In seventh grade I was in love with a boy named Jonathan Navarro who lived next door to my best friend Tina. He had shoulder length wavy brown hair that was bleached blonde in the front by the sun, tan skin, green eyes. Sometimes when I was riding my bike home from Tina’s house I would stop at the lot between the church and McDonald’s to watch him and his friends practicing skateboard tricks. Whenever any of them wiped out, even when there was blood, they got up quickly, laughing and brushing gravel off their baja shirts.
He was in ninth grade I think. He had this girlfriend named Lauren. They had matching tee shirts, his said “PROPERTY OF LAUREN” and hers said “PROPERTY OF JONATHAN.” They sometimes wore them to school on the same day and when they walked down the hall together, his arm over her shoulder, hers around his waist, they sort of melted together so that their combined chest and stomach read:
One day after school Tina and I had just pulled into her driveway on our bikes when Jonathan came out of his house with a basketball. We dropped our bikes on the grass and started shooting hoops with him and joking around. Tina’s brother came out for a little while. When the sun started to set, Tina headed inside. I began to follow her but Jonathan said “stay out here longer, play with me.” He passed me the ball.
I have never been the athletic type. I had poor coordination and I was a slow runner. I squinted at the hoop, its outline barely visible in front of the setting sun, and shot. The ball didn’t even hit the backboard. Jonathan laughed, got the ball and walked back to me.
“Try again,” he said, and moved close to me.
I was thirteen and had not yet kissed a boy, but I could feel the heat coming off Jonathan’s body and I was acutely aware of each inch of space between us disappearing as he got closer. He was holding the basketball in front of him and when he got so close that the ball was pressing into my stomach I forced myself to make eye contact.
He laughed. “Take it,” he said, and looked down at the basketball wedged between us.
He circled around so he was behind me. I bounced the ball a couple of times and shot. I missed again.
“Lauren broke up with me,” he said when he came back with the ball. I shaded my eyes and looked up. I focused on his necklace, the white puka shells bright and sharp against his brown skin. I remember I was wearing pink shorts and a matching pink and green top, a set that had looked cute and sexy on the mannequin in the Juniors section of May Company. Jonathan hooked his finger around the neck of my shirt, just for a second, playful, and pulled me towards him. I was flustered, and the next time he passed me the ball I didn’t catch it and it rolled into the street.
“I wanna take you out,” Jonathan said, circling me, bouncing the ball from one hand to the other. “Let’s go to Black Angus, you wanna do that?” He paused behind me and shot the ball, it went through the hoop perfectly, not even touching the sides.
“Yeah,” I said, and in my mind we were already sharing some kind of big tropical drink over a candlelit table.
Just then Tina came out onto her porch. “My mom wants to know if you’re staying for dinner.”
Jonathan laughed. “I’ll see you later Allison.” I watched as he made one more basket, caught the ball and then went into his house through the side door. The sun had set and his lights were on. The windows over the kitchen sink cast two yellow rectangles onto his driveway. I could see his mom putting away dishes.
The next day I started writing his name on my peechee and circling it with little hearts. When I saw Jonathan at school I would smile and try to look cute. He mostly didn’t seem to see me.
At Tina’s a week later: Tina wanted to go inside and watch TV or play a game. I told her I wanted to stay outside and play basketball.
“You don’t even like basketball,” she said.
Jonathan finally came out and we switched from Tina’s driveway to his. He was laughing and telling us about a friend of his who fell off a fishing boat. I kept waiting and smiling and laughing at all his jokes. When Tina went inside to get a drink of water I took a breath.
“So how about Black Angus?” I said, focusing on the peeling paint on his garage door.
“What about Black Angus?” He said.
“You know, last week, you said you wanted to take me?”
“Ohhh,” he said, turning gracefully under the hoop and then jumping to make the shot. Then he started laughing.
“Ohh last week when Lauren broke up with me? Yeah I was mad, I said a lot of shit. She had just broken up with me, what do you expect?” More laughter. “We’re back together now. That only lasted a day.”
Tina came back outside with a soda. I pretended I was wiping perspiration from my forehead and eyes.
“I guess we’re going inside,” I said to Jonathan, and crossed back to Tina’s driveway.
“See ya,” he said, and made another basket.