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"Of Notebooks and Pandas" - The Story of How I Met, Fell in Love With, and Had My Heart Broken by My Best Friend

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Jake

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I suppose that one could state that it all began in August of 2009, the start of my junior year of high school. To my great satisfaction, I was once again attending Tulare Union. I had gone there during my freshman year, but my parents insisted that my sophomore year be spent at Mission Oak. It had just opened in August of 2008, and it was located only about a quarter of a mile from my house. I must admit that being among the oldest students upon the campus was quite enjoyable, as was the thought of being in the school’s first graduating class. However, I did rather poorly at Mission Oak and, thanks to my father’s being a teacher at Union, I transferred back there the following year. But, I digress.

The beginning of this story does not truly begin until late August, possibly early September. It was approximately 1 o’clock in the afternoon and lunch had ended a few short minutes before. I was walking into my sixth period physics class and towards my seat in one of the first couple of rows when I saw her. I cannot remember if, at that time, I actually knew her name or not. She might have mentioned it before. After all, she sat in the desk directly in front of mine. What I do remember is the fact that she was wearing a T-shirt that had L, the main anti-antagonist of the manga and anime Death Note, upon it. As I walked to my chair, I somewhat offhandedly commented that L was my favorite character. I sat down with a small grin upon my face, she turned around to look at me with a wide smile upon hers, and our friendship was born.

Her name was Michelle Ramos, a sixteen-year-old junior of Mexican and Salvadorian ancestry. She was less than five-and-a-half-feet-tall, was built petitely, and had long hair the color of ebony, an almost ever-present smile the color of ivory, and dark brown eyes. She, like me, possessed a love of all things Japanese and loved to dance, especially salsa. I discovered the following week or shortly thereafter that we also shared a first period pre-calculus class. I also learned that the young man that sat in the seat to her right in our physics class, a senior by the name of Andrew Garcia, was her boyfriend of about two years, I believe.

Between having a class together every day and frequently texting each other outside of school for a year, Michelle became one of my best friends. And, as best friends often do, we created nicknames for each other. I always called her “Michelley”, which originally came from an inside joke between the two of us where I would claim that she was actually half-Italian and that her real name was “Michelley Ramosi”, and she always called me “Jacobo”, which she would always purposefully mispronounce. We would often hug whenever we saw one another and we would frequently end our conversations by saying “I love you”. I even became rather good friends with Andrew over the course of that school year.

The school year came to an end, of course, as all things must. Andrew graduated in June of 2010 and was planning on joining the United States Air Force. Michelle and I continued to text one another over the course of our vacation, and we became even closer friends. It was in the middle of that summer that Michelle confided in me the fact that Andrew and her were going through an incredibly rough patch in their relationship. She also told me some of her deepest and darkest secrets; in return, I told her all of mine. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I had fallen deeply in love with her and my saying “I love you” had grown to be much more romantic than platonic. To my chagrin, I believe that it was around this time that Michelle alerted me to the existence of a young Clovis man by the name of Brandon Cazares that she was acquainted with. He attended Clovis West High School, and the two of them took a salsa dancing class together in Fresno.

Our summer vacation passed by too quickly and the school year was once again upon us. It was August of 2010. At the beginning of the semester, I had three classes with her: first period human biology, fourth period Advance Placement Calculus AB, and sixth period Advanced Drama. About three weeks later, after I had some slight rearrangement done to my schedule for the purpose of getting into more Advance Placement classes, we also had second period Advance Placement United States Government together.

It was sometime during the beginning or the middle of September that I found out that she had decided to end her relationship with Andrew. To this very day, I am somewhat torn regarding who was more responsible for this particular event. I may very well have held some part in it; as one of her best friends, I told her that if she was no longer happy with Andrew, that she should break up with him. However, I think that some part of me knew, even at that time, that Brandon was the real reason behind it. She had become infatuated with him. Nonetheless, I was surprised when, a month or so later, she told me that she was dating him.

I will admit that I was disappointed. Before she told me of her new relationship with Brandon, I was planning on asking her out myself. Despite my frustration, I played the role of the happy best friend excellently. Do not misunderstand me. I was honestly glad that she was with someone that was able to make her so full of cheer and joy again, and Brandon was quite a good fellow. I even became friends with him, to a certain extent. But, I still wished that I had had enough courage and confidence in myself to have had courted her before it was too late.

In November, Michelle and Brandon attended the Tulare Joint Union High School District’s Winter Formal together; I went alone and spent the night dancing with a large group of my friends, among who were Michelle and Brandon. Nothing of much importance happened for the next several months. However, Michelle did inform me at least once during that time that Brandon was jealous of me. When she told me of this, I could not help laughing to myself. I thought it hilariously ironic that he was envious of me. After all, he was dating the girl of my dreams. When I asked her why this was, she responded that Brandon was somewhat uncomfortable with our displays of affection.

It was in early April that, at the beginning of one of our Advanced Drama class meetings, Michelle told me that she had broken up with Brandon the night before. I was shocked by the suddenness of this. She had not given any implications of even the slightest of problems within their relationship. My astonishment at the situation quickly dissipated, and I began formulating my plan to at least have the opportunity to eventually become her boyfriend. Within the following week or so, I had subtly asked her all that I needed to know to put my plot into motion.

On Thursday, April 14th, 2011, I drove from my house in Tulare to World Market in Visalia. I walked to the back of the store, where the candy, cookies, and other sugary treats were stocked; grabbed a large box of Hello Panda, a brand of small panda-shaped and chocolate crème-filled cookies manufactured by a Japanese pharmaceutical company by the name of Meiji Seika; walked to one of the registers at the front of the store; and bought them. The next morning, Friday, April 15th, 2011, I arrived at school earlier than I normally did. I was fortunate enough to gain access into our classroom from our human biology teacher, Mrs. Luiz, after briefly explaining my intentions. I thoroughly cleaned the top of her front row desk and carefully wrote “PROM?” upon it with the Hello Panda. Once it was finished, I sat in my desk behind hers and patiently awaited her arrival into the classroom.

When school officially started at 8 o’clock, Michelle was the last student to enter the room. She slowly walked to her desk and, upon seeing what was upon it, turned to me with tears in her eyes. She asked me if I had done it and I smiled and nodded my head. She returned my grin and said “Yes, Jacobo”, and I immediately stood up and hugged her. At that moment, I felt like the happiest person in the entire world.

My happiness was incredibly short-lived. Within a week, Michelle informed me of the fact that she and Andrew had gotten back together. Somehow, I was still able to believe that I actually had a chance with her. On Friday, April 22nd, 2011, while our Advanced Drama class was preparing to rehearse a few scenes of The Diary of Anne Frank, Michelle walked up to and told me that she would not be going to Prom with me. I stared into her dark brown eyes, hoping to see some sort of trickery within them. I saw none. I forced my lips into a smile and made some sort of lame joke about needing to find another date in the next month. I spent the rest of that period in total and complete despair. I never found another date, I never went to Prom, and I never blamed Michelle for any of it.

The time that was required for me to heal from Michelle’s rejection was anywhere from eight to ten months, possibly even longer. In that time, I analyzed and reanalyzed everything that had happened. Eventually, it became apparent to me that those occurrences were the punishment for my pride and for my arrogance. The near-constant depression that I had felt almost every day as a result of those events was the consequence for my selfishness. My broken heart was my just reward for believing that I should have been anything more than the best friend of Michelle Ramos.

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