Just My Romantic Luck

4 April 2019

My history with guys is a lonely path littered with zinnias, cheap chocolate, overdue gossip, and very serious heartbreaks.

In the first grade there was this really gorgeous guy. He had silky brown hair, eyes as black as a countryside’s night sky, and a perfect Keanu Reeves face. Every time I saw him I thought my heart would flutter away like a butterfly, or that it would jump out of my chest like a fish out of water to swim in his dreamy eyes forever.

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The thing was, every other girl liked him too.

It wasn’t just me who fell on my knees to beg my parents to buy a tiny box of expensive European chocolate to give to him on Valentines day (they didn’t). It wasn’t just me who squeezed my eyes shut and crossed my fingers whenever there was a class desk-rotation, just for the chance to be seated next to him. It was so life-alteringly important, we might as well have been hoping to win the lottery.

Presumably, he was more frightened of than flattered by all the attention. So when my wish did come true and I got to sit next to him, putting my feet under his chair and sometimes accidentally kicking him didn’t, of course, win him over. In fact, I don’t remember him ever talking to me unless it was to ask in an exasperated tone why I put my feet under his chair. Looking back, it was disturbingly strange, desperate behavior. Poor guy…

Then, there was fifth grade. Mark, the boy who sat next to me, couldn’t seem to get enough of me. He cracked jokes like he was a Saturday Night Live comedian just to make me laugh, stared at me from across the room during class activities as if he’d never seen a girl before, and talked to me whenever the teacher turned her back. But I hardly noticed. I was still flat-chested, watched Pokemon, and was too busy starting an awesome club with my friends.

Toward the middle of the year, though, I changed. I filled out my shirts, noticed the fat on my legs, and started hating my clothes. I guess Mark changed too. He became one of the most popular guys in fifth grade, and he started liking Meili. It made me so jealous I felt like a knife was piercing my heart every time he said something to make her laugh. That’s when I realized I liked him. All the way until the last day of school, I wanted Mark like a bear wants honey, like a starving child wants food.

A few weeks into summer vacation, while at my friend’s house, she and another girl started talking about guys. I overheard something I never thought I’d hear: “Mark liked Masaleen.”

“What!?” I retorted, breaking into the conversation as if they’d been talking about something boring like wheat fields and someone had suddenly claimed her mother was abducted by aliens.

“Yeah, didn’t you know? It was so obvious. Everyone knew it. The way he couldn’t keep his eyes off of you, the way he talked to you…”

My head was swimming. How could I not have known? I had a sudden urge to run up to Mark and reveal my feelings, feelings I’d kept inside because of a conviction that someone so out of my league would instantly reject me. Then he would tilt his head down a little, and I’d see a tear rolling out of his eye as he confessed that he’d never stopped loving me. We’d become boyfriend and girlfriend and grow up together and marry and live happily ever after.

Instead, that summer my family moved and I never saw him again.
The whole ordeal was the first truly traumatic experience of my life. The degradation of self-esteem as a result of not being liked (or in this case of thinking I wasn’t liked) is far more serious than parents comprehend.

The third disaster has made me cynical of even the most romantic of gestures.

It happened at my job at a pizza shop. A few weeks into it, I received flowers. Anonymously. On my car. Someone had placed a pot of Jewel Osco zinnias on the front window of my car. The first time it happened, I went home in a dreamy daze. It was my first flowers from any guy. If I hadn’t lived three minutes away, I’m sure I would have been the center of a bloody, mass-scale front-page news accident.

I went over in my head all the customers from that day, but couldn’t recall anyone who seemed as interested in me as they were in what toppings they wanted. I thought about my male coworkers: one was young and good-looking but married, one had a Mohawk and a girlfriend, one was bald with glasses and a pot belly, and the other, an old man who couldn’t speak English.

After the second time it happened, about a week later, I knew it wasn’t a mistake that the flowers were for me. The third time, I started getting frustrated. How long was this guy going to keep up this game?

The same day, I got a note from my coworker. I started to open it, but he frantically motioned for me to put it in my pocket instead.
It was from the old man. I now wished the game had been kept up for eternity, which was probably how old he was.

When I got home I took out the note. In scrawled, childish handwriting, it said:
“Dear Masaleen,
Would you like, to go to the cinema with me

Questions shot off like fireworks in my head. “Why does he want to take me out? Is he just being nice, or is he a pervert, wanting to date a girl five decades younger than himself? What if he’s dangerous? What if, what if…” All I knew was that he was married and had two grown children, making him old enough to be my grandfather.

I called my boss. Being his niece, she had no problem yelling at him and telling him what an idiot he was and that if he didn’t leave me alone she would fire him.

After that he stopped keeping the freezer door open for me, stopped offering to carry heavy items, and of course, stopped leaving me flowers. Instead, he would avoid me like the plague, or look straight into my face and glare, as if to say, “For embarrassing me, smashing my heart into little pieces, and not appreciating my zinnias, I’m going to kill you.” The once kindly, loving eyes became bulging, scary frog eyes.

I’m sure someday I’ll be happily married to a normal guy. His birthday will be within five years of mine, he’ll be dreamy, funny, and his love for me will never die. Oh, and he’ll never give me zinnias – just roses and expensive chocolate.

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