Looking back, Charlie Scatturo realized what he did wrong. If only he had a chance to make it all right.
When you were in sixth grade, you didn’t lock your locker because you insisted upon carrying every book you needed in your backpack at all times. It was macho in a way that can only be rationalized when you’re 12-years old and trying to figure out what it means to be a man.
And how you should act. And what you should say. And how you were expected to behave in certain situations…
And in that warped mindset, carrying around every book you needed at all times was a perfectly reasonable decision even though it was uncomfortable and unnecessary. In retrospect, it was this decision that set everything in motion.
Because there weren’t any books in your locker, you didn’t lock it. And because you didn’t lock your locker, anyone could go in there if they wanted to. One day, a few weeks before Christmas, someone did. At the time you didn’t know who it was, but someone opened your locker and dropped a rose in there. They sprayed the rose with so much perfume that it stung your eyes the next time you opened your locker and saw that rose sitting on top of the few sheets of loose leaf paper that were covered with your hastily scribbled notes at the bottom of your locker that you never locked.
At first you thought it might be a prank. One of your friends messing with you. So you didn’t say anything about the rose to anyone. You just let it be and figured whoever put it there would tell you eventually.
A few days later you would come to find out that the rose was not put there by one of your friends playing a prank on you. It was put there by a girl. A girl you had a few classes with who seemed nice enough. A girl who had dirty blonde hair and a face like one of those angel ornaments that hang on Christmas trees. A girl whose laugh was really more of a controlled feminine snort than anything else.
You never really said much of anything to each other, and when you found out she put that rose in your locker you didn’t know how to feel.
And then you found out that she loved you in the way that a sixth grader loves another sixth grader. In a way that is decidedly different than the way an adult loves another adult, but might actually be more sincere than the way adults love each other.
Because when you’re in sixth grade, it doesn’t have anything to do with the peripheral things adults seem to attach to love once they become adults. When you’re in sixth grade you’re not thinking about how good this person would be in bed or whether your families would get along or how their career and their work/life balance would interact with your career and your work/life balance or whether they wanted to have kids or who they were voting for in the upcoming election.
You loved someone just because. You loved someone because you were a kid and maybe because you didn’t really know what the word ‘love’ meant. Or maybe you knew exactly what the word meant because it was something pure and unfiltered when you were in sixth grade. Which makes a sixth grade love all the more sincere in some ways.
And then you found out that she was cutting herself and had an eating disorder. And that she had an abusive relationship with her mom and it sounded like she was dealing with all kinds of things that made you really sad.
She didn’t really talk to you about these things because these things are unflattering and shocking and not the kinds of things you tell someone if you want them to love you. They’re the kinds of things you try to hide when you don’t want to scare someone away.
So you heard these things from other people. Her friends told you these things. They told you that she was in a bad place and that she needed you right now. You wanted to help, but the situation was overwhelming and you were 12-years old and you were awkward in the way that 12-year old boys are awkward.
One time, not long after you found that rose in your locker, it was storming and good-sized hail started falling from the sky. You were standing with her and a few other people under an awning when, for some reason, she stepped away from the awning and exposed herself to the hail as she just stood out in the open with no protection. Without even thinking, you grabbed her arm and pulled her back under the awning. You gave her a small hug because you were 12-years old and giving anything other than a small hug would have been altogether too embarrassing to do in front of other people.
As time passed, you got to know her a bit better and you tried to be there to pull her back under life’s proverbial awnings whenever you could. But you still weren’t completely sure whether or not you were actually helping. You tried to tow the line between love interest and helping hand, even though it was difficult to understand which role was more important or if there even needed to be a distinction between the two.
And ultimately you struggled with being both so you ended up taking the wrong advice from the wrong people, which led you to say the wrong thing to her. According to this advice, it was imperative that you tell this girl that you were not interested in her romantically. According to this advice, you had to set boundaries to let this girl know that you would be there to support her but nothing more than that. It didn’t matter what you felt or thought, you just wanted to help this girl and if saying these things was the best way to help, you wanted to do it.
After you said the wrong thing based on that wrong advice from the wrong people, she blew up at you. She said she hated you. She said she never wanted to see you again.
- She stormed off.
- You were devastated.
- You felt horrible.
You just wanted to help and this felt like the exact opposite of helping. You didn’t know it at the time, but this was the last thing she would ever say to you.
She was pulled out of school a few days later. At which point, she fell off the face of your earth, and you fell of the face of her earth.
As the weeks passed, you would hear rumors about how she was now at a psychiatric hospital. It was a rumor, but it could have been true. After a little while, you stopped hearing anything about her at all. And after a bit more time, the whole episode faded into the background of your life as sixth grade blurred into seventh grade and that blurred into high school and that blurred into college. And today, it’s been nearly 20 years since you found that rose in your locker.
But you still think about that girl and that rose every once in a while.
And whenever you do, a supreme sadness washes over you. And when that supreme sadness washes over you, it fills you with regret.
Regret that you didn’t know what to say. Regret that you took the wrong advice from the wrong people and said the wrong thing. Regret that you never saw her again. Regret that you had a chance to help someone but never could figure out what to do or what to say. Regret that maybe you also loved her in the way that a sixth grader loves another sixth grader. Regret about basically everything that happened after you opened your locker and found that rose in it.
And after you wallow in this regret for a little while, you wonder how she’s doing. You wonder what she looks like. You wonder if her laugh is still the same. You wonder if she remembers the rose she put in your locker. You wonder if she even remembers you after all these years.
You sometimes think about trying to get in touch with her because you want to say that you’re sorry. And you want to say that you hope she’s much happier than she was in sixth grade. And that you just wanted to help. And that you were both so young. And that you didn’t know what to say or what to do.
But all this thinking about that girl in sixth grade who put a rose in your locker doesn’t end up manifesting itself as anything actionable. In these moments, you just keep thinking about that girl and that rose, and regretting all of it.
Because when you think about trying to get in touch with her, you think that it might lead to more regret because maybe she’s not doing well or maybe she’s not even here anymore. Or because maybe she doesn’t remember you. Or worse, she does remember you and she still hates you after all these years. So you do nothing and you regret that too.
In these moments of regret, you tell yourself that you should stop thinking so much about the past. That you should stop retracing the outlines of something that grows fuzzier as the years continue to pass. That you should stop reliving a time when you were overwhelmed and confused and sad at such a young age.
And now that you’re nearly two decades removed from that girl, and the rose she put in your locker and all that regret, the one thing that gives you comfort is that you’ve changed a lot from who you were when you were 12 years old. You tell yourself, if you were put in a similar situation today, you would be much better equipped to be there for someone who needed help.
And at the very least, you’re not carrying around such a heavy backpack anymore.
This article was previously published on Coffeelicious. Read the original article.
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