Thursday, 10 November 2016 14:21

Just as Sweet by Andy Tu

Just as Sweet by Andy Tu

Being named after a famous character has a certain effect, especially when you’re still a sophomore in high school. When people are first introduced to me, they’ll make a joke, say something like, ‘Oh Romeo, Oh Romeo’, and snigger. On the first day of school when the teachers are taking roll and my name is spoken, every single girl will turn their head to look me, their eyes scanning me up and down to see if I’m truly a handsome, leading figure of romance. After a moment they’ll squint an eye or scrunch an eyebrow, perhaps their way of answering maybe, or I don’t know. Or just plain no. I can never tell.

I’m not a dreamboat by any means. I’m tall, but that’s pretty much all I have going in terms of appearances. I wear small-framed, circular glasses and am skinny but not too skinny. Although I used to get straight A’s and probably still could if I wanted to, I’ve never had too much of a reason to try. I’m average-looking, in my own eyes, but I don’t really mind. I like to stay in the background. I’m attracted to pretty girls like any other teenager, but I’ve never been madly in love.

All this changed when I met Julie. Yes, Julie. Not Juliet. How lucky I might have been if that extra letter had been added to her name: perhaps everyone at school would’ve expected us to get together, and this expectation would’ve gravitated us toward each other like two jigsaw pieces that fit perfectly together, separate from the messy sea of our high school body as if we were misplaced units from a different set.

It was halfway through third period when I first saw her. Mr. Roberts, our relatively young teacher who was lecturing much too seriously for his naturally-laid back style (I figured this was one of those days when he was overcompensating for his reputation as an easy-going teacher), was comparing a quote from Romeo and Juliet—Do not swear by the moon, for she changes constantly. Then your love would also change—to something a contemporary author had written:

"Mafi, though," he said, "describes the moon as a 'loyal companion'…"

He turned and began scrawling these two words across the blackboard, the chalk in his hand making a wishy sound, when the door opened softly.

“Hi,” said a soft voice. My head still propped in my hands, I turned and took a look. No sooner had I seen her than my heart began feeling as if it were reaching out my chest and trying to wrap its ventricles around her. She was so damn gorgeous. Her hair was a dark-brown that shimmered, and she had deep, pitch-black irises that you could get lost in as if there were a well of beauty that stretched into the depths of her soul. It was like I was dreaming and every part of my subconscious desire for the opposite sex had manifested and was walking into the classroom. My head became light and I felt nauseous, like I was literally becoming sick with love.

Small dimples curved into her cheeks as she smiled naturally. I’d discover that she’d always smile like this and that it wasn’t just out of politeness or when something made her laugh. No. She smiled as if she had a source of happiness that came from her, herself being its ultimate source, and it shone like a warm candle flame that hovered over a lake in the evening, shedding the glow of its beauty on the water below in orange and pink ripples.

She was assigned to the only empty seat remaining, one seat over to my left, in the row in front of me. She smelled like a light honey. From then on, my every action in that classroom became a response to her presence. As if I were a puppet and my subconscious was a hand fiddling with my strings, I’d find myself sitting with my back straight and my fingers clasped together in the perfect center of my desk, unmoving and frozen as if shifting them at all might break some sort of effect they had on luring her into my life. This was my initial reaction—to suddenly become an on-point student who always paid attention and nodded every few sentences to what Mr. Roberts was saying. Looking around, I saw that some of the other guys were doing something similar.

“And does anyone remember what Juliet says before she drinks the poison?” Mr. Roberts asked, striding slowly past my desk with his fingers folded behind his back.

Al—a straight-A student who was also Key Club president, a boy scout, and who claimed that he knew computers so well he could hack into the school database and change absences into tardies and tardies to presents, raised his hand, and said, as if delivering a great line in a mediocre movie script:

"He says, 'Romeo, I come! This do I drink to thee.'"

Turning his head, he glanced back at Julie. I could only see her cheek and the sharp angle of her chin that framed the side her violet-white lips, but still I tried to sense if she was impressed. I couldn’t tell.

