I adored him with the shiny, puffy-sticker resiliency of an eighth grader.  Made into matter my love was rock candy, pure and sharp and sweet beyond logic. I looked to our destined future together which seemed already set in motion.

“You guys were HOLDING HANDS” squealed Claudia, “Open Arms is your song now!” she gushed, vicariously excited by my coming-of-age moment and skating toward a gaggle of girls huddled together by the pizza counter to give a report. Roller rinks were the latest in a long string of places we went to live out our pre-teen dramas.  Sometimes the boys would flex and compete in feats of strength at the baseball field while the girls lounged artfully on the bleachers, sometimes there were games of spin-the-bottle in someone’s basement, but lately ‘Wheelie’s Roller Rink’ was the place for channeling our newly bubbling hormones into posturing and groping on a Saturday night.

“My hands were so sweaty” I reported to the rapt audience of lip-glossed feminine faces pretending casual interest, “It’s no big deal” I added, following suit and hoping my flushed skin wasn’t beet red.

I relived the moment over and over, how I skated next to Nate, pretending it was a coincidence.  Then the lights dimmed as Journey began to play romantically through blown-out speakers facing down from the ceiling. Nate glanced sideways at me with bright hazel eyes and took my hand, holding it clammily in his.  My arm froze, soakiJourneyng in every sensation, every second, at one with Steve Perry’s entreating plea…

…So here I am, with open arms
Hoping you’ll see what your love means to me
Open arms….”

We giggled about it at sleepover parties, boys and sex and every possible topic parallel and adjacent, but now that it was happening, it felt like a dream. An awkward, uncomfortable dream.

“Listen, he’s kind of dumb” Nicky hedged, “don’t expect too much from him.”
The school dance was coming up, and Nicky and I talked about it like the Academy Awards was being held in our town. Nicky was Nate’s twin brother, and also my best friend. He was well versed in the depth and sincerity of my crush on his doppelgänger, we spent many of our after-school hours discussing it on the phone.
“I didn’t talk to him at all today, but I stood next to him during gym” I rambled, missing the foreshadowing in his tone. “And during math he asked me for a pencil, but that’s it.”

I said that I hoped Nate would ask me to the dance, although the idea of it filled my stomach to unpleasant proportions with nervous anxiety. It was like watching the person before you jump off the high dive, knowing it was your turn and there was no turning back because everyone would yell at you for going down the crowded pool ladder.  Nate asking me to the dance was terrifying, but after surviving the strange excitement of couples-only skating I figured this was the next step.

There was a click suddenly, someone picking up the other extension at Nicky’s house, and suddenly Nate’s voice broke across the wire and into my unprepared ears.
“Hey Lisa” he mumbled casually, “you think Genie would go with me to the dance?”
I heard an intake of breath from Nicky, both witness to my humiliation and stenographer, noting every detail to make a full dissection of the conversation possible later on.

I can’t say I experienced heartbreak, secretly I had already begun daydreaming about a cute blond boy who sat in the back of the class, but I became immediately uncomfortable and began filling the air with nonsensical assurances that Genie would definitely go with him, I was sure of it. Nicky threw himself onto the conversation like it was a hand grenade, admonishing Nate for interrupting and kicking him off the line.

“Yeah, he was asking about her, I was gonna tell you” he said sheepishly. “He’s an idiot.”
“Yeah. Genie” I laughed, wounded, and relieved. Then, after a moment, “well, do you think Bobby likes me?”

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