4th grade, her name was Shawna-5th grade. I stayed up all night covered in glue and glitter making a special “Will You Be Mine?” HUGE poster board Valentine’s card. Multiple colored markers, drawn hearts and love bubbles, little sweet nothings in marker.
“Dearest Shawna” “You’re Cute,” “May I Have This Dance?,” and more. On the back, I stapled an envelope filled with sweetheart candies, only the good ones. I wore a stupid red sweater vest from Goodwill that did not fit this chubby, poor kid. I’d give it her at lunchtime.
Kinda like this, only smaller, cheaper, and used:
I got on the bus and got tall shit for dragging around my humongous card as well as the vest. The bully, Tim said, “Hey look at mikey, hiding candy under his vest, oh sorry, he probably ate it all.” “Look who loves SHAWWWNAAA,” in a mocking sing-song chant.
It happened the whole bus ride, I didn’t engage. Today was too special. I was single-minded, it was all about Shawna. I got off the bus and started walking toward the school door…BAM!! Tim ran up from behind me and knocked the card out of my hand, laughed and ran off.
This is how I felt though:
Glitter, stars, heart and lip kiss stickers fell off and started flying in the wind, candies burst out of the envelope and scattered all over the dirty sidewalk. I started to gather them in my pocket but realized I couldn’t give them now. I picked everything up to go inside.
There I was, stupid vest covered in glitter now, dirty candies in my pocket, my “card” all creased and folded and a mess. I was not the type of kid who really cried in public, I was the type that got pissed, the type that demanded justice for me and others. I’d fight for you.
Walking in the hall, there was Tim, the dick, the bully, at the water fountain. My blood boiled, my cheeks were probably as red as my vest. I charged without thinking. About 20 steps, a full run, I launched into him, yelling “You Asshole!” in my 4th grade way.
The next part was a blur. I know I hit him like a linebacker, knocked him down to the ground, I swung at him wildly while still holding the card in one hand. The remaining glitter flying all over his face as I pounded him. Other kids gathered in a circle to watch, cheering on.
I remember red star stickers floating down in the air as I was pulled off him by the librarian. I looked down, Tim screamed through bloody lips, “My tooth! You knocked my tooth out!!” He had lost his tooth to the water fountain spigot as I tackled him.
There was blood everywhere, all over the white hall tiles, all over his stupid shirt, all over my brown paper lunch bag, all over my stupid vest (although it was a deep red, so it kinda matched), and ALL over the card. It looked like a slasher film poster by that point.
There were streaks of crimson across the words “Check Here If You Choose Me” on the card. Big blotches of blood in other areas over “Kiss me if you dare!” there were even some of the dirtied candies out of my pocket in tiny pools of blood on the floor. It was a crime scene.
So, I got hauled off the principal’s office before 1st hour even started. I sat there, hair messed up, in my tiny red vest festooned in glitter and now dirt, still clutching my blood-splattered Valentine’s day card, when Mr. Jefferies called me in.
We went through that principal’s office dance: Asking who started it, what happened, should I be suspended, they called my mom, and so on. Some time passed and my mom showed up. She tore into him, as she always did. Took my side against a bully, pointed fingers, cursed, etc.
I didn’t get suspended. They said Tim went to the hospital and I’d need to say sorry the next day. My mom wet back l to work, I went to class way late. I walked in and Ms. Glanville asked me to put my stuff away and sit down. Only a few more hours until lunchtime.
As we got let out to go to lunch, I borrowed glue, used some markers in my desk to hurriedly fix my card. I even got some more candies (everyone was trading them) to put in the envelope and stapled it back on. All set.
I snuck to the bathroom, with my blood-splattered (but fixed) card with sloppily glued stickers, my vest a mess, staring at myself in the mirror, giving myself a pep talk to summon the courage to give it to Shawna in the lunchroom. “You can do this!,” “She’s gonna love it.”
I marched down the hallway, entered the lunchroom confidently, and looked for the table where Shawna and her friends usually sat. I walked over and didn’t see her. The card had a big ol’ “DEAREST SHAWNA” on it so her friends knew who it was for. I asked where she was…
Her friends whispered to each other and then one looked up, and with the saddest voice, said, “Aww, that’s so sweet. But, Shawna’s not here today.” What? Not here? What do you mean? Why not? Her other friend kind of squirmed and whispered into another’s ear, then looked up.
“Sorry, you didn’t know? Her family is moving to Texas. They took her out of school yesterday, we all said goodbye last night.” Devastated, I just stood there in the middle of hundreds of kids, the smell of peanut butter everywhere, holding my shitty card, in my fat kid vest.
I didn’t cry, but I also didn’t move for what seemed like the entire lunch hour. I just stood there, cemented to floor with the weight of heartbreak. I then left, crumpled the card and smashed it into the trash & huffed down the hall. As I rounded the corner, there was Cindy.
Cindy was a cute girl in my class, also a 4th-grader. We had played tetherball before. I mean, she was no Shawna, but she was really nice, kinda too nice for me. But definitely sweet. I just didn’t know she thought I was cute. She never let on.
Cindy handed me a small store-bought card with two sweethearts, “You’re cute” and “Maybe?” She asked, “Will you be my Valentine?” I started to well up a little, I think. She was cute, I did like her. I said, “Thank you” and pulled out one clean candy from my pocket, “Be mine.”
As I gave it to her, she flashed a huge smile, we hugged, may have pecked on the cheek. She said, “ok, I’ll see you at recess!” and then started skipping down the hall. She slowed and turned her head back and yelled,”I really like your sweater!” and then disappeared.
That did it, she noticed my shitty sweater vest – now I WAS crying. I was happy, but also just minutes removed from embarrassing heartbreak. But I was also in 4th grade, so yeah, that pretty much went away by recess. I won! Not the best Vday, but definitely most memorable.
PS. PS. Years later, Shawna and I met up at a friend’s weeding, in our 20s. I told her the story, she never knew. Turns out, she had made me a card that week too! She was heartbroken to move. Nothing happened, but we slow-danced to “Time After Time” hugged and laughed about it.