That night, for the first time in my career as a high school student, I attempted to do the reading assignment. After getting through less than a single verse, though, I began trying to think up jokes I might be able to use to elicit a laugh from Julie, my name being Romeo and all. I’d recently read an article online that claimed you could get a girl to like you if you could make her laugh.

The next day in class, though, someone beat me to it.

“Hey Mr. Roberts,” said Freddie. I wouldn’t have called him a friend, but we were on friendly-enough terms for him to get away with poking fun at me in front of everyone. "Is the Romeo in this play as big a geek as our Romeo here? I thought Romeos were supposed to be, like, super hunks or something. How is it that ours is never seen with a single girl?”

The class broke into laughter. My face warmed from everyone’s eyes turning toward me. I’d never been comfortable in the spotlight, no matter how small. Which is why I kept my circle of friends to exactly two people: Juan, who moved and transferred at the end of the previous school year but was still only a 20-minute drive away, and Stephen, who shared many qualities with me, like shyness and a tendency to slack off in school.

Freddie, sitting on the other side of the classroom below a row of movie posters, smirked, avoiding my eyes.

“Freddie, don't be a smart ass,” Mr. Roberts said as if he were talking to a younger cousin.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” said Julie. This was the first time she had spoken in our class, aside from the first day when she’d introduced herself. “Just as Freddie here would be as creepy even if his name wasn’t famous for being a monster serial killer that comes to you in your nightmares.

A short silence followed, capped by an explosion of laughter. Turning to Julie, Freddie smiled. I tried to see if she was smiling back at him, but still I couldn’t see her face.


So she was funny as well as gorgeous! Quick-witted. And she’d defended me! Me! Not anyone else! However indirectly. It must have meant something.

As the weeks progressed, I’d discover that Julie was unlike any of us. Instead of finding a clique like the ‘popular girls’ or joining the band or a sport and deciding where she’d sit at lunch in this way, she floated about like a butterfly between different groups—the artsy hippies, the punk-rockers, the gothic kids, everyone—you name it. It was baffling to see—and I’d watch as she drifted from crowd to clique, from soccer to chess, gliding right into the mix effortlessly like it was in her nature to be liked by everyone. One of the only groups she never seemed to visit was mine—or more accurately—mine and Stephen’s. And so after a month had passed, I still hadn’t spoken a single word to her, even though she sat so close to me in English. What would I have said?—Hey, I think you're pretty gorgeous and unique, the way you get along with everyone so well. I'd love to take you out sometime?

Boys flocked to her before school in the quad, during passing periods between the hallways, and after school near the front beneath the shade of the trees that were never trimmed. And yet, even after numerous dates with various pursuers, the word around campus remained the same—she was boyfriendless. The lack of a male who would walk at her side with his hand around her shoulder and drive her home after school and take her to the plaza for snow cones and movies seemed to create a physical space next to her, a space that I became determined to fill. I began checking out her Facebook (okay fine, I was stalking her) and would see the dozens of new posts on her wall every day, all from guys at our school who would write a joke or try to casually ask her some random question, like if she was going to do an extra credit assignment; and hidden in their words I could see that intense desire for her. I decided to play it cool and not send her a friend request, as this might separate me from every other guy. And the more time that passed with her Facebook status still listed as “single”, the more I became convinced that our stars were uncrossing just for me, like some sort of reverse tragedy where instead of that ill-fated ending, an unlikely suitor would win her heart over the many jocks and rich kids and all-around, smart, good-looking, and popular, shocking the entire school like the electric current that would be our love.

Finally, after days stretched into weeks of telling myself that today—yes, today—was the day that I would talk to her, I dragged myself before her and, like a newly-hired sales intern who was still terrified of public speaking, offered her my best line. It was during passing period between first and second, time almost up and the hallways nearly empty. She was standing alone by her locker, which stood next to a window, where the light set its rays through, brightening the ground softly.

