I slumped down in my faded auburn chair that fit perfectly inside my sun-worn desk in the English Office. I took a deep breath in, held it, and exhaled as I started my sixth writing conference after school had ended today. Teaching is hard, I thought. My student looked at me, smiled, and read me her college essay prompt, nervously: If you could go anywhere, where would you go and why? With uncertainty she said, “Miss Fedorko, it’s so hard to choose where I would go. I want it to be unique.” And I understood this. I nodded. After all, she lacks experience. Her highest degree is graduating from Middle School. She looked at me, delicately picked up her scribbled paper and began reading. She wanted to go somewhere in South Dakota because that’s where her grandmother was born. . . or something like that. I was only half listening to her.
I knew exactly where I would go without hesitation.
I drifted back to 2007 in late February. This day was so cold, the windows of my apartment were frosted and my fingers made love poems in their fogged splotches. If I could go anywhere, where would I go? Well, to start, I’d time travel backwards to my biggest mistake–not pressing my body up to Justin’s when I was 18 years old at The Loved Ones show at The Bowery Ballroom in NYC.
Justin had shown me undeniable love since that past September, and like the dust on my dresser, I brushed him away. Nonchalantly. Without a thought. One thing he taught me was that I was not good at expressing my feelings. Instead, I gave off a weird idiosyncratic melee of mixed signals. Inside my heart, I knew Justin was it for me. But through my body language, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he chose to jump off a bridge. So instead of loving him sooner, I walked around like a knight in heavy armor, fearing my fate if I let anyone in.
The first real time I was alone with him was when we went to see one our favorite bands, The Loved Ones. The entire ordeal was romantic. We took a train, were fizzing with anticipation, screamed the lyrics to their songs while staring into each other’s eyes, ate burritos on 6th Avenue with hoppy beer breath, and ran the sidewalk obstacle course that was Manhattan to make the last NJ Transit train home to New Brunswick. But– I never brushed my body against his. Instead I wasted six more months of my life testing Justin to make sure it would be safe.
It wasn’t safe. Just like I wasn’t safe driving a car over 75 mph, just like I wasn’t safe tucking my vulnerability away, just like I wasn’t safe letting people take advantage of me.
It didn’t occur to me when I was 18, that nothing was safe around me. And that… well, the safest thing was probably to let my body love Justin’s and to stop fighting the magnetic pull that had been present for so long. I can’t help but think I could’ve had six more months with him. I can’t help but remember how his body was made mostly of love if you held him. Just like the train we rode home on was made mostly of love if you pressed your body close to its windows. Just like I was mostly love if you skinned me.
Looking back on that night I realized how hard it is to be human, but how it’s even harder to fix a mistake.