to you.”

Present Day

I’m an eighth grade English/Language Arts teacher. He is a music teacher. He is a hip-hop producer. I am a hip-hop emcee. We both have a love of the tenor sax, art, and creativity alike. How can two flowers from the same bulb bloom a hybrid apart?

He could say that my anger was unprecedented, having no claim to him. We could both agree that our years of silence were pointless. The world could tell us that it was never meant to be.

But I swear, it’s those moments…

Those moments, small definitive intervals, that we either gain an everlasting memory or one that shall haunt winds of regret forever...

I’ve been a tumbleweed ever since.




Anonymous said...

Amazing story! You always keep it fresh Riv. I'm still in awe.

magdaayuk said...

awww:( I enjoyed reading this post. Wonderfully written, it was like watching a movie! Maybe you two are meant to be! It's never too late...Do you both live in the same city? Are you on speaking terms now?

Veronica said...

Wow!...I'm in tears. This read as well as Hughes and I'm not tooting your horm. How beautiful and tormenting all at the same time.

Christina said...

I really hope a book will follow all of these great posts soon. You are really an outstanding writer. The last part of this story is going to stay with me for days.

Unknown said...

Wow. I was loving the (no pun intended) flow of the story, but all those moments! You couldn't be more right on things like that, how a moment is so individualized and how it can color an outlook. Love love love.

Amber Steez said...

umm you need to write a book.

okay bye

T. ODIS said...

SO amazing...you make me want to write!!!! Get it, Riv!!!!