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R is for Romance, Right?

     Middle school was awful. In the midst of puberty, homework, and attending speech therapy 2 - 3 times a week; it was not the most enjoyable years.

    Smart enough to be in 'normal' classes, yet I was not verbally intelligible enough to leave speech therapy. Hence, I hid speech therapy to a lot of people. Acquaintances, or those not close to me, would ask why I was always pulled out of class, and I lied. If they asked, I would usually say, "It's a library program I'm in" or "I volunteer at the library." That usually settled their nosiness. 

      There was a negative connotation of "speech therapy" from my peers (this does not include my closest friends) in the general school population.  Their impression of "speech therapy" was the same impression of their peers in special-education. Speech therapy was lame and for 'special' kids, at least most of my peers and myself considered it that way. If certain individuals discovered I attended speech therapy, like the popular bullies, I knew I was done for. Middle School was definitely spent with a lot of anxiety and paranoia. 

     Despite this, I still had the usual girl moments. Eighth grade I had my first major crush and things were serious. We had two Spring Semester classes together, Science and Math. Despising both subjects, having a crush at least kept my interest in attending class. Cute, funny, and a bit of a trouble-maker, he was quite the catch.

     In Math class, he sat in front of me and we would actually talk. He would ask to borrow a pencil and even say my name, "Alyson, can I borrow a pencil?" He often failed to do his homework or fully complete it, so he would ask to see my answers. I would always remark, "It's all wrong anyways, but sure." He'd copy my answers regardless if they were right or wrong, because he confirmed that I was the smart one.

   True romance, I know.

   Now I was often dismissed from class for speech therapy, but I always missed English or Social Studies as those were my strongest subjects. I could afford to miss those classes. However, something went haywire this one afternoon and my Math teacher received the phone call to send me to speech therapy.

    Most of my teachers discreetly announced, "Aly, you're needed in the library."

    I knew exactly what that meant. It was like an unspoken code that Library = Speech Therapy.

   Apparently, my Math teacher missed this memo. Aloud, in front of the whole class (including my crush sitting in front of me), my math teacher said, "Alyson, you need to go to speech therapy."

   A rock settled in my stomach, and I wondered if there was a different Alyson that message was meant for. But sadly not. My crush turned his head at me, bewildered. A few other students were staring, die-hard staring at me. I will never forget walking out of my math class and kids staring at me like I was a mutant. One of them whispered about, "What's speech therapy?" Granted I had lied to most of them about that "library program" in the past...whoops.

    I walked out into the hall to head to speech therapy and it was the first time I cursed as well. I was beyond mad.

     Months and years of hiding speech therapy from my peers throughout Middle School, and a good chunk of them found out in one day. In front of my crush too! I was mortified.

     That speech session was unsuccessful as well. I was a passive aggressive brat who refused to play a board game that afternoon. I even told the speech therapist, "Just say we can't talk well and quit hiding it behind Chutes and Ladders." By that point, I had been in speech therapy for years and my crush had just found out that I was a weird-talking freak; to say that I was over it that day is an understatement. And sadly, I took out my anger on the speech therapist.

   Surprisingly, my crush still talked to me after that and never asked about the whole speech therapy thing. I was relieved, as other classmates impolitely talked to me about it. They'd interject with rude, unnecessary comments and questions inside of class and in the hallways between classes.
 
    They'd say the same dumb things, such as, "Ask her to say, 'Rose,'" or "I didn't know retards had accents." I recall selecting which way I would walk or run to my next class to avoid the usual bullies between classes.

    February arrived and my crush and I were still talking in Math class. He never made fun of me and frankly I liked that. It was nice to talk to a guy without being made fun of. A Valentine's Day dance was approaching and I had never gone to a Middle School dance before. But this time, after begging and begging, my parents agreed to let me go if I wanted to.

    I was beyond excited. I wanted to be with my crush at this Valentine's Day dance. I told a couple of my close girlfriends and they supported me in asking him out. It was the week of the dance and I found his favorite candy was Reese's. I bought a pack out of the vending machine during lunch, talked to my girlfriends, and finally crossed the long field of grass to where my crush sat for lunch.