“But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?" I said, feeling my face heat with shame as the words left my lips. “It is the east, and Julie is the sun.”

She clasped her hand over her forehead and, eyes crinkling, laughed with an expression that was close to crying. The bell rang.

“Oh my God…” she said, hurrying down the hallway to her class. After a long moment of standing there frozen, I slapped myself in the face for being so stupid. Our principal turned the corner just then. In any other circumstance, he would have given me a citation, but seeing the tail end of my own hand smack across my cheek must have made him feel bad for me. He looked away and walked past me.


I've realized that unrequited love is worse than a forbidden one, because I would’ve done anything to make Julie love me back, even if that were the extent of it—simply a mutual feeling, barred from becoming an actual relationship by a feud between our families or her having to move again. But instead I just watched her behind in English class, wondering if she’d ever turn and look at me after that incident.


My dad being a well-sought-out lawyer and my mom the executive of a firm, they were very much the successful type, and at home, their discussions usually centered on their time and money, and how efficiently they were using each. In a sense, they functioned more like well-suited business partners than a man and woman in love. I’d spent much of my childhood playing video games alone downstairs or in my room as a nanny swept the floors of our three-story mansion, and it was only after I’d grown into my teenage years and took a look around my home that I noticed how everything rotated around the idea of maximizing life itself rather than just living simply and embracing the moment. It also made me wonder if they’d changed drastically from when I was born, from parents that would name their only child Romeo to what they were now—machine-like, super workers. I also wondered if they thought it strange that I had nearly no ambition up to this point (aside from wanting Julie to be my girlfriend). I didn’t mind any of this, though. All I knew was that I enjoyed the freedom and lack of pressure they offered, and that I had everything I wanted, materially.

Their ability to make smart decisions also meant that they clashed on where to go on their annual vacations. My mother, for this trip, wanted to visit Yosemite. It would be a 350 mile drive from our home in northern California—a drive that my dad groaned over at our dinner table the Thursday before they would depart without me. I’d gone on the trips up until the previous year, when they decided I was old enough to stay home alone and too timid to throw a party in their absence.

“Why can’t we just go somewhere by plane?” my dad said, shoving a forkful of fried pork into his mouth even though there was still food in there. He was speaking with his mouth full on purpose to annoy my mom, because she wouldn’t relent on her decision. My dad had wanted to go somewhere in South America and rent out a five-star resort, spend the afternoons lazed out on a pool chair drinking margaritas, but my mom, for some reason, always had the final say; and thus, they were going to Yosemite to hike.

“We’re going to spend half the time in a car, driving there and coming back," my dad complained. "And once we’re there, we’re going to be walking around all day. What kind of vacation is that?”

In my head, I agreed with my dad, but I wasn’t about to say anything. I was just waiting for that Saturday morning to arrive, because then I’d have the entire weekend to myself. I’d decided that I was going to throw my first ever party. Sure, my official clique of friends consisted only of two people, but I was friendly with enough people around school to possibly get a decent showing—especially if I mentioned that alcohol would be present. Last year when my parents had left on vacation, Stephen, Juan and I had sat around my living room watching movies and munching on potato chips. Why, then, did I suddenly decide to play host? Because my parents' 6-figure salaries meant that we lived in a Victorian-style house in a gated community. And because, Julie’s eyes had landed on me one day in class as she was walking to her desk, and she’d smiled at me as if in a three-day delayed afterthought of my poetic attempt to woo her. Whether it was out of pity or friendliness, I wasn't sure. But I was took it as a signal that maybe I hadn’t screwed up my chance completely.


Word spread, and soon everyone knew about the party. Even guys I’d never talked to would jab me playfully on the shoulder as they passed my locker and say something like, “Romeo! See you Saturday night, man! Heard you have a ping pong table!” or ask questions about what kind of alcohol I’d have. Others requested permission to bring weed and bongs, promising they’d only smoke in the backyard.

“Or in the bathroom, if that’s cool,” said a guy who’d asked about bringing friends from another school. "If you have one of those fans that airs out smells, then that works, too!”

