A rough draft of a project for my English class. Based on a true story. Enjoy!
| My friend Ruth fell off the back of my bike, I wrote near the bottom of the page. I rode on, ruthlessly. This is just one of eleven cheesy jokes written on a sheet of sketchbook paper. On the other side, I used my lucky blue mechanical pencil to intricately draw four different angles of a certain Dodge Charger.
Seated outside in front of my garage, I held up the paper in front of my face to inspect it closely. I spotted a slightly uneven line here and another line that I forgot to erase there. Hopefully these little mistakes would make my gift for Juan all the more authentic. He will love it, I tried to tell myself. Won't he?
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a car pull into the parking lot. Quickly I slipped the paper into a red manila folder, looking up just in time to wave hello to Juan as he rolled past inside his Dodge Charger. Sunlight glinted off of the pearly white paint as he pulled into an empty parking space. You can do this, I told myself. Here goes nothing.
As he walked by, our eyes met. I felt a painful twinge in my gut. What if he won't like it? He grinned cheerfully. "How's it going?"
"I um, I - ahem..." What if he doesn't feel the same way about me? I hid the folder behind my back and scrambled to dig a notebook out of my backpack. Totally not suspicious. "I'm writing stories."
"Without a pencil?" he teased. He sauntered over to me, leaning over my shoulder to peek at my work. "I wish I could write as much as you. You're very patient."
Heat rose to my cheeks. "Aw, thank you."
When we parted ways, I snapped my fingers in frustration. "Cheese and crackers!"
I had several more chances the next afternoon to give him my gift, but the same dreadful thoughts ran through my mind each time. What if he won't like his gift? What if he doesn't feel the same way about me? I suddenly realized that Juan had disappeared. Where did he go? That was when a door swung open with a familiar squeak. I looked up just in time to see him approaching with his chest puffed out. He held an ice cream bar in his hand.
"Do you like coconut?" he asked, holding it out to me. A wave of feverish heat washed over me from head to toe.
"Y-yes, I do!" I took the frozen treat, feeling a little lightheaded. "You're sweet, thank you so much."
"Y-y-you're welcome." He shifted from one foot to the other, wiping sweat from his forehead.
Later that evening, we crossed paths again while I took my dog for a walk. When our eyes met, he did not look away in time to step around a pothole. He fell to the ground with a thud. I stopped. "Are you okay?"
"Y-y-yeah, I'm okay," he said, getting to his feet. There was a nasty scrape on his knee.
"Do you need help?"
"I think I'm okay." He smiled reassuringly, even though he refused to look me in the eye. He limped the rest of the way into his apartment.
I did not see him again for two whole days. Did I say something wrong? No, I tried to tell myself. He was just embarrassed. On the third day, he finally appeared. I looked up just in time to wave hello to him as he drove past in his Dodge Charger. As soon as he pulled into one of the empty parking spaces, I had the red manila folder in my hands. If he was brave enough to give me a coconut-flavored ice cream bar, then I can be brave too.
"Juan!" I called out, before I could stop myself. My heart leapt into my throat when he turned to look at me. "You got a second?"
"Sure, what's up?"
"I-I-I, um... I, well..." I stammered, fighting my panic. This is it, no turning back now. I can do this. Can I?
"What is it?" The sound of his smoky voice gently coaxed me back to reality. He was standing right next to me. Slowly I met his dark eyes, wide with curiosity.
"I have something for you," I said, sheepishly handing the red manila folder to him. My hands were shaking bad.
When Juan took his gift out of the folder, his eyes lit up in wonder. "Did you draw this?"
Finding it difficult to speak for a moment, I nodded. My face heated up as if I were seated in front of a campfire.
"Wow!" he breathed. "This is incredible."
My heart did a cartwheel. "You like it?"
"Of course," he answered, grinning from ear to ear. "I really like it. I'm going to hang this up in my room."
I could barely contain a squeal of delight. He likes it! "Did you see the jokes I wrote on the back?"
Juan flipped the paper over, taking his time to skim through the collection of jokes on the back. He chuckled in amusement, then he raised his eyes to look at me.
"This is incredible," he said again. His eyes grew soft. "Thank you, so much. It means a lot to me."
I beamed. "You're welcome."
Our eyes locked, and all of a sudden the world seemed to slow down all around us. In that moment, nobody existed but just the two of us. It seemed that there was something more he wanted to say, but something was holding him back. Like me, he was conflicted.
Instead he gave me his trademarked shy grin, the kind of grin that makes my heart melt into a puddle every time. "See you tomorrow," he said. "G' night."
"G' night." I watched him walk to his door, holding the red manila folder in one hand and examining his homemade gift in the other. When his door swung shut behind him, I exhaled a sigh of relief. For the first time in many days, I could finally relax.
I took my dog for a walk the next morning, and as I glanced up at Juan's bedroom window on the second floor, butterflies swarmed in my belly. There was my gift for him taped to his window, proudly displayed for all the world to see.