I'm sorry, a thousand times over

When I was in second grade, I broke the most sacred of promises – a pinky promise.

Some people don’t find love until they are well into their twenties, or maybe even their thirties. Some people never find love at all. But as an eight year old girl with all my bright-eyed wisdom and innocent insight, I believed with every atom in my tiny, beating heart that I had found it already.


His name was Jacob. Everyone else called him Jake, but somehow, the nickname felt awkward on my lips. I think I was embarrassed to say his name in a way that suggested we were close at all, afraid that my feelings would be betrayed by the lack of formality.

“Wanna play Spit?” he asked me during recess one day, referring to the card game that had recently become popular.

I looked at him with a doubtful frown. “I don’t know how.”

“It’s okay, I’ll teach you!”

A few minutes later, I was fully immersed in the fast-paced game when Jamie Simmons, a brown-haired, freckled girl from class, skipped over with a mischievous grin on her face.

“Faith and Jacob, sitting in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” she squealed. I remember turning as red as a ripe tomato. “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!”


Against all odds – and by that, I mean against the belief at the time that boys and girls had cooties and could not associate with each other – we became best friends. That year, I went to a Yankees game for my big brother’s birthday. Bernie Williams was the only one to hit a home run during the game.

“Bernie is my favorite,” I confided in Jacob, as if by watching a single game of baseball I had become an expert on the Yankees roster.

The next day, Jacob brought in a Bernie Williams baseball card from his collection at home and said it was for me. It was protected by a scratched up plastic sleeve. I didn’t know it at the time, but that baseball card would later become the one thing I remembered him by.

One of our favorite things to do was jump off the swings. I was scared to do it the first time, but he kept jumping off again and again, until finally, I couldn’t resist trying it too. It was an exhilarating feeling being suspended in the air, and when I fell – I fell for him too.


Jacob was the smartest kid in our class. Our teacher used to end every day with a game of “Around of the World.” Two students sitting next to each other would stand up at a time and Miss Clarkson would give an easy multiplication problem. The student who called out the answer first would move on to the next person in the class while the student who lost would sit back down. Jacob won every game – except for one.

“Nine times eight!” Miss Clarkson called out.

Jacob and I were up. “You wanna win?” he whispered. I giggled sheepishly and shook my head, but he just stood there in silence until I remembered the answer.

“Seventy two!” I said, after a pause. Everyone congratulated me that day for finally defeating the king of the game. I earnestly tried to tell them that he had let me win, but Jacob convinced them otherwise.


At the end of the year, we all had to write and illustrate our own little books and were to share them with the rest of the class and everyone’s parents at an end-of-the-year celebration.

“If you dedicate your book to me, I’ll dedicate mine to you,” Jacob said to me.


“Pinky promise?”

“Yeah, I promise,” I smiled, as our pinkies intertwined.

I had every intention of printing Jacob’s name on the blank that we were supposed to fill in on the dedication page, but I changed my mind at the last minute. I don’t know why, nor do I remember what name ended up taking the place of his, but the word regret will never sufficiently describe my feelings towards that single decision.


Half a year later, it was Christmas Eve and Jacob’s family was driving to church. I was told that the window was shattered, that the shards cut his seat belt, and that Jacob was thrown out of the car, head crashing straight into the curb.

“Faith, I’d like to speak to you outside,” Mrs. Allen said, as she walked me into the hallway. She explained with carefully chosen words why my friend would not be coming to school anymore. I think my lack of emotional response – my dry cheeks, my impassive eyes – frightened her.

She didn’t know that I simply refused to believe what she was telling me. She didn’t know that Jacob never forgave me for backing out on my promise. She didn’t know that it was impossible for me to comprehend that he could have died before I could make it up to him.


Fourteen years later, I wish I could say that I am still trying to redeem myself, that I’ve kept every promise I’ve made since then, that I learned my lesson. But I’m sorry, Jake  – I just can’t do it. I can’t be perfect like you.

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