Her joy made me sad.
Ingrid loved me. I didn’t love her back. She was weird. Very. Her bizarre joy caught me off guard when I answered her favorite question with a monosyllable every single day. I would purse my lips and grunt “sure” when she would suggest we sit together in the school bus on our way home. Now that I reflect, I mumbled “sure” every single afternoon, Monday to Friday throughout my junior year — hiding my exasperation with a kind enough smile. Ingrid seamed oblivious to my disdain for her company, and took her place next to me proudly, still wearing her huge backpack against the backrest. Her face glowed as if she had achieved something great, as if she had beaten breast cancer or stolen a star. There were always empty rows around us and a thousand reasons I’d rather stay away from her.
The thing is… there was something about Ingrid — her square head, scarce hair, manly clothes, unattended blackheads and neediness — that made me uncomfortable, responsible, guilty of not being a compassionate enough. I didn’t want to include her, I couldn’t reciprocate her admiration for me. She tormented and broke my heart in a million pieces with her spirited determination to connect. I still can feel the peppy spring of her step when the last bell rang, and how she sprinted to find me hiding from her, and nervously invited herself to ride next to me. Ingrid made me sad every afternoon and all night long. That’s the main reason I disliked her.
My heart would sink when I thought of her triumphant smile offering me a smelly and too ripe Chiquita banana she had saved “for us to share”. I would recall in gloom the grand gestures of Ingrid reading out loud –just for me, a book report on her dream to become a “thespian in theater,” not a simple “telenovela diva,” or an “uncontaminated published author”, unlike “foulmouthed Gabriel García Márquez”.
The thing is… there was something about Ingrid that made me hate myself every morning. Especially when I deliberately joined my friends in the back row of the school bus making sure there was no space for her in my life. When it stopped in the gate of her brick mansion, she used to jump in with a ray of hope in her plump forehead. I would hide behind a book, and she would lower her minuscule eyes in disappointment.