Falling in love at first sight is silly. Truly. How can you “love” someone you don’t even know? Seems like a classic case of teenage lust if you ask me. But for Shirin…for Shirin, falling in love at first sight did happen. Truly.

Ryan Barclay Barker: five foot eleven, tan skin, hazel eyes than burn pickle green in fluorescent lighting, at least four abs, smiles with all of his teeth even though one tooth in the front is slightly chipped. A bona fide Adonis. Dropped straight into River Edge High School. Lucky Shirin.

It was the start of fifth period. Shirin pushed through the door, panting, clutching a sizeable U.S. history textbook, hunched under the weight of a bulbous backpack. Being that she had entered the classroom four seconds after the bell had rung, Shirin hung her head and stumbled to her desk as quietly as possible. Upon taking her seat, Shirin made a terrible realization: she had left her pencil case in Katzenburg’s classroom. On the opposite side of the school. Fighting back the urge to scream, Shirin leaned over to the neighboring desk, asking if she could borrow a pen. Without turning to meet Shirin’s eye, without a single word, this neighbor did hand over a pen. A lime green one. Garish. Near impossible to read off of white printer paper. The sides were coated with ashen pencil shavings that stained Shirin’s fingers gray. Gee. Thanks, Ryan.

Shirin did, in fact, mutter her thanks, though she wished she had asked someone. She really shouldn’t have expected more of Ryan Barclay Barker. Which AP Bio student even had the audacity to carry around a useless lime green pen?

At the end of the period, Shirin packed away her indecipherable notes and tried to return Ryan’s pen, eager to wash her hands before her next class. But Ryan had other ideas. “Keep it,” he insisted with a smile. “I wouldn’t want to run up to Katzenburg’s room before my next class.”

Ryan was right. Shirin didn’t want to do that. And because he was observant enough to notice that she had period four with Katzenburg, Shirin kept his pen. However that wasn’t the only reason why Shirin assumed ownership of that pen. She kept that thing she didn’t even want because of Ryan Barclay Barker’s smile. Because when Ryan Barclay Barker told Shirin to keep his tasteless pen, Shirin had finally looked at him. Truly looked at him.

And that smile. Straight teeth. All white. One slightly chipped tooth.

A million—no, a billion—megawatts of heat fired straight into Shirin’s heart.

That was how it had happened. Shirin fell in love with that boy the first moment she took the time to look at him.

Which brings us to today: Valentine’s Day. Shirin couldn’t wait any longer to confess her love. After months of staring at Ryan in between notes about macromolecules and cellular respiration, that feeling of love had grown into a pressure so intense that it reverberated throughout Shirin’s body with every thud of her pulse. Telling Ryan to his perfectly-sculpted face was obviously not an option and typically sending a love letter was considered eccentric at best, but today is Valentine’s Day. It is the one day of the year when Shirin’s letter could be accepted.

Shirin sits at her desk, holding Ryan Barclay Barker’s offensively bright lime green pen. It’s 5AM. Prime writing time.

Dear Ryan,

Seems like a nice way to start.

Shirin shakes her head in disgust. She takes out a new piece of cream cardstock.

Let’s try that again.


The pen heats up in Shirin’s hand, as if she were holding a mug of chamomile tea. Shirin clutches the pen tighter, savoring the fading warmth.


I love you.

The pen turns to ice. When Shirin moves to grab a new piece of cream cardstock, she has to brush lime green snow off her fingers.


We haven’t known each other for very long, so I know it’s probably weird for you to receive a letter from me.

Chamomile warmth melts away the last of the snow.

Shirin pauses to think. Impatient, the pen returns to room temperature. Shirin’s fingers ache with the normality. So Shirin stops thinking. She puts pen to paper.

But it’s Valentine’s Day.

Brisk, biting frost.

But I have to tell you something that’s easier written than said.

Steam released from tearing open freshly-baked bread.

I think you’re great.

The steam thickens.

The greatest person I’ve ever met.

Burning cold, so strong it turns Shirin’s fingertips blue. The warmth of her breath does little to soothe them.

You’re funny and kind and smart.

Sunlight on a wide prairie, melting Shirin’s fingertips into a rosebud pink. Her right hand is coated with a faint sheen of sweat.

Much better.

I don’t see that in many, or frankly, any of the other boys at school.

Spring on the prairie dries into summer. The sweat evaporates.

So, while I know it’s a crazy long shot,

Smoke rises off the pen. Burning prairie grass.

can you please be my boyfriend? I know we’re meant to be, and

Freezing rain extinguishes the rising smoke. Looks like winter came early.

Another piece of cream cardstock.

So, while I know it’s a crazy long shot, I would like to ask you out on a date.

Burning. Smoke fills the air, thick enough to choke. Shirin’s hand is seared red. She doesn’t notice.

How about coffee after school on Friday? My treat.

Blisters form and quickly burst on Shirin’s hand. Still she doesn’t notice the rising heat. Still she doesn’t notice the ashes of failed letters collecting around her.

Don’t worry about turning me down. I promise you that this crush will not break my heart.

Dark-lime pus and blood the same crimson red as Shirin’s still moving hand erupt across the page. The edges of the cardstock catch flame.

Let me know,


Shirin folds her letter into a cream envelope now smeared with the ash coating her desk entirely. Her hand smokes. Still, she clutches that lime green pen. The letter is perfect.