“She shouldn’t care about me that much! She cares about me too much! She should have looked both ways. She should have looked one way. Not at me but at the road. But she was looking the wrong way. She was looking at me.”
Warning: There are several moments of intense language in this narrative. If “potty-mouth” is an issue for you, simply exit the novel.
Beginning of Seventh Grade
I glance at her. Then quickly swap my focus. For her to catch me staring at her is a risk I would not want to take. But god was she pretty. I can’t even match a word to her beauty, her personality, just…her.
She is gorgeous, obviously. Determined, powerful, deceiving. Anyone would love her positives or negatives. She’s smart, creative, funny, honest, sweet, compelling, dangerous, yes I said dangerous, tough, stubborn, independent, and a warrior. She literally was perfect, it’s like someone gave me the best Christmas present ever! But she is more than a gift. She’s a goddess. I honestly could describe her and talk about her all day.
Sure, you might say my affection for her is somewhat a cliché of normal everyday youth love, but to me, I feel like I know her more than anyone. That she is that meaningful to me. She is the most cherished book in my two-book library. That is to say she is the only book I really care for besides my own mother, which inhabits the life of the other book. But other books can be written. The library will never end. New books will come. But for now, the libraries bestseller is her.
But to add on to the youth-love cliché, she doesn’t seem the least bit attracted to me. Way to crush hope, right? So here I am, sprinting to a nonexistent finish line in a 26 mile marathon, hopelessly yearning for love and attention for a 14-year-old middleschool girl. What’s my chance in finishing the race? You’ll find out why it’s nearly impossible.
Sixth Grade: November
Her name is Hailey. Like the comet. I remember clearly now when I first met her. It was in sixth grade and both of our schools were performing a play together. The play was going to be performed on the second floor in a middle auditorium. This middle school would be the school I would be going to in my future years.
The auditorium was big, yes, but the acoustics were terrible. Every sound you spoke or did created an echo. The auditorium was also quite dark and lacked color. I am sure a person like Halley would love to tear the place down and just spend hours redecorating.
During a small pre-rehearsal before we had to perform, which was held in the school gym, adjacent to the auditorium, two of our actors got into a fight.
One of my cl***mates smirked at the opposing one, “Hey, make sure to not *** up your lines like your pathetic school always does.”
“Hey, shut up man,” said the other boy, “you don’t have to downgrade us just because we’re better than you.”
He smiled. “Screw you.”
“Sorry, I don’t wanna.”
“Wow,” I thought, “quite a vocabulary for sixth graders.”
Five seconds later is when the kicking started.
“What are they doing?” I mutter.
Let me describe what happens out here in the safari. You can see the older male on top of the more infantile hyena. They constantly yap at each other, foul comments and disgusting insults. This is one strategy the modern hyena uses to infuriate its prey, causing it to waste more energy on trying to dominate the other male. Back to reality. Fists flying, spit, blood. Jesus, could they just stop fighting?! I yell in my head.
The boys were not stopping. This was so ridiculous! Over a little competition. More and more people tried to break it up, but the more they tried the worse it got. James was trying to be neutral, but he joined the fight once someone insulted his dead sister. Ouch. Elika got kicked by accident, which got her mad. I don’t wanna say what happened after that. Why aren’t there any chaperones around? I tried to ignore it and study my lines on last time.
Seven minutes. I glanced over at my “friends” who continued to clash. It was more verbal now. At least they stopped hitting each other. A lot of people were a part of it now. Guess I was the one who looked like the wimp trying to stay out of that mess.
“Well if you hadn’t said that you were better than I am, I wouldn’t have said anything to you!”
“So? You didn’t have to say those things about my mom and my school!”
“And you didn’t have to say that my sister deserved to be dead!”
“WELL DIDN’T SHE OVERDOSE ON THOSE DRUGS?!”
“YOU SHUT UP.”
Ugh, why do sixth graders have such an immature set of vocabulary? If they keep on yelling like that, my migraine will arrive sooner than later. Which reminds me, five minutes.
