1. i noticed you for the first time in the fourth grade. you were helping a little girl out of the gravel on the playground, and holding her hand as she cried, telling her it was going to be okay. her head fell onto your shoulder, and you held her until she stilled, making jokes in her ear that made her smile.
2. when you uprooted yourself from your close knit group of friends to sit next to me in the cafeteria because my large group of exactly two people had left me alone, i noticed how kind your crystal blue eyes were, an icy comparison to your warm smile. you asked me my name, i didn’t talk much.
3. of all the kids in our sixth grade class, you were the only one who still cared about christmas. you wore an awful christmas sweater knitted by your mother with a reindeer on the front. you didn’t seem ashamed. in fact you seemed proud. i always loved christmas. i told you i liked your sweater, and i noticed how you didn’t stop smiling all day afterwards.
4. we went to the same party in the eighth grade. you spent most of your time with the same two girls you went everywhere with, playing songs on your guitar, laughing between chords. i noticed a subtle tremble in your fingers as you strummed the notes of pop rock songs. you still weren’t sure of your abilities then.
5. we played spin the bottle at the same party. you were nervous, you went about openly admitting that you’d never been kissed before. i noticed your lips, full and rosy red. i thought maybe i wouldn’t mind kissing you. but the bottle didn’t land on me. liz parker was your first kiss. i envy her now. she had you for six years /and/ she had your firsts.
6. kyle valenti was your best friend in elementary school. i remember because when you were in middle school, and he joined the football team, abandoning you completely for a completely new friend group, you confronted him. in the hallway, and asked him why he’d just ditch you like that. you didn’t think liz should date him, but when it happened anyway, you welcomed him back into your life with open arms. you always amazed me.
7. i really noticed you when i walked in your dreams. and i saw myself, in your arms, a soft familiar smile on your face, as you told me that you expected i was more than a pretty face. i saw you as you closed in for that kiss, and i saw me, expectant and excited, and that’s when i knew you were in love with me. and that’s when i knew it was time to say hello.
8. in the dark blue light of the room, i noticed that betrayal puzzled your features in all sorts of peculiar ways. i wanted to tell you everything then, explain my actions away, but my voice died in my throat. i knew i liked you then.
9. when i kissed you, your lips were as soft as i expected, and i noticed they were warm, and they tasted like salt water taffy and morning breath. i said that there was nothing, but there was. that’s when i knew i couldn’t give you up.
10. i pulled you into the eraser room in a moment of desperation, and you wanted to be romantic, to take it slow, to do it right, but i attacked you anyway, and you kissed me back despite what you’d said. you tasted like spearmint and salt water taffy. when i opened my eyes, just for a second, i noticed the way your eyes were pressed tightly shut as you leaned into me with everything you had. and when we pulled apart, you looked like you’d just woke up from an amazing dream, as your eyes fluttered open and you licked your swollen lips.
11. you understood. like the saint you were, that it was going to be complicated and you still held my hand through the toughest of times no matter how hard i tried to push you away. i noticed the way you looked at me, and i knew that i didn’t deserve that kind of adoration, not from you.
12. you were like an angel in your sleep, your lips slightly parted, reflected in the monitor. sometimes, when i was absolutely confident you were dead asleep, i would take my head off your shoulder and look at you, before slowly pressing a kiss underneath your jaw, running my fingers over your sideburns. that’s when i noticed you were beautiful.
13. you left. i don’t think i noticed how i much i needed you until you were gone. you were my best friend, my anchor, and my confidant. i felt your absence everywhere i turned, but i switched it off, refusing to feel, refusing to care. i was too busy to care anyway.
14. when you came back i noticed that your smile was brighter, your eyes were wiser, your words were sager, and i think the more i saw how much you’d grown, the more i saw how much i didn’t deserve to be a part of your new life.
15. i was trying to get away from the way you hid behind my eyelids, from the way i dreamed about you, and your salt water taffy lips. i no longer had you. i had to settle for second best. i had to settle for some scumbag in vegas for a shotgun wedding, pretending i was some girl named brandy. you never asked me to be anything but me. and when i saw you, dressed in your fresh leather jacket with your chain hanging from your slacks pocket, i remembered how much i cared. so i asked you to dance. i’m glad you said yes.
16. if he did it, so could you. i was sure of it. i wanted to be a part of your life, and i wanted you to be a part of mine. so i asked you to ask me to prom. i noticed something break in your ice cold crystal eyes when i asked, it was like you’d just been shot squarely in the chest. you told me you couldn’t go back. back then i didn’t think i was in your past, but your future. i was wrong.
17. when you asked me to prom in the dim light of your bedroom, i noticed the way your lips were curling, and i wanted to kiss you there, but i held you instead. i so often forget how warm your arms were, and how well our bodies fit together, but when remembering that moment, i can’t forget.
18. “don’t,” i remember the way your lips formed that single word, as we danced the way we once did in your dreams. i was so tempted by your cherry red lips, to fall in love, to break the rules that we had set, but instead of letting myself fall, standing at the edge of the cliff, i toed the line. i noticed that your lips no longer tasted like salt water taffy, but of peanuts, and of coca-cola.
19. i noticed the lie in your voice as you told me that you had to study, but i knew that as soon as you were alone, you would join me for lunch, to hold my hands and kiss me the way you did, warm and soft.
20. i wonder if the color stayed in your bright red lips, when they buried you. i wonder if you would have liked the roses. i wonder if you would have held my hand while i cried, like you did the girl in the fourth grade. i wonder if you still taste like salt water taffy. and i want to go back. i want those six years because it wasn’t until after you were under the ground, forcibly taken away from me, that i noticed the most obvious thing of all. i noticed that i loved you."