When I look back on that summer, I remember everything in a blue-tinted haze. Everything was blue. The sky was perpetually sapphire; I don't think it rained at all for three months. Even the murky water from the neighbor's pond was cerulean, or at least that's how it appears in my memories. But the bluest of all was in her eyes. That is the shade that overshadows everything else from that summer. That is the hue that I held in my heart for years to come afterwards. That is the blue that changed my life, that I chased endlessly, and that I eventually had to give up.
It was the summer of seventh grade, and I was painfully awkward. The makeup I wore was the wrong color, so the tone of my face never matched my neck. I straightened my hair until every end was split and frayed. I made bad jokes and laughed obnoxiously at all of them when no one else did. I wasn’t a loner, but I had no idea who I was. I always felt like I had to try so hard around my friends to be accepted. I walked behind the group when there wasn’t room. I would tell a story and fade out when I noticed people losing interest. I never got calls to go to any special events, that is, until Katie called me.
I remember the phone call from when she invited me to go to Weston Days for a weekend, the fair in the town her Dad lived in. I had no idea what to expect, or even why she invited me. We were good friends at school and at parties, but she had never invited me over, and now she was inviting me to her dad's house in Weston for a fair? I was ecstatic and began packing immediately.
When I arrived, it was clear that Jimmy, her dad, was not an average father. Although this town was about two streets wide and had one gas station and no official police department, Jimmy was the local rockstar. He was already downtown with the band when my mom dropped me off for the weekend, so Katie and I went to meet up with him. It was such a quaint little town, but I can't help but love it to this day. It's the town where I first fell in love. Weston Days was up and down one long street. There was a small patch of grass with a few rides, some food vendors, and the concert where her dad was performing. We went to see him first and danced together right in front of the stage as he sang, giggling and swaying. She grabbed my hand, and I couldn't help but feel this passionate shockwave of electricity that was stronger than any spark I had ever gotten over a boy, but I pushed the feelings deep down because that is not how a girl is supposed to feel about her girlfriend.
I tried to pretend whatever this feeling was didn't exist. I tried to pretend I was just being friendly as we held hands walking towards the rides. I tried with everything in my willpower to act like she was simply my best friend, and that I was just overly eager about the new friendship. I pretended all the way to the Ferris wheel. I'll never forget that small, rickety Ferris wheel—it looked like it was on the verge of crumbling. But it only cost one ticket, so we decided to ride it. It was certainly the smallest Ferris wheel I'd ever seen at a fair, only a few meters high, but you could still see just about the whole of Weston from the top. That's not where I was looking, though. When I got to the top of that Ferris wheel, squealing with laughter and trying not to rock it, in case it fell to the ground, I looked right at Katie. I looked into those blue lagoon eyes that could (and for many years, did) drown me. Her thick raccoon eyeliner that looked tacky on most people just brought out the specks of cyan in her irises even more. Her caramel colored hair fell like a waterfall over her perfectly tan shoulders. She looked back at me, holding my hand in case we died, but laughing with that winning smile the whole time.
That was the moment I knew. It was in that moment, on top of the Ferris wheel, that I realized I was not straight. I wasn’t normal. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I didn't know what this meant about me. All I knew was that sitting at the top of that Ferris wheel in Weston, I wanted to kiss Katie more than I'd wanted anything in my entire life.
I didn't kiss her.
