An amusing account of my internal struggles to impress a guy who I not-so-secretly admire.
YOUR NOT-SO-SECRET ADMIRER
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 the eleven jokes written on a sheet of sketchbook paper. On the other side, I had used my lucky blue mechanical pencil to intricately draw four different angles of a certain Dodge Charger. While I continued to inspect my work, a flash of light caught my eye. The acrobat inside my belly performed a backflip. As discreetly as I could, I slipped the paper inside a red manila folder, just in time to wave at Juan as he drove by in his Dodge Charger. Sunlight gleamed on the snow-white paint. Too bright, I blinked. I glanced down at the red manila folder in my hands. My gift for him was inside. He will love it, I tried to tell myself. Won't he?
"Hi Juan," I called out to him as he approached. I had set up my moss-green folding chair in front of my garage that day, next to Juan's garage. Give it to him.
When he met my eyes, my face grew unbearably warm. "How's it goin'?" he asked, grinning cheerfully. Give it to him. The words were on the tip of my tongue. Then his gaze landed on my folder, dark brown eyes widening in curiosity. "Hey, what are you writing?"
"I um -- I, ahem..." What if he won't like his gift? What if he gets suspicious? 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. "A-a-a story about a civilization of tiny humans. Very tiny humans. They're called Millimeters."
"Can I see?" He leaned over my shoulder to peek at my work. Almost close enough for me to plant an unexpected kiss on his copper brown cheek. "You're very patient. I wish I could write as much as you."
My heart fluttered. "Aw, you're sweet. Thank you."
We parted ways, and once he was out of earshot I snapped my fingers in frustration. Doggonit, I was such a chicken.
I had another chance to give my gift to Juan the next afternoon, when he came outside to mow the lawn around our building, but I was paralyzed. What if he won't like his gift? What if he doesn't feel the same way? He must be suspicious of me already, or else he wouldn't keep sneaking peeks at me.
With a jolt, I realized that while I had been lost in daydreams of Juan, the buzzing of his lawn mower had gone silent. Where did he go? I jumped slightly when a door swung open with a loud squeak, all-too-familiar to me. Found him. Juan made a beeline for me with his chest puffed out, carrying a frozen fruit bar in his hand.Â
"Do you like coconut?" he asked, holding it out to me.Â
"Y-yes, I do!" I stuttered after a moment, taking the frozen treat from his hand. My head was spinning. I could hardly believe what had just happened. "Thank you so much."
"You're welcome." He grinned bashfully, shifting from one foot to the other. "Super hot out here, don't you think?"
"It is." I struggled to think of something else to say, reluctant to let the conversation end on an awkward note. "I think it might rain later." Come on, I can do better than that.
"Yeah, uh... love it when it rains," Juan mumbled, turning to leave. "I, um -- gotta go. See you later."Â
"See you." He peeked over his shoulder at me one last time, and did not look away in time to step around a pothole. He tripped, falling to the ground with a thud. I gasped. "Are you okay?"
"Y-yeah. I'm okay, I think," he mumbled as he staggered to his feet, though he refused to meet my eyes. A droplet of blood trickled down his shin from a scrape on his knee.
"That looks nasty. Are you sure you're okay? Do you need help?" For a moment, I ignored the fruit bar melting in my hand.
"No, no. I'll be fine. I got this." He limped the rest of the way into his apartment, and I did not see any trace of him for two days after that.
Have I said something wrong? I wondered to myself the following day, and the day after that. My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. He must be embarrassed, I tried to tell myself. I know I would be too. I pulled the red manila folder out of my backpack, examining it in my hands. Inside, Juan's gift was safe and secure. Juan. Realization struck me like a bolt of lightning. He embarrassed himself to impress me. Now I can afford to embarrass myself too.
The third day arrived. Once again, I set up my folding chair in front of my garage. As soon as a familiar flash of light caught my eye, I dug the folder out of my backpack. Juan rolled his Dodge Charger into a parking space, and dawdled for a minute. In the meantime, fearful questions ran unrestrained through my mind. What if he won't like his gift? What if he doesn't feel the same way about me? What if he will run away? I did my best to ignore them.
"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? Oh no...
"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 deep brown eyes, his eyebrows lifted in concern.
"I have something for you," I said, sheepishly handing the red manila folder to him. My hands were shaking up a storm.
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.
"Wow!" he breathed. "This is incredible."
The ballerina inside my belly did a twirl. "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, before lifting his eyes to gaze at me. "This is incredible." His eyes grew soft. "Thank you, so much. It means a lot to me."
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." My gaze followed him 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 when I glanced up at Juan's bedroom window on the second floor, butterflies took flight inside my belly. There was my gift for him taped to his window, proudly displayed for all the world to see.