The 1st year of junior high school was coming to an end. Even though most of the 3rd-grade girls were downright oppressive, I only had warm feelings for them as they moved on.
There was one boy I liked in the 3rd-grade. He was the elder brother of a boy in my class. Unlike his younger brother, who regularly made lewd remarks, he was calm and quiet. He was friends with the theatre club president, which made me speculate on his decency.
I started to like him after seeing him in his last baseball game in June. Our softball team had finished early, so we went to support the boys. It wasn’t during the game I took notice of him, who wasn’t the ace of the team, but after the game, I saw him from a few rows behind at the audience seating and realized how serene the energy was around him.
Being a teenager, I was used to the constant reminder of the presence of others demanding each other’s attention and reaction. A moment of vulnerability would mean disengagement from the social circle. Quietness was a sign of weakness and often caused an ousting. My natural tendency was to be in my head, so being 13 years old was utterly energy-draining.
He watched the game with his back straight, munching on onigiri, sometimes exchanging brief words with a boy next to him. Engrossed in the final match he couldn’t be in, he was oblivious of my gaze or commotions around him. I imagined myself in his energy field, and it felt good.
I once saw him in town. He was holding a hand of one of his younger sisters, who was six years junior to him. The way he adored the girl captivated me. I had often seen boys physically and verbally abusing their sisters, but never holding their hands. The affection he displayed toward his sister was so rare and comforting that I yearned for the same for myself.
I never talked to him for the next eight months or told anyone that I fancied him. On graduation day, however, I took the biggest risk of my life. I asked him if I could have the name tag attached to his school uniform. He looked puzzled with the request from a strange girl but obliged. He was neither thrilled nor cold, but just as reserved as he had always been.
He went on to a tech school because he had been determined since youth to succeed to his father’s logging business. I only spotted him in town a handful of times between his graduation and my leaving home. I heard his name again some twenty years later when I learned his children were in elementary school with my nieces. My sister told me they are fast runners and very polite, good kids.