It took me almost two years, but toward the end of middle school, I started to break out of my shell and talk to other kids. The longer, warmer spring days improved my mood enough to want to reach out, and to feel more at ease doing so. And the more I did, the easier it became. It filled me with a great sense of relief to be able to show others I wasn’t so very much unlike them.
I don’t know how or why it happened, but somehow I ended up with the nickname Lee-hoe. I think I actually started it as an inside joke with Kelly, because I thought it sounded funny. I’m not sure I knew what it meant. Anyway, the name stuck. It’s written all over my yearbook.
In social studies Mr. Grouper changed our seating plan for the last quarter of school. He unwittingly put Marc behind me and the first thing Marc said was: “What does Lee-hoe mean, anyway?”
It was the first time he had spoken to me since that fateful day in the locker room last winter. I could feel myself blushing hard, and sure enough, someone in the aisle across from me said “Why is Leah turning red?”
“I always turn red,” I said, and burst into giggles. If my face told him all he needed to know about my feelings for him, his smile said everything I needed to know about his sincerity. This one was for real. For the rest of the school year, we were friends.
Did our little springtime romance blossom into a relationship? No. I’m not sure why; I have my theories. At 14, though, we were still kind of young, anyway. What did kids do at that age other than “date” for a week or two, make out once, and then break up?
What the whole experience did do for me was to force me into visibility, which is something I desperately needed those years of my life, even if it was uncomfortable for me. It thickened the plot of a story that was rapidly resembling a repeat of the year before. It gave me something to talk about and tons of creative material (Coming soon: “The Case of the Missing Journals”). It boosted my confidence. It provided a huge distraction from bigger problems in my life. It restored, a little bit, my faith in men. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say that ultimately it changed the trajectory of that year for me. And for that I am grateful.