My Dad’s advice from this morning replays in my mind.
You can’t spend your life dwelling on what could have been . . . somewhere out there is a girl you’ll love just as much as you loved her, if not more so.
It’s lunchtime on campus, but halfway across the globe, it’s nine p.m. I’m spending less time eating the burger and fries in front of me—I know my insides will thank me for it later—and more time going through old photos on my phone. My mind is still on her. Eventually, I stumble upon one I had forgotten about until now: senior prom.
She had dressed herself in her Spaniard dress—Intropia, I believe, was the brand—yet she’d still looked more beautiful than any of the girls decked out in Gucci or Versace. Her wavy red hair, her bright hazel eyes, the way she carried herself—confident yet reserved at the same time. I hadn’t been able to keep my eyes off her that night.
I can still remember our conversation when we’d first found each other that night.
“Why so low-key?” I’d asked, grinning ear to ear. “It’s senior prom!”
“Come on, you know me,” she’d responded in kind, “I’ve never been high maintenance. But enough about me. What in Dios’s name are YOU wearing?” she added with a giggle. I’d sighed, looking down at the bright pastel blue suit I’d been cajoled into wearing.
“Eh, it’s a hand-me-down from my uncle Tony,” I’d explained. “He wants to be buried in this suit.”
“Let’s hope it’s a CLOSED casket,” she’d joked, a playful smile on her face.
“Oh, shut up,” I’d replied, smiling back.
After some more playful ribbing, we’d find a spot away from the crowd to talk. We’d had plenty of classes throughout high school, and we’d become really close. We’d talked that night about teachers we liked and hated, she’d showed pictures of her hometown in Spain, and we’d even exchanged numbers so we could keep in touch, all why the class-curated soundtrack blasted through the speakers. That was my greatest chance to ask her out, and I never took it.
I replay those words in my mind. Perhaps it is best if I move on and try my luck pursuing some of the attractive women in some of my classes. Just then, my friend, who had just finished stuffing his face with Ruffle chips next to me, flicks one of my fries at me, bringing me out of my daydreaming and self-loathing as the salty snack bounces off my forehead, and I turn and give him an incredulous look.
“You’re thinking about her again, huh?” he asks, not even bothering to apologize.
“Is it THAT obvious?” I ask in response, knowing there’s no point denying it.
“It’s BEEN that obvious for two years, man. To everyone but her,” he answers with a smirk as he holds up two fingers. We’ve been friends since freshman year of high school, and he was one of the first to know how I felt about her. I scoff.
“Way to rub salt in the wound, dude . . . ” I mutter, already wanting this conversation to end. What he says next changes my mind.
“That’s what I wanna talk to you about,” he tells me, sitting up straight now. “You heard about that upcoming Study Abroad program?” I raise an eyebrow. I’d glanced at the brochures but never looked into it.
“Yeah, what about it?” I ask in return.
“They’re traveling to Madrid,” he tells me, and the mention of her hometown makes my ears perk up.
“No way . . . ” I mutter, unable to believe what I’m hearing.
“Madrid, man! This could be your chance to finally get with her!” He’s now constantly clapping his hands as he speaks in an attempt to hype me up, something he always tended to do, no matter the situation. As much as my heart wants me to burst with joy, my mind makes me speak first.
“You know how reckless this sounds, right?” I ask, him giving me a look that acknowledges I have a point.
“I know it’s crazy,” he admits. “But you’ve been pining over her for two damn years, man! And hell, even if she doesn’t feel the same way, at least you’ll have an answer.” As he reaches for his bag, he tells me, “It’s your call, dude.”
“When do they leave?” I ask, wanting to gauge how long I had to decide.
“In a few days, a week max. Just . . . think about it.”
And think about it, I do. All throughout the rest of my classes, even when the professors give their long, board-mandated lectures, I weigh my options. Do I take a chance and sign up for the program, find her and hope that she somehow feels the same as me, or do I take Dad’s advice?
Before I leave for home, I stop by the front desk at the student center.
“I’d like to sign up for the Study Abroad program,” I tell the grad assistant at the desk. She smiles at me and hands me the form, which I waste no time filling out and signing before handing it back to her.
As I make my way back home, I pull out my phone, find her number, read the last conversation we’d had—a couple weeks before she’d moved back to Spain—and until now, out of my life—in the first place—and send a message:
“Hi, it’s been a while. Let’s get back in touch :)”
I smile, put my phone away, and continue walking, ready to explain my decision to my father.
Part of me feels guilty for ignoring his wisdom, but I assure myself it will be worth it. For the first time in a long time, I am taking a chance, a chance I should’ve taken two years ago. In a month’s time, I will be basking in the sights of Madrid, Spain, and one way or another, I will have an answer, and finally, closure.
In the end, that is all I want.
Flavio Joe Arapi is 25 years old, and looking to graduation at the end of this semester.
Header image courtesy of Getty Images.
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