Stephen, who was standing next to me, gave me a look of caution. Wanting to be cool, though, I said, “Sure, that’s fine with me.”

“Thanks, man!” he said. He slapped me on the back and left.

“You might want to be careful, Rome,” said Stephen. That was what he and Juan called me. “I get this is like some sort of new experience you’re trying on, and you wanna impress Julie, but you don’t want things to get out of hand.”

“Eh,” I said, “You only live once.”


In English class that day, I slipped a note onto Julie's desk, a note that had taken me four times to perfect. At lunch I’d penned my invitation with a black felt tip marker across a white printer paper. Stephen raised an eyebrow when he read it, saying I was apologizing too much and that my insecurities were in the ink, and that I’d written too neatly, like I’d taken too much time to think about this one insignificant note. So then I wrote another one, this time on the back of an old homework sheet, inviting her to the party in little less than a half a sentence:

Party Saturday my place, you in?

“Too casual, now,” Stephen said.

After one more false start, I wrote one he approved of.

We were writing an in-class essay about why or why not Romeo and Juliet should have followed their passions to their death in the face of certain failure—well, I was spinning my pencil in my hand, feeling the corners of the hexagonal angles and waiting for the right time to slip Julie the note—when I saw that Mr. Roberts had finished grading the papers on his desk and was now on his computer. I casually walked to the front, tossing the note onto her desk as I passed by, and asked if I could go to the restroom.

“Sure," Mr. Roberts said. "Don't take too long though, Romeo." He squinted his eyes at me and smirked in a way that reminded me of a mischievous kid. I left the classroom and went into the bathroom to check myself in the mirror, taking deep breaths and feeling my heart race as if I'd placed it into Julie's hands instead of some slip of paper.

When I got back, everyone’s pencils had stopped and all eyes were on me, including Mr. Roberts’ and Julie’s. Like a wary stray cat wandering into a house, I walked cautiously back to my desk, heads turning and stares gradually glancing away. I wondered what was up.

Then Mr. Roberts pushed himself away from his desk on his wheeled chair, clearing his throat in an exaggerated way. Snickers crept through the room around me. Julie glanced back at me, but upon seeing that I was looking at her, turned back around.

“So, Romeo,” said Mr. Roberts, swinging himself forward off his chair and landing on his feet. The sound of his shoes hitting the floor made a dull thud. He reached into his back pocket, and before he could say another word, I knew what was happening. “You thought you were so slick, passing a note to your classmate like that, huh?”

I could feel sweat break through the pores on my forehead. My classmates stifled their laugher behind their hands.

Mr. Roberts held my note high above him like it was some sort of magic medallion. Then he brought it back down and slowly unfolded it.

“Hi Julie,” he read. I felt like jumping out of my chair and sprinting out of the room, but the embarrassment of the whole thing seemed to freeze my entire body. Maybe if I stayed still, then no one could see me, like I would just disappear into the background. “Sorry about that other day. I was just joking, you know. Because of our names?” Mr. Roberts was reading off my words with a sarcastic lilt that made what I’d written sound even stupider than they were. Kids were full-on laughing now, shamelessly gawking at me.

“Anyways,” continued Mr. Roberts, “I hope you don’t think I’m some sort of weirdo or anything…”

“Oh my God,” cried Ace, who was captain of the baseball team, “Please, please stop, Mr. Roberts!”

Mr. Roberts took a step forward between the rows of desks. “I was just making a joke, was all. By the way, I’m throwing a party this Saturday night. Was wondering if you wanted to come, you know, kick it and have a good time.”

Everyone was pounding on the desks by now. I held my breath. Julie had turned her head slightly to the left so that I couldn’t even see the side of her face.

“Anyways, just ask around if you want to come. There’ll be alcohol and maybe weed, if you’re into that. Hope to catch you there.”

