“Alfred, I like you.”
The person who you had a crush on for nearly three years was standing right in front of you and staring at you. Before, you had only stolen glances at him from various points of your classrooms afraid that he or some other classmate might catch you looking at him. Alfred wasn’t a particularly smart student, but just to increase your chances of being in the same classes with him, you remained in preparatory courses instead of the honors and advanced courses your teachers and counselors had recommended. Now, after many years of watching him from afar, you finally summed up your courage and confronted your aching feelings and fears by saying the three simple yet critical words.
“Say what?” Alfred replied. You hadn’t been expecting something like that.
Did I say it too softly? you wondered. Your face was beet-red, but nevertheless, you decided to try again.
“I like you,” you repeated yourself in a slightly louder voice. Thank goodness school had been out for nearly two hours. The only way you were lucky enough to catch Alfred here like this was because he had finished up football practice and was headed towards the locker room.
The jock only stood there emotionless for a few seconds. Then, he averted his eyes from yours and twisted his lips together.
“Mm, that’s nice and all, but…” he began.
“But?” You cocked your head. Such a contradictory word was so small, but it was very powerful.
“I don’t even know your name,” Alfred chuckled.
You could only stare. He was joking. He had to be. You had been in every single one of his classes, even sports psychology, and frankly, you knew nothing about sports nor cared for them.
“A-Alfred,” you stuttered, “w-we’ve been in the same classes ever since the beginning of high school. How could you not know my name?”
Your classmate shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, if you were important or something, I would have remembered it. I guess your name wasn’t worth remembering.”
No. He’s joking. He always jokes around, ___________, you told yourself. Just try again.
“What about when I let you copy my homework in geometry? I even let you borrow my pencil for the entire year. You never even gave it back.”
“I don’t remember that stuff. Math just flies over my head.”
“I sat in front of you that entire year,” you said hearing your own voice growing into a soft whisper. Your cheeks were growing hot, and your eyes began to feel steamy and wet. You had to go. You couldn’t afford to let Alfred see you like this whether he remembered who you were or not.
“I…I need to go,” you said quickly turning and walking briskly away. To your embarrassment, your eyes were so wet that you nearly walked into the men’s restroom before spotting the upright urinals. Once you reached the farthest stall of the right restroom, you locked the door and fell to your knees and began to break down into tears wondering why in the world you had managed to put up with all the painstaking years before this.
Alfred thought it was strange how that girl just up and left him here without saying a proper goodbye or telling him her name. She didn’t seem like a bad person, but there was something strange about the way she was talking to him. Many girls had told him they liked him, but they had all been so uninteresting. What difference did breaking one more girl’s heart make?
She said she sat in front of my all year in geometry… he thought. I thought some bozo sat in front of me all year. Oh wait, wasn’t that algebra? Hold on. Doesn’t that mean…?
“Alfred, there you are,” a soft voice said from behind. When Alfred turned around, he saw his younger brother, Matthew huffing and wheezing like he had just run a marathon.
“What’s taking you so long?” Matthew panted. “Do you know I’ve been waiting for you to come to the front of the school for nearly twenty minutes?”
“It’s been that long?” Alfred asked. “I’m sorry. I was talking with this one girl who said she liked me.”
Matthew sighed. “Another one, huh? Who’s heart did you break this time?”
Alfred scratched his head. “Funny thing about that, but I couldn’t remember her face. She said she sat in front of me in my geometry class all year, but I thought it was that space-case who plays baseball.”
His brother face-palmed. “Alfred, you’re not wearing your glasses because you just came back from practice. That’s why you couldn’t recognize her face. And you really don’t remember who sat in front of you all year in geometry? It was ____________ ____________. You know, as in the girl you told me you liked?”
“Oh, shoot, that was her?” Alfred blinked. “I thought her voice sounded familiar…”
Matthew could only shake his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe you sometimes, Alfred. How could you not recognize her?”
“I didn’t think she was interested in someone like me,” Alfred frowned. “I mean, she’s so smart and quiet, and I’m…well, I’m none of those things.”
“Where’d she go?”
“I dunno. She just said she was going somewhere.”
“She went into the bathroom like every other girl you turned down, didn’t she?” Matthew correctly guessed.
“Hey, I didn’t turn her down,” Alfred protested. “She left before I could even ask her what her name was.”
“Probably because you didn’t remember who she was,” his brother guessed correctly yet again.
“Fine, fine, I’ll go find her. Oh, but hey, can I borrow your glasses real quick? I don’t want to go losing her again.”
Matthew sighed and took off his glasses. “Here,” he said. “Don’t go messing up again.”
“I won’t,” Alfred said and put on his brother’s glasses. They were shaped differently than his original pair, but that didn’t matter now. All he cared about was finding ___________ so he could tell her how sorry he was—and how he really felt about her.
