And what exactly is it that has such a strong hold over this boy?
Books. Not video games. Not drugs. Not porn. Not even books on Kindle. Plain old books. Those thick, musty and dusty rectangles that they make us read in school, paper cuts and all. He’s a bookworm. I don’t get it.
If only I’d known sooner, then maybe I wouldn’t have fallen for him. Heck, it’s not like I had a choice. We met on the bus when we were in elementary school. My sister had used the old proverb “the early bird gets the worm” on me after I’d complained about her eating the last bowl’s worth of my favorite cold cereal. Aaron was the boy who kindly explained to me what it meant without making fun of me. We’ve been friends ever since.
I said ‘friends’, but if I want his attention, I have to catch him in the short period of time when he’s in between books. For those few days or hours, he is tons of fun, but it is never long enough. It was on a rainy afternoon during the summer break before our junior year in high school. We went for a walk and bought gummy worms at a convenience store a few miles away.
“So, I ordered a new book from another library branch and it’s supposed to get here tomorrow morning!” Aaron told me excitedly.
I smiled indulgently. He was so cute. “What’s it about?”
“Oh, it’s a World War II biography! It looks so good!”
Tomorrow, huh? A Saturday. I looked at the half-eaten candy worm in my fist. The early bird? I was too late to get the worm. He was already hooked on books, and nothing I could do would ever make him want to put them down. Oh, he’d put them down if he had to, but whatever we did, his heart wouldn’t really be in it until the book was read and the mystery was solved.
I wanted to tell him how I felt: that I liked him, wanted to be more than friends, wanted him to look at me a little more than the books, wanted him... How I wanted him. This was my chance. Were musty old books going to win over me? Heck, no! They were inanimate objects!
It was Saturday morning. I set an early alarm, but I slept through it after having awful nightmares that I’d slept through it. So much for the early bird. I didn’t have my own car. The library isn’t that far. I ran.
I got there too late. He was already walking out of the library, his fingers turning to the first page--
“Aaron!” I yelled, and panted for breath.
“Sam?” He was surprised to see me. I stopped and hunched over a few steps away from him, the short crosswalk between us.
“I really, really like you!” I declared loudly, for all of the soccer moms and elderly readers in the parking lot to hear.
Aaron blinked. Once, then two, three times.
“As in, I want to date you! And hold hands, and probably kiss later!” That was straightforward enough, right? “And... I want you to be happy and read a lot, but I also want you to spend time with me, and look at me!”
Well, I had his full attention.
“It’s really selfish, but that’s how I feel!” I finished, hoping it wasn’t the end of our friendship, but knowing it was the last time I would ever show my face at this library.
“Sam...” Aaron looked down at his nice, new book for a long time. “I don’t know what to do,” he said finally.
My shoulders drooped. “About what?”
He closed the distance between us and held his book up. “I want to read it still, but after what you said, I want to toss it away dramatically and hug you. But it’s not my book, so I can’t damage it. I can’t set it down, either, because the ground is wet, and I didn’t bring a bag, and--”
I rushed forward. “Give me that,” I tugged the book away from him, intending to hold it while he gave me the desired hug.
“Nooooo, I’ll lose my place!” He lunged for it.
“You liar! You’re still at the first page!” I held it out of his reach, and he changed tactics by putting his arms around my waist and smiling down at me.
“I like you too, Sam,” he said.
It was a little late, but I got my worm. I’m hooked. Maybe I’m an addict too.