I fell in love with you the first day of kindergarten. We rarely spoke but we told our friends secretly in the cafeteria that we were spoken for. I wasn't sure if you loved me back until that time we were partnered for stations. We sat there across the table like adults sipping fine wine on a first date in a foreign country if we had met in an art museum + didn't speak the same language. We took turns pushing the rainbowed, wooden beads across the stiff, metal lines of the abacus imagining we knew how to add + pretending like we were actually doing anything other than getting lost in each other's eyes through the myriad of color, the wall that provided just enough separation to comfort us.
You invited me to your birthday party at the bowling alley. I was honored to receive the invite in the mail. My mom let me open the envelope. She put the card on the fridge as a reminder. After the party, I snuck it off to hide in my room in a box where I kept special rocks I had found in the backyard + my collection of stick-on earrings.
When my parents dropped me off for the party, I cried. And I cried. And I cried. At school it was acceptable for us not to talk--to communicate across the room with no words, just happenstance glances at the same time, in the same place promptly ended by embarrassed stares down at the Keds on our feet, soft giggles + blushed faces. But here, I would have to speak. And I didn't know what to say. I pretended I was crying because I had never bowled before + I didn't know how. But the reality was that I had butterflies. So I sat out the game + buried my face in tissues until it was over.
When it came time for the after-party, I stood there in the back room still embarrassed by what I played of to be my lack of ten pin skill. Pizza in-hand, you walked over to me to me to hand-deliver my party favor–a Polly Pocket necklace. As your mom handed out the rest of the necklaces to the girls + miniature Super Soakers to the boys, you slipped the necklace into my five-year-old hand + said, "I picked the gold one for you," + walked away.
I switched schools after kindergarten. The last day of our first year of school was the last day I saw you 25 years ago. But, Billy, I still think of you because it's not easy to find someone like you–someone who understands me without words. If I was too shy on your birthday to thank you for my gold Polly Pocket, I'll tell you now even though I know you filled in the blanks long ago.