Anna Chen, 15, fresh out of 9th grade, sat alone in her room one musty June afternoon. Two years ago, she arrived in Shanghai. Leaving her home in Chicago didn’t bother her much. Shanghai seemed more like home anyways. After all, who wants to live in the city with the highest crime rate? She only missed her friends- enter the new school. Along with her friends, she met boy she could not forget. The boy was leaving, thus she sat down to send him an email. It goes:

“Before I begin, this is not a love letter. However, if I were to say I didn’t have feelings for you, I would be lying. This will probably be a long letter, but please at least try to read this.”

Anna sighed and stopped typing. She could not think of anything proper to say. As she closed her eyes, she remembered him. His tall, thin figure, his nearly perfect math scores. Of course, there was also his feigned ignorance and his greatest talent--bullshitting. She realized she never understood him and never would. He was also the only boy who met 2/3 of her criteria: Good grades and fit. Her fingers came back in contact with her computer.

“When I first met you, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t even know your name. It was PE class. Mr. Carol had us do a warm-up jog: you sprinted, only to mockingly complain about how tired you were. This annoyed me. To tell the truth, I though you were an arrogant, asshole. Then came math class. As the rest of us struggled to memorize formulas, you rambled on about calculus. Make no mistake, you were more of an asshole than ever, but you were smart. I respected that. You never even looked at me those first few days, never mind knowing my name. I knew yours: William Wu- the smart, athletic asshole. “

Anna stared at a glass frame with a picture of her eight- grade class. She opened her computer. A half completed page of pre-calculus problems faced her. They were due tomorrow, but she couldn’t concentrate, not on it, not on the email.

 

The hotel ballroom was bright, chandeliers gleaming. Chairs lined the room, in each sat a delegate. This was GA plenary session. He was on the podium, his voice thundering. Anna stood:

“Point of personal privilege”

The chair, slightly surprised, answered: “please rise and state your point”

“Could the chair please ask the delegate to lower his voice?”

He looked shocked and slightly scowled

The chair, equally shocked, answered hesitantly. “…very well, could the delegate please lower his voice?”

She had humiliated him, in front of the entire committee. A sense of sadistic pleasure rushed over her.

The scene changed. Anna was now standing in the Hong Kong International Airport, surrounded by 4 of her classmates as they played truth or dare.

“Who would you go to the boat dance with?” Ally asked playfully, her eyes narrow as she faced Anna with a wide grin.

“I’m not going.” she answered curtly, knowing where this was going

“Oh come on, who would you go with if you had to.” Ally was eager to know.

After much hesitation she finally choked out, “I….guess….. William…? If I’m forced to”

Ally’s jaw fell to the floor, although the grin was still there. Her maturity quickly took over. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell him”

 

The girl blushed as she remembered this. Of all people, why had she told this to Ally, the girl William actually liked? She shuddered. There were other memories, small things. Some had disappeared, some were fading fast, like dust in an attic, but others remained. She wondered if he remembered.

“ Since meeting you, we’ve been together in the same grade for almost 2 years …MUN, 8th grade humanities, Geometry, PE. Do you remember asking us to stroke your “cock” in humanities? Remember giving me the aisle seat on the plane back from Qatar after I got up for the third or fourth time. You fell asleep on me that trip. I should have whacked you in the head for that- I resisted. Remember the Skype math problems. Remember comforting me about my chair application during band. ‘It doesn’t matter’, ‘It’s BS’ Why did you do this? Even Brandon just laughed.  “

 

[3/5/15, 7:54:16 PM] Anna: can you help me with my essay

[3/5/15, 7:57:13 PM] Ally: sorry

[3/5/15, 7:57:20 PM] Ally: i have to first memorize my drama monologue

The essay was due soon. Desperate times called for desperate measures

[3/5/15, 8:49:32 PM] Anna: what do I do about the essay

[3/5/15, 8:49:37 PM] Anna: have you started

[3/5/15, 8:50:12 PM] William: nope

[3/5/15, 8:50:22 PM] William: humanities is the course

[3/5/15, 8:50:26 PM] William: we are to worry least about

This was not much help. It was some consolation that William, one of the top students, had not started. She was more struck by the “we”. She felt like part of the group.

 

 “I could never figure you out. You’re so smart, yet you pretend not to know anything. You joke so much I can’t tell when you are actually confused or upset. You thought Mrs. Brown’s ideas were shit and that Ms. Davis was a bitch. You were vehement enough. Yet, you smiled, went along and they loved you.”

She smiled as she wrote this.  She could see him, sitting next to her, leaning in slightly with a look of contempt. “This is so stupid” he would say.

“I might as well say how I feel. When I see how freely they talk or even touch you, I envy the other girls. You sat watched Pitch Perfect with Ally in math class last year. You never left Melissa’s side this year. You even brought Amy music stands when she asked. (not that you remember) I seem to be the only one who can’t do that. I admire your ability. I also can’t stand you. Every time you puppy guarded me in PE or asked a stupid question, I have only one thought in mind- to get rid of you. To be honest, I think I’m just scared. I never actually meant all those nasty things I said about you: “immature idiot” or “going to use marijuana”. They were just to protect myself from actually liking you. I figured if you hated me, I would forget it. You have to admit, the system worked.”

Nearly two hours had passed. Anna was tired. There were still a couple of math problems wanting completion- no time to waste on pseudo- love letters. She didn’t even think he would read it, but writing made her feel better.

“Well, that’s all I have to say. You’re not coming back anyways so I guess none of it matters. Ally will miss you. Gemma and Tiffany will miss you. Mrs. Brown will miss you. I can’t say I will miss you, but I will remember you. Goodbye. Da Svedanya.”

Anna put entered his email address then deleted it- two hours of progress. It was the closest she had gotten to a love letter. These were the feelings she desperately tried to avoid, the ones she had thus so far concealed from the outside.

 

6 Years later…..

William, now 21, walked to class along the grey walkways towards one of Harvard’s pristine red and white buildings. He was slightly taller, as thin as ever and still wearing a blue sweatshirt- one reminiscent to the one back in high school. His demeanor had not changed. His face still held the idiotic yet knowing smile, his walk still swaggering.

 

She could see him there, at Harvard, probably studying mathematics, or maybe economics. No girlfriend though, Ally would probably go to Stanford.

With nothing else to do, Anna immersed herself in Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

Pg.465

“All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?”

No