By ZZ Kokonaing

I know exactly what I’m going to do. 

It all started that day behind our middle school, in those melancholy-grey asphalt bus lots that were half the size of a football stadium, the kind of bus lots paved with cracks and dents that made the surface uneven no matter what angle you looked at it. The long yellow guidelines of paint separated the lot into diagonal parking spaces for the buses to arrange themselves in a collected but still off-center fashion.  

The memories were marble countertops; swirled emotions, vivid colors with blurry definition, distinct sounds without complete clarity of what was actually said, all intermixed and molded into scenes that seemed to have never happened – but you know deep down, they’re concrete as stone. The hard, smooth surface of marble countertop, streaked with different colors, accumulating one collected mind, one distinct truth, yet one marbled memory of what once was reality. And this was just a middle school story? 

Then there are the pieces of the story that feel more like granite. Jagged edges mixed with cooler hues of blues and blacks, even dots of purple minerals that glimmer, with all the grains of rock separated and interspersed throughout the granite material. Granite memories are more textured than marble memories, a grainer recollection of events that are edgy and sharp. Somewhere between the swirling, marble-molten memories and the jagged, granite grains of emotions that coalesced in middle school is the experience of remembering the girl who took my eighth-grade heart. 

Beautiful, kind, and fair-skinned, with shining brown hair that glimmered different shades depending on what angle you looked at it. She was the girl who asked me to sing a duet with her at church camp, and even though the duet never happened, it was the power of the all-affecting crush mindset that caused my heart to melt for hers, similar to the desert-like swirls of a marble countertop. 

And it’s the memories from junior high, an age of both self-exploration and continual self-dislocation of who we really are underneath all the marble skin, that I ask myself which memories of her were there and which ones were just jagged pieces in my mind that I am still trying to this day to make sense out of, to reconcile, to fit together like an un-meant-to-be puzzle. This girl is the girl I remember seeing at the back of the middle school bus parking lot, the parking lot with jagged edges and a crumbling surface, with melancholy-grey asphalt and slanted yellow lines creating barriers for the buses to align themselves in a crooked ensemble. 

This was my eighth-grade crush, the girl who asked me to sing a duet at church camp, the girl whose hair shimmered beautifully no matter what angle the light hit it, the girl who was now exchanging a cute, light, delicate kiss with a boy one year beneath us. As I try to recount how I felt in that moment, I cannot say these memories were either jagged or marbled, either jarring or blurry. What I can say is that eighth grade me watched eight grade her kissing seventh grade him.  

That’s what I found standing there, speechless and staring, at that sweet exchange of young romance between their two lips. Cute. Light. Delicate.  

This is how I choose to relive this memory.  

When I look at the actual material of memories on that marbled (or jagged) brain of mine, I find that the kiss was neither light nor delicate, nor kind-hearted or playful. The kiss was the kind of kiss looking back, you hoped and wished as a middle schooler you wouldn’t have to see your crush give to another (who happened to be a younger middle schooler).  

This girl you have idolized and dreamed about singing worship songs with at church camp is now exchanging saliva, hormones, and much more than a simple peck on the cheek with some kid you don’t really know or really like, and your lack of liking and knowing of this student then affects the way you view your eighth-grade crush, this girl you feel you are starting to know less, and God-forbid (at the time), like less, too. 

 Something smooth, beautiful, and kind then turns into one of cracks and jagged imperfections. All you did was watch her be human, but somehow, that cracks the marble statue of a position she held in your mind, revealing that she breathes too, she kisses too, she has a life, too. 

—————————————— 

Thinking about that kiss. Reliving that kiss. Remembering that kiss. But now there are other thoughts running through my marbled-brain, and some of these thoughts are risky at best, shrewd and reckless at worst. They are jagged thoughts. It’s been four years of life, of cracks and fissures, of imperfections, cycles of moving on and getting over. Somehow, and someway, I full-circled back to the girl from the bus parking lot. 

