“Honestly, I’m only telling you ‘cause you’re kind of a freak and, faah as I’m concehned, you’ve got zero in the way of a social life.”
I’m fascinated by this boy’s Bostonian drawl. I wish I could sound like that.
“Thanks for the honesty.”
“Alls I’m saying is you don’t find it in your best interests to go blabbing. Eat cheese and whatnot.”
“I’m proceeding, thank you very much.”
“I see you’re having trouble lighting your cigarette there.”
“Did anyone fucking ask you?”
“Just thought it was amiable on my part to offer assistance.”
“See. That’s why people don’t like you.”
“Because I’m kind?”
“Big words scare big people, yo.”
“But so proceed.”
“Hey, Bobby kid, you gotta do some yogar oh fucking meditative shit to get those anxieties in control, brother.”
“My psychiatrist would agree.”
“Holy fuck, yo. You gotta shrink?”
“Ah, finally. Fucker wasn’t lighting.”
There’s a puff or two and an awkward silence settles in.
“Ask me, then.”
“Ask you what?”
“You want me to tell you about it, or not.”
“Well, you pointed out that I was making you uncomfortable. So I’ll just let you speak at your pace.”
“But, so, don’t tell her I asked, yeah? Brother?” I try out the word tentatively.
He laughs at me and exhales menthol plumes. I’ve never met a man who smokes menthols.
“Hey, kid. Don’t worry. You can trust me,” he says to me, winking. Perhaps in irony. No, that’s a complex emotion. Varsity jocks don’t do complex. Or emotions, for that matter.
“Sure I can.”
“Excuse me? You got something to say, bro?”
“Well, remember back in like, what was it, eleventh grade? When you guys shoved me in the dumpster? That’s what you said to me.”
“That I could trust you.”
“Oh, hey, man, that was like, fuck, seven yeaas ago.”
“Two. Two years ago.”
“Dude, you gotta let that shit go.”
“As my psychiatrist would say.”
“Well, here’s the thing with that Becca chick.”
“You’re never gonna get with a girl like her, I want to sta-aht with.”
“But just supposing…”
“No. None of dat.”
I take note on his intonations, as if he’s swallowed an entire alphabet’s worth of harsh consonants, letting the vowels drawl over and sort of massacring the words. It’s kind of beautiful.
“So, lookit. You’ve got, what. A 3.8 GPA or some shit?”
“3.91.” He gives me a stony glare, frosty bits of envy tugging at the corners of his eyes. “But that’s beside the point.”
“Yeah, so, listen. She’s having a ha-ad time with her Bio 140 couhse, and I’m pretty sure she’s looking for a tutor, or somethin’.”
“And but you said that she specifically mentioned me,” I remind him.
“Oh, fuck, Bobby, listen. She might’ve said your name, but the point I’m tryna get at is fucking foget it.”
He lights another filter-tipped Newport with the first one. Keeps doing a swiveling motion with that gigantic block of a head that sits atop his massive shoulders, shoulders like I’ve never seen before. Countless hours at countless nutritionists’ offices confirmed the fact that my body mass would not be growing anytime soon; in fact, my bulking up was about as likely as the moon’s bulking up.
So not very.
Likely, I mean.
It’s been weeks of pining and (what I hope are) hidden stares. She sits at the front of the class, dark curls falling onto dainty collarbone. I can smell her for the rest of the day on my clothes. An intoxicating mix of longing and sugar.
I have been pretty ambivalent with regards to my college experience. And then I pick up a Bio course, because, hey, what the hell? And she’s there, and all I can do throughout the godawful hour-and-a-half is stare at her head and hope that she’ll turn around and notice that I have green eyes and a finely-tuned sense of humor.
The interior monologue gets worse as days progress and Fall creeps up into the crevices of the collegiate campus. Leaves turn colors, and I’m imagining us paired as lab partners, exchanging witty banter, her head thrown back as she laughs at my remarks. Cold settles in, and we’re smiling at each other, her teeth chewing on a pencil as she flutters her eyelids at me. She has a coy smile, is the word for it. Or picking her up (in a vehicle which I don’t own) and taking her to a fancy restaurant (on a budget I can’t possibly manage) and then falling together into bed (twin-size makes it more fun, right?) and her hands touching my chest and trailing down to the buckle of my pants and she unzips them and lo and behold—
And then the professor calls on me to go draw a polysaccharide on the board for those who need a ‘refresher’, a phrase which is clearly a euphemism; these troglodytic goons that couldn’t possibly differentiate gram-positive from gram-negative bacterial cells, that basically get on their knees and beg for a Moderately Impaired on the Stanford-Binet. But forget them. Forget the communal “Aaahing”, in response to my drawing, as if they all of a sudden understand what the professor is talking about. Forget that I have a massive boner hidden in the folds of my torn Levi’s, of which the sheer magnitude would impress even this waste-of-space I’m currently conversing with.
It doesn’t matter, because that’s how I get Becca DeLorien’s attention. I walk back to my seat, and she places a delicate hand on my arm, and whispers Good Job to me, and there’s something in my stomach that’s stirring, and if this is love, this, right here and now, then, I’ll be damned, let me be afflicted forever.
The thing is, you hear people talk about how they’re broken, because they let someone else in. And I listen, and I try to understand. But it sounds incredibly selfish to me, to hear these brats complain about things they have no idea someone could want so badly. As in, God, I don’t know, kill-yourself-over-them badly. As in, cry for nights on end, begging someone, Someone, to listen, and to maybe give you His strength to do ONE, just ONE fucking push-up during Gym; to make that stuttering thing go away; to ease that drowning fear that grips your entire body every time you get so much as within a mile radius of some female creature; to give you an inkling of chest hair—not even! Fucking facial hair, at least. Three tiny hairs. Is that too goddamned much to ask?
“Hey Bobby, you got a light?”
“I don’t smoke.”
“Everybody smokes. Shut the fuck up.”
“Well I don’t.” You dumbass. Four thousand chemicals, among them in no particular order benzyl benzoate, caffeine, carbon dioxide, phenylpropionaldehyde, 2.5-Dimethylpyrazine, methyl sulfide, gamma-dodecalactone, para-Ethoxybenzaldehyde, 1-Tyrosine, tartaric acid, alfalfa (?!), yeast, maltodextrin, rum ether, ethyl heptanoate. Oh, and corn oil. Stuff that into your body? Thank you, no sir. I’ll take an extra fifty years of life, gladly. Gladly.
“You should start. Becca likes smokers.”
“I mean, I’ve always wanted to try.”