When I was 9 years old and living in Avon, Connecticut, there was this boy in the neighborhood named Robert Russo who was, frankly, the bane of my existence. He would tease me and pick on me incessantly. I tried to avoid him as much as I could.
One day I was playing in front of my house and he told me he loved me. I don’t think I’ve ever been so freaked out in my life. I mean, at the time, my own mother didn’t even say that to me. (Long story for another day.) I’m not sure anyone ever had.
So I reacted as any worldly 9 year old girl would. I crossed my arms and stomped my foot and shouted, “No you do NOT, Robert Russo! Boys don’t say that to girls they like. If you loved me, you’d say you hated me! You’re trying to trick me!”
And with that, I turned around and ran in the house. I could hear him desperately shouting after me, “Okay then! I hate you! I hate you!”
Oddly, I don’t recollect ever having seen him again. Surely I must have. But then we moved away not long after that, so who knows?
Looking back at that as an adult, I kind of feel sorry for the little guy. It must have taken some serious guts to say that to me. How was he to know that I felt so completely ugly and unlovable back then that there was no way I could believe him? (But then again, maybe he was trying to trick me. He was a little shit most of the time.)
Still, I wish I could go back and explain to him that it was not a rejection of him, but my complete and utter inability to deal with that particular emotion. Nowadays I know how rare and precious love is, and I’m not so eager to shoot it down in flames when it comes my way. Even if the feeling isn’t mutual, I can still appreciate it, and try to be kind to the giver.
Robert Russo probably doesn’t even remember me. I almost hope he doesn’t. I hope I didn’t crush him like a bug. But oh, I remember him.