When you are a preteen living in a new country, I would say there are many more concerns at hand than puppy love. Let me make it clear this moment, I am not someone you could consider boy crazy. I was never that girl who was always thinking about dating, never was interested in having a boyfriend and was not one of the students at my all girl high school who would swoon over the presence of boys visiting from our brother (all boy) school just because they were male. Besides, even in my own awkward stage, I knew that the skinny necked, lightly mustached guys in oversized shirts with greasy adolescent complexions were not going to cut it. So not worth the heart palpitations. Moving ahead.
As I hit my junior year, simply adjusting to my life in a new country and making friends was more important to me than anything else. I was also having a horrid time in chemistry which led to its own adventure one summer having to relearn the concepts of atomic structure, the periodic table, and acids and bases while forgoing a two month family trip abroad. When not at school I was rotting away at home, bored and disappointed about how the summer was going, but luckily that year, I met The Boy Next Door.
The Boy Next Door was friends with some girls from my school. He had an enthusiastic light in his eyes, inviting laugh, and an easiness about him that everyone could see. We quickly got along, with similar interests in sports (at the time -- today I know nothing about any of the major or national leagues) and sharing that fish out of water experience. We both had grown up in a different country and were currently adjusting to our new neighborhood, where mango groves were converted to private homes and the streets were very wide and still empty, beckoning for afternoon bike rides with my new friend. BND was talkative and very well liked. He was exactly what comes to mind when you say The Boy Next Door. He was the kind of guy you would elect for class president and expect to be the captain of your team, and the kind of guy your parents are fine with when he comes around to say hello. There was something so familiar about him from the very first day we met. We could always talk about our families, our academic concerns, our love of America, our friends' antics and the people we respectively were interested in. He was the first person to attempt to teach me how to drive, the first person to persuade me to smoke a nasty cigarette with a tequila chaser (from which I will never recover, thank you very much), and the last face I saw as I exited my high school graduation ceremony, smiling and cheering among other guests, as I will always remember him.
As we started college, our afternoon bike rides evolved into car rides, interspersed with catching up in front of my house while getting bitten by mosquitos at dusk until my dad would holler for me to go back inside. This was a time void of the mind games, possessiveness, jealousy, insecurity, and complications typically present between a guy and a girl. Along with sunsets and butterflies, I remember a lot of reality present too: being hit in the face with gnats while talking and coasting on our bikes; the afternoon he suggested maybe I should stop eating too many Oreos in one sitting every time I tore into a 2 lb bag; or the asphalt on my face when he accidentally pushed me completely out of the passenger seat (don't ask) one late drunken night so I wouldn't puke in his dad's fancy new car after a party.
There were fun times, simple times, and a few sweet times with talks of the stars and sappy things that often are at the core of any "are-we-or-aren't-we?" semi-platonic teenage relationship. When I think back about the Boy Next Door, there were so many dots that I liked about him. As I moved ahead as an adult, I learned to take better note of those dots, realizing that each person I am interested in will have a makeup of dots of his own kind. In the case of the Boy Next Door, I learned that the dots are nothing if there is no connection in between them, or in between us. That connection is what I will always remember fondly. After all, aren't the dots all about connecting?