There I was, a jagged stone in a confusing, grainy, and broken story line, holding a cardboard box. In my grasp was a clipboard with a card with a piece of paper scribbled with boxes “yes” or “no” for a wedding plus one date. Wearing a fake wig on my head, and another one on my lips serving as a makeshift beard, adorned with my dad’s old extra-large navy blue short-sleeve button-up, pillows tucked in over my stomach to expand the silhouette of my gut, black skinny jeans hugging my thin legs, a nice pair of brown leather shoes afforded by mother, and a frantic, unsettling smile became the pieces of rough stone that somehow fit together to make the disguise of a deranged delivery man. The deranged features were accidental. 

Before I had left the house that day, there was no out-of-world plan, no chaotic schema, no thought-through process or elaborate strategy of getting the “yes” checkbox on that piece of paper to be signed. And in the moment, holding that clipboard containing the piece of paper scribbled with a question and two checkboxes, I had to reassure myself.  

I know exactly what I’m going to do. 

What does it mean to be jagged? It means to be something that when you’re in the grasp of another, you tend to be a sharp pain; you tend to cause discomfort if you’re held too closely, and you most definitely do not blend in with your environment. That was how I felt, in that poor excuse of a delivery man costume, waiting outside the chiropractic office where my eighth-grade crush, who at this point graduated her senior year of high school, was working peaceful summer days. It was her uncle’s office. A family practice. An established office. One many people from the community thought highly of. A peaceful office. 

“Hey, I’ve got a package for Cassidy Simpson,” I said in a deep, drawn-out accent after I walked in the front door. Saying her name for the first time in all these years wasn’t really the first time I had said her name in all these years. All the jokes whispered through the hallways of freshmen year, the apologies from accidentally bumping into her during sophomore year, the class responses and counter-responses and responses to her counter-responses in the classes of junior year – all those memories of her name being released from my lips kind of swirl around and get jumbled into the marbling of my recollection, the smooth existence of all those instances you know that happened but aren’t quite sure when. But this time, her name felt different. It sounded different. This time, I would remember for many years after exactly what I said, because this memory was sharp to the touch, a little uneven, a little uncomfortable. 

I made sure to limp on my legs, so no one would recognize me even by my walk had they raised suspicions based on my crude outfit. 

“Package for Cassidy!” I repeated in my hoarse accent. She looked me straight in the eyes, through both my disguise and my recklessness, and said,

“ZZ, what the heck?”  

“Hey, well, I’ll have you sign here and here,” I said in a deeper, grumbled voice, passing her my elementary style tactic of asking her out, her eyes sneering in both frustration and confusion. She grabbed the clipboard and the fake package promptly from my grasp, creating confused looks and shocked faces in the patient waiting area. An air of uneasiness and suspicion started radiating from my wig-beard. I realized the wig-beard, and the rest of me, had become a stench in the pristine and peaceful chiropractic office. 

And so Cassidy, who at that point was nervously looking around, trying to reassure her customers with a careful glance, grabbed the paper in my hand. Scribbles added upon my scribbles. She handed back the paper. I didn’t even get a chance to look at whether she checked yes or no, as my legs started moving without my brain’s permission. I walked out. This would’ve been a proper end to a jagged story. But some imperfections and flaws continue to spiral, continue to scratch the top of nice and pristine surfaces. 

As I walked out the front entrance, I held the door open for an Amish couple walking in, a baby carrier in their hand. As they walked in, I looked straight at their baby. The fact I was not a young man dressed neither casually nor sharply, but a suspicious, random, big-bellied delivery guy with wig-hair hanging off his chin did not occur to me, at least, at that moment in time. 

“What a cute baby you have!” I exclaimed with enthusiasm. That’s how I choose to remember this segment of my life, a choice to remember how that sweet Amish couple paced into the office of my eight-grade crush’s chiropractor uncle, a pace that had grown a little faster as they tried to avoid the jagged old man in the oversized navy-blue shirt.