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Roses Are Red, Carnations Are Pink, This Was A Mistake, Oh God, This Was A Terrible Mistake

Updated: Mar 12, 2019



as a high school freshman, i was in love with a senior boy. his name was something like, but not exactly, harry. my high school did have a handsome boy who was older than me named harry—although, now that i’m writing this, i’m remembering that actually his name was dylan.

  • were there any harrys in my grade? were there any harrys in my school? there had to have been. that’s a pretty common name.

  • “why are we still talking about this?” you’re asking.

  • the answer is: i don’t know! i can’t stop! my brain is a nightmare!

a n y w a y, whatever. the point is, my whole freshman year, i was in love with not-harry (actual not-harry, not the not -harry who was in fact dylan). he was very tall, and more importantly, he was very sweet to me, a pigeon-toed and badly socialized fourteen-year-old who really believed she looked good in low-riding boot-cut jeans with leopard print patches on them. not-harry and i met because he was the student waiter at my lunch table, and we stayed acquaintances because of a peculiar and excellent thing that happened to me, which was that for the entirety of my high school career i was not in my school’s lunch attendance system.

the thing you have to understand for any part of this story to make sense is that my boarding school had a lunch system where most days you had an assigned seat. every other lunch period, you were seated at an arbitrary table in order to like, help you make friends or something. student waiters would bring your food.

  • there was a rotation freshman year in which every student had to be a student waiter, and if you were good at it, you could stay on and make money.

  • i was so not-good at it that they took me off rotation early, which feels pretty on-brand for me.

for whatever reason, i was never assigned a table. in the land of seated lunches, i was king.

some people might have used this opportunity to sit with their friends or maybe with a teacher from whom they wanted to hassle a better grade, but i was a simple child and all i wanted to do was have many opportunities as possible to ask not-harry, who always remembered my name and never called me out for knocking things over all the time, to bring me the vegetarian option.

the teacher assigned to that table was a teacher that i never had, and never bonded with, and was constantly perplexed as to why i always insisted on sitting at his table and then never spoke to him.

“so weird they keep assigning me here,” i would say, and mr. wilcox would answer, “but they didn’t. i have the list. you aren’t assigned to sit here.”

“so weird,” said i.

  • the other great benefit of not having an assigned table at lunch is that i did not have to go to lunch. i could go to nap.

  • alternatively, i could go back into the kitchen and cajole the cooks to give me extra dessert, which i also did all the time. they made these peanut butter and chocolate bars that slammed. i kept some hidden in the freezer wrapped in paper towels because i am never more like a dragon than when somebody asks to share food.

everybody who knew that i existed knew that i was in love with not-harry. my school was very small, and probably even people who didn’t know me could have pointed at me and said something like, “whatever that girl’s name is, she’s in love with not-harry, who is tall and cool and has lots of friends.”

let’s break here to talk a little about not-harry. i, of course, was miserably uncomfortable in my own body, extremely uncool, and hadn’t yet figured out the difference between being sarcastic and just being mean. also, i once wrote and recorded a song called, “sweet like elk bladder,” which is something i don’t exactly regret but am also not exactly proud of. and if it sounds like i am being unkind to tiny baby molly, please know that despite being objectively unbearable, i love her. she was trying her best, and would improve rapidly between the ages of seventeen and twenty. she was a late bloomer.

but, at fourteen, if i could boil down my whole personality it would be: your least favorite cousin.

  • you know the one.

  • you don’t have to tell anybody who it is, just visualize them in your mind.

  • that was me.

not-harry, on the other hand, was devon sawa in little giants. he was sean biggerstaff in harry potter. he was what’s-his-face in a walk to remember. (you know. not matt damon but the guy that kind of looks like matt damon?)

not-harry:

  • played football, i think pretty well but i can’t confirm that because i didn’t then and i don’t now care to learn anything about how football works.

  • never once dropped a tray of food.

  • held doors for people, even when they were slightly too far away, so that they kind of had to say a gentle “oop!” and hop-scamper the door.

  • maybe played the guitar? i don’t know. i really didn’t know him that well. our conversations were limited to, “can you bring me a taco salad?” “sure.” but he seemed like the type that would have a guitar in his room, even if he didn’t play it.

  • in high school freshman molly’s fantasy of who not-harry was, he played the guitar, is what i’m saying.

  • would have reminded me a lot of andy samberg if i had known who andy samberg was when i was in high school.

i do want to say, in my own defense, that i was aware of how out of my league not-harry was. it’s not that i thought i had a chance with him. first of all, he had a girlfriend, who was blonde and beautiful and also very nice, which was rude because it meant i couldn’t even spitefully dislike her. she played field hockey and once helped me pick up an armful of books when i inevitably dropped them. secondly, i have never in my life expressed an emotion and even if he had been moved by my letter, i am confident that if he’d approached me about it i would have simply sprinted away at top speed.

thirdly, like, a bird can love a fish but where would they live, you know what i’m saying?

anyway, all this exhausting set up is to say that i was obsessed with not-harry, and he did not know who i was except probably to have noticed that i was assigned to his lunch table a lot.