Laughter poured out of every student, except for Julie, whose face I still couldn’t see. Mr. Roberts was smirking with a glint in his eyes. Was he even allowed to do this? He’d always been a ‘cool’ teacher, letting us get away with using our cell phones and chatting about whatever we wanted when we were supposed to be doing our projects, but this lax attitude toward us meant we had to pay a price in return—it made him so popular among students that no one would ever rat him out when he crossed boundaries, which he seemed to every other day.

“Alright,” said Mr. Roberts after the laughter had faded. “Mr. Monteiro, I hope you’ve learned your lesson.” He plumped back into his chair and began rolling himself back toward his computer. “Which is to never get caught.”

A few kids laughed, still high off the atmosphere of my embarrassment. I remained frozen solid, unable to speak and feeling as if any word I uttered would only make things worse.

“Alright, guys.” Mr. Robert smiled smugly. His eyes were back on his computer screen. “Get on with that essay. It’s still due at the end of the period.”

Eventually, I managed to pick up my pencil, but of course, I couldn’t write the damn essay. Instead, I wrote, ‘Can I be excused from this assignment? Considering…?’ Then, keeping my eyes down on those words, I waited for the bell to ring. At some point, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Julie turn around and look at me.


Saturday night came and, slowly, people showed up at my house. At first I was afraid that no one was going to come. It was 7:16 pm and I was completely alone, wine glasses lined up on our stainless steel counter along with stacks of blue plastic cups, when Juan texted me, saying he was going to be late. The plan was for him to pick up Stephen after he got ahold of the beer and liquor from his older brother, then head over here to help set up. I’d told people that the party started at 7, and my co-hosts weren’t even here yet. Maybe people had been humoring me about coming. Or maybe another party was being thrown last minute, making mine irrelevant. And then, the doorbell rang.

When I opened it I swear the entire baseball team strode inside as if they lived here and had accidentally locked themselves out. A few of them were carrying boxes of beers. They set them on a glass table in the living room and began popping the cans open.

“Damn,” said Ace. “Sweet digs you got here, Rome.”

Then I heard some people shouting excitedly just outside the door, and when I turned around there were people streaming in by the dozens, hollering and raising glass liquor bottles into the air and waving them around like winning lottery tickets. In that one minute or so that this was all happening, someone had figured out how to turn on the 5.2 surround sound speaker system in the living room and hook it to their phone, which was now blasting a techno-dance song, the floor shaking to the engine-heavy bass. Our 24-inch plasma TV had also been turned on to the basketball game. People were now heading up the stairs to the second floor, laughing and yelling compliments down at me.

“Damn, Rome! Where you been all this time?” some guy in a red-and-white jacket said, pointing to me enthusiastically as he made his way up there.

People were pushing in through the front door like at a Black Friday sale, an endless line whose source never seemed to deplete as more guys in polos and girls in skirts danced past me, nodding to me and some of them even giving me a hug like we were good friends. Someone had turned off the main lights so that the downstairs was now dim but still lit by the lanterns in the corners and the chandelier suspended above the staircase, shards of light spreading across the floor and breaking across people's faces as they popped more beers and began taking shots from glasses that seemed to materialize out of nowhere. Only a few minutes had passed, and I could already sense that things would not end well.

Eventually, I was brought by the crowds into the kitchen, pushed along and bumping off people like a pinball. Some of the more popular crowd were taking shots together. They pulled me into the center, holding out glasses of a clear, green liquid toward me.

“Come on!” said Mindy, an attractive soccer player. When I took the glass, the entire room roared with cheers as if I’d just scored the winning shot last minute in a championship game.

“Wooooo!” shouted Mindy, downing her glass. The guys next to me clinked my glass with their own and poured their shots down their throats. Someone started chanting my name from behind, and then a moment later, everyone was.

“Rome! Rome! Rome! Rome!”

I brought the glass to my lips, tilted my head back, and let the liquid slide down my throat.


Everything was spinning—the ceiling, peoples' laughter, the porch lights in the backyard that lit up the swimming pool. I could hear the sound of water splashing as people hurled themselves in, cannonball style. How many shots I’d taken in how much time—I didn’t know. All I knew was that I was suddenly ‘the man’ and that people were patting my back as I stumbled pass them with a delirious smile on my lips.

