Sometimes, my memory is amazing. Other times, not so much. Here’s a story of young Shawn.
I don’t quite remember how it all started, I’m simply too far removed. I was in the 3rd grade, after all. Her name was Crystal. She had short brown hair that curled at the bottom. Her favorite outfits consisted of pastel dresses and clunky little black shoes.
My class at the time had us sit on the floor more often than not. 30 little kids sitting on a giant brown rug in the middle of a stereotypical classroom. A map on the wall. A retractable white screen for presentations above the dusty green chalkboard since the world had not yet moved on to dry-erase boards. While it may seem odd to have a bunch of kids sitting Indian-style on a rug, there was a bit of order in the chaos. Across the rug were colored tape stripes which symbolized rows for us to sit in. Red. Yellow. Green. Blue. At the time, I didn’t even realize that tape came in colors other than clear and duct. 3rd grade Shawn probably didn’t realize a lot of things, come to think of it.
The teacher also didn’t just throw us onto our colored tape benches in any which way either - we sat alphabetically starting from the front. Somehow, there was nobody in the class whose name began with the letter a so I was the first person on the front right corner of the rug. I sat on the blue stripe. Crystal, as it happened, sat directly behind me on the green. I do not know how we got started down the road to being boyfriend and girlfriend - or whatever you’d call two 3rd graders - but it was neat to be sitting so close to her.
During videos and other classroom activities that required the lights to be turned off, we sneakily held hands. Since she was right behind me, I’d just reach back with my right hand since the teacher’s desk was to our left and Crystal would put her hand in mine. She happily embraced my skinny, underfed fingers in her lightly tan digits. I’d rub my thumb across hers and, oddly enough, it’s still something I do today.
It’s funny to think about this and remember how much simpler things were then. No distractions or bullshit that we’ve all accumulated over the years of happiness and disappointment from our other relationships. To be honest, I don’t know how long any of this business with Crystal lasted. I do very vividly remember how it ended.
Sometime that semester in school, my mom and her boyfriend decided to move us out to Texas. He got a job there and my mom wasn’t about to let her meal ticket leave so we all had to move. Once I knew I was leaving, I also knew it was time to begin saying goodbye to everyone. I told my friends, my teachers. I began asking for everyone’s addresses so that we could write to each other and stay in touch. It’s always the best of intentions at this point but eventually we all forget and the letters come less often. Friend after friend, boy and girl, they all gave me their addresses in their terrible handwriting. Everyone except Crystal.
For reasons which I still do not understand, I never got her address. I have a vague memory of her sitting at a table across from me, silently watching me with her big brown eyes. Was she wondering why I wasn’t asking for her address? Wondering why I seemed to have been ignoring her?
In the end, I never got her address and once I’d moved I never saw or spoke to her again either. Was I scared, even then, to keep in touch because I was somehow acutely aware of the fact that nothing could come of it? That I didn’t see a point in it all? I was only 7 and I wasn’t going to be flying back to LA often. It’s weird to imagine that at such a young age I could have any concept of that kind of loss, but, given how my life has played out I certainly think it’s possible.
As with many of my relationships - personal, familial, and romantic - I just moved on and never gave it a second thought. It’s unfair of me to treat people this way and I feel that I’ve improved somewhat during the last half-decade of my life. It obviously still gnaws at some part of me given just how much I remember and that I took the time to write this all out for you.
Hopefully that little girl forgave me and I’m nothing more now than a faint, flickering light in her memory which she cannot quite explain exists and doesn’t associate with me. I’m quite comfortable with being forgotten.