I plug my ears. I know it won’t help that much but– Hey, it was actually working! There wasn’t that much noise! Unless…
I lifted my head up from the sheets. There, like a guardian angel, Hailey was between the two quarrelling boys.
“Listen,” she said. “This is a spark for bad habits. You wanna get into being dumb***es who are always looking for fights, be my guest, but in five minutes we are about to go on stage and work together to perform a stupid play.” Four minutes. “Sure, it might not be meaningful to you, but it is to others. So stop being selfish dicks and stop fighting.”
I smiled. This girl was tough. I liked that.
Everyone sat down.
I looked at her. She seemed satisfied. One minute. I got up and began to walk over to her. 30 seconds. I got closer. 15 seconds.
“Hi, um, I just wanted to say–”
“Alright! Get ready to go on stage!” yelled our professor, appearing out of nowhere. Seriously? Out of all times, the teacher comes now?
She got up and left me standing there awkwardly. I straightened my costume and got in line with the rest of my peers.
After that, we didn’t see each other at all. I honestly forgot about her for some time. What she looked like. How she sounded. I’m guessing that we both grew. That was until I saw her during sixth grade. One second.
Sixth Grade: January
Love. What an overly important word. I feel like love isn’t a good enough word for what it means.
“I’m in love,” says a person. Wow, great accomplishment. I totally understand your feelings. Why can’t the word ‘love’ be a different word? Why can’t the definition of love mean ignite? Like, “I ignite you.” No, that’s terrible. Maybe, “I am in destiny.” Yeah, see? Why can’t you switch destiny and love’s meanings? People do say that love is your destiny, so why can’t destiny be your love?
I am Hailey’s destiny. I don’t know. No, I am. Do I love her? Yes. No. Maybe. Yes. Totally. Ughhhh! Puberty is hard! Oh, uh, too much information… Sorry. Anyways. I like her, and I think that she likes me. I mean, that’s what happened in sixth grade. We were young, yes, but I think it actually meant something. I am positive it did.
“Hi! I’m Jake,” I said.
“Hey, I remember you!” she replies.
“Yeah! I um, really think that you are pretty!”
“Aw! That is so flattering! I think you are cute too!”
“Well do you want to go out?”
Flash forward 15 years. Wedding bells ring in the distance. Hah, if it were only that simple. It’s not simple. It’s hard. Deep breath. I walked over to her. She was sitting by herself with her pencil pouch by her side, a sheet of paper in her hand, filled with sketches of inanimate objects like vases.
“So, you like to draw, right?” I stare at her, she made the first move. ***, I wasn’t expecting that.
“Yeah, I do,” I responded, “But, I don’t think I’m as good as you.”
Let me tell you. Hailey Spires can draw better than Claude Monet. If you don’t know him, look it up. Honestly he is amazing, but Hailey, that is someone worth noticing.
“Thanks,” she smiles.
“You like wolves, huh?” I ask her. Her binder and other papers inside her journal is filled with drawings of animals, specifically wolves.
“Yeah, I feel like they are powerful animals, you know? Always modest, intelligent. In charge.” She looks at me. I look at her.
“You know, one time, I was in my Uncle’s backyard and I saw three wolves. A mama and her two cubs. They were beautiful. A pearl gray color, you know?”
She smiles again, wider this time. “Wow,” she looks back down at her paper.
“You know what would be cool? If we could form our own pack, just like the wolves.”
“Yeah, that would be cool!”
“We could create our own characters!” she said, taking out clean, crisp sheets of paper to begin sketching. “What do you want your name to be?” she asked me.
“Umm.” I thought. What is a cool name that will woo her with my creativity?
“Riptide,” I answered. “In Greek it translates to Anaklusmos. You can call me either or.”
She laughed, “I think I’ll just call you Rip.”
“Fine by me!” I exclaim.
This was the beginning of our friendship. I felt like we were really connecting.
