Damon was seated on the ground. He had his sketch pad open in front of him, drawing a scene for a painting. He was only putting down his first ideas, but it still made him feel good to be drawing at all. He was working on a nature scene, with mountains and trees, slightly resembling the Japanese woodblock work he had recently seen at the museum. He was happy to be drawing, happy to be out of class for lunch, and happy that there was nobody around to bother him. It wasn't that Damon didn't like people. He just liked it when they kept their distance. He had always found himself to be the best company. Around guys, he was just different. He had never liked sports. He had never liked working out or talking about basketball, or even talking about chemistry or Mythology Club or the history mid-term. He thought these everyday things were fairly silly, so he stopped talking about them to people several years ago, and when they tried to start a conversation, which they didn't very often, he would give them a brief answer and they would eventually go away. No, around guys he just didn't fit in. He liked poetry, art, and classical music. He didn't like rock music like most guys, and he couldn't really get to know the nerds who liked classical music and poetry, because most of the time they hung around in their own clique.
And around girls, he was even worse. His main objection was that girls were so catty, so hypocritical. He had heard girls complimenting their friends while they were around, and then insulting them as soon as they left. He thought that was stupid, and those girls were probably just insecure. He had never met a girl that he had liked even a little, and for a while he thought that he was gay. But then he figured out that he didn't like guys either; he just didn't like anybody. But to tell the truth, he couldn't honestly say that he cared too much. In his opinion, life was just fine without friends, or without going out on Saturday nights, or without dates with girls. He liked his parents and got along with them almost all of the time.
He did very well in school, extremely well, so well that his teachers only complained because he never spoke in class, and they thought he was depressed. When they approached him to discuss this, he brushed them off with a few short answers. He wasn't really worried about college. He figured he would go, eventually. But it wasn't a big priority for him. He figured that he could make a difference through his art. So that was what he did. He went home every day after school, did his homework, and drew, painted, sculpted, and simply created.
On nice days, and even days that were not so nice, he liked to try to find a different place to draw, like on the lawn of the school, or up in a tree, or on top of a hill. He enjoyed nature, and that was what he wanted to do, to try to influence people to protect the environment through his artwork. He never took art classes in school. He tried freshman year taking a sculpting class, an option at his school. He ended up feeling as if he had totally wasted the class, because the big project for the first term was to sculpt a shoe. Damon had been sculpting shoes, good shoes, since he was eleven. He had decided to try something else, and had sculpted a tree growing out of a shoe. He received an "A" and a large feeling of dissatisfaction. He had never taken another in-school art class again.
That day, he was seated outside the school. He finished one sketch, and turned his attention to a large weed growing out of the ground. Damon wondered briefly why people hated weeds so much. His parents had a service to trim the lawn, and put on special chemicals so weeds wouldn't grow. Damon got into fights with his parents every month, due to the fact that he objected to the use of chemicals on the lawn. He had lost every fight so far, but he felt that he was making progress, especially with his father. Damon pulled himself back to reality and let his hand brush the charcoal pencil that he was using across the page. He drew quietly for several minutes, and looked up to find a girl standing above him.
"Hi," she said. She plopped down next to him and didn't say anything else. Finally, not wanting to be totally rude, he looked at her and said, hi back. He searched his memory, trying to recall anything about the girl, like her name. He finally decided that it was either Ellen or Allie, and was about to ask when she said, "You probably don't know who I am. My name's Alex. I'm in your history class." Damon told her his name and tried to remember her. He couldn't honestly say he did.
Alex didn't respond when she learned his name except to nod. She didn't say anything else, and didn't even look at his artwork in that annoying way many did, over his shoulder, commenting and asking what things were supposed to be. When Damon looked at his watch the next time, it was almost five. He packed up his stuff and started to walk away. "Are you going?" Alex asked. Although he thought that that was fairly obvious, Damon responded "Yeah," and turned again. "Wait, I have to go, too. I need to go to the library," Alex told him.
The next day, Alex was back again, except that she had trailed Damon to his new spot, across the field. Damon had moved his paper and pencils to get a different perspective. The girl had a sketch pad too. Damon didn't think to ask what she was working on, but he observed that it was some geometric design, not at all like his landscapes. Over the next few weeks, the two began drawing together more and more. They didn't talk much. Then a few weeks later Alex asked him to come for a soda with her. Damon thought about it, and finally nodded. He didn't like the girl too much, but also he didn't dislike her. To be fair, he had to admit he didn't really know her.
The two got to the soda place, and sat at a little table. Alex started quizzing him about his life. To Damon's surprise, he didn't mind answering. She asked things in such a way that it didn't seem like she was being overly personal, more like she was gathering research. And she didn't act like his teachers when they tried to get him to open up. She acted different. Damon asked her a little too, and she told him about her life. He immediately felt bad for her. She had had a heck of a home life. He wondered if it was all true, but he thought of the gossip he had heard and decided that it must be. The two split up an hour and a half later, but they continued to draw every day. Eventually, one day in the field outside the school, Alex asked him out. Damon was so shocked that a girl had asked him out that he didn't say anything for a very long time. Alex did not utter a word, just sat looking across the grass. Finally, after the pause had widened uncomfortably, Alex tried to tell him how she understood if he didn't want to, but he surprised himself by kissing her. Then he told her yes. He drew some of his best pictures ever after that afternoon. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.