“Yo, Rome,” someone called. Turning, I lifted my hand into the air for another high five, but it was just Juan. Stephen was standing next to him. “Dude, Rome, your phone’s been ringing man. Your mom's been calling.”

That feeling like I was going to ram into the wall at any moment suddenly stopped, and, being revived by a rush of adrenaline, I regained control of my body. I grabbed my phone out of Juan’s hand and saw the two missed calls and the voice message. Running out through the front door to get away from the noise, I dialed the voicemail:

Hey Romeo, where are you? We’ve been trying at home, too. Something’s wrong with the SUV. Broke down right in the middle of the street. We're okay, though. Managed to pull to the side in time. I guess that’s what happens when you let something sit around in the garage for too long. I told your dad this a while ago, but he—anyways. Your dad, of course, is thrilled we have to go back. We were going to ask you to come pick us up, but seeing as to how you’re off doing something, we called Uncle Charles. We’ll be back in a bit. Have you eaten yet? We’re going to stop by somewhere and get something. Let us know if you want us to bring you something. Okay? See you soon.

I saw that a red car had pulled up and parked on a curb across the street. And who should have come out but Julie. She looked around as she walked up the curved path that led to my front doors. When she saw me, she waved with a smile, but the second wave of shots that I’d downed less than five minutes ago was now taking hold of me, feeling as if it were dragging my stomach down while simultaneously lifting it up. The black, starless sky began spinning. I turned around, nearly crashing into Juan and Stephen, who I didn’t notice were still there, and stumbled back into my house.


With all the smiles and noise everywhere, I thought I was going to have to march through the house and single-handedly escort each person out, forcing them to leave, but upon hearing the word ‘parents’, everyone dropped their beer cans to the floor (the more caring ones set theirs on a counter or a table), grabbed their half-empty liquor bottles and bags, and rushed out through the door like someone had just pulled out a gun.

In the chaos of it all, I was pushed aside and to the floor. The weight of a few peoples' feet trampled on the side of my chest. I could feel the alcohol in my stomach still channeling into my blood. My head seemed to detach itself from my body and float in a space above me. Everything went black.


When I came to, I found myself lying on my sofa. Looking around, I saw that there was no throw-up on the carpet, no broken shards of glass around the tables, no stains. It was quiet, too. Maybe I’d dreamed the whole thing up. But then that would mean that no one had actually showed up to my party, and that I’d fallen asleep waiting.

Then I heard footsteps coming down the stairs and saw Juan and Stephen, plastic bags in their hands along with mops and brooms.

“Yo, Rome, you okay man?” asked Juan.

“Not really,” I grumbled. “Feels like a train hit my head. Shit…” I looked around again. “You guys… cleaned everything up?”

“Yeah,” said Stephen. “Your parents are gonna be home soon, aren’t they? That’s what it said in the voicemail. We gotta hurry, man.”

With that Stephen and Juan left me in the room and I heard the glass door that led to the backyard sliding open. Then I heard the lids of the trash bins open and glass and plastic clanking and clunking as they tossed the bags of evidence inside.

“Hey guys,” I said when they came back in. “I’m sorry, man. I know I’ve been acting like an idiot, throwing this party and stuff. And trying to impress Julie. And you guys had to clean up after me.”

“It’s cool,” said Juan casually.

“You were pretty messed up though,” said Stephen. “You threw up all over your front lawn, actually. Luckily we just sprayed it away with the hose. Smelled terrible though, man. What’d you have for lunch?”

I laughed, wondering how it was that the two coolest people in the world were my best friends.


When my parents got back, my mom didn’t notice anything off about the house, too busy fussing over the broken-down SUV and the lost day of their vacation to bother looking closely. My dad, after a single raised eyebrow and glance toward the ceiling, shrugged and then went to the reading room upstairs, where he called the hotel they’d reserved, explaining that they might show up tomorrow in a tone that revealed he hoped they wouldn’t.