I had many cl***es with Hailey. Every cl*** we would sit next to each other, unless the cl*** had ***igned seats. We would always try to talk. We had fun, we did. Our “pack” grew. We actually did follow that idea. We drew characters of each of our friends who joined. We created cl***es, maps, we established bases and territories, so on and so on. It was fun, we liked each other the more we hung out. Our favorite cl*** was art. We got to talk with each other, one on one. We also got to draw and paint, which is what we loved to do. I liked Hailey. I’m sure you already knew that, but I did. I just hoped she did too.
Sixth and seventh grade flew by. Soon we would be in the eighth grade, and boy is that where it gets interesting.
Eighth Grade: January/March
I don’t know…I guess he’s cute? I mean, the first time I saw him I thought he was an utter nerd! It was probably his dad’s doings. The first day of school his dad had him dressed in uniform. But it was hilarious! He had his shirt tucked in, poindexter gl***es, tight khaki shorts, gelled down hair, and a blue lunchbox. I don’t think anyone could help from laughing. We were kids. Weird, immature kids…But instantly, after walking in, he untucked his shirt, ruffled his hair, removed his gl***es and inserted contacts, and then… Sorry I’m traIling off too much.
Anyways, he was a new person. Different. He can change. You don’t know who he can be. Some days, he would be so poetic and dreamy, some days, kind and sweet, interesting and brave. Other days, an utter jerk. Who you wish would just buzz off. Is this a good thing? Yes and no. It’s sort of a rhetorical question for me at least.
Now, you may be asking, “Well, tell us if you like him! Because he has told us what he feels about you. Go on! Spill the beans!”
Ugh, I don’t want to. I mean, it is obvious. We are both friends. He was literally the first person I talked to when I came to this school, well, first person who I didn’t really actually know already.
He was a popular boy I think… Everyone talked about how silly, smart and cool he was. I just never noticed it for myself. I guess I was shy… *** it. There I go again, trailing off. I need to stop, seriously, it is not a good way to think. Alright, enough about me and my thoughts. Let’s talk about me and my feelings
“Hey Hailey. How was your weekend?” Third month of school, and he’s been acting weird. Not weird, just… Nasty. I look up at him. He stares at me with a dumb look on his face. “What?” he asks. I look back down at my paper. He needs to get out of my face before I begin to kick. “Hey, I have a funny joke, wanna hear it?” he says, nudging me. Oh god, if it is another one of those perverted jokes, I swear to god I–
“Why are men like spiders?”
“Because whenever they are on the web their hands get sticky!” he laughs, snorting.
I get up and move, close to the teachers desk. He looks at me like I’m a different person. It’s because I am. “Hailey!” he yells.
“Quiet down, Duffles!” The teacher hisses.
He glares at me, then at her. He walks over to me. Stop. I’m about to blow up, please stop just don’t say anything, please– “What is up with you?! Aren’t we friends?” he examines me, bewildered.
I take a deep breath. “Jake Duffles, get the *** away from me.” I close my eyes. I can sense that he is still there. “GET THE *** AWAY FROM ME!” I scream. Bad idea. I bet you all the kids in the cl*** were staring at me.
“Wow, is she having a breakdown?”
“***, she needs to chill.”
“What is up with her?”
Great. I hate attention. I don’t like people. Leave me alone. I storm out of the cl***. I need to vent. Now.
The lock in the stall clicks.
I sob. I hate him! He is just a pervert! He no longer is that person who is kind and nice and smart! He is just one of those people who just needs to be ignored. I don’t know! He is a bad kind of different. He is so immature. He is not attractive anymore. I liked him when he cared more. Now he just hangs out with douchebags and talks about sex.
I feel like I’m dead.
I’ve been dealing with things.
He is one of them.
I don’t love him.
He doesn’t understand.
I don’t anymore.
But I still want to.
But I don’t think he knows.
I’m like another person.
Torn between the two.
My mother is dying.
From the pressure.
I can’t take it.
Who am I?
