The boys I knew in high school were not the boys I wanted to know.
The boys I wanted to know sat at the cafeteria table closest to the windows. They were all in a band, or a couple of bands, or seemed like they were in a band. My favorite one was a tall, skinny boy with a lip ring and ear gauges, who wore tight jeans and a red hoodie almost all the time. We had one class together - Broadcast Journalism - even though he was older. I never heard him say much, except a joke once about how everyone had seen some girl’s tits.
The boys I knew in high school wore cargo shorts and t-shirts they got for free from their soccer teams in middle school. They played ultimate frisbee, and chess at parties, where we ate M&Ms out of dusty glass bowls someone’s mom put out. The one who loved me had a huge Dance Dance Revolution setup in his basement and his house smelled like moth balls and shaving cream.
He was my first boyfriend.
I used to wear my most ethereal clothing around him because I knew he had a thing for the women in The Lord of the Rings. He had seen it countless times. One afternoon we watched Dune together in his dark living room with the overstuffed loveseats, not touching the entire time. I wore jeans and a dark purple shirt from Express, with lace-edged long sleeves and a daring neckline. Dune is a very long movie and I was sixteen years old.
We dated for four months. He grew his beard and already thinning hair out long, and his friends started to call him Jesus, and I think he liked it. He had talked about maybe going to seminary one day. When people found out we had never kissed, they called me The Virgin Mary, but I barely minded. I took a strange pride in my unkissed status and was dying to be kissed at the same time. I didn’t particularly want to kiss my boyfriend and I certainly didn’t want to be the one to lean in first, so I didn’t, and he didn’t, and we never did.
For my birthday he bought me a dozen red roses and two hardcover books of classic poetry. I broke up with him shortly after by passing him a long, hand-written note in the hallway at school. After that I felt so ashamed about keeping the books, I never opened them. Even now, I keep them tucked away in a bookshelf drawer, afraid of what it might mean to consume something I never deserved.
His friends were motley crew of just too smart for their own good misfits. Mostly awkward-looking and perpetually sarcastic, they showed up to dances and never danced. They always seemed to be boasting about who was the laziest, the most apathetic, as if that was the main goal. They were like stoners, but meaner, and without the drugs. I wanted them to like me even though I didn’t care for them at all, but the feeling was unfortunately mutual. In my whole life, I’ve never had a real boy friend, although I’ve had plenty of boyfriends. Boys tend to look right through me or fall in love. There’s no in-between. No buds, no chums. It’s a strange regret of mine, never having befriended a boy. Maybe not a regret exactly, but an embarrassment. A failing.
The boys I knew in high school became doctors and engineers. My first boyfriend is engaged. I can’t imagine any of them as adults with careers. To me, they’re still all spending their weekends playing World of Warcraft and watching Super Troopers and all claiming not to have studied for Monday’s test. These are the boys who are building your cities and diagnosing your parents. Boys who wore cargo shorts are running the show now.