L-double I-S-A. Liisa.
I can’t say that the double i’s were the reason I liked her so much, but it most definitely added to her mystique. It made her different. And in my small hometown of 9000, different was good. She was smart, beautiful, and super nice in the best sense of that word when so many seem to dismiss it.
I can’t tell you exactly what it was about her. But I do know what I had for lunch that day (that macaroni and cheese lunch meat that now turns my stomach), what she was wearing (a blue dress…she always wore dresses), and where I told her (out by the ball wall in the schoolyard).
I can’t say why I chose that particular day. She’d become my female counterpart, the “smart girl” to my “smart boy” in our grade four class. I was positive that she felt the same way about me with the kind of certainty that only children and the crazy possess. It was a given.
I can’t recall exactly what I said, or what she said back, but I do remember the embarrassed look on her face. The red flush to her cheeks when she told me something about not being ready to have a boyfriend. It was my first “it’s not you, it’s me”.
I can’t even think of what I did next. How I handled that. I can see my best friend Andrew laughing it off, teasing and hitting in the way that boys do. He was not yet concerned with girls. Too young to carry a torch for someone, but equally too young to know that I shouldn’t, I secretly loved her through the rest of grade four, and into grade five. We moved to Sudbury in October of that year. Leaving Andrew. Leaving her. I can remember her smile, and more importantly her hug, on my last day at GPS. I can remember thinking “there will be other Liisas”.
I can’t believe how quickly I forgot her as soon as she wasn’t there. She was pushed aside and left to wither. She was replaced by Jessica, and then Stacy in that way that children love too deeply and can transfer it seemingly at will. Life played on, and Andrew came up to visit during March Break. He had news from the homefront. Big news. My best friend Andrew was “going out” with Liisa. My Liisa. My best friend and my Liisa. She was finally ready for a boyfriend, but it wasn’t me. I was hurt. Angry. Smashed open. He wasn’t smart enough for her. He wasn’t kind enough, or funny enough, or handsome enough. He wasn’t me. I sat beside him in that restaurant while he scribbled her name on his paper placemat, his pen like a dagger, his doodle inflating my sense of betrayal, treachery, and assault.
“What?” His mouth twitched, trying to conceal a smile. He was enjoying this. I hated him for that.
“Nothing”. Et tu, Andrew? Everything is exaggerated when you’re young. Big love. Big pain. Big regret.
I can recall the heart-break, heart-ache, like being grabbed by the throat and kicked between the legs, like it would never mend. But of course it did, and it does. A battle scar now, just one of many. Even in the fifth grade, we absorb and convert everything life throws at us.
I don’t even remember her last name now.