“I’m not that kind of girl!” Dan squealed, his eyes twinkling under the florescent lights. We’d stopped for a couple of glasses of wine before heading to Juilliard. I felt like the Queen of New York. Lightly resting his fingertips on the rim of his wine glass, he leaned in to tell me something juicy and wonderful.
At eleven years old I still had a lot to learn. For example; chubby girls should start wearing deodorant earlier, dressing up like Michael Jackson every day is not cool and what calories were, but I knew one thing: Dan was the bee’s knees. His beautiful brown eyes melded into his big bright smile. All his gestures had this inciting drama attached to them. He didn’t just brush his hair out of his eyes, no, the backs of his fingers graciously swept his forehead, his neck careening backwards.
I’ve blocked out most of the 6th grade, but I remember Dan. How he’d confidently sashay down the halls, ignoring the whispers of our peers. I’d watch him with envy, but never did I sashay with him. When you’re a weirdo it’s best not to join forces with other odd-balls — or so I thought.
Sooner than our little prepubescent minds could imagine, Dan’s eccentricities turned into enviable qualities. He was smart, cute and could play the piano better than any Asian child on YouTube. When the cool kids realized what a catch Dan was, they snatched him up and I was left behind.
Maybe I should’ve been a little less concerned with my reputation and a little more accepting of his.
Dan and I ended up going to different high schools. He went to Highland Park, where he skyrocketed to popularity as one of the main fixtures of a very prestigious theater program (are you surprised?). I went to Deerfield, where I spent most of my time writing poetry and wearing black because no one understood me. It would take me 6 more years to learn what Dan discovered in middle school: no one gives a flying fruck if you’re weird, cool, tall, short, green or grey.
Thirteen years later Dan and I decided to meet up over martinis. Dan didn’t think twice about becoming my friend and I was glad for a second chance. In the span of two hours, we caught up on the past hundred and fifty six months. He told me about the boys who had broken his heart, and I told him about the ones that had broken mine. Then we wondered where all the good men were.
It turns out that 6th grade boys who dance on tables while lip syncing to Shania Twain’s “Man! I feel like a woman” make for exquisite dinner dates.
Over the next year I attended Dan’s recitals at Juilliard and he came to my shows at insert-dive-bar-here. We hugged and gushed over how proud we were of each other. Rarely did we talk about middle school because, sadly, we didn’t have much to talk about from those days.
Out of all the things New York gave me, I think Dan was one of my favorites. Sometimes I like to imagine us in our 50s. We’re in Paris, giggling over white wines and getting ready for the red carpet at Dan’s latest play. While he’s fetching our jackets I sneak a copy of my memoir onto his night stand.
“To DKK, the cutest boy in the sixth grade. Love, Marina.” It says on the first page.
I never had a chance to say bye to Dan before I left New York, but then again I didn’t get to say bye in middle school either.