Chapter 14

The difficulty in researching these stories is that not only have some of the characters died, but now, some are dead to me.

They’ve turned their backs and are unavailable for comment. They wouldn’t reply my texts, that’s if they hadn’t already been deleted from my phone. It’s a shame really because this would’ve been a good excuse to talk to Alexis. But oh well.

There was an opposite version of me in St. Clairsville and by the 6th grade I had found her and naturally fallen irreparably in love.

I was a boy. She was a girl. I was black, she was white. I spent my school days in a sea of white people, most of her friends were black. I was was young for my grade, she was old for her’s. I was in the 6th grade, she was in the 5th, yet she was older than me. No girls liked me, all the boys loved her. We couldn’t have grown up more different.

I remember the first time I saw her. There was a dairy queen up the street from my house, she was coming in as I was walking out. I froze. I still compare all gazes I get from women to this feeling. I dropped my dilly bar as I tried to raise the kick stand on my bike. I don’t even know if she noticed me. If she did, I don’t remember her being impressed.

That school year I was able to socially position myself close enough to her friends on our recesses. Eventually I had gotten to know her. I’d do my best to always make her laugh. The sound of her voice was my first addiction.

Have you ever liked someone so much that you’d see them when they’re not there? I’d see her face in the clouds. I could see her eyes in headlights of cars, on bumpers I could see her smile.

I’d been afraid to tell a girl how I felt before, but I was so inspired now that it was worth the risk. I had to act, so I enlisted a team. Sam and Justin, two of my neighbors and best friends were in her grade.

I knew they wouldn’t help me without there being any benefit for them, so I structured a plan that was mutually beneficial for everyone.

I asked them who their crushes were, then gave an MLK style speech telling them our days of not having girlfriends would soon come to an end. They were immediately on board. The next day we would ask each of our crushes out for one another.

Sam liked a girl named Tara, Justin asked, she said no. We were discouraged but couldn’t turn back. On my paper route lived Amy, Justin’s crush. I asked her out for Justin but she wasn’t feeling him. I later found out she instead had a crush on her paperboy, me! This would sow seeds of resentment in Justin that I would one day have to confront.

Alexis was the last girl to be asked. It was our last hope to succeed as a collective. Sam and Justin were supposed to see her at a birthday party that I couldn’t go to because I was grounded. They would ask her out for me there.

The next day at school, before I would see Sam or Justin, I kept thinking, what if she said yes? What if I already have a girlfriend? The elusive dream could already have come true. Something strange happened though. I became afraid, regretful even. What had I gotten myself into? Could I handle to responsibly that would come from dating the prettiest girl in school? Could I handle the jealousy from every other boy who had the same dream of dating her?

I had never had a girlfriend before, I had no idea what would even be the first thing I should say to her. No dream had ever come true. What do you do when you wake up for the first time?

Finally it was recess, the moment of truth. I wanted to get to the playground before anyone else. My thinking was that if I could see everyone before they saw me, I at least wouldn’t be caught off guard with any impending news.

I tried to sneak out just a few moments before the bell rang but a teacher caught me and my punishment was standing in the penalty box. This meant instead of recess, I had to stand facing the building while everyone walked though the double doors right beside me.

How embarrassing. This would be Alexis’ first look at her new boyfriend, in trouble like always, in front of the whole school.

Of all the problems I would have to face, this would not be one of them. Alexis said no.

Sam and Justin made their way through the double doors and gave me the bad news. I would’ve almost felt relieved until they told me the even worse news. Alexis already had a boyfriend. He was black, so there was somehow hope in that. But he was also an extremely tough 7th grader who had already heard about me asking out his girlfriend. “Craig is going to kill you” they said simultaneously, like the black boy version of The Shinning twins. They then laughingly headed out to play.

Just then I saw Ashely and Craig walking hand in hand, the last two to come out of the double doors. Ashely shot me a quick pitiful glance while Craig’s glance was one of anger and inevitability.

After school that day I tried to wait in the coat room in the hope of hiding from Craig. The teachers knew what I was doing. They didn’t care and sent me out to the slaughter.

After Craig beat me up, he talked to me almost politically saying, “the only reason I did this was because I had to. I can’t have dudes asking out my girlfriend. It’s okay if you like her but you just can’t talk to her anymore.”

He gave me a deal of sorts. He knew I was smart and funny and saw value in having me on his team. He knew I had beef with the W brothers. It would’ve been suicide beefing with the toughest white kids and the toughest black kids. He knew that aligning myself with his crew would be my only refuge.

School was like prison. Besides from the fact we were forced by law to be there everyday, and they would send police after us if we tried to escape (like they did for the 93’ walkouts), you had to affiliate yourself with a gang to survive. Craig offered me protection, all I had to do was leave Alexis alone. But to me this meant he saw me as a threat. He was trying to extort me!

If I was smart I maybe would’ve taken his deal, but I was in love. I wasn’t ready to give up on her. So I didn’t. Alexis’s love would continue to evade me however but not forever. Only for the next 20 years or so, but that’s another story…