Dear Cigaro,

Hey! It's been a long time, hasn't it? As much as the next question is typically, "How've you been?", I honestly would like to skirt that question, entirely. After all, I am writing to you to explain my feelings about the past, and not to share casual details about the present…

This whole thing is weird. As you can probably guess, I was/am madly in love with Supero since high school. Except right at this moment, I have put those feelings into a jar (of sorts), as that relationship is on a hiatus. What is weird is, why am I all of the sudden thinking about you? I mean, okay, so it is not that weird when you really take a moment to look at it, though…

You and I were friends, first. We met in 6th grade, before I officially met Supero in 7th grade. We were in a few classes together, including the most significant one, Concert Band. The sheet music dropping to the floor during our concert, and you continuing to play it by ear! We made fun of teachers, looked at your Palm Pilot (gasp!), and most importantly we did the play together that year. I helped you memorize your lines. "Curriculum." Of course, that year, I primarily fancied our pal Yolo, but your relationship with me I always valued tremendously…

I especially asked you to do Marching Band with me the following year, and then again the year after when we did finally enter the band together with Colin and Mae. And boy, does that feel like a game changer, retrospectively! It was such a big deal that you did Marching Band with the 3 of us. You were a key reason why it was so much fun, and I looked forward to it every year. I was always going to be involved, following my sister's footsteps, but you made Marching Band special for me, personally. I even got pissed when Supero joined, for that one year, at first. Although, it was additional bonding time his Senior year; and let's be honest, I needed another Alto in my section. Though, Marching Band (and band as a whole) was such a sacred and holy time for us, as in you and me. Marching Band was away from Supero. Marching Band was my sweet Cigaro time, when I really look at it…

Jazz Band B/A, too. Obviously. Even if you "competed" with Supero over musicianship, his previous year. Him on the guitar, you on the horn. Playing solos in that tune that stands out so much in my mind, for so many reasons, "Sandy." There's just so much to be said, Cigaro, so much…

You even participated in the yearly play, too. Doing theatre right alongside Supero and me. Starting with acting in the middle school musical, the same play where I met Supero, South Pacific (Junior). Then again, in the Summer Acting Workshop, playing in the pit for the full version of South Pacific. Whether on stage, in the pit, or even helping our band teacher with the lights/sound in the booth, you were always there for me, as a part of the show that year…

Overall, you are so talented! It's impossible for me to forget the drawing of a hand, notably the most difficult part of the body to draw, that you "sketched" rather easily in the bandroom one day. Out of boredom. I was completely awestruck at how much your art resembled DaVinci's (not exaggerating!), yet you considered it a "doodle." Okay, you did admit to me that day that you were sometimes a perfectionist. Or how about the essays you had me proofread, again in the bandroom, that were so well-written, despite your feelings of inadequacy? Honors kids unite! In the bandroom. Where you practically lived, and eventually owned the school. So many of our deepest conversations took place there, many of which were just us sharing a moment alone...

Looking back, I considered you to be someone I felt particularly close to and cared for a lot. Going out of my way to write you an X-mas card each year, despite not giving each other gifts, in the same way I did with other friends. I considered our bond special enough to be acknowledged during the Holidays. I remember so many little details about our time together: Your piano keys tie at one of the school's concerts (band or chorus or both), buying me a hot cocoa to cheer me up at the Nazareth Competition when my sister did not come to support me, hanging out and cracking up so much with our older mutual friend (and drum majorette) Spam. And then there is your car, your hotrod, your red Phoenix. Your pride and joy that you rebuilt with your dad. To see you in that car accident, then talk to you about it immediately afterwards at jazz band practice. The utmost concern I felt for both you and your special car. That much, I actually expressed!

I even remember your college purchase of a white old Mercedes from Pensyltucky. "That makes me such a Cigar." So many good times had, and slight flirtations made!

Memories adjacent, there are feelings. I mean, yeah, I did crush on you, at least a little bit. Just every time I would start to admit to myself to having feelings for you, I shook my head with denial. Like, just "NO." Our friendship was so dear to me, the ease with which I could talk to you, I did not want to turn it into nervous crush energy. It would sometimes, inevitably, do that anyway. On those days, I would press the off button. I did not want to risk it; me who falls in love hard, yet crushes frequently. Hence, the chance I did not take. Imagine if I had risked it?

