Several weeks ago, we were sitting on the couch together watching television, when a random thought popped into my head. “Do you know how to make a paper football?” I asked Joey.
“Are you kidding me? That’s how I survived highschool.” Then he walked over to our computer desk and got out a purple sheet of paper and I watched as he folded and tucked it until it finally took on the familiar shape of a paper football.
“Set up your goal post,” he said. With my thumbs and fingers I mimicked the shape of the goal post and Joey set his paper football up for the field goal attempt. After several tries and still nothing, Joey was getting impatient.
“I guess I’m a little rusty,” he said. “I’ll get my groove back.” His eyes lit up as if he had a great idea. He ran to get an ink pen and I watched as he sat the paper football down on the table and begin to write on it. Several seconds passed, then he showed me the finished product. Written on the paper football were the words “Joey Loves Carrie” surrounded by a terribly drawn hearts.
“For good luck,” he said, then kissed the football and set it up again. This time, the kick was good.
Last week, while cleaning, I found the paper football tucked down into the couch cushions. Seeing “Joey Loves Carrie” was like a punch in the gut. I sat down on the couch and turned the paper football to the other side. Taking a pen, I wrote, “I really miss you Joey” and sat and stared at the words for the longest time. I tried feeling the words and then getting rid of the feeling, so that my hurt could be replaced by anger. No matter how hard I tried though, the fact was simple. I may have been really angry, but God, I missed him.
I suppose I got what I wanted. My sister, my friend Christin and I were sitting around chatting and watching television when a knock at my door brought me to my feet. I walked down my stairs to open the door, and there he stood. Joey. It had only been a week since I had seen him last, but it seemed so much longer. His hair was already starting to grow back, and there was the new addition of facial hair growth on his chin. His blue eyes met mine, then darted down to the ground, then met mine again.
We stood there for a minute before either of us said anything. Finally, he spoke up, “Can I come in to get my stuff?” I nodded. I felt myself start to shake as I followed him up the stairs. My heart was beating in a million different directions and for a few seconds, I fought back the urge to have a panic attack.
“Do you have something I can put everything in?” he asked, and I went to get the boxes I got earlier, when I had planned on packing it up myself. He looked at me again, biting on his lower lip, just as unsure of what to say as I was. I had a million things I had planned on saying to him when I saw him. I wanted to tell him how angry I was. I wanted to let him know how hurt I felt over the lies and the confusion I’ve experienced the last couple of weeks. I wanted him to know I would never forgive him for abandoning me. I wanted to be so strong. As soon as I saw him, those wants were forgotten. The strength I tried to gather all week for this moment was lost.
“Will you come into the bedroom with me while I pack?” he asked, so I followed.
I sat on the bed, trying to fight back tears and I watched him pick up shirts I had gotten him – attached with memories of good times when he wore then. I saw him get the red polo shirt he was wearing the night I met him, and stuff it into his box. He sat the box down and put his head down into his hands. He stood like this for awhile, and then sighed before looking over at me.
“You know, this is hard for me too,” he said. “My feelings for you haven’t changed. I care about you.”
“Please Joey, I don’t want to hear this right now.”
“I know, but it’s true,” he says, then goes back to packing. He stops again.
“I’m so sorry things had to end up like this. I’m so sorry this was the way I let things turn out.”
“Then why did you?”
“I felt smothered.”
“All I ever tried to do was care about you Joey. I just wanted to love you, and be there for you. I didn’t mean to take up any other space.”
“You’re right,” he said. “You’ve done nothing wrong. This is about me, and I should have handled this better. I’m a coward. The truth is, I’m just not ready to settle down like you are and I gave it a try, for you and for us, because I couldn’t imagine not having you in my life. I’m just not ready for it.” He went back to packing.
“I still can’t imagine you not in my life, and it would be easy for me to come back to you and beg you for forgiveness and ask for you to let me come back because that’s what I’m scared of losing, but it’s not fair to you. I can’t be the boyfriend you deserve, but I want you in my life. Please don’t hate me, and shut me out. Please try to maintain some sort of relationship with me. At least think about it.”
I walked out of the room, before I started crying, and sat down at the kitchen table. It hurt so much, I just couldn’t deal. My sister came into the kitchen to check on me.
“Whatever you do, don’t let him see you cry,” she said and hugged me. “You will be ok.”
After about an hour, all of his stuff was packed. He came into the living room, giving everything a once over before leaving. “I think I’ve got everything,” he said. I nodded.
“I want you to have this.” He handed me the picture that I loved of his niece. Hannah was my little angel, and definitely one of the things I will miss most about being Joey’s girlfriend. “I’ll call you soon.” He forced a sideways smile. “Things will get better, you’ll see.”
Before he left, I watched as he walked over to the table near his favorite chair. Sitting on the table was the paper football he made. He picked it up and stared at it for the longest time, reading “Joey loves Carrie” before finally flipping it over to read my cry out to him – “I really miss you Joey.” The tears started falling from my eyes without warning. I had been doing so good, too.
Joey turned around to meet my tear-covered face with his own, before kissing the paper football and sticking it down into his pocket. “For good luck,” he said through his tears. The kick was good.
Carrie Nations is terrible at paper football. You can e-mail her tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.