Year 2 was a big year. I was six. I had my first crush on a boy called Jonathan. He was tall, dark, and handsome for a six-year-old. I got my first pet: a rabbit called Roger, who died within a month. My mom sent me to school with a note to the teacher, Miss Harpin, saying that my rabbit had just died and that I might be upset. I cried, partially out of sadness for the loss of my pet and partially out of obligation since I’d brought the note. My classmates comforted me and I relished the attention.
Year 2 was the year we received book bags. Mine was a pink tote with my name written in marker on one side. It was the year I discovered Roald Dahl and wondered why the illustrations were so ugly, but enjoyed the stories nonetheless. Each of us had a little blue “contact book” for the teacher to write notes to our parents, including updates on how we were doing in school. In one update, Miss Harpin praised my writing, my construction of complex sentences and use of adjectives. My mom saved the note and would proudly quote it for years to come. One time, she heard that Miss Harpin’s mother was visiting from England and offered her the car and driver. Afterwards, Miss Harpin gave me a mulberry paper bag to bring home to my mom. Inside was a card and a big box of rose scented powder. My mom never used it and it sat on her dresser for years, but I loved it. On days when I was feeling particularly fancy, I would shower and dry off before lifting the delicate lid, sliding my fingers through the faux rose-adorned ribbon of the powder puff and dipping it lightly into the fragrant powder. I delighted in the velvety softness of the puff as it brushed my skin and how the speckles of glitter in the powder made me sparkle. It felt ridiculously luxurious.
I aspired to become friends with a girl called Gabby, who was only really nice to me when Becky wasn’t around. One day, the three of us paraded down to the Year 1 playground and faced a group of Year 1 boys on the other side of the fence. A yelling match ensued. I observed in solidarity and offered the occasional jeer of support for the girls’ team as insults were tossed back and forth across the fence. Then I noticed that after an impressively long barrage from the boys’ side there was no rebuttal from ours and turned to see that the other two girls had long since left. They were already halfway up the corridor, the backs of their checkered uniforms fluttering as they ran, leaving in their wake the humiliating realization that I’d been the sole recipient of that last tirade.
Year 2 was also the first time I saw a boy’s penis. Kit was embroiled in a fierce tickle fight with another boy on the square carpet of our classroom. Amid his fits of giggles and writhing limbs, I—along with probably half the class—caught a glimpse through the wide leg openings of his uniform shorts and realized he wasn’t wearing any underwear. I don’t know if he noticed the whispering and snickering that followed; but if he did, he might still be having nightmares about it to this day. Another time, Kit had told the class that it was his parents’ anniversary. I had no idea what anniversary was, but my parents’ anniversary and my birthday happen to be on the same day, so it was only natural that I went up to him afterwards and said “Happy Birthday!”
My birthday is in the summer, during which my friends, if I had friends, were away on vacation with their families. Birthday parties in later years would be attended by the children of my parents’ friends who brought lame presents and blew out my birthday candles, but that’s a pitiful story for another time. In Year 2, in an attempt to endear myself to my classmates, I brought in Ringpops to share for an early birthday celebration. But, imprudently, I forgot to save myself a good flavor, like grape or cola, and once I’d given them all out, was left with orange. Nobody wants orange. I went up to Becky and asked to swap. She said no. The ungrateful bitch.
As Year 2 drew to a close, I learned that Jonathan was leaving. He sat sandwiched between Gabby and Becky who had an arm each and was clutching it tightly, pleading him not to go. On his last day, Jonathan handed out friendship bracelets to the class. I held out my hand to receive one and my heart sank as he reached for what was objectively the ugliest one in the pile. There it was: the culmination of a first crush. A token of defeat. A symbol of unrequited love in a narrow woven rag of purple and orange.