“Will you be my Valentine?” he asked, taking my hand.
“Okay.” I said. I wanted to GTFO. My whole relationship with Kaleb was about idolization–the fact he could like me more than a friend was impossible to me, and thus also in reality.
For the next two days leading up to Valentine’s, I couldn’t eat, sleep, work or be near Kaleb. That didn’t leave many other options. The one issue I couldn’t avoid was my gift–all around me, kids were planning what they’d get their Valentines–flowers, chocolate, stuffed animals, and even CDs for lucky ones like my friend Marissa.
I weighed my options: steal, make furtively, or lie. After much rehearsing, I told my mom that all of us kids were getting presents for our teacher, so I needed to deliver. She bought it! But instead of taking me out to buy something, she went into that closet every Chinese mom has devoted to unwanted new-ish stuff that can be re-gifted, and pulled out the goods. Jewelry, dusty picture frames, forlorn candles. I guess there aren’t many acceptable Valentines Day gifts for guys that don’t involve candy or sex…
My mom then pulled out a beautifully immaculate white teddy bear, with a little crimson heart popping out of its chest. Honestly he was too good, even for an ultimate, one-in-a-lifetime, shoot-the-moon jackpot crush. Even worse, I’m pretty sure the bear was originally from Marissa a couple years prior. It was the kind of gift you give your #1 ho, not a bro. But one crisis at a time–I could only pray she didn’t remember. The bear had to suffice.
The next morning, the snow was coming down hard. Kids came into the building and loitered in the hallway, waiting for class to begin. The perfect time to exchange gifts. When Kaleb arrived, he handed me two roses–a chocolate one and a fresh one.
Hopefully, I thanked him. Or maybe I stood paralyzed until he went away to talk to more normal girls. Marissa wasn’t at school yet, so here was my chance to give him the bear, wrapped in a shiny bag. As he took it out, Kaleb looked genuinely surprised at the lavish gift. He gave me a huge hug and showed everyone the bear for the rest of the day. Thus concluded our Valentine duties.
I went back to knitting myself a bodysock to live in forever.
A few hours later
Marissa saw the bear and almost definitely recognized it. But she handled it with much poise.
Several hours later
I jammed my gifts into my backpack to conceal them, snapping off the flower on my rose. When I got home, I slammed it into a page of my diary, and threw that along with the chocolate rose under my bed. They’re still in a box in my garage somewhere.
Several years later
The drinking, drug use and skating caught up with Kaleb and last I heard he was hospitalized for MRSA in Texas.