I was the average popular kid at school while being bullied at the gym. I would spend three to four hours a day, six times a week in a high ceiling gym, filled with the scent of sweat, dried up sponge, and the stomach-turning sweetness of air freshener. Apart from the inhuman conditions of exercises, I had to deal with verbal bullying too. I was constantly called “fat”, even though I was so lean, my abs were evident on my six-year-old torso. I was called an idiot, for smiling. I was called a liar, years before I actually lied, to get back at them. I was called an attention seeker because someone noticed bruises on my body – bruises, a certain someone inflicted on me earlier that day. I was called a coward because I started having phobias of specific exercises – phobias that only got bigger through the years. I was yelled at because I visited the doctor when I broke my toe. I was forced to take off the cast and walk straight, while my tears were soaking my t-shirt. Confusing left and right was unheard of, so I got a slap on my right leg: “the leg that hurts is the right”. The pain lasted for less than twenty-four hours, but I never confused left and right again (the irony). I had to keep going, even when I was dead tired. I can keep writing, because this is only the tip of the iceberg, and I wish I was exaggerating.
In this hell, I had my first crush. I was kicked out of the “pro” team for a day, and I had to spend the rest of my practice doing “activities” with other kids. I was on the verge of tears, when an older boy talked to me: “If anyone bothers you, tell me,” he said with an arrogant smile. Bingo! He was the only person that talked to me, without mocking me. Of course he never “stood up for me”, but at least I had someone to smile back at me. I was six and he was seventeen. I would see him twice a week: Monday and Thursday when I would ride the bus back home. He just stopped coming after a few months. Meanwhile, I wrote a love letter with my pathetic 1st grader’s handwriting, and folded a piece of paper, securing it with staples, for a DIY envelop. I gave it to him on the bus and never dared to make eye contact with him, ever again.
Looking back, I can’t help but smile. “F” was my first crush. I don’t remember his face, but I remember his smile, and his first name, and the way my heart fluttered every time I saw him. In the virgin heart of a six-year-old, a crush is a huge deal and this is the way I intend to remember it. We’re never too young to fall in love, we just experience it differently.