Occurred: February, 2000
My pink comforter was lumpy beneath my body. Although it was soft cotton, I may as well have been lying on rocks. Dried tears stained my flushed cheeks and although it was 2pm on a Monday, all I wanted to do was curl up and fall asleep.
Snow covered the ground outside. And by “covered” I mean I could have taken a feather duster and cleared the roads myself in a matter of two hours. It was one of those rare North Carolina winters where the skies opened up and allowed frozen flakes of bliss to come drifting slowly to the ground and actually stick to the roads. Every night for two weeks we got just enough snow to close the schools. Yes, my school closed as a result of one inch of snow for two weeks straight that February. It may be naïve, but I believe it was God’s way of letting me deal with my first breakup in the sanctuary of my own home as opposed to in a crowded hallway of people pointing and whispering. Never again since then has High Point, NC gotten two straight weeks of consistent snowfall.
This particular Monday was Day One of the snowfall. Three nights prior to that day, my first boyfriend dumped me. He dumped me through a friend. Over the phone. And then as a consolation, told her that, “He would still take me to prom if I wanted.” My response to that? “Fuck you, Ian.” Ok, that wasn’t really my response back then, but it would be now. His comment resulted in three days of inconsolable tears, and it just kept getting worse.
Ian and I became best friends the summer before my sophomore year of high school. He’d walk with me to class, even if it wasn’t his usual route. Now and then I’d find little notes left in my locker, just saying Hi! with a smiley face. That’s when I knew. That’s when I knew he really liked me.
I was finally getting used to the new town my parents had moved us to. Having finally found my niche of friends, Ian being one of a few, I relaxed into a groove. I was acting in community theatre, singing in school choir, performing in my school’s drama program, dancing in a workshop with a woman who at the time was my mentor, volunteering at church, and participating in random intramural sports.
Ian was tall and lanky with long arms and a deep voice for a guy who was only 16 years old. He was also an actor. We met freshman year in the spring musical. He came barreling toward me like a saint bernard running toward kibbel.
“You’re the new girl, right?”
I nodded but didn’t respond. My arms tightened around my books as I pressed them into my flat chest.
“Cool. You’ve been the talk of the school! We don’t get too many new students here.”
I cleared my throat, preparing to say something…anything. Come on Colleen…think. I glanced down and on his wrist I saw a friendship bracelet that was fraying at the edges. It was blue and green and looked handmade. Bumps and extra string hung out where it shouldn’t. “I like your bracelet,” I said quietly.
“Oh yeah, thanks,” he smiled. “My little sister made it for me. Green’s my favorite color, so, she chose to make it in blue and green…you know,” he said nodding.
I nodded along with him while my mind searched again for something to say… “Green,” I paused, “Like…a frog.” My God. Could I be a bigger idiot?
He laughed. “Yeah, like a frog. What’s your name?”
“Colleen,” I gulped air down my throat, trying to remind myself to keep
breathing, “with two ‘e’s.” Why I felt the need to add that last part, I’ll never know. I groaned to myself.
He smiled revealing big teeth. “Cool. I’ll see you around, Colleen—with two e’s.”
I watched him walk away, all tall and dreamy. He had dark hair, light brown eyes, and a long face with chubby cheeks; the kind of cheeks that people tell you for years will thin out, but never do. I have the same cheeks.
He and I started “going out” in April of our sophomore year. I loved him in that “You’re my first boyfriend, puppy-dog, doe-eyed” kind of way. He had invited me to see a movie; some god-awful film about a talking parrot. And then, at the end of the night, before his parents picked us up at the mall, he kissed me. His lips consumed my face, covering down past my chin and instead of being wrapped up in the magic of my first kiss, I remember wondering if it was supposed to feel so slobbery. Was I doing it wrong? Was there supposed to be more saliva involved on my part? I started imagining a chocolate cake so to make myself salivate more. When we pulled away from each other, I had a wet spot of drool on the front of my shirt and dripping down my neck. Sexy, I know.
But now, it was over. We were over. And so abruptly, too. He had been acting weird just before it happened. Not giving me rides home from school, and barely giving me a peck on the cheek when saying goodnight. I even noticed once as we were walking to class, that he had let go of my hand when the cheerleaders walked by us. They bounced down the halls so high and mighty, their blonde ponytails swinging back and forth with each annoyingly cheery step. I should have seen this coming. I started to cry harder.
My dad walked into my bedroom, knocking very lightly on the door. He had our portable phone in one hand and a post-it note in the other. I didn’t move; my body did not even flinch from the position I was in. He didn’t say a word, but sat down on the foot of my bed. Sighing, I swung my feet around and sat up next to him. My mom was out of town that weekend, and my sister was away at college. I was surrounded by testosterone in a moment where I desperately needed some estrogen. My brother would have been as much help as a gorilla in this situation, so my dad was the only one really present in our house to talk to. He had no idea why I had been crying for three days straight, but I could tell by the wrinkles on his forehead that he was very concerned about the well being of his youngest daughter.
“I just spoke to your mom,” he gestured with the phone, “she is in a seminar right now, but she said you could call her at the hotel anytime you needed to.” He passed me the phone and the post-it with her number scribbled in clean cursive. My dad always had the best handwriting out of all of us. I gently took the phone and paper from him and let them fall into my lap with a soft thud. He cleared his throat, his eyes darting back and forth from looking at me to looking at my white wall in front of him. “You know, you could always talk to me, too.”
It was too much for me to take. My jaw had been clenched, swallowing the knot sitting in my throat. In one loud burp, the sobs escaped and I dropped my forehead onto my dad’s shoulder. My entire body convulsed. Shoulders shaking and trembling, I cried into my dad’s arm. He jumped, completely startled by my outburst, which only made me cry harder. Seconds later, he leaned back into the hug, the bed creaking beneath him. Through the tears, I managed to spurt out some shrill words. “Ian (breath)…..broke (sob)…..up (gulp)……with (sniffle)…….me!” I gasped for breath between each.
I wish I had seen my dad’s face when I revealed why I had been crying for days. To see that combination of relief (that it wasn’t anything more serious), but then sheer terror (at the fact that he was the only one around to console me) would have been priceless.
His hand started patting my back in a foreign way. It felt as though a stranger was tapping my shoulder, asking for directions. His statement to me, words that I can only assume were meant to soothe: “I know that can hurt.”
Thank you, dad.
You have given me many pearls of wisdom over the years. This oyster, however, was empty.
Of course it hurts, dad. Ian and I had been dating almost a year at the time he dumped me. The reason he broke up with me was because he had been seeing someone else. Was it our senior class president? No. Was it a rival school’s popular girl? Nope. Was it our head cheerleader? Wrong again. It was our cheerleading coach. Let me say that again so you clearly understand….
MY 16 YEAR OLD, HIGH SCHOOL BOYFRIEND WAS NOW DATING MY SCHOOL’S CHEERLEADING COACH. She was 31. She was also the choreographer of many musicals I had been in and my dance instructor for the workshop I attended yearly. Yes, she was my aforementioned mentor. They met because of me.
When Ian turned 18 and graduated high school, he and his cheerleading coach (known for many years to my friends and me as Coach Cunt) moved to Florida and got married.
And I spent several years wishing and praying over rosary beads that their marriage would end in a bitter divorce.