I am in the dark, in the snow, following a set of footprints made by some guy I met on the internet. And this is the early 2000s, so that’s still considered kind of dangerous. And sexy. 

I met this guy when he made fun of me in a comments section. He’s a guy I will eventually go to the movies with, lay in bed with, and buy cinnamon hearts for. 

Not the big, pink, sugary sweet kind. The real stuff. They’re small, deep red, and they burn your tongue. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to eat those things. If you’re supposed to suck on them gingerly and one at a time, or crunch them down in thunderous handfuls like I do. I’m not sure if I even like them. But if you put a bowl in front of me, I’d make short work of it. I live to consume.

Cinnamon hearts are his favourite.

This guy is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. 

But I just graduated from an all-girls high school, so that doesn’t make him too special. 

That said, the me in the story doesn’t know that. She’s 18, and she wants everything to feel big. She wants loud music or nothing at all, to be obsessed or not like it at all. Her hair oscillates from black to red to blonde and back again. 

She likes things that stand out, things she can see. It’s what feels real.

Now this guy’s in a flowing black coat and she’s following him through the white snow. It is, as you kids would say, a whole mood.

We had been in the car. Driving around aimlessly, shooting the shit. There’s this girl in the backseat and they’re friends though I don’t know why. They don’t get along, really. But I wouldn’t understand. They’re the cool kids, and I’m pretty sheltered by comparison. They’ve seen all these movies I’ve never heard of, done drugs and had sex. They talk about it and joke about it and I have nothing to contribute. Not sure why they keep me around. I’m both uncomfortable and proud.

One time, when I was first getting to know this girl friend of his, I asked him about her on messenger. 

“She’s cool,” he says. “She sucks a little too hard at the tip, but other than that, I like her.” 

I could tell it was a test. Guys do this. They say something shocking like it’s normal then look at you through the sides of their eyes. They live for that moment when they get you. You slap them on the arm and say “oh, stop!” and they say, “come on, it was only a joke.”

I outsmarted him, or so I thought, by playing it cool. “That’s too bad,” I said. “The tip is a sensitive area.”

“Oh?” He said, “how do you know about that?”

It’s funny that a young girl can feel so smug while being actively tricked into sexting.

Back to the snow. 

Him and that girl, they’d been arguing. It was chaotic and impossible to understand. Was this about the tip? Who’s to say. He drove into the park, a popular destination for brooding young adults and people who’ve had sex, and he wordlessly stepped out of the car, walking into the night.

We sat in silence, this girl and me. I should have asked her what was going on. I should have been there for her. He was the one making a display of himself, abandoning us in his car to go throw a fit in the woods.

But I didn’t stay there with her.

And now I’m catching up to him. He’s crying, and he’s got this long rockstar hair under the moonlight and he looks like a movie.

“It’s cold,” he says.

“If I were cold, I’d have worn a jacket,” I say. Which I meant to be poetic but doesn’t make sense at all, really, out loud.

We stand there in silence for a while, and then we walk back to the car. And I know something’s changed.

He thanks me later. For seeing past his behaviour, seeing through to the pain of it. For following him into the cold. I feel a way I’m addicted to feeling: like I’m special. Like I’m the only one who can understand this guy.

And it’s funny, how a young girl can feel so smug while buying cinnamon hearts for a guy she rescued from his own invented drama.