Written by Di MadWriter
My hands quivered as I flipped through the pages in search of a name or face that looked remotely like the boy I had dated for over two years. He didn’t seem to be anywhere in there.
The thing that I feared the most about homecoming was the thought of seeing him there. Jorey, my first love. He was perfect in more ways than one. His shiny black hair flowing down his shoulders and how he flew it back when it fell across his face. Deep eyes that led straight to a beautiful soul. A smile I liked to call the joy of the morning— it could light up an entire city.
I never thought two people so different could fall in love. The only thing Jorey loved more than being all by himself was being with me. He could be seated right there in class and no one would know whether he was in school or not. Very unlike me, he barely spoke. At some point, I stopped asking if anyone had seen him. I’d just go straight to look, and he was almost always there.
I remember the day I first saw him; he was fiddling with his locker in a way that made it obvious that he was new. Everyone went about their normal businesses while he stood there, confused. I gave him a warm smile and showed him how to open it. The relief on his face showed just how much he had needed my help, so I offered to show him around. He laughed once and I knew I wanted to hear the sound of that laughter every day.
We may have been different, but we complemented each other. I was the talker while he was the listener. I dragged him to parties and he made me sit and watch scary movies with him in a dark hall. And we were there for each other when it mattered. Like when he lost his mother and had to stay with his grandma in a facility. And when I was bullied by this other guy, he had assured me that everything would be okay. News reached us the next morning that the bully had woken up unable to move his legs. It was shocking.
There I sat, many years after high school, laughing with one-time friends who now seemed like total strangers. I was much more comfortable knowing that there was no sight of Jorey anywhere. We had dated for the remaining two years of high school. I can easily say that those were the best two years of my life. On graduation day, we had spent most of the time alone in a classroom, remembering all the happy memories we shared. Then he hugged me, and I could feel his heartbeat against mine. It was funny how serious and emotional he could get. Just a high school graduation and he acted as though he was being recruited and sent to a war-front.
It all began to make sense after I woke up the next morning and tried to reach him through his cell, and it was disconnected. That was strange, I had just spoken to him the previous night before going to sleep. I kept trying, but it still didn’t go through. Maybe he had lost his phone or something, I thought. But he knew my place, and he would come visiting soon. He didn’t. I tried locating the facility where he told me he stayed with his grandma, and all I saw was an abandoned factory. It began to dawn on me that I may never see him again. I was right; I never did.
A breakup would have been great. He could’ve told me he needed to move on, or that I did something wrong, or that it was him not me— literally anything would’ve been better than sudden and complete disappearance.
Back at the reunion, as we spoke about all the crazy things we did while in school, most of which had to do with dating, it was almost impossible not to bring Jorey up. A part of me also wanted to know if any of them had heard from him; if he was involved in an accident or something of sort. So, I narrated how he took me to the baseball pitch and made me throw those balls at him while he ran around the field. It was the most excited I had ever seen him.
But they all exchanged glances on hearing his name like there was something about him that I didn’t know. That made me very curious, so I had to ask expressly if any of them ever heard from him since the graduation.
“Who’s Jorey? You didn’t date anyone all through high school.”
It was funny, but only to me. The others nodded and swayed their heads like they were trying to remember Jorey who I had openly dated for two whole years.
“How about the times we went on group dates. Remember those times? Who did I go with then?
“You came alone, babe. You refused to tag along with any of us and preferred to drive alone to the bar and back in your car. We always thought you felt bad about not having a boyfriend, so we didn’t push it.”
The joke was losing its taste. I quickly grabbed one of the yearbooks displayed on the tables and flipped through, scanning each page for his face, or his name. He didn’t seem to be mentioned anywhere there. I thought about the graduation pictures and remembered how we stayed inside while others took pictures. He didn’t like being in pictures.
Seeing those faces and how they looked very sure of what they said, I was forced to question my sanity and memory. I thought of all the times that we weren’t by ourselves, like when we went on those group dates, how he silently sipped his drink and watched others speak; how he looked at me occasionally and we traded smiles. He’d say to me after that he loved listening as much as the rest of us loved talking. I could not think of one notable time that he spoke up. Remembering it, I began to see that if truly he wasn’t there, everything would have still played out the way that it did.
The thought of it was very scary. I left them at once and raced to my car, but I was too shaky to keep my hands steady. I remembered his hair, his smile, his eyes. How he only visited me when no one else was around, and always had excuses when I suggested he should come over for dinner. How he watched me cry and told me that the bully would pay for what he did, that he was sure of it. And later in the evening of graduation day, he insisted on watching me walk to my car and drive off. I waved at him one last time, but he didn’t wave back. He smiled instead.
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