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He was the kind of kid that prompted a person to stare. So smart, so intelligent—he saw much more than the average person. He saw right through me.
He was an innocent little boy: oddly cut blonde hair, baby blue eyes, skinny as a stick and as tiny as one too. His friends were all extremely weird. So was he.
I picked up on that right on the first day. I told one of my new friends how strange he was; I distinctly remember telling her he was too fervent in his schoolwork. She told me he had been like that last year too, before I had come. She said he would only do homework at lunchtime. He wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t talk, he wouldn’t even do homework with a friend; he would only study. I rolled my eyes and stuck a label on the image inside my head, just as others had quickly stuck a label on me: blonde, stupid, pretty, but only in a preppy, cheerleader way.
The next day we had our first conversation. The only reason I talked to him was because the girl I was talking with talked to him. He jumped into our conversation, introduced himself—“How are you, my name is Patrick”—and then he mentioned how we had four classes together. I thought to myself that it couldn’t be right, but it was. I went home soon after that.
I didn’t think much more about him in the coming weeks. A hi here and there, an odd stare across the room—I ignored it. I was always behind on schoolwork, and I was still in the transition phase, where I was making new friends and meeting many new people every day.
I hated this new school, where everyone was in a certain group, and the perceptions of them never to be moved. When I had lunch, there was an all-Asian table; there was a football player table; there was a cheerleader table; there was an odd-people table; there was a drama table. No one dared to cross the cafeteria to sit with another group. A dork sitting with cheerleaders! The thought made anyone laugh. It was ridiculous, even, to consider it.
But Patrick was never one to be concerned with stereotypes. The idea that tennis made him a jock was silly to everyone who knew him, but to him, it was going to be his claim to fame—the reason an ivy school would accept him. Ha. Yeah right. Where are your biceps? Go drink some milk.
For such a queer I spent much time thinking about him. Imagining him older, taller, filled out—imagining him with his first girlfriend, then a wife. I couldn’t imagine what she would look like. Whenever I pictured their wedding, there was always a dark shadow across her face. When he leaned in for a kiss, I shuddered, and thankfully was brought back down to reality.
I had a strange obsession with making fun of him—if “ugly” or “peculiar” was ever brought into a conversation, I brought him up for a laugh. I don’t think any of my friends noticed, or cared—but why did I care so much? If he was so untouchable why couldn’t I just leave him alone? Ignore him?
He began to sit next to me in chemistry. He would crack sarcastic jokes under his breath, and I found myself laughing at a few. If I ever showed confusion, he would step in, straighten out my knots. I was smart enough that I really shouldn’t have been confused ever; but there were always those days when you couldn’t concentrate, or periods where you would go off an daydream. Focusing meant you were interested; but out of boredom, I stared into space.
It was one of those days where I was staring off into space, thinking about which boy would take me to homecoming—it was coming up, you know—when he leaned over and whispered: “So, any dates yet?”
Had he just read my mind? “Huh?” I asked stupidly.
He patiently tried to explain: “Has any boy asked you to homecoming?”
I stared at him.
He slowly backed off, into the comfort of his own seat. “S’okay, just asking.” He pretended to be immersed in the lecture.
I said, “Oh, well no” very quickly and whipped my head around to my teacher. I forced myself to listen, to soak up every word—but all I was thinking about that little smile of his, that I had caught a glimpse of, because I hadn’t turned my head around quicker.
I was the first one out of that classroom that day, the first to the parking lot, the first to my car—Hurry, hurry—I practically ran. If I avoided him, he couldn’t talk to me; if I never saw him, he couldn’t ask me.
That weekend the head pom-pom queen set me up with a date for homecoming. “You’re on our limo,” she said, as her smile dazzled me. She also handed me a pair of high silver heels. “We’re going to match, won’t that be cute?”
I agreed in relief. That blind date was now my shield against Patrick.
Monday morning, we had chemistry together. I had been sitting on the other side of the classroom, away from him, but today I didn’t really care. I sat in the middle, and sure enough, Patrick was soon by my side, bridging the gap.
After class, I was slow to get my belongings, and was the last out of the door, but he was waiting for me. We walked for a minute, mostly silent, when the question popped out of his mouth: “Homecoming?”
“Sorry I have date.”
“Oh.” He slowed, and then: “Well, I’ll see you later. Bye.” He walked off, in a different direction.
In a dream, I went to my locker, and pretended I was fine, and cheery, for lunch. I told no one what had happened; I didn’t want any shame to follow him, and I didn’t want anyone making fun of him. I felt protective of him.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I replayed it over and over in my head, and knew there had been no other option for me. I still felt bad. I couldn’t get it out of my head.
Two o’clock Saturday. Five hours before homecoming. Already showered, just lying on my bed. Don’t want to start curling my hair or putting on makeup. Not in the mood.
I was just thinking actually about what would have happened if I had declined the blind date, and accepted Patrick. Oh my god. I pictured my friends: would they be laughing in disbelief? Shaking their heads? Would they start excluding me? And what would the rest of the school think? We’d be the topic of gossip for months. The pretty cheer girl and the immature geek.
I forced myself up and over to my dresser. Some cover, some powder, some color, some gloss. Done. I slipped into my dress, squeezed my feet into my heels, and walked out the door. I headed over to the cheerleaders house for the limo. Took some pictures, I almost tripped on the staircase because of my towering, tippy heels. I was glad when we were finally out the door and in the limo. Darkness covers up any flaws; loud music allows you to think of nothing else.
We arrived at the dance, and as I got out of the limo a few drug dogs politely watched us get out of the limo. Once on stable ground, however, they came to sniff pulling men with breathalyzers. My heart beat a little faster.
The dogs found my date, and he was blocked from coming into the dance. Once again, I was flying solo.
As always, when I am alone and feeling most like myself without anyone pressuring me or bringing me down, Patrick must come to visit. He nudged me with his shoulder—I was taller than him right now, I realized—and said, “So where’s your date?”
He must have thought I lied to him. But thankfully, a friends date stepped in and said: “He was detained.”
“Drugs.” Patrick raised his eyebrows.
The date rolled his eyes and walked off.
“Nice choice of date,” he said, conversationally.
“It was blind, okay?” Tonight wasn’t starting off well.
I turned on my heel and started to walked off. He grabbed my elbow.
“Wait I’m sorry that was rude. True, but rude. Dance?”
I spun again, and stared him down. “My feet hurt; let me go take off my shoes.”