I kept hoping the feeling would go away, pressing it down underneath the surface, hoping that by repressing it, I’d be cured. But Katie was a wild child, and something about that made me even crazier about her. She had some entrancing air about her, the kind that would make Fitzgerald swoon. We danced the evening away at the fair and then made our way back home when it got late. We waited patiently for Jimmy to come home, and finally Katie's grandma pulled up with him in the passenger seat. He greeted us with a two-liter of Mountain Dew: Code Red, and we sat on the couch with him. He started singing what I like to call “country classic rock,” and these songs would become the soundtrack of my relationship with Katie. When I hear “I Think We're Alone Now,” or “Don't Happen Twice,” I'll always think of the times we sang those songs while sneaking around and getting into trouble. It's crazy to believe it all began that night, but we sang along until he couldn't keep his eyes open anymore. She covered him with a blanket, and I watched as the motherly instinct in her came out. He had a problem with his vision, and it was slowly but surely shrinking in range. Katie seemed to take it upon herself to make sure he was taken care of, and it only made me admire her more. One time, I asked her why she and her dad were so close. We were twelve-year-old kids, and most girls our age were still embarrassed by their dads. I expected an answer about how Jimmy was a rockstar, or out of town, or anything typical of a twelve-year-old. Katie was anything but typical, though, and I still remember when she told me her answer: He won't be able to see forever, and I want him to remember what it looks like when I tell him I love him.
We had tiptoed upstairs when Katie began hatching a diabolical plan—well, diabolical for kids—to sneak out and swim in the neighbor's pond. Naturally, I couldn't disagree with anything Katie said, and the adrenaline was new to me, so we worked out the details. We climbed down her fire escape together, which rocked even more dangerously than the Ferris wheel, and ran across the field. As we got closer, she suggested skinny dipping. At this point, the wiring of my brain was tangled and confused, and I had no idea what the right answer was. Was I guilty if I said yes, knowing that I felt some sort of attraction to her? Would I be a prude if I said no, based on something I wasn't even sure was real? I was confused and intrigued, and I figured she had no idea about my attraction and never would, so the clothes came off.
We swam together in that pond, laughing and splashing under the clearest sky I had ever seen. The stars were incredible in Weston. I think there are only two things in the world that could get me to move to a town as small and shabby as Weston: seeing a clear view of the stars every night like a celestial chandelier, and Katie. Eventually, we snuck back in and fell into the bed together and cuddled into sleep. Each move I made was made with extreme hesitation, and I felt an invisible boundary of where my fantasy ended, and her reality began. I couldn't do anything that would expose my feelings, but all I wanted was to act on them.
We woke up the next morning and did it all again, but this time there was a building uncertainty in my chest throughout the day. If I offered to carry her things for her, would that be weird? If she asks me to rub sunscreen on her shoulders, and I do it, am I taking advantage of her? Should I tell her how I feel? Do I even know how I feel? Questions were rattling through my brain like waves crashing, and they would sink away and then come right back again to crash at the surface of my thoughts. I didn't know I loved her. I only knew I had never felt this level of attraction and admiration for a person. So, I decided to keep quiet until I was sure of myself and just enjoy the day with her under the sea-blue sky. I like to think it was a special weekend for Katie, too: the weekend we became best friends. For me, it was the weekend I fell in love.
The day passed in a haze, because I spent it watching her. I felt like a stray puppy, following her around eagerly and meeting all her family's friends. Katie was about 4' 9'', and I was a good head taller than her. She was small and graceful, while I was lanky and gauche. But her confidence made me brave. She didn't see any of my blundering, or at least she didn't make me aware of it. She was as smooth as the scoop of ice cream on top of the funnel cake we split, so I tried with all I had to forget my insecurities. Jimmy and I were laughing together like old friends at his show that night. Her grandma was the sweetest woman. Her neighbors could talk your ear off. Katie moved from person to person with ease, adapting to all the different people in Weston and they all loved her for the miniature adult she was.
But as the sunset faded into another starry night sky, she showed me her wild side once again. That night, we had no plans. We just wanted to escape into the night together. We shimmied down the fire escape again and sprinted across her dad's long yard to the street and began to walk while trying to muffle a fit of giggles. We walked down the street, talking about our childhoods, our present, and our futures. Honestly, I don't remember a single conversation we had on that part of the walk because I was so deeply entranced by her. When a car came up the road, which we could see for half a mile on the straight road that was most of Weston, we decided to hide. Unfortunately, there was nothing but an empty field, so we dove onto the ground on the side of the road laughing uncontrollably. When the car got to us, it stopped, and we grasped anxiously at each other's hands, faces still in the dirt. The driver got out and looked at us, but we stayed frozen in place as if he couldn't see us. He pulled out his phone to dial and then got back in his car and left. We were convinced the cops were coming to arrest us for sneaking out, and her hand was still in mine as we ran away.
