One afternoon, The Teacher and I decided we were gonna hit up some local flea markets so we grabbed some coffee, hopped in the car, and were on our way. We started out at a place called Connie’s Antiques and about halfway through our picking, I spotted a picnic basket that made my heart almost stop beating it was so cute. He must’ve known how much I loved it because he immediately offered to buy it for me. I told him he didn’t have to do that, but he kept insisting, but still, I wouldn’t let him get it for me. So, we continued browsing, went to a few more stores and then went home. The next day was Sunday and by this point, it had become tradition that we have lunch with my family every Sunday, so when he walked in around noon that particular day, I didn’t expect anything to be different. He came in (he was wearing his glasses that day, which I freaking LOVED), and he said, “Hey, did you know there’s a package for you on the front porch?” I thought this was weird seeing as it was Sunday and deliveries aren’t usually made on Sundays but I ran outside to see what it was. I’m getting choked up as I write this because I remember exactly the way I felt in that moment. I walked out on to my porch and there sat the picnic basket that I had been drooling over the day before. He had gone back later that afternoon and bought it for me. I remember thinking to myself that I was the luckiest girl on earth because he wanted to do whatever it took to make me happy.
Moments like this were not rare with The Teacher. The simplicity of life with him is probably what I miss the most. I can’t help but laugh when I think about the time we painted his entire house. I had never painted anything before but still I wanted to help him so he reluctantly handed me a roller and some paint. We decided he would take the top half of the walls and I’d stick with the bottom. So we turned on our 90’s rap music and started painting. I was feeling pretty good about life until we both stepped back to take a look at how far we had gotten. You guys, don’t ever let me paint your walls. Or anything for that matter. All we could do was laugh at how bad of a job I had done. Needless to say, I got stuck with taping off the walls from there on out. When the entire house had been painted and all the tape had been pulled off the trim, we did one final walk through to make sure we hadn’t missed a spot. We ended in his bedroom and as we stood there, wrapped up in each other’s arms, I noticed that we had missed the tape above his bedroom door. Seeing as I’m only 5”1” I couldn’t quite reach it. I don’t know why, but for some reason, we decided to leave that little strip of blue painter’s tape above his door. And every time I’d see it, I was reminded of the reason why I was falling in love with this man…..because for two solid weeks, all we did was work on fixing up his new home–cleaning, painting, hanging new blinds—and we had fun. It was easy. It was effortless. It was simple.
I have naturally curly hair. Actually, that’s an understatement. I have an afro that, when untamed, looks as though I have a mane. When I turned 19 or so, I decided I was going to start straightening my hair and for the last six or seven years now, I’ve straightened it nearly every day. One day last Spring, it was raining and I was running late and those two things combined forced me to wear my hair curly. I remember being a tad bit nervous for The Teacher to see my hair in its natural form, but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. I was working across the hall from him that particular day and I remember around 4th hour, he walked into my classroom and handed me a piece of paper. Every student in the room was staring at me and all he said was, “I need you to sign this for me.” So I unfolded it, read the words on the page, and almost melted in to a puddle there on the floor in front of every last student. He had scribbled “You look so freaking hot today” on this piece of paper and I know my cheeks were every shade of red and pink you could think of. And there he stood, just staring at me, waiting for me to sign this piece of paper so all those students wouldn’t suspect anything. So I signed “Cantwell” on the piece of paper and handed it back to him and he turned around and walked out. I must’ve held my breath for five minutes because I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. Here I was, looking like Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus, and he thought I looked hot. He asked me to start wearing my hair curly more often and even though I was hesitant, I did it for him, and he always, always complimented me. When he decided to introduce me to his parents, I wore my hair curly that day and I remember him actually thanking me later that evening because he said he loved it when I wore my hair like that.
One summer night, we were invited to some friends’ house for a BBQ. I remember sitting on the deck beside the pool, mindless chatter all around us, and he looked at me, winked, and mouthed the words “I love you” and everything else around me just kind of stopped.
Ya’ll ever heard of Pandora’s box? I think I opened it and I can’t seem to get the lid back on. I guess what I’m trying to say is that ever since I wrote about The Teacher a few days ago, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him. I kind of feel bad about it, but for the most part I don’t because, well, screw it. What’s the harm in thinking about someone. He doesn’t know. It’s not bothering him. Other than running in to him this morning at work, I think he has probably forgotten that I exist. I wonder what he thought as he pulled that little strip of blue painter’s tape off the trim above his door? I wonder if it made him sad at all or if, like most men, he was able to block out all the emotions that were connected to that little piece of tape. I don’t think about him as much as I used to. Or at least that’s the answer that I give when I’m asked if I miss him. That’s what I’m supposed to say, right? That I don’t miss him and I don’t think about him anymore? I hesitate to even right these words because I know that there are people who will read this that know and love him and I don’t want to come across as one of “those girls.” But when I started writing last summer, I promised myself I wouldn’t filter anything and that this would be a place of safety for me, a place that I could let my mind be free. So, I’ll set my pride aside and at the risk of being labeled, I’ll lay it all on the line and just say it…..I miss him every day. Every date I’ve been on since him, I’ve wished he was sitting across the table from me. Every time I’ve gotten dressed up for drinks with a new person, I’ve imagined being in shorts and a t-shirt at the little taco stand or holding his hand while we waited for a table the night he took me out to celebrate making the Dean’s List again. I don’t know why I torture myself with these bittersweet memories. But I do know that as I passed him this morning in the hall, all I wanted to do was hug him. I wanted to just look at him and tell him how sorry I was and beg him for a chance to love him again. Instead I just kept right on walking, no eye contact was even made. He muttered something as I walked by and I turned, gave him a little smile, and felt my heart begin to ache. Life is a funny, funny thing my friends. And hindsight is always 20/20. Sometimes I wish I could speed up time and then make it stop so I could take a look around and just have a small glimpse of where life is taking me.
Have a wonderful weekend! ~Rach