I Loved You, Too
Music brought us together, but we tore ourselves apart with our pride.
The way we met will always make me a little too happy, really, and I think about it anytime I need a smile. When the girl next to me in our 10th-grade math class dropped a lighter out of her pocket, so you threw your pencil across the classroom as an excuse to come pick it up. I hadn’t even noticed her lighter fall, so I was very confused as to why you needed to come all the way over to us. You picked up the lighter and pencil at the same time and came around the desks to hug me, sliding the lighter into my pocket, thinking it was mine. I instinctively moved away from your embrace, but you managed to make it look less awkward than we both felt, and I can never thank you enough for saving me that day. If that lighter had been found under my desk by anybody else, my friend would have either been suspended under our zero-tolerance policies or would have blamed me, and I would have faced suspension. You really saved my academic career, but I didn’t think much of it then, and neither did you.
A few weeks later, a substitute filled in for our math teacher and she let us listen to music while we worked. Naturally, we both talked to our friends about our favorite music and would steal glances at each other when one of us mentioned a band we both knew. Then, with your naturally outgoing self, you came over to my friend and asked if she knew a band called Modern Baseball. She said no, then with a huge smile, you asked me, and I nodded. You looked so happy to have found someone else who loved that band, but truth is, I had only heard two songs and I didn’t even like them enough to save them. As soon as you walked back to your seat, I hit shuffle on a Modern Baseball radio mix and that's all I listened to all day.
The following year, we ended up in the same 11th-grade math class, and I was shocked when you sat next to me voluntarily. As soon as you sat down, we started talking about music. We talked about the concerts and bands we like and the musicians that we've met. A few weeks in, you brought your acoustic guitar into class with you for another class, and you sat down with me while we tuned it and you played a few songs after class. You sang along to Green Day, Twenty One Pilots, and, of course, Modern Baseball. I just hummed along and for the first time in a long time, I forgot about everyone else in the room who were obviously annoyed with us, even if you weren't bad at playing. I even encouraged you to start a band or just start playing more, because I loved hearing it, and I loved the way you talked about it.
When you talked about music, you spoke with such deep and unmistakable passion for it that I felt that same passion in myself, as if I were the one gushing over all of the new songs you learned. When you played music, you were laser-focused on what you were doing and carefully placed your scarred fingers on strings. You refused to play with a real pick because you thought it was unauthentic. You said that bleeding fingers for the sake of truly feeling the strings beneath your fingertips was just another part of it. When you talked, you always had a saddened undertone, but when you sang, a whole new person was brought to life. You sang like no one could hear you, much braver than I could ever be, but you knew you were good. You knew what you could be. We talked about it all the time, so much that we started to annoy ourselves with the topic.
Then, one morning, sitting in our 7:45 AM math class, you and I made a mistake. We listened to music together while we waited on class to start, except today, when you thought I couldn't hear you over the music in the headphones we were sharing, you said something I will never forget. As I was watching people sit down, the one earbud from the headset we were sharing in my ear, I looked around at all of the fancily dressed kids in that class and I pessimistically mumbled something like, "I hate so many people," to which you replied, "God, I love you." I pretended I didn't hear it, but I couldn't stop thinking about it while I sat next to you. The air around us was obviously tense, and it was the only time I had ever felt awkward with you. For the rest of that class, neither of us spoke, and we kept it that way for a while, except for the occasional greetings and song recommendations until it was finally over, but it wasn't even the end of the school year. You only had a few months left before graduation, but with me as your distraction, and you as mine, both of our grades started to drop in that class. The only difference was that if I failed, I could retake it. If you failed, you wouldn't graduate with your girlfriend or your peers, who are all a year older than me. Seeing no way to bring up your grade in that class with so little time and such an uncooperative teacher, you dropped out.
I still blame myself for that, and even though we aren't talking much at all anymore, I still listen to those songs we listened to together and think of you.