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  • Alexis A. McCoy Gonzalez

Love Is Enough Productions October Short Story Session

A friend of mine asked me if I remembered the first time I told a guy that I loved him. It seems like as soon as she asked that question, his face instantly popped into my mind. The first guy I ever said those words to was my next-door neighbor, Ladarius Thomas. Ladarius and I grew up together. He moved next door to us when I was about 8 years old. Our parents became friends, which caused for us to spend a lot of time together.

The summer going into our 8th-grade year of middle school, Ladarius had gone down to Atlanta to spend the summer with his grandparents. When he came back to Chicago, he looked like a completely different person. He was always cute but it’s like he had transformed into a teen supermodel.

On the first day of school Ladarius’ older sister Lilian, who was already in high school, drove us to school. Me being an only child, I looked up to Lilian. She was so confident and so focused on what she wanted out of life. All the boys loved her, but she didn’t pay them any mind. She would always say to me “don’t consume all your time thinking about boys, they are just a couple of puzzle pieces that you add together to help create your big picture”. 13- year-old me had no clue of what any of that meant. It took me arriving to my mid-twenties to understand the full meaning of her statement.

That first day of school I listened to my friends and girls in my class talk about how cute Ladarius had gotten. As much as I wanted to ignore my feelings, I couldn’t. The more I heard his name, the more my feelings grew for him. After school Ladarius and I would wait in the library and do our homework until his sister finished her student union meeting. When I entered the library, Ladarius was sitting at the middle table with his book open working on his homework and a chocolate chip muffin.

I approached the table, sat down and began pulling my homework out of my bag and asked “where did you get the muffin from”?. He spoke and said “my mom made one for you but I didn’t see you at first period lunch, so I held on to it”. I simply said “thanks”. I got settled at the table and grabbed the muffin, split it in half and handed him a piece. He grabbed it and said thanks. We sat across from one another not knowing how to describe what we were feeling. All we knew was that we cared about one another.

A month had passed and our parents were going out for their annual date night together and they agreed that we could have a small gathering. Ladarius invited his best friends Calvin, Eric and Johnny. While I invited my close friends Jasmine, Kayla, and Nancy. The plan was to order pizza and watch some movies, but of course, everyone had other plans. Kayla had a huge crush on Calvin and her goal was to make out with him before the end of the night. She suggested that we play spin the bottle and of course the guys agreed to the game. What group of horny 13-year-old teenage boys would turn down making out with a girl?.

The rules were simple. We each get two tries, if the bottle doesn’t land on anyone, then we move on to the next person. If the bottle landed on someone, they would have to go kiss in the closet, so we don’t get caught by our parents or Lilian. We all sat on the floor in a circle and Ladarius grabbed an empty glass soda bottle. Kayla volunteered to go first. She spins the bottle, and it lands between Calvin and Johnny. She spins again and it lands between Johnny and Ladarius.

She passes it to me, I spin the bottle fast, it slows down and lands on Ladarius. My heart instantly falls into my stomach. We make eye contact, we slowly stand up and he leads me into the coat closet. This was my first time making out with a guy and I never thought it would be Ladarius. We get to the closet, he opens the door and I walk inside. He follows in after me and closes the door behind him. We stand there in silence for while and he asks me if I’m okay. I lied and said I was, but I was nervous as hell. He said “let’s just kiss for 5 seconds”. I replied ,”is that how long make out’s normally last?”. He confidently answered “yes!”. Although I knew he was lying, I just went along with it.

We slowly leaned in towards one another and our lips began to touch. The first few seconds were weird but after a few minutes, we got comfortable. The kiss lasted a little longer than 5 seconds. It was interrupted by Kayla knocking on the door telling us to hurry up. We separated and smiled at one another and exited the closet.

After that day Ladarius’ and I friendship had changed completely. He had asked me to the middle school dance, and I said yes. That summer before our freshman year of high school he asked me to be his girlfriend and I said yes. We dated all four years of high school, we were inseparable and madly in love with one another. I remember the first time we told one another we loved each other. I had stayed home from school one day because I wasn’t feeling well. When school got out, Ladarius came over to the house and brought all my favorite movies for me to watch. He had flowers to cheer me up and stayed with me all night to take care of me. As he was bringing me another cup of tea, I said “I love you”. He paused, looked at me and said “I love you too”. He gently kissed me on the forehead and handed me the cup of tea.

As life changes, so do you and the people that are in your life at that moment and time. Senior year had arrived, and Ladarius and I were trying to figure out our future together, as well as our careers. I was applying for film school on the west coast, and he was applying for law school on the east coast. That’s when the division in our relationship began. He wanted me to follow him to the east coast, but I wanted to be on the west coast because I felt like I had more opportunities there. He said, “I thought you said you love me!?”. Honestly, I did love him, but I didn’t want to give up my dreams just because I loved him. We went back and forth for months, I eventually caved and applied for a school on the east coast, and I got accepted.

That summer after graduation we traveled with our families. Lilian had come home from overseas working on a photography project with this big magazine to be apart of our annual family trip. I was down by the pool relaxing, she joined me. She asked me “so are you ready to take on the big apple?”. I said “yeah!,we are going to have the time of our lives”. She said, “I always thought you would end up going to UCLA, you always spoke about living in LA”. I said “yeah, I didn’t get accepted”. Lying to cut the conversation short. Lilian always had a way of seeing my truth. She looked at me and said, “UCLA isn’t the only film school on the west coast”. I replied, “yeah”. We sat in silence for a while, and then she spoke and said “you only have one life to live, make sure you’re always living it to your fullest potential and not someone else’s”. She got up and walked away, leaving me with my thoughts.

Here I was this 18-year-old girl with the world in one hand and the person she loves in the other. The summer had quickly ended, and it was time for our first day of college. A couple of days before we were leaving, Ladarius planned a special dinner for us in his parents backyard. He had this table setup all nice and he had cooked the only meal he knew how to cook which was boxed mac & cheese. As we were sitting and eating dinner, all he could talk about was the fun we were going to have in New York. Excited about all the things we were going to do together. I sat across the table from him half listening with this fake smile on my face, knowing I wasn’t as excited to go to New York as he was.

He eventually asked me my thoughts and I took a deep breath before I said “going to school in New York has always been your dream and as much as I want to be with you, I can’t see myself in New York. I want things to work between us, but I don’t want either one of us to compromise our dreams because we were too afraid to let each other follow our dreams”. He quickly gets defensive and says “so what you saying?!”. “Are you breaking up with me?!”. I responded by placing my hand on top of his to calm him down. He looked at me and pulled his hand away. I said “Ladarius, do you want me to be happy?” He said “of course I want you to be happy! what type of question is that?”. I said “then please respect and accept that I will be happy attending school in LA”. He softly asked “what happens with us.?” I responded by grabbing his hand again and this time he didn’t pull away. We looked at one another as tears filled our eyes and I said “we continue to be there for one another the best way we know how”.

On that day, we both had experienced what it meant to truly love someone. Sometimes loving someone means letting them go, even when you don’t want to. The day Ladarius left for college was heartbreaking but also exciting. As much as we would miss one another, we understood that we both had our own journeys in life that we had to follow. I remember giving him a long hug and he whispered in my ear and said I love you. We kissed and he got in the car and they drove off. I remember my mother telling me I had made the right choice.

Although my relationship with Ladarius taught me how I should be treated and loved. It also taught me self-love, the importance of putting myself first, and not compromising my self-gratification to make someone I love happy.

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