DEAR JOHN

DEAR JOHN

From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

Dear John

It was the last day of school; the last day I would ever walk down those halls as a student. I had a few things to take care of before the rehearsal for our graduation ceremony. I had to return my school library books and pay a shop-class fine from my sophomore year when I had broken Seth’s project and was supposed to pay to replace his kit.

I was always clumsy around him, and that time I had knocked over the birdhouse he had made. It had tumbled and shattered at our feet.

We were on our knees picking up the pieces when our hands brushed against each other. I felt the same electricity I had first felt in fourth grade when he grabbed my hand for a Red Rover game.

I looked into his eyes, and he looked into mine. I thought that maybe this time he would notice me. My heart fluttered. I flushed with embarrassment and anticipation. Just an inch closer and he could kiss me.

Seth parted his lips and said, “Hey, why are you all red? It’s not that hot in here.” I guess it wasn’t.

Seth and I had a different circle of friends. His were the outgoing, athletic, school council, homecoming court, merit scholar type. Mine weren’t.

As our class assembled in the gym for graduation rehearsal, I couldn’t help but feel sentimental. My mood lifted when Seth sat down in front of me, until I remembered that this would be the last day he would be part of my daily life.

The announcements droned on and on. Yearbooks started circulating for last minute signings. When Seth’s was handed to me, I autographed my senior picture and was about to pass it to the next person when the thought hit me. What did I have to lose by telling him now?

I tapped my pen on my teeth while I composed the note in my head. It had to be perfect. My hand shook when I began to write.

Dear Seth,

I have been in the background of your life since elementary school. You have meant more to me than I have to you. I wished that we could have known each other better and spent some time together. I will always remember you and wish you a great life.

Forever,
Cindy

I closed his book and passed it on before I could change my mind. As I scribbled my name in other books, I began to imagine and then to hope that maybe, just maybe, my yearbook would come back to me with a similar message from Seth.

It wasn’t until the bus ride home that afternoon, that I finally had the nerve to open my book and look for Seth’s picture. In its corner he had written, “To Cindy, whoever you are, Seth.”

I can’t say that I was crushed. I didn’t expect anything more, really. I could’ve worried about what I wrote in his book, but I guessed he wouldn’t know or care who I was, anyway. Still, his terse message did hurt. He didn’t have to prove that I was invisible to him.

I was one step away from a “what a jerk” conclusion, but I just couldn’t go that far after years of holding his perfect image in my mind.

I was putting my book into my backpack when the guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder. “Sign my book?”

“Sure,” I said and handed him mine. I found my picture again and scribbled, “Good luck, from Cindy.”

With the whirl of graduation and the activity of early summer days, it was a week before I thought to open my backpack. My yearbook was on top, and I sat down on the edge of my bed to thumb through it. I cringed when I reread Seth’s message to me.

What a sorry thing that a guy could just overlook someone, no matter how nice she might be or how much she cared about him, just because she wasn’t part of his circle.

It was then that I noticed another inscription. The friendly smile in the picture looked vaguely familiar.

Dear Cindy,

I was new this year. You are the first person I noticed. I’ve been sitting behind you in English Lit and I looked for you to come in every day. I wished we could’ve gotten to know each other and spent time together. I will always think of you and remember you.

Forever,
John

My heart sank as I realized the truth. I had done to John what Seth had done to me. I hadn’t taken the time to know him, because, well, I didn’t already know him. I had dismissed him without really seeing him.

I still feel a pinch of remorse when I remember that moment. Ever since that day, I have tried to notice and acknowledge the people in my daily life.

I had barely taken a thought to scribbling my name in John’s book, but his message to me has been written across my life.

Cynthia M. Hamond

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