The second boy who loved me

The second time 
a boy told me he loved me 
I was 13.
“I love u,” my phone buzzed,
my head buzzed, 
New feelings, no end. 

“Love u 2,” I responded, deciding just then. 
Said perhaps because a reject’s a punch 
or that the words “Facebook official” 
gave me someone at lunch 
to sit near, knees touching, 
electrically aware. 

And there, we held hands sometimes, sorta,
more of a hover, 
and though we did our best 
to imagine a future, 
of high school and high hopes, 
there wasn’t much luck 
at the school dance in June 
he swore he forgot flowers in his father’s truck 
and I feigned disinterest, 
disappointment a sin 

But once, I remember, I remember it well
he gave me a cheap ring 
on this class trip from hell 
the two of us separated 
in two different groups  
the ring shoved in my pocket 
on a McDonald’s stoop,  
some fake gold the nation’s capital sold, 
heart-shaped of course
and though nearly now a whole decade old 
I still wear it

because in this romance
we only kissed once 
“Love” flared up and died out in only four months
and I think we’d agree
it was hard to be
someone to somebody else
for someones who barely knew
what it was to be themselves.

and this isn’t a sad story 
because we were better friends 
running laps on the track 
like the world hadn’t ended 
and later my sister 
became friends with his brother 
and I still say hello 
at the salon to his mother 

and later in college, 
two separate states, 
my sister would see him 
before his big race 
and they’d talk about me 
and he’d call to say hi. 
“Hello! How are you doing? 
I hope all is fine.” 

and I do love him still 
because while I learned nothing 
of romance 
or whirlwinds 
or high expectations 
the second boy who loved me 
taught the importance of friends. 

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