For Jasin with an “i”.
The schoolyard was packed and there were plenty of places to sit, but the truth is that I felt utterly alone. There I was, the new girl in school, and I had not a friend to my name. A friend was just what I needed in this new environment. Suffice it to say that my peers were a little tougher than I was.
Strike that, a lot tougher.
Just as I walked towards the edge of the schoolyard, I heard a small-yet confident– voice jump out from behind me. “Did you wear those polka dots for me?” asked the voice.
Was he talking to me? I was wearing polka dots, after all.
I turned around.
There before me stood the cutest boy I had ever seen. Well, aside from Jordan Knight, of course. But this boy was right there, in the flesh, smiling at me. He stood about 5’6 with black wavy hair, mocha skin and eyes so big and brown they should have been bestowed upon a puppy, a child, anyone or thing but a young boy at the ready to use them for evil.
“I’m Jasin and I love polka dots. I love you in polka dots,” he said.
Holy crap. Since when did boys talk like that?
There’s no denying the kid had game. But this was the 7th grade and the only game I knew how to play was dodge ball.
I sucked at dodge ball.
Just as the pubescent smooth criminal was asking me to sit down with him, I heard the loud and scruffy voice of the lunch monitor.
“Brenda, please come here.”
I did what I always did: What I was told.
“You’re new here and you don’t want to get in with the wrong crowd,” she warned. “It’s best to leave Jasin alone.” “But he seems so nice,” I said. “People aren’t always what they seem,” she said in a judgmental tone.
I looked over and saw my new friend waving at me. I just stood there, staring at him when I felt something in my tummy: Butterflies.
Now, let me be clear aboout something; up until that point in time, my experiences with boys had been limited to chasing them on the schoolyard (having no idea what to do if ever I caught one) and squealing when New Kids on The Block appeared on-screen.
Surely, none of these suckers had ever made me feel insecure about the new pimple-things that were appearing on my face, and they certainly had never sweet talked me. The boy with the black hair and white tank top did both. I defied the lunch monitor and waved back.
I was in love.
The next day, my new love interest met me at my first period class and was suspended by lunch time. “I’m going to meet you at the bus stop after school,” he said, as he was escorted out of the principal’s office.
And he did.
By that evening, I had been forbidden to engage him, a demand that would be uttered nearly every day for the next two years. The home I was in took issue with white girls dating Mexican boys. I took issue with bigotry. Besides, Jasin had promised to marry me. It was on.
After one particularly humiliating punishment, I snuck in a phone call to share the sordid details through sobs. He went ballistic.”I’m getting my brother to drive me over there right now. We’re coming to get you and we will run away together,” he said in our secret phone conversation.
I was down, but there was one small issue: I was 13.
This is who he became to me. An anchor in a chaotic time, a source of love and support when I had just lost the most important person in my life (my Grandpa). This young man who everyone judged was one of the few people who didn’t judge me. More than that, he was the only person I felt I could trust.
As we went from Jr. High to High School, I watched Jasin grow into a more confident and more daring version of himself. I’d look for him before and after school (he was often not allowed on-campus) and he seemed to look for a way to dodge the trouble that always seemed to find him. We had a disagreement, and for a short time, we didn’t speak. He started going with another girl and decided to get myself a boyfriend, a nice boy named Frank.
Jasin beat him up in front of the gas station.
No more boyfriends.
Finally, he was allowed back in school and we took sex ed. and were given “egg babies”. Jasin and I had twins. As in he was my egg-baby daddy.
He’d walk me and the twins to class and sit with us at lunch. In the halls, he’d tell people not to bump into his “family”. The whole thing was silly and sweet and completely disconnected from what happened before and after school. But that was us, very protective of one another. I wanted to protect him from the path he was on and he wanted to protect me from everyone in the world, including himself.
“You need to think about where this is taking you,” I said to him in one of our heart-to-hearts. He brushed me off, assuring me that he was just “having fun” and could change at any time. I looked at the numbers tattooed on his hand and held it tightly. His world was so different from mine and he’d toe the line between bringing me in and keeping me at enough of a distance so that I would never see what was really happening or who he was when not with me. Once, when he saw me trying to smoke a cigarette behind the trash can, he started yelling. “This is not for you,” he said, angrily, taking the cigarette away from me (and smoking it). The next day, he gave me his grandmother’s necklace to hold onto, one of his most cherished posessions. I later found out that he was thinking of giving it to me.
Everything changed in the middle of my freshman year. I woke up one morning and was moved abruptly to another home. Jasin had gone MIA again, which meant there was no goodbye. I called his house several times but no one knew where he was. Finally, I made my way back to where he was and found him. He took me to our spot (behind the car wash) and kissed me.“I love you,” he said. He was the first boy to ever say that to me and I believed that, in his way, he meant it. I loved him too, but as more than my first crush, as person. This young boy had been the primary focus of my life for two and a half years and the first to ignite that burning feeling in my heart. I also knew a different side of him. I knew how smart and sweet and funny he could be. I knew how hard his home life was and how badly he wanted to succeed but how limited he felt. This was the only way of life he knew.
I knew what no one seemed to know, including him: I knew that he was special.
Our lives continued to move into different directions and we lost contact. Yet, he always stayed firmly in my mind as my first love and I always worried and wondered about him, hoping his life would go in a happier and calmer direction.
A few days ago, my girlfriend and I were swapping stories about childhood boyfriends and I started talking about the little Latin lover in Jr. High. I decided to search for him on Facebook and was shocked to find him. The years had taken him from boy to man and it looked as though life had gotten even harder, but those sweet brown eyes were still the same. Normally, I like to leave the past where it belongs but I felt compelled to send him a note. Within an hour, he wrote back.
“It’s about time,” he said.