The first thing you heard over your tears was the sound of heavy footsteps walking into the bathroom. Thinking it was another girl just passing by to use the restroom, you held your breath and waited for her to leave before resuming your pitiful episode. But, unexpectedly, you heard the person pushing on all of the bathroom stall doors one by one as if looking for something—or maybe someone.
Your heart began to race. What if that person came to your stall? What then? You could only wait as the person drew nearer hoping she would find what she was looking for so she would reach your stall.
Then, you heard a clink, the sound of your lock smashing against its small rectangular frame with a small sliding fastener holding an entire door down between the two of you.
“It’s occupied,” you said to the person on the other side.
Again, the door jammed. Whoever it was, that person wanted to get in. Maybe the other bathroom stalls were dirty.
“I-I’m almost done,” you quickly said and grabbed a few sheets of toilet paper to dry your eyes so you could pretend you had just finished using the bathroom. After drying your tears, you threw the toilet paper down the toilet and flushed it. Then, you waited a few seconds before unlocking the door and preparing yourself to head out to the sink and wash your hands.
You gasped. It wasn’t a girl standing in front of you. Heck, it wasn’t even someone you had expected to see inside the girls’ bathroom.
Feeling flustered, your eyes began to search for a way out without having to cause any more of a scene. Maybe you could duck behind his arms or sidestep out of his way before he moved forward and trapped you in the stall. What in the world was he doing here, anyway?
“Uh, look, I really should be going, Alfred,” you sniffed with your head hanging towards the ground. Your eyes were still swollen.
Then, before you could take one step, Alfred barred your path by holding one arm out to both sides of your stall right at the middle so you couldn’t jump over or go under. How clever for someone who always scraped by with average grades.
“____________,” he said. “It’s _____________, isn’t it?”
You blinked confused at what he was exactly asking you.
Alfred didn’t look so clueless for once, but that didn’t hide the fact that he looked shameful. “I said I didn’t remember you, didn’t I? When you said you sat in front of me during geometry, I said the math flew over my head, and that’s true but that was only because you were in that class, ___________.”
You didn’t say anything confused at what your classmate was getting at. Still, you refused to look into his eyes in fear of him seeing your miserable state.
“_____________, the reason I didn’t recognize you right off the bat was because I wasn’t wearing my glasses,” Alfred continued. “I know it sounds like a lame excuse, but that’s really what was up. I’ve got bad eyesight. You’ve gotta believe me.”
“I believe you,” you said recalling all of those times Alfred had forgotten his glasses at practice and had to sit way up at the front of the classroom to see the board.
“You do? Well that’s a relief,” Alfred sighed. “But, hey, I’m sorry for what I said back there. I really am.”
“Is that all you wanted you say?” you asked without even thinking.
“No. There’s something else, ______________.”
You couldn’t help but feel a fuzzy electrical wave run through your head to toes when Alfred said your name. He wasn’t lying about forgetting who you were after all. All of a sudden, you felt his hands clutch your shoulders pinning you straight to the floor of the bathroom.
“Listen, ___________, I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time, but I like you, too,” Alfred said.
You blinked. You were waiting for Alfred to smile or laugh and say it was all a joke, but after standing there for what felt like a good two minutes, you knew he was being completely serious—after all, he had never stayed still and so quiet for such a long period of time before.
“You’re not lying?” you asked feeling your voice squeak under pressure.
“Nope,” Alfred replied. “I’m being completely honest with you. I didn’t mean it when I said I didn’t know you. I just couldn’t recognize your face. That was completely my fault.”
You sighed. Finding the right words to say was never one of his strong points. Still, you couldn’t find it in you to stay upset at him especially after he said that.
“Alfred, if you’re really being serious, then maybe I should tell you that this isn’t the best place to be doing any confessing,” you said out of complete honesty.
“Oh yeah, you’re right, huh?” he laughed and released your shoulders. “We should probably get out of here. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m a creep by hanging out around a girls’ restroom.”
Once the two of you walked out, Alfred immediately grabbed your hands and attempted to pull your lips towards his, but you lowered your head just enough so he only kissed your forehead.
“Hey, what’s wrong, ___________?” he asked with disappointment lingering in his voice. “I thought you said you liked me.”
You pursed your lips together. “Confessing inside the bathroom is one thing. Kissing for the first time outside of one is another.”
“You have a point…” Alfred admitted looking crestfallen.
“Still…” you giggled. “I’m glad you really noticed me. That’s all that matters for now.”
“Mm-hmm,” you nodded.
As Alfred led you outside of the school, you noticed his brother, Matthew leaning on the fence from a few paces away. You almost didn’t recognize him with since he didn’t have his glasses on. Now that you thought about it, Alfred’s glasses did look a little rounder than usual.