My periwinkle blue sweater brought out the color of my tear-filled eyes as I watched the desire of my 8th-grade heart walk hand in hand with another girl under the starry October sky. I’d bought the sweater to wear to the bonfire because I knew he’d be there and I wanted to look pretty. I was taken aback and pleased when he said hi to me and our mutual friend, Molly, with a, “Hey! Nice shirt!” at the start of the evening, but I had no chance to be around him after that. He was spending all his time, energy, and efforts on her.
A year older, Gleam was the girl who had that thing about her. That elusive thing that made her irresistible to the guys and envied by the girls. Never seeming to go through an awkward adolescent phase, at least by all appearances, she had it made. He felt about her the way I felt about him, but until that evening I thought he was simply dreaming. She was gorgeous. He was a year younger and round with baby-fat. She wouldn’t be interested in him, right? But I stepped away from the party to sit on the front porch swing for a moment to myself, and witnessed them walk through the yard hand-in-hand, laughing and speaking softly. Apparently Gleam saw what I did. A guy who was fun and kind and easy to laugh with. Someone who actually cared about people. And just like that I was crushed by disappointment. My little dreamer heart was shot out of the sky to come crashing down to the reality that I didn’t have what she had. That I was passed over for something better. That in order to attract the kind of guy I liked, I needed that confidence or that personality or that type of beauty or whatever that damned thing was…and I didn’t have it.
What’s more the magic of my shirt/eye combo didn’t work. I mean, he actually noticed my shirt! Which meant that he saw me at my most beautiful and it had no effect on him.
Molly confessed to me the next day that she’d told him that I’d bought it just to impress him. I was angry and embarrassed both at her lack of discretion and that I’d been so excited that he’d complimented me in the first place.
To this day the incident sticks out in my mind. I remember so vividly sitting on that swing in my blue sweater and the heartache I felt hearing their laughter.