Eighth Grade ★★★★½

When I was in middle school, I had a huge crush on this girl named Breann. She was about my height, had gorgeous dimples that would imprint her cheeks whenever she smiled, and long, silky black hair down to her waist. Not a school night would go by that I wouldn’t think of her, since she was in my class, and not a weekend would go by that didn’t find me urgently waiting for Monday to come so that I could see her again — the key word there is see, since I rarely ever actually talked to her for most of that school year. There were so many awkward moments peppered throughout each day of her catching me looking at her from across the room as I would blink and twitch my head away, acting like I hadn’t just been staring at her as my ears grew red, or times when I would fantasize about finally approaching her after school and saying something deeply romantic and finally getting her to say “yes” to me.

One day, I seized a chance to create a situation for myself where I could get closer to her. I schemed an entire plan to make myself get closer to her, to make myself uncomfortable enough to really be able to start a conversation with her. I got up and walked up to one of the two teachers I had, Mrs. Kade, and told her that the kid I was sitting next to was being a real pisshead (maybe not the terminology I used at the time) and requested that my assigned seat be moved to the empty seat next to Breann. There was one caveat — my best friend at the time, Christian, sat in front of Breann, and so Mrs. Kade made me promise that Christian and I would behave, otherwise I would have to move back to my regular seat all the way across the room, which felt like an entire continent away. I smiled, ear to ear, and graciously accepted these terms as I grabbed all of my things (middle school things like... a protractor, never before used, and an agenda book made out of that horrible material where if you scratch it with your fingernail it makes a terrible, skin-crawling “zip” noise) and moved next to Breann. 

So, here was my chance. Finally, I got to sit next to her, and with the added benefit of having my best friend with me (who, of course, knew all about my underlying love for her and would try to act as my wingman). Now here comes the catch, which I’ll lay out directly in front of you, and we’ll see if you can guess how the story ends: this was all during the winter season in Louisville, KY, a desolate time in the Ohio Valley for anyone who suffers from both inside allergies and the potential of an outside common cold. 

I had been dealing with a terrible head cold for about a week and it was transitioning into that period where the front of your forehead begins to feel swollen like a balloon and you can’t breathe through your nose due to the congestion (a specific and neurotic phobia of mine during this time was getting kidnapped, naturally, because if someone were to duct-tape my mouth shut, how was I supposed to breathe?) — so the air strike of Claritin-D 12-Hour had finally been called in on my head by the pharmacy at my local Walgreens. What was I going to say to Breann? How was I going to finally talk to her?

The mistake I made was clearly evident the next day. I came into class, head completely clogged, and began making light jokes with Christian in front of Breann, marking a territorial, circular sense of humor that I was planning on bringing her in on, to make her feel more comfortable with sitting next to me. Well, here we go — long story short, Christian just went all out at one point in the conversation and really hit my funny bone, unfairly and unnecessarily. I can’t remember what he said, but I remember it made me laugh as hard as I ever had, bringing out one of those deep-seated laughs that come out straight from behind the nasal cavity. And... sure enough... a tidal wave of dark-brown mucus that had been sitting, slowly encrusting, inside of my head for nearly a week came traversing out of my nose at a top speed of 150mph. It all landed on the black desktop in front of me, this huge pile of snot. 

I couldn’t believe what had happened. I looked over at Breann, bracing myself for a disgusted or maybe even sad look on her face — but SHE WASN’T LOOKING AT ME(!) and hadn’t even noticed what had happened(!). Christian, of course, began laughing the kind of laugh you might let out when you see a half gallon of mucus exit from someone’s nostrils onto a table in front of them. I desperately tried to hide this horrific moment before Breann could see it — and I used my hands to do it. I smeared the snot off the table, where it created horrific looking webbed fingers on both my hands, which I held up in the air and looked at in wide-eyed terror. With remnants of mucus on my upper lip and chin and my new Creature From The Black Lagoon fin-hands, I looked at Breann again, and maybe for the last time with dignity. She was looking directly at me. 

Breann and I never ended up dating each other.

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