I wrote this section of my book as part of a flash fiction/flash non-fiction exercise for one of Mark Ari’s workshops. I remember being challenged tremendously by the task of writing a complete narrative, be it real or fantasy, in less than 500 words.

That was for news articles and press releases. I didn’t see the virtue of letting a story remain disparate in its directness, in its clear reveal of how the events unfolded if they were from an actual occurrence or how they would if the fictional world I devised were real.

Once I reflected on a myriad of experiences, I found my regrets and hurts over what I wrongly assumed was my first love provided ample opportunity to be blunt about my shortcomings and the passions felt within the confines of a minimal world count.

It was published in a student anthology titled Not Necessarily as it showed what happens as conceptions of love become distorted or complex.

Without further adieu, here is “First Mirage.”

First Mirage

I’d tell you to ignore her. But I won’t lie to you (you’ve done a fine job yourself). You were always a stubborn guy. Though a whopping 62 (scratch that, 63) inches, you fell for this gorgeous girl. The braces she loathed. Her strawberry-scented perfume, really just a pretty-girl scented perfume. Don’t forget the luscious auburn hair that she would straighten to perfection. And those perfect dimples, too. It was almost too good to be true.

The first week of school, you resembled an abandoned puppy longing for an angel’s arms. You trudged around in thin-frame glasses. You looked for a table. Your heart pounded. Your eyes glanced side to side at everyone engaged in conversations meaning the world for only a day. You looked lost (an accomplishment in what resembled a two-story Office Depot). Seeing this, she invited you into her lunch table.

Your fourteen-year-old heart didn’t know how to respond.

As you prepared for water boy duties, you were taken aback by her out-of-this-world hug. Strangely enough, your first true embrace didn’t seem the kind of momentous joy love stories are written about. Your two friends who were girls weren’t much for hugging. One high-fived. The other side-hugged. But she liked both arms around your shoulders in ‘Just Right’ formation. And as she watched your JV football team play like they were trying out for the Cleveland Browns practice squad, you wondered why she wasted time on hopeless causes.   

You thought all those gestures were her equivalent of an ‘I’m so madly in love with you.’ Really, she offered something long evading you: compassion. Something you just weren’t ready for. And could she be blamed for this? You thought she saw a scrawny freshman who looked like he’d seen a real crypt keeper roaming the grounds. But really, she saw someone in need of love, the last thought on anyone else’s mind. 

You sure returned the favor.

You spent a good eight months loathing that basketball star boyfriend of hers. Filled with resentment rendering your heart coarse, you went without revealing your heart’s song to her. A couple months into sophomore year, you gradually tore it all apart. A few piercing scowls in her direction. Some pestering on Facebook. Too much pouting in the corner.

You had your chance. Too bad you wandered aimlessly into the blazing desert seeking two-years-too-old, two-inches-too-tall fool’s gold. Soon you wondered if the relentless attraction would ever cease, if the inner aches would subside like the soreness from all the tackling drills and grueling sprints, if the self-imposed battle scars would bring you closer to finding your first love. You wonder if you’ve used your one song on an imaginary Snow White. 

As she spent the next year blissfully drifting away, all those other girls moved on. Wait, there were other girls? Yes. For reasons beyond reason, they found you adorable and sweet. Yet your radar didn’t notice until the clock said midnight.    

You didn’t exchange words again with your first mirage, now a haze of infatuation, until graduation day. Your last day in the high school gymnasium. You were nervous, but she thought nothing of it. She came over, hugged you, asked about you and wished you the best.

She got married two years later and you silently wished her well.