I cry some more. My face feels puffy. I wipe the tears. My head tucks in between my upright legs, perfectly comforted between the two. I sigh. I lift my head and look up at the clock. I’ve been here for an hour. It feels like minutes. I flush the toilet. I don’t know why, I didn’t even go to the bathroom. I sob one last time, just to get the last remains out.
I can’t be with him anymore. He is a distraction. He will ruin me. I can’t like him. I don’t know why. I just can’t. I want to, but I can’t. Ugh! Why does life have to be so difficult? I flush the toilet again. I flushed it for a reason. I’m flushing away something. I’m flushing his memory away.
Eighth Grade: March
What is up with her? I can’t believe she’s acting this way. WHAT DID I DO TO UPSET HER?
Eighth Grade: March
She didn’t talk to me for most of eighth grade. We never talked. I tried to. It didn’t work. She would always flip me off when I tried to approach her, she would never answer me, she wouldn’t look at me.
I think she hates me even more just because I’m so persistent in figuring out why she hates me. Here is a list of ideas on why I think she is upset with me:
One day, we are required to reenact a segment of the text we are reading. The teacher partners me up with Hailey. I grin. She shows no emotion.
“So,” I begin.
“No.” She ends the conversation.
“Okay, so you are going to act like a bitch. Oh wait, you have been this whole year,” I say.
She doesn’t raise her voice. “This is exactly the reason.” She studies her script.
“Exactly what? I didn’t do anything,” I retort.
She sighs and looks at me. “I don’t like you right now, Jacob.” Wow. She has never called me Jacob before. “So why don’t we just do the work, and leave me the *** alone.”
I look at her like she is a piece of ***. “Well, I’m feeling ***ty too.” I lean back. No response.
“My mom is in the hospital. She has appendicitis, and, she could die,” I finished. This was true. She was in the hospital except she wasn’t going to die. Hailey set her paper down. She turned her head towards me. I look at her beautiful lips, her perfect eyes, sharply figured so that you would just get lost in them…
“Listen, there are kids out there whose mothers are actually dying in a hospital. So stop being that guy, and leave me alone.” She turned her head, and stared with her perfect eyes down at her paper, lips pursed. Anger welled up inside of me. My heart raced. Why was this situation so unexplainably hard? It made no sense! It was like trying to prove the theory of evolution. I want to fix this! I want us to be normal again!
I got up. Left her alone. I approached the teacher’s desk. “Hi Ms. Henry, can I request another partner? It’s not working out so well over here.” I glance at Hailey. She pays no attention, but I know she can hear.
“Aw, what’s wrong Duffles? The love of your life ain’t doin’ so well?” she tilted her head. I swear this bitch is about to get a dent in her face.
“Just, can you give me a new partner?” I plead.
“Sure! Switch with Bless and Carlos.” She points to the two boys. Thankfully, Bless was my friend. I needed to get distracted from the train wreck I probably created. I have so many bricks on my back right now, and I can’t unload them.
I get home that day and I just drop my stuff and head to my room. I trudged up the stairs, my footsteps echoing up each flight. I began to think, and soon those thoughts formed into words. Those words became reality.
“Why is she doing this? She is so immature. You know, why do I even care? This is middle school. But she’s everything to me. She is my true inspiration for life. I just don’t know how to fix any of this. I don’t love anyone else like that. She is so stubborn. If she could just tell me. Please just tell me.” Those words soon became tears. Those tears became memories. Those tears became reality.
“Ms. Diakite?” I knock.
“Come in, honey,” she responds. I open the door and drop my books on the floor. “What seems to be the issue, Duffles?” She crosses her arms and leans back in her chair. “Well, lay it on me.”
“I like a girl,” I say
She laughs, “Can you be more specific?”
“Someone in the eighth grade?” I reply.
“Which girl, boo?”
I mutter, “Hailey Spires.”
“Aww! That’s cute! She like you back?”
“That’s why I’m here.”
Intercom: Hailey Spires, please report to Ms. Diakite’s office. Hailey Spires report to Ms. Diakite’s office.