Not only are you jazz personified to me, with our duets together on "Maria Maria" in Marching Band and "White Christmas" in our last Christmas Concert. You played the keys with me, and your sister sang (ironically), as I was showcased on the Alto our Senior Year. I mean, it has come to my attention that perhaps our band teacher was trying to set us up, you think?

Senior year, man! You in your "hot phase." Boys physically mature faster than girls, so that was happening a lot with guys that year. There you were with your white ROTC and then Marching Band drum major uniforms. (Us getting second in the state!) It was like the movie, An Officer And A Gentleman. That magical moment, all dressed in your garb, where our paths crossed and we walked slow and you grabbed my hand inexplicably in the hallway. I will never forget it!

Or those 2 or 3 times, over the years, when you called me, "Sweetheart..."

All of those memories together, and you are pretty epic in the looks department, as well. Your amazing nose! Your astonishing butt (noted by you)! Your incredible resemblance to Andy Garcia! A long time favorite celebrity crush of mine, before we even met. And you are very nearly my height, too. My choosing to admire and not crush on you was never due to a lack of physical attraction…

And you are a Cigar. And Cigars are a big deal with my mom and me. She substantially liked a Cigar, too, growing-up before she met my dad. Realistically, it is probably why I could not fully indulge in my feelings for you, with the stories she told, despite my family thinking we would have made a great couple. Cigars and Cigarettes speak with the same tongue, ya know? Even my grandma, sister, and cousin agreed when we watched old Marching Band videos during a family get-together at my grandma's house our Senior year. We share that same second language, and similar detached immigrant feelings. We even talked about it, early on in middle school, when we met!

You also resemble a family friend, who is a Cigarette like me. Something about that epic nose of yours. My sister even picked up on it…

Long story short (although it is quite long), I am just seeing now that you and I should have hooked-up, dated, been a couple. If not in high school, then at least in middle school, right at the very beginning. Not to get into the boring details of where are lives are at present, and how my one glance at the social network within the past decade told me enough about your recent state of happiness to get where you are at, but I bring it up only because I wonder where I would be today if you had been my first boyfriend, for example…

There is a lot of regret. I mean, Prom. And you took Jules, really? You know we should have gone together. I know I considered it. I might have heard your plans ahead of time from someone else (Spam?) and took my ex instead; me, letting other people, and gossip, rule my life and decisions back then. Instead, I took my then sorta ex/sorta not, who did not dance, not even the salsa! If I had truly been myself then, I would have asked you to go with me in heartbeat! (Like I would do, now.) Or like the way we jointly shared Spam as a date for her Senior Semi. (Another attempt at a hook-up, for us?) Even though Prom gave me at least one special night with my sorta not beaux from another high school, I know I would have enjoyed it so much more if you were my date. Let's face it, we did talk throughout the night, but man, would we have danced!

Then there's the whole debacle with my arch nemesis, and how I thought you were an item our Senior Year. She was the only person I ever really confessed to about liking you. Low and behold, she blew-up my spot, and took you over, friendship or otherwise. She stole my identity, for sure, even getting credit for a piece of artwork I made. Although we all hung out together, she was more of a gossip and a complainer, than a friend. So much for potentially going to our Senior Second Prom together. I went to Rad's Senior Prom, at his school, instead…

Let us not get into too much detail about how my arch nemesis totally ruined my half of our WDW band trip. Something that was supposed to be awesome, was so much less than so. She signed up as my bus buddy, then spent the whole trip with you. Without me. With those younger girls who just saw you as a piece of meat. Aside from Millie, Tess, and Momo, I spent much of my time in the most magical place on Earth with people I did not particularly like. Bandmates aside. I was half-expecting, but 100% wanting a repeat of Williamsburg with you, me, Spam, and Stacey. No such luck. If you do not believe I ever had feelings for you, growing-up, that trip was the only big disappointment I would ever constitute as baggage between us. And it was not your fault!

In my sleep, I have dreamt about you. We are almost always dancing the Salsa, like we did at Spam's wedding, after graduation. Or like we did in those awesome middle school dances that are in my photo album. That wedding, though, could have been such a catalyst for us, if I had not been told by your ex that you got picked up by your new girlfriend. Obviously, I could not be a homewrecker. Not for real. Not like, actively. Although, welcome to the Supero Club, she was only just your girlfriend at the time. It was not set in stone. Yet!