I went upstairs into my room, trying to act as casually as I could, and closed the door. Logging onto Facebook, I finally got myself to send a friend request to Julie. It seemed like only 3 seconds had passed when the notification popped up to tell me she’d accepted it.


My parents ended up going to Yosemite the next day, after my mom went to an Enterprise and rented a four-wheel drive so that they could spend the entire day driving down there and then up a curvy mountain. My dad looked so defeated as he carried the bags, which he’d set upstairs in hopes of not having to use them, back down the steps. As I watched them repack ice and water bottles into two large, blue coolers, I wondered why it was that I’d wanted Julie so badly to be my girlfriend—to be mine—when I knew nothing real about her except for what I saw from behind her in English or from the opposite end of the hallways. I didn’t know anything about true love. I didn’t even understand why my mom and dad went on these annual trips when it seemed, in a sense, like it was a form of work to them, my mom looking up all the places that ‘you must go to’ and my dad following her lead in devoted agony, taking photo after photo. All I did know was that I’d wanted Julie like there was some sort of itch in me that couldn't be relieved until she was in my arms.


On Monday, everyone at school gave me a nod or a slap on the back or a ‘Rome, you were crazy, man!”, or something to congratulate my twenty-minute bout as the drunken king of my own party. I would have thought that I’d feel ‘accepted’ now, or that this was the beginning of my ascendance from nobody to somebody, from invisible to visible, but instead I just felt disappointed. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t the life of the party, the dreamboat, the alpha male on a sports team or an all-around boy scout/key club president/baseball captain. I wasn’t even on honor roll. But I was me. And I had Stephen and Juan, however quiet and shy as they were, who were absolutely awesome and had cleaned up my mess like it was no big deal because it was no big deal to them. And I had my parents, who showed their love in a strange, dutiful, materialistic, nearly-professional way toward each other and myself. I was an average-looking, tall kid who was attracted to pretty girls like any 15-year-old teenager, who was crazy in love with a girl he didn’t even know. As the bell rang and I walked into English class, I promised myself that I’d never jeopardize who I was again for someone else’s sake.


“Mr. Monteiro,” said Mr. Roberts when I got back into the classroom from getting a drink at the water fountain. “It looks like it takes more than one time for you to learn from your mistakes, hmm?’ He smirked at me.

I’d tossed a scrunched-up wad of paper onto Julie’s desk again. There were no re-writes this time, no attempts to make my message look more casual or formal.

Mr. Roberts rose the paper triumphantly into the air above him and uncrinkled it. When he saw what I’d written, he raised an eyebrow. Then he looked at me, as if studying my face to determine whether or not I'd be embarrassed of what I'd written. I shrugged my shoulders at him. Whatever you want to do, my eyes told him. Much to the disappointment and boos of the class, he folded the paper back up and put it into his back pocket.

“Oh, come on, Mr. R,” cried Ace. “That’s such a tease! You can’t do that to us, man!”

“Sorry, ‘Ace’,” said Mr. Roberts, curling his fingers in the air to indicate quotation marks for his nickname. “Not this time.” He went back to his desk and sat down, glancing at me with a smile and a wink.


That night, I saw Julie on Facebook chat. It was finally time to introduce myself. Not with some linefrom Shakespeare, or with an entourage of ‘friends’ whose names I didn’t know, slapping me on the back and hoisting me up as beer dripped off my lips. Not at my mansion of a house that I had no part in earning or deserving. But as me. Just a kid who has a crush on a girl because she has a nice smile and a warm glow that can be felt from afar.

Hi, I typed in .

A few seconds passed by, and then the little checkmark popped up to indicate she’d received my message. My heart thumped as the three dots emerged in the chat window to show she was typing back .

Romeo, oh Romeo, she wrote. What ever did you write in that note to me ?

I laughed, and told her the truth .

Additional Info

AUTHOR BIO: Andy Tu is working on his first three novels. You can contact him at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.