1. Tommy Soto is short, and it is embarrassing. He is both Mexican, and Jewish and that is peculiar. He is freckled and in drama club. He has braces, but still eats popcorn. All of it, makes you feel so very sorry for him. This is how Tommy Soto breaks your heart.
2. When the towers fall you obsessively watch the news, and hope the dead tally goes up. People will care more, you justify. It will be a bigger tragedy. This, you think, is just what everyone needs to feel important again. The only person you tell about your silent wish is Tommy Soto, and when you do he says, “You’re terrible.”
That’s how your heart feels. Terrible.
3. After you get back from Mexico, where your brother marries a tiny little Colombian girl who is still only 5’2” even while wearing three inch heals Mom says to you, “darling, you should really consider that Tommy kid next door.”
Your mother prides herself on being open minded, even though she is a lobbyist for free trade, which by definition is the exact opposite of open minded.
You’re in the kitchen, and Mom’s cutting seedless grapes in half for a Waldorf salad on a wooden chopping block. “You know,” she says, “add even more diversity to this family.”
This is why everyone hates America.
This is why Tommy Soto hates your mom.
This is why you have a faulty heart.
4. Everyone at school calls Tommy MexiJew, and you do not have the guts to tell your friends that you’ve been fucking him in your car after school for the last two months. You resent your mom for making you drive to school, and consequently have sex in an apple red minivan with a Star Trek bumper sticker and vanity plates that say, “B ME UP”. You resent your friends for calling Tommy faggot, because you have two months worth of proof to the contrary. And also, you are actually, secretly, very much in love with him.
Still, the way you say “no” when he asks you if you’d like to go to the mall sometime makes you feel like you have the tiniest heart.
5. At lunch you and Tommy eat behind the overflow trailers where no one can see you. He eats your packed lunch. You eat his bought lunch off a pink Styrofoam tray.
“You know, there is another plane and they say its headed for the Capital building. They say it is going right for your mom.”
“Why would you say that?” you ask.
“Because it’s true.”
He pops one of your mom’s grapes into his mouth and you swear he is eating your heart.
6. You can see a popcorn kernel in Tommy’s crooked teeth when he holds out the can of Coke. He bought this soda just for you. It’s his version of an apology.
The whole school is convening on the football bleachers to talk about their feelings.
Justine O’Donald, the little bitch, you hate her fake blond hair and perfect shoes, passes Tommy on the bleacher stairs and sits directly behind you. She leans in and whispers, “I feel like if you fuck a terrorist, then you are a terrorist,” purposefully loud enough so that both you, and Tommy might hear.
You wave the Coke can away from your face. You even say, “get lost,” and Justine laughs.
Tommy doesn’t say anything. There is a desperation in his dark brown eyes that trickles down to his outstretched hand. You look at the can of Coke, then back to his pudgy, freckled, face and you shrug. It is the smallest shrug ever. An ant couldn’t shrug a shrug this small. You must make it into the Guinness Book of World Records with a shrug like this, and still somehow, even though it is just the tiniest thing ever, you know Tommy knows you feel bad. You are sorry. It’s just that Justine is laughing her perfect, hyena laugh, and it’s totally pulverizing your heart.
7. Ten minutes later a half empty coke can hits you in the back of the head. You feel the cold sticky liquid run to the tips of your split ends, and down your neck, and you know, almost instantly, who threw it. You don’t want to touch your throbbing skull, or wipe the tears out of your eyes. You don’t even want to look in his direction. You don’t want to give him the satisfaction. You just want to stare down into your lap and hope no one sees you crying, and that if they do, that at the very least, your mascara isn’t running.
But you can’t do it. You have to look. You crane your head back and to the left.
The whole school is staring at you. Everyone, but Tommy. He isn’t even vaguely looking in your direction. He high-fives someone you do not know. Someone else grabs him around the neck and gives him a brotherly shake. He is all laughter and smiles and good times. You’ve never seen his freckled face look this happy and you know, all those other times were just practice for this.
You know, this is what it feels like to have a broken heart.
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