I found out that night just how small Weston really was. We got to a grassy hill on the side of the road and climbed it to hide behind and watch for police officers. When we got to the top, we realized we were at the fire department, which was Weston's police department as well. We were too close to move elsewhere, so we got out of sight and tried to listen to the men outside.
“There were some girls...” I remember hearing him say before he trailed off, and I was convinced we were getting arrested. After a few minutes, though, we heard their cars leave (all two of them), and Katie made the dash for it, continuing our adventure into the night. We did a better job hiding from the rest of the cars that passed by and spent the night walking together in the vast emptiness of the countryside. Two officers had no real chance of catching us, and eventually, we turned around and went all the way back down the street to go home.
For a particularly uneventful weekend, it had a more significant impact on my life than any weekend before or after. We went to a fair, we swam in her neighbor's pond, and we walked around at night. None of these were really that rebellious, even for seventh graders, but we felt like we conquered Weston and the world. When my mom came to pick me up that Sunday, I was not the same girl she dropped off—not because I had changed, but because of what I learned about myself.
In the years that followed, my relationship with Katie changed time and time again. I would try to convince myself that it was a phase when we went back to school. I would fight against every fiber of my being to believe she was just my friend. But deep down, I knew I was lying to myself. It only became clearer when we escaped the quiet whispers and judging glares of our preppy suburban town and returned to Weston.
I still remember the night that my fantasy came to a crashing halt. It was a night in Weston like any other, years after our first weekend there with each other. The summer sun beat on us all day long, and everything felt completely normal. We helped Jimmy in the field to move sticks, and we all talked and sang together until the sun went down. When that finally happened, we snuck down the fire escape and ran into the side yard by the garage. It was close enough to notice if Jimmy woke up, but far enough that we wouldn’t wake him. We were passing cigarettes back and forth while sitting in the grass, and in the dark, it felt like we were in our own world. The obsidian night sky formed a velvet fortress around us, and we were alone in the midnight. We talked about boys, and whoever she was dating at the time, and whoever my fictional boy-crush was at that time. We were still only teenagers, so most of the boyfriends she had were short-lived. She would date boys that had bad reputations, and I couldn’t help but think how much better I would treat her than any of them would. I dated a few boys throughout our friendship, but nobody special. They weren’t important to me. All that was important to me was sitting in front of me at that moment, talking about the boy she liked.
As we laughed about nothing, she held my hand, and I kissed her gently on the forehead, inhaling her tropical scent of tanning lotion. We had a very physical friendship, where kissing each other was not out of the ordinary. But something felt different about that moment. It felt serious. She responded with a grin and a kiss on my nose. I looked at her eyes, still glowing blue even in the dark. Then I looked at her lips. It didn't feel friendly. It felt romantic. Forehead, nose, lips. It was my turn to kiss her. I started to lean in, and she smiled but jerked backwards a little bit.
“Don't kiss me,” she giggled, teasingly, but with enough seriousness in her voice that I had my answers. All of them, all at once. My eyes welled up with hot tears that she couldn't see in the dark, and I faked a light giggle, too. That was the night she stopped kissing me. That was the night everything changed. But it was also the night I was finally able to start letting go of someone who could never love me like I loved her.
I didn't tell her how I felt, and I certainly didn't tell her she broke my heart, although part of me thinks she always knew. I did get over her eventually, and we have always remained friends. I see her now, not as a girl that I loved who didn't return the feelings, but as the girl who taught me who I am inside and showed me what love could really feel like. I will always have a special kind of love for Katie: a gratitude for showing me who I am, an admiration for always knowing who she was, and an intimacy for being closer to me than anyone else will ever be.