  • “she’s actually not. i don’t know why she’s here all the time.” - mr. w, still not getting any answers.

every year for valentine’s day, my school would do this fundraiser thing where you could buy carnations and have them sent to your friends (or, you know, if you were the kind of person who got asked out, you could send it to your babe or whatever. that...wasn’t really a concern for me).

or, of course, some people sent them anonymously to people they liked.

“no,” you’re probably saying to yourself. and i get it!!! i get it. looking back at my own self, i am also saying, “no.”

  • that’s a pretty common theme, for me.

i think that i knew, at the time, that it was a bad idea. i kind of remember thinking to myself, this is a bad idea. i know that this is a bad idea. and then immediately following it up with, yeah but how bad of an idea can it really be?

pretty bad, molls!!!! preeeeetty, pretty bad.

you know, looking back, i think that the worst thing wasn’t even sending the carnation. like, that’s pretty embarrassing, but not end of the world embarrassing. but i didn’t just send it, i sent it and i included a note, and that note said, with painful earnestness, “this is the closest i’ll ever get.”

  • god. god!!! i know!!!

  • like, what??? was i thinking?? what a horrible, creepy, incredibly vulnerable thing to just put in the universe!!!! lil’ baby molly, somebody is going to read that. he, and all his friends, are going to know that you have feelings. feelings are embarrassing. we’ve been over this.

honestly, at the time, i think i was kind of just like ... screw it. you know? i was young. i knew high school was going to be the time in my life where i was the least likeable person i’d ever be. everybody knew i had this huge embarrassing crush on him, so, like, what was the worst that could happen? you only live once!!! you might as well just be the most embarrassing person you can be.

  • obviously, i did a complete 180 on that opinion the second it was too late to take it back.

  • as soon as the carnations went out i started making plans to dig myself a hole and quietly die in it.

everybody knew it was me. i mean, everybody. not a single person saw that note and was like, “gee, i wonder who sent this. could it be the awkward, long-armed monster child that spends the entirety of lunch drooling at not-harry with her chin in her tiny troll hands? haha, no. that’s crazy! it must have been someone else. what an unsolvable mystery.”

i fruitlessly tried to talk my way out of it. i sent an email to my entire grade that i am deeply grateful has been lost to the internet abyss that said something like, “hey just in case anyone was wondering who sent that carnation to not-harry, uh, it wasn’t me. i’m not saying anyone thinks it was me, but if they do think it was me, it wasn’t. they’re wrong. i definitely didn’t send a carnation to not-harry. that would be weird, and am i weird? no. as this email proves, i’m a normal person who does normal things only.

  • “normal things only,” is going to be the name of my autobiography, and it’s going to be a bald-faced lie.

in hindsight, this wasn’t even the most embarrassing moment of my high school career, though it certainly ranks. but it does hit a very specific and tender part of my memory: high school molly was so young, and so earnest, and so terrible at everything, but she was trying so hard. you know? when i think about myself writing that horrible note, i remember thinking, “obviously he is not going to read this and dump his beautiful, kind girlfriend to date me,” but i also remember thinking, “…yeah, but he might.”

i feel like this attitude toward things has lowkey been a guiding principle in my life, and possibly all of human history, for better or worse: this isn’t going to work, but it might. humans are such heartbreakingly optimistic creatures, even when we try not to be. think of all the times that we have done things just to do them. just to prove we could! just to do something impossible. we are impossible animals who do impossible things.

like, people built airplanes!!! how dumb is that? people built airplanes and gave humans wings, even though it definitely wasn’t going to work, except that it might, and it did.

i like the idea of that, i think. every once in a while, it does. it does work. against all odds.

  • to be clear, in this particular instance, it did not.

not-harry never talked to me about it, because not -harry took one look at me and probably realized that i had enough problems. i know he got it, because i watched him get it in the lunchroom. i chose not to sit at his table that day, because i was an idiot but i wasn’t stupid. i knew i didn’t have the acting chops to keep a straight face when he opened it.

not-harry looked at the note, and then looked around like, “what the hell kind of john-hughes-movie loving moron sent me this?”

we locked eyes.

dear god, i thought to myself, if he puts the note away and no one ever talks to me about it again i swear i will find a new table.

not-harry held the note up. i looked at it, and then back at him. i don’t know what my face was doing, but i can only assume i looked like little foot in the scene where he realizes the thing he thought was his mom was just his own shadow.

very slowly, and very kindly, not-harry put the note in his pocket.

“i haven’t seen you at lunch in a while!” mr. w said to me months later, in passing, and i did the sign of the cross as i said, “so weird!” and kept walking.

(i looked not-harry up on facebook just now, and he’s still beautiful, and i still love him. reader, should i friend him? probably not, right? it’s probably a bad idea.

...yeah, but how bad of an idea can it be?)


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