Daniel was in my graduating class (class of 1992) but one year older. I think he was one of those kids who got held back in fourth grade. (What IS that? So many kids held back in fourth grade. I have long forgotten: is there some special test we were all supposed to pass that these kids somehow didn’t?) Probably a big reason a lot of his friends were in the junior and senior classes when I met him in sophomore year, but did not stop him from dating the younger girls.

Tammy and I were real sophomores, and he dated Tammy first, and that was the first I was aware of him. I was interested in my own fella at the time, a passing unrequited fancy that would soon drift away, and so at first my brain just parsed Daniel as “Tammy’s boyfriend” and he meant no more than that.

For some reason, they broke up. I don’t remember whose idea it was; Tammy may not have told me, and Daniel definitely didn’t. But this was sometime vaguely around Homecoming Week, and fall was a time for lots of school assemblies. We had more than one conversation in the bleachers. Just normal stuff, I suppose. I pretty much don’t remember anything about any of it now. I know he told me his dad was a doctor, but that’s about it.

Not long after that the love notes began. First one was, fittingly enough, written on a page from a notepad printed for a pharmaceutical company and hawking a prescription medication for indigestion. It smelled like Polo. Original scent. Green bottle. Daniel was Interested, apparently, and trying to charm me.

I remember many more love notes (all the rest on notebook filler paper, all smelling of Polo). I remember him driving me home from school at least once. (Wow! Big shot, got a boyfriend with a CAR on the FIRST TRY! Some of his friends were in the car with us, and I remember we passed a church that had the MB appellation after its name and one of the other girls opined that it stood for Mostly Black. Charming.) I remember him coming over to meet the family, and my cat Smokie hated him. As in she looked pissed off and swatted at him when he greeted her and attempted to pet her, something Smokie almost never did to strangers. In fact, I’m gonna go with never because I can’t remember any other time that happened. And did I take the warning? Nah.

That might have been the visit where he kissed me, out on the front porch, as he was leaving.

Not long after, everything came to a screeching halt. Because I was The Smart Kid and hadn’t, unlike in elementary school, gotten into gifted class in middle school or junior high, I thought I owed it to someone (not sure who, just Someone) to enroll in honors classes in high school. So I was in Honors English and Honors Biology and also, though it wasn’t honors, Algebra II. And I was sinking badly, didn’t know how to ask for help, was afraid to ask for help, and so was failing. To the tune of three F’s. On one report card. I was grounded for a whole quarter. Including no going out on dates.

Daniel and I sort of puttered along for a bit afterwards. I remember one more kiss out in front of the school as everyone was milling around to get on the buses to go home, and I remember him being sort of distracted. Kind of anticlimactic. No pun intended. (We never even got close to that base.)

And the next thing I remember is Tammy telling me Daniel was seeing our mutual acquaintance Maria behind my back.

Possibly Tammy had nefarious motives in telling me, but up to that point she’d seemed happy for me and glad to see Daniel with someone new. (She may have been the breaker-upper. I’m kind of inclined to go in that direction anyway since Daniel knew she and I hung out a lot.) I didn’t feel I had any reason to doubt her, and later events would kind of confirm it anyway. I wrote Maria a hate note and dumped Daniel. Tammy said later he read my Dear Daniel letter and then just sort of stared off into space.

For a while afterwards I sort of obsessed over him and tried to maybe find an angle back in. I would chat with his buddies and ask after him. I’m sure they all saw right through it. They mostly seemed amused. None of them, to their credit, tried to get into my pants. Daniel had never been there anyway.

The next year, Daniel and Maria were back together after a hiatus. Then there was some drama with Maria and another guy named Wayne whom she’d been on and off again with. Then one day in Algebra II (I had made enough F’s in the class that I had to take it again) she turned to me, all of fifteen years old, and announced that she wanted a baby. And then one day she actually made it happen. At this point there’d been some breakups and reconciliations and no one was sure whose baby it was.

Neither boy was particularly happy about it. Wayne took it all in stride, happy or not, but one day at lunch Daniel was sitting across the table from me ranting about Wayne and threatening to kick his ass. I was friendly with Wayne at that point because I had a crush on his brother (I didn’t always have the best pretexts for befriending people at that point), so I told Daniel off. Daniel half stood up like he was going to punch me in the face, and everyone around us cringed back from him. Thanks, y’all. Really.

It made it more believable later, though, when Maria said he’d hit her.

At that point Maria soured on the whole concept of co-parenting with this guy and made arrangements to give her baby up for adoption.

Maria turned sixteen two months before Alicia was born. I still have a photo of Alicia, one of two Maria lent to me so I could draw portraits of her. I got one done and returned that photo but for some reason never got the other one done. I don’t think this was Creepy Obsessive Ex-Girlfriend necessarily. I was just bad at finishing things in those days. But if it’s true that most newborns look like their fathers, there’s almost no way that girl was Wayne’s baby. Daniel and Maria had similar facial structures though (they could have been second cousins, really, though I don’t think they were), so if Daniel wasn’t Alicia’s father, Alicia looked like her mother.

That was 1991. You can do the math, I guess.

The last time I saw Daniel as a teenager was at high school graduation. By then he had dropped out so he wasn’t marching with us, but he was along the sidelines as we went into the football stadium (open-air… our school wasn’t that well-funded) and called out to me as we passed. I didn’t take it as anything in particular; he’d gotten quite practiced at acting like I was no one in particular by then. Probably didn’t take much effort.

Seven years later I was coming out of a bad marriage and went back to that part of the world. My first thought, as with many people in their mid-twenties who have once failed at life, was to try to look up an old flame. I hit a few dead ends and then I heard Daniel was a cop in Munford and so I went to see him some night when I thought he might be working. He was. We had a nice lame conversation about where we’d both been and that was basically it. I would speak with him a few more times by instant messenger, but I never saw him in person again. That was 1999.

I know from various sources that in between high school and the last time I saw him, he married a redhead and they had twin sons and he hit her in front of those twin sons and so she left him. I know he’s had a couple more sons since, but not by whom. I know that at some point he stopped policing and became a nurse. I know he’s been married at least once more, but that’s over too. Last I looked, which wasn’t that long ago, he was bitching about relationships going wrong and women lying to him or some bullshit like that. Right? I mean.

I tell people that Karl Urban looks like my first boyfriend. That much is true, but please believe I am not bragging about him.

I have no idea if Daniel has ever met Alicia. I hope, if she finds him, that he doesn’t disappoint her. That’d be a first.

[Last updated: 27 January 2024]