It’s only minutes until she arrives. Our eyes met, and she gave me a quick, “What the hell am I doing here?” look. She sat down. Next to me.
Ms. Diakite begins, “Hailey, the reason I called you into this office was because Mr. Duffles here, feels like there is a disruption in your relationship. Is that correct?”
Hailey looks at me. “Yes,” she says.
Wow. She answered truthfully. At least I think that answer is the truth.
“Did you know that Mr. Duffles here, likes you?” Ms. Diakite asks.
Hailey blushes. Jake: 1, Hailey: 0
“No,” she answers. I look at her, she looks at me.
“Well he is telling me that y’all two haven’t been very friendly with each other lately, now have y’all?” Ms. Diakite continues.
“Would you care to tell me why?” questions Ms. Diakite.
I look at her. She looks at me, staring me directly in the eye and says, “It’s a long story.”
“Okay,” Ms. Diakite waves her hand in the air, hoping Hailey would’ve told her more, “Well, I know middle school is a hard time and everything, but, you gotta learn to make peace with one another, instead of…letting the war go on.”
That was a weird analogy, but also very correct.
Hailey nods. I do too.
“Alright,” Ms. Diakite concludes, “if you two promise me that you will make amends with each other, I’ll let y’all two go. Okay?”
I turn towards Hailey, “Sorry for whatever I did.”
She looks at me with pure disgust. “We’ll talk later,” she mouths.
“I’m sorry too,” she adds.
“Alrighty then!” Ms. Diakite says. “Just keep on being friendly with each other, and the problem will be solved! You are dismissed.”
Hailey is the first to leave.
I soon follow.
Eighth Grade: April
He doesn’t know. He doesn’t even realize what he has done. I cannot believe him. I need to talk to him. He’s just a butthurt brat. I have no more feelings. This is the last time.
I see him in the hallway. I approach him. He doesn’t notice me. “Hey,” I say sternly.
“Oh! Hey Hailey! You scared me!” He lets out a little laugh.
“Enough ***,” I slice him down. All of a sudden, it seems like he is broken. He realizes nothing is fixed. He realizes that we are still in the same situation.
“Look, I cannot believe that you called me in there. You don’t even know the reason why we are like this!” I roll my eyes.
“Y-yeah I do,” he stutters.
“What is it then?” I press forward.
“I have been acting like a pervert?” he answers, unsure.
“See? You don’t even really know the true reason.” I fold my arms. Does he have amnesia? Did he get hit in the head? Why doesn’t he remember?
“Hailey, I don’t understand…” He trails off.
“That’s right,” I retort, “you don’t understand.”
He looks down at the ground. Are those…tears?
I still have no sympathy.
“Do you want to know why I’m upset with you?” I raise my tone.
“Yes,” he says quietly.
Eighth Grade: May
***. I completely forgot about the video. Ohmygosh I am so stupid.
Eighth Grade: Memories
Sometime in February, Hailey was hosting a sleepover/party for her belated birthday. This was when Hailey and I were still really good friends. Me among many of my friends were invited. Us being boys were only allowed to stay at her house until dinnertime. There were about seven people there. Hailey, Xian, Jaelen, Sifan, Maina, Nimai and me. We arrived at Hailey’s house around 4:30 and knocked on the door. Barks and shuffles came from within the small cosy cottage, and we were soon greeted by a very cheerful dog, and a very annoyed brother. “Oh, hey Hailey,” said Damian, her brother. He stepped aside, unlocked the door and let us in. Immediately, I felt sharp claws and a wet tongue drag across my face. I screamed. Everyone laughed. “Reesy!” Hailey purred. The peanut butter and chocolate colored dog came bounding towards her with full determination to give her a big wet kiss. “I love you, I love you, I love you!” Hailey coaxed, patting the dog and squeezing it which great intensity. I smiled. I love it when owners and dogs bond together. It’s just a feeling of joy, you know? We sat down and instantly turned on the T.V. and started to chat. It’s something kids do nowadays. They multitask, whether it is watching television and having a conversation at the same time, or listening to music while studying. So, yeah. Anyways, we were just talking and…”I’m going to go upstairs and change into my jammies. Anyone care to join me? Sorry let me rephrase that, any girls want to join me?” Hailey proposed. “Sure!” Sifan bounced up and grabbed her change of clothes. Xian, Mina and Jalen followed Hailey and Sifan upstairs. I was left with Nimay, sitting awkwardly with each other. “Hey Duffles, I have an idea!” Nimay leaned forward. “Yeah what is it?” I said while playing with my phone. “Well, it’s more of a dare.”
