December 29th, 2020. Rocky year, eh? I guess 2021 won’t be any better.

I light up a cigarette and wonder: where should I begin? Easy: where it all began, right?

But when did it begin?

It’s probably October 2012: I stare at a group picture, the kind the “photographer” from school takes, all wearing the “formal” uniforms (gray sweaters for the boys, brown sweaters for the girls, these with green skirts, we with gray pants, all with green ties). I see Hope and notice I can’t take my eyes off her: hair poorly dyed a sickly red, big childish ponytail, quirky smile. I’m sure she was trying not to laugh; she was always laughing thunderously. We all used to laugh a lot back then, in high school. Not anymore.

As I see it now, as I like to see it now, now that I try to give meaning to my life looking at it poetically, that’s when I fell in love with Hope.

Love. Heh. Such a lousy word, such a weird feeling. Who loves anyone these days? Is love even real? I think I love my friends, the few I have. I definitely don’t love my parents, nor my family (honorable exception: my grandma). I never felt for anyone what I felt, what I think I still feel, for Hope (not even my ex, and maybe that’s why she dumped me).

Could I describe it? I don’t think so, and that’s why I write “poems” about her. Should I describe it? Probably not. I had imaginary conversations with her, too many, and she always ends up asking the same fair question: why me? Was it capricious from my part? Whimsical? Maybe I just like those big words, but maybe there’s some truth behind them. Truth is, I really don’t know why I love Hope. I’m sure I’ll never know, and that’s okay. All I have to say about her, in essence, is how I told her she was my whole world. So I should probably start with the beginning of the journey.

Every year, students from my high school aged 16 made a one-month trip to Europe to “study.” This is not common in Argentina, not even in the rest of the world, for obvious reasons (money is a big because), but back then I didn’t know how privileged I was (I still tend to ignore that, and probably I lean more to the Republican side because of that). I didn’t really care, either. No one did, actually.

So I’m in love and we’re going to the U.K. and then Paris: first trip, strictly business; France is obviously just for pleasure. Thing is, I wasn’t going to tell Hope I loved her. Here’s what my plan looked like back then: enjoy high school, enjoy my time with her (a year and a half and she’s gone), pretend I’m still just a friend who’s a bit too nice, and then, unexpectedly, tell her everything during our graduation party. Sounds good, right? It did to me.

But the heart knows better, or so they say. If that’s not true, one thing is for sure: hearts have other timing. You can’t go around bossing your heart like I wanted to (I always thought of myself as a rational kind of guy). I didn’t know it yet, as I was boarding my flight, but my heart had already made a decision (a fatal one, as it would prove later).

Anyway, I had some good weeks there: we had half a pack of Gauloises and a Monster for breakfast, we ate ethnic food in school, we even bought some ounces of weed once (we didn’t get to smoke it though).

Everything was okay, except…my love for Hope was growing, fast. She was so pretty: chestnut hair shoulder-length, chokers, bandannas, one-size-too-big colorful sweaters. A bourgeois hippie, basically. But her beauty wasn’t all, right? Right? I don’t know anymore, maybe it doesn’t matter. We had a lot in common, or so I think: we liked comics, manga, anime; we read a lot (though I didn’t know that back then); we were friends since kinder; we’re both libertarians, maybe? Is that it? It’s sad, but I think that’s where our affinities end: she was always more of a leftie, more of a cynic, more of a superficial, promiscuous, empty-headed, spoiled brat. Woah. Did I say that out loud or just thought about it? Because, as time goes by, I think more and more like this.

I had a friend back then, my complete opposite: socialist, avant-garde, rocker, you get the idea. I hate him now, but not because of what I’m going to tell you. Because he just said what I wanted to hear, what I was starting to believe: that I should tell Hope how I felt because, probably, she felt the same way. How far the heart goes to fool your mind, you can’t imagine.

It’s probably July 23rd (I used to know the exact date), and we’re doing what we did every afternoon: we’re hanging around in the town’s park, cracking jokes, boys and girls fully integrated (that didn’t last long). Everything’s cool. Some things had happened the previous days, but they’re not as important as I thought they were back then: basically, I told her several times I had to tell her something really important, but time and time again I desisted, out of shame and fear. But, since I always had a vein for the theatrical (a nice way of saying I’ve always been a dramatic bitch), I’m pretty sure Hope though nothing of it. Poor her.

So it’s this particular day of the month, whatever it was, I don’t care as much anymore, and everything was normal. I wasn’t nervous; why should I be? I just was going to tell someone something, no big deal. Words can be so powerful, though. And feelings, sometimes, can only be communicated through speech.

We had to head back home around ten (ten is really late for the English folks), and it’s probably 9:50 by now. Everyone’s leaving, so now’s the time: I reach out to Hope and ask her to stay for a while so I could let her know something really important. She gives me this “Again with all this BS?” look but stays, because she always was, above all, a nice, polite girl.

We sit down and I start my speech. I had practiced, of course. She laughs when I thought she would laugh, she smiles when I figured she would, everything’s going pretty smoothly. And then comes the part that would prove if it was all worth it.

—Hope, I really like you.

Silence. I had expected the silence.

—Come to think of it, now that I think of it, I guess I can say I love you.

Silence. Was it normal, so much silence?

She broke the silence, though not with words: she started sobbing. It didn’t take me so long to start crying too, since I know what she meant with her tears: my love wasn’t reciprocated. And that’s fine, even if I don’t want to believe it still, eight years later. That is fine. You don’t believe me? Then why do you think I’m writing all this down? To pretend I’m a serious writer? To fulfill a misplaced and capricious sense of achievement? To see my name printed somewhere nice? Come on, I’ve got better things to do. Like what, you ask? Thinking about her, for instance. There’s this really nice Borges autobiography I’m still reading, too. Lots of manga. Although manga makes me think about her, so we’re back at square one.

What’s that? You think I’m writing this so, one day, she may stumble upon it, read it, and, impressed by my craftsmanship and honesty, which are a trademark of mine, text me and ask me to hang out? You’re out of your mind. I already lost her. I lost her that day. There’s no coming back from losing Hope.