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She made the air race through my chest as easily as the 25-cent ring that I won her slipped onto her finger. I remember her perfectly; exactly as she stood the moment I first saw her face. I can still picture the sun gleaming off of her full pink lips. I still recall the stretch marks on her upper legs that made me know she wasn’t plastic, but a pliable living being. I can still taste her strawberry lip balm on my tongue even after all this time. Sometimes I hope she still smells like my forest pine cologne.
Allison stands at the chipping blue locker five rows down from mine. I nervously shuffle my black vans on the bright linoleum flooring. I peek, ever so slightly behind my locker door that I use as my half-hearted cloak of invisibility. She’s rustling her hands through her cascading auburn hair. My eyes widen. I can feel my pulse start to quicken in my wrist. I think I fall slightly more in love with her every time she does that.
I messily cram my chemistry book in-between my half fallen over locker shelf and some old papers from first semester then slam the door shut. The sound makes Allison jump away from her book bag then finally notice that I exist.
“Oh my god, Jake,” She laughs, “How long have you been there.”
How does she do that? I can’t even begin to comprehend how she can laugh in my presence. How she could draw words from the same lips that ones whispered I love You’s to me and act like it never took place. How she could look at me with the same eyes that left tear stains on my gravel driveway the night that she broke it off. How she could even see me again with feeling like a monster for what she has put me through. Allison is smiling. I can’t believe she’s smiling.
“I’m great!” I enthusiastically lie, even somehow forcing a chuckle. “How are you?”
“Oh I’m really good, you look great.”
She utters dishonestly so easily for such a pretty girl. She masks her true intentions just as she masks her real skin tone with her neatly packaged Revlon makeup. She may as well be reading a script, the way she talks to me. I know that not a single syllable is a real thought of her own. I know that every second of it isn’t true.
“Thanks, you do too.” I manage to choke out. Surprisingly not a lie. Unsurprisingly she still looks like the same immaculate goddess that I met in the bus lane last fall. Her eyes still entrance me, her bracelets attract me, her breath still playfully whispers follow me. I wonder if she noticed that I haven’t stopped looking at her. Even if she doesn’t look back anymore.
Just then a boy saunters around the white brick corner, twirling his car keys the way he looks like he would twirl his cares. Completely relaxed. He picks up his pace and then turns in my direction. His skinny jeans dance down the hallway until he reaches Allison. All I see is a tangled mess of red hair as he scoops Allison up and twirls her in a (little too friendly) embrace.
“Hey you,” the strange boy giggles.
“Hey,” Allison swoons back.
I can feel the blood rushing immediately to my cheeks. My body starts going into over drive, freaking out one part at a time. First my cheeks then my palms then my breath. I can’t see straight because all I’m trying to focus on is not collapsing.
My mind starts overflowing with thoughts. Pouring out of my veins and my face. Ideas and opinions start leaking onto the floor because I can no longer contain them in my head.
She’s so much better without you.
He’s better than you.
She doesn’t love you, she never did.
You could never love her like he does.
Voices are fighting, screaming in my head for control but no one is winning so it’s all just loud noise. Allison is still standing in front of me making flirtatious eyes at her new boyfriend. Her new boyfriend. Nothing stops yelling. Nothing gets quieter.
“Well, nice to see you Allison I’ve…” I trail off. Attempting will all of my might not to fall over in the middle of a school hallway. “I’ve got to go.”
I manage to make my feet quickly sweep down the hall and out the door into the fresh summer air. I try to breath but everything I inhale is Allison. Every thought I exhale is Allison. And I am no longer in Allison’s thoughts at all. Replaced.
I’ve been replaced.