    Understand that at lunch time, each clique has their own designated places to eat and hang out. You do not mix-and-mingle in a certain space that isn't yours. It violates the unwritten rules and map of school-yard lunch time.

   I violated it completely.

   I crossed over to the popular kids' table where my crush was.

   Everyone at the table was perplexed as to why I was there and I politely asked my crush, "Hey, can I talk to you alone, please?"

   He agreed and we walked away from his table. I was beyond nervous, I had never spoken to him outside of the classroom and here I was asking about a dance. Even if he says no, at least I asked him, right? Then I'll know if he likes me or doesn't and I can just leave it at that. 

   He asked me, "So, what's up?" and I babbled.

    Somehow I handed him the Reese's and said, "I know you like these, and I just was wondering if you were going to the dance so maybe we could hang out there?"

   I was nervous. That wasn't the way I had rehearsed in front of the mirror, but he understood what I was getting at. At least I was confident enough to ask him out? He would never ask me out, so it's good that I am asking him out just to see.

   He took a bite of the Reese's and I asked again, "So??"

   His response was definitely not what I was hoping for. I had daydreamed about him of course saying yes, but I had prepared for him to just say 'No thank you,' or a rejection along those lines.

    He looked at me and responded, "Look, thanks for the candy you seem chill. It's just I don't hang out with retards. You get it, right? We just can't hang like that."

   If I were to have punched anybody in my childhood, it would have been him in this moment. I am sure my parents would have silently accepted that too, at least my Dad would have. Trust me, I thought about the pros and cons of punching him in the face within a split second.

   Rejection is fine, it's a part of dating and I understood that at the time and even now. There was no guarantee he'd agree to go to the dance with me, which I knew before I asked him. But being called a retard by the person I liked, that hurt. It actually hurt a lot... Then to question if I understood why he can't hang out with me was even worse.

    If I said I understood, I was admitting that I was a retard. Retards don't get to hang out with people like my crush, apparently.

    I told him anyways that I understood, it was one of the hardest things I said aloud and no I did not follow with a sucker punch. I did not understand why he saw me as a retard if he copied off my homework, nor why he could not hang out with me - frankly, I did not want to understand.

    At the end of the day, he didn't care if I understood. He only wanted reassurance so he could go about his day thinking he's still a 'nice guy.' I went back to my friends and they asked how it went. I lied to them too, and pulled out a grin while saying, "Oh, he's busy that night and not going to the dance." And I went through lunch pretending everything was fine.

   After lunch, we had our math class. Sitting behind your used-to-be crush after he called you a retard is quite the experience. Surely, my timing in asking him out was awful. Class was about to begin and he had the audacity to turn around and ask me for a pencil.

   I ignored him.

   He asked again.

   "No, you can't borrow one" I retorted.

   And he said, "Come on, you have an extra one I see it on your desk."

   I replied, "No"

   He rolled his eyes, taking the pencil off my desk anyways.

    The good thing, my teachers liked me because I was pretty well-behaved and a huge teacher's pet. My crush on the other-hand was a trouble maker. As soon as he took my pencil, I hid my last remaining pencil from my desk, raised my hand and snitched, "He stole my ONLY pencil and won't give it back!"

    I know pathetic, but I had to get that pencil back from him to make a point. The teacher intervened and told him in the stern teacher voice, "Give Alyson back the pencil. And watch yourself, you don't want detention again, do you?

     He gave me back the pencil, after breaking the led against his desk, and whispered, "I didn't know you were such a bitch."

 I retorted, "I didn't know I was a retard either."

  The teacher shushed us and we never spoke again after. I came home and never told my parents. I only told my parents that I did not want to go to the dance anymore. I played outside with my little sister and ate dinner.  I cried myself to sleep that night and melodramatically talked to myself about how, "Retards don't go to dances," and, "I'll show them I'm not retarded, I'm not!"

     I woke up the next day pretending it never happened.

     Thankfully, this is by far the worst moment in my dating/relationship/crush life with the reminiscing effects of Apraxia. (Thank goodness for that!)



 

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