I cried my eyes out in the car, after you left without saying goodbye or goodnight. I went to the bathroom. When I got back, you were gone…

When you did not attend the Thanksgiving football game (a defunct tradition) right after that wedding, yet Spam was there with her brand new husband, not honeymooning. I missed you so hard that day, I even thought to call you to come, for once. Of course, I asked Spam if you were coming, and she said, "No," because you were with your girlfriend. I should have been brave, in that moment, and listened to my heart. Called you up, anyway. (I did hope she would have.) But again, I relied on gossip or hearsay, as I so often did back then. Oftentimes about you. Particularly, because Spam was obviously more in touch with you then, than I was. So she should know, right? Like my arch nemesis about Senior Second Prom…

Aside from that one text message I sent you after that wedding, I never as much dialed your phone number, despite having it all these years…

Honestly, to make matters worse, that wedding was during a ridiculously traumatic time in my life. A time when I was utterly shaken off the course of my being. Seeing beyond it, only now, that so much time has passed. Generally speaking though, I was afraid to "make a move." And have it blatantly be seen as a "romantic overture." When all I would have been doing was calling my good friend Cigaro, who I missed dearly and wanted to see again, and trying to convince him to drive all the way out of town to partake in a football game tradition (now no longer). Okay, to come see me. And Spam! You can see my point. You might have even been working, that day, I am not entirely sure. Perhaps, if it had been a home game…

So much to say, Cigaro! I was not true to my feelings, then. I was told, I did not "own" my own feelings. That, even as I write this manifesto, I still feel embarrassed (for some reason) admitting to liking you romantically. You, with your birthday being the ultimate day of romance, go figure! Somehow, it feels silly thinking of you and I being romantically linked, unless I think of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez, and then I just go straight to Havana Central. A really good restaurant, by the way!

The embarrassment might come from me denying the likelihood that you would be thinking about me as a romantic interest, too. Or even thinking about me, in general, at this point. Ha! Neurosis aside, I denied my heart constantly (even more so with Supero, really). For fear of being bothersome, annoying, or unwanted. A fear of shifting the status quo. A fear of taking the leap of faith that you might feel the same way.

What am I missing from this manifesto of repressed/denied feelings? I could add that your aforementioned jazz band solo (and Arturo Sandoval) changed my life. Taking a jazz appreciation course in college, afterwards. It was both because of you and Supero, who eventually went professional with his music, choosing the jazziest of all instruments with my help. I could add that Gloria Estefan is a Latina idol of mine, and I do not have very many of those. She is the only one. That I would love to be Lucy married to Desi, even if I can understand him. An all time favorite, as well! I have a huge list of what I love culturally about you, totally outside of what my mom shared with me. Miami? Just not for Spring Break.

You cracked me up, were an ear for me to turn to, opened me up to possibilities, supported the music in me, and never really had a bad day or moment with me. Not without at least explaining that you were in a bad mood yourself. There is not one time that stands out as particularly bad between us, and just us, WDW band trip aside. What baggage?

So much I want to tell you, Cigaro. These are legitimate feelings I have had. There really is a lot of pain hiding out in these wonderful memories. Not baggage, thankfully, but the pain of "why not?!" It could be argued that I am looking for a past love who is not Supero; but I want you to know, I genuinely and authentically and sincerely hold feelings for you in a secret place deep in my heart, that I have rarely accessed. Only now, so late in the game, am I granting myself the freedom to explore them. Or at least give them some serious thought…

Yes, if given the opportunity now, I would totally be into dating you…

I do not know if you ever thought about me romantically, but there might have been a hint or two. I know my regrets sit with me simultaneously loving every minute of high school, connecting with many people including the special ones, and yet still being a wallflower to my own life. Well, my own love life, anyways. Yes, that was a Perks Of Being A Wallflower reference. A good read if you have not done so already.

All of the sudden, without being completely consumed with my love for Supero, I have opened up my heart to realizing how much love I have for you, and how much I have come to miss you. It has just hit me how much we really talked. Every chance we got in school/clubs, and sometimes outside of school, too. We were pretty tight, in reality. You were always such a funny, sweet, talented, rebellious, and dedicated fixture in my life. Out of our graduating class, I knew then, I would miss you the most!

Fondest memories round thee linger and cheer our hearts a new,

Opal