I creep up the stairs, with Mina’s phone in my right hand. I can’t help from laughing. This will be a hilarious prank! Fifth step, sixth step, seventh step, eighth step.
I walk slowly up to their door, hearing their laughter on the other side. I begin to record. The only footage it was picking up was the door and the muffled sound of their conversation. I step close. *CREAK*! “Crap!” I saw as the floorboard releases its moan. That was close. I step closer to the door. I slip the phone underneath the door crack. I look at the screen and all I see is the ceiling. All of a sudden I hear footsteps. Coming towards the door. I panic. I run. All I hear behind me are the girls voices.
“Oh my god! Don’t say that!”
“I am so excited for tonight!”
“Do you like my pjs?”
Good. They didn’t catch me. But then the thought raced through my head. What the hell did I just do? Did I just eavesdrop and try to film my friends… While they were changing?! What was I thinking? What if they find out! They will totally get the wrong idea. I wasn’t thinking at all. No thoughts were going through my head at the time. And I had no idea what the consequences would be.
I left early that day, for two reasons. One it was my brother’s birthday party and I had to get home and change to go out to dinner. Second was guilt, but it really wasn’t.
Eighth Grade: May
He’s online trying to text me. I don’t want to text him. What he did was gross. I can’t believe he never thought that we would be offended by it. He keeps on texting. I’m so irritated I just decide to reply.
Him: Hi, look I’m sorry about that video. I was stupid and I wasn’t thinking. It was stupid and I’m here to apologize. But you need to learn to get over this. You have to forgive.
Me: (pause five seconds) How dare you.
Me: Do you realize what you have done? You invaded our privacy. There was a risk of taping us naked. And now you apologize, only four months after the incident, and then you bring it back to yourself by saying that I should forgive you and that I need to get over this. Well guess what Jacob Duffles. *** YOU. *** you because you have no right to be forgiven and no right to have done what you did. We wouldn’t be in this situation if you hadn’t have pulled that maneuver.
Him: No, you are causing this because you won’t learn to move one and forget stupid crap like this. Guys do this all the time. I’m growing up and you will too if you learn to accept people’s apologies. No one will like you if you don’t learn to do this.
Me: Just look over what you just texted me and think of the bull*** you just wrote to me.
Him: I didn’t do anything! You are so selfish! You just need to understand how to move on with life! I can’t believe you are doing this. I said I am sorry so you need to forgive me.
HAILEY SPIRES HAS LOGGED OFF.
Eighth Grade: May
I see her outside of school. “Hailey!” I yell. She turns around and walks in the opposite direction.
“Look, I’m sorry for saying that stupid stuff–” I begin.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it,” she says her back facing me.
“I like you Hailey, I don’t want to end it this way.” I solemnly reach out for her shoulder to turn her around.
“Don’t touch me! I can’t like someone who lies! Who forgets! I can’t trust you!” she yells. I meet her eyes. I hope she sees how sorry I am.
“Leave me alone.”
She runs away from me. I can’t reach her.
Eighth Grade: June
I glance at the casket. I wish she would have just never forgiven me. I wish I never talked to her. I wish I never met her. Then she would have crossed the street. She would have not been caught up in another reality. She would have focused on something else! She shouldn’t care about me that much! She cares about me too much! She should have looked both ways. She should have looked one way. Not at me but at the road. But she was looking the wrong way. She was looking at me.