I didn’t even like him the first time I laid eyes on him. He was the new kid in our fourth-grade class, skinny and tan, with long hair and wire-rimmed glasses. His baby teeth were small, but they had grown away from each other, trying to prove their worth by filling up his entire mouth. He had a button nose, and his nostrils flared when he was embarrassed.
“This is Jonathan,” my teacher announced to the class. He had a goofy grin on his face and he stood with his hands clasped in front of him, his nostrils deflating and dilating rapidly. He was met with a strange mixture of curiosity and apathy. My classmates and I had already been together, all 27 of us in the exact same class, for three years, and no one was sure how a new kid would affect this balance. Most of us didn’t even want any new additions to the class – 27 seemed to be the perfect number, and 28 was just not going to work.
Slowly but surely, Jonathan integrated himself into the class until it seemed like we had always been 28. He was silly and funny, but smart enough to avoid getting into trouble for his side comments in class, which were never mean-spirited but always made the surrounding tables laugh. I found myself smiling whenever he directed his jokes toward me, or asked to share my markers, or chose the same book as me for quiet reading time. But it didn’t mean anything; he was just a funny classmate, and boys had cooties anyway.
Every day, after copying our homework into our planners, we had to get them signed by another student to make sure we hadn’t missed anything. One day, Jonathan plopped his planner down on my desk with a loud thwack.
“Sign my planner!” he demanded, handing me an orange pen.
My eyes bugged out. Sign his planner? It was unheard of that a guy would ask a girl to sign his planner. I only ever asked my best friend to sign mine – I had pages and pages neatly inscribed with the name “Cece Phu :)” in pink – and no girl ever dared to hand hers to a boy. The area around us grew silent, and, with a shaking hand, I took the pen and scrawled my name across the page. He nodded definitively, picked up the book and, walked back to his desk, oblivious toward the stares of our classmates. I could hear their brains clicking together, making assumptions and jumping to conclusions. I could hear my own brain working, too. Sign his planner? What could it all mean?
About a week later, I was standing on the lunch line with my friends, waiting for our turn. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jonathan coming toward us with his tray, and I turned subtly away from him, trying to avoid eye contact, the planner incident still burning in my mind.
“Hey Cristina,” he said, grabbing my wrist as I followed the lunch line. I turned instinctively at the sound of his voice. “They’re running out of chocolate milk. Better get the last one!” and with that cryptic remark, he went and sat down with his friends to discuss the new version of Pokémon and left me in an emotional crisis.
What? How did he know that I like chocolate milk? Why did he tell me that they were running out? Who else did he warn? … Did he just hold my hand?
Numbly, I walked to the front of the lunch line and got my tray. True to Jonathan’s warning, there was only one chocolate milk left in the crate, and I grabbed it quickly. He touched your hand he touched your hand he touched your hand… I was thoroughly confused, but also very, very giddy. By the time I reached the fourth graders’ table, I had reached a conclusion.
As I opened that last carton of chocolate milk, I knew for sure: I was head over heels in love.