In case you hadn’t noticed all the commercials, Valentine’s Day is drawing near. Yep, it’s the season for chocolate, overpriced flowers, and awkward obligation sex for people who really don’t like each other that much anymore. The season filled with love notes – varying from romantic to downright awkward – always makes me think of the first love note I ever received. The Worst Love Note Ever.
I was standing with my usual junior high gaggle during seventh grade gym class when he walked up, pushing his way under the other girls’ elbows. “This is for you,” Cruz muttered, thrusting a tightly-folded piece of notebook paper into my hands and shuffling back to the volleyball court. The group around me lit up, eyes flashing with curiosity. “Oh my god! What is it? Tell us what it says!” they demanded as I quickly jammed the note into the pocket of my soccer shorts.
Cruz was already a topic of numerous adolescent conversations at the school. The boy had disappeared after second grade, mysteriously vanishing with his family for years and showing back up in middle school at the beginning of seventh grade. In a small community like ours, these things got noticed. Students whispered that he had gone temporarily crazy and been sent to a mental institution. It didn’t help that one of the school “behavioral specialists” frequently dropped in to check on him during classes and he wasn’t allowed to eat lunch or take breaks with the rest of the students. My only memory of him from second grade was when he chased me down in a game of tag, pinned me to a tree and attempted to kiss me in front of the entire school. Mortifying.
I waited to read the note until I was alone at home, and it was just as I feared. “Dear Chelsea, You are the most beautiful person in the world. I remember our class in elementary school and think about it all the time. I dreamed about you every night for the last five years. I love you and want to kiss you. I need you to be my girlfriend. Please write back. Truly yours forever and ever, Cruz.” The note came complete with doodled hearts and a sketch of him sitting below a thought bubble with my name in it.
Crap. Every night for five years!? Since we were seven? I understand this is the basis of some adorable love stories and romance movies, but in real life it’s a little creepy. I pulled out a purple pen and my wide-ruled paper, attempting to craft a straightforward but gentle rejection. I was aiming for something that would get the message across, but hopefully not enrage a possible mental institution escapee. “Cruz, Thank you for the thoughtful letter. I am very flattered, but I don’t feel the same way. I’m not looking for a boyfriend, although I would be happy to be friends. I hope you’re enjoying the new school. Chelsea.”
I discreetly handed him the note on the basketball court the next day before escaping back to my huddle. About ten minutes later the gym was clearing when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a strange figure hurdling at me. Cruz was at the other end of the room with his arm curled back in a hammer fist, trampling toward me like Sonic the Hedgehog. Time stood still for a moment as I pondered his hateful look and it occurred to me that my lanky anemic ass was about to get pummeled.
Thankfully, my genius maneuvering skills saved the day. When Cruz reached about three feet away, I took a simple step sideways and watched as he wizzed by, plowing into the wall behind me. School administration promptly switched him out of all my classes and he was warned not to contact me again.
At just twelve years old, Cruz taught me a valuable lesson that has stuck with me to this day: Avoid all love notes like the plague. They can only end in disaster.