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My bedroom has one large window surrounded by walls that are a color nestled comfortably between blue and green, but you’d never know that if I hadn’t told you because they’re covered in pictures. Not the normal pictures that clutter a teenager’s walls either, but photographs I’ve taken when I’ve wanted to hold onto a moment for longer than I should. The most prominent feature in my room is the window. It’s big and I leave it open most of the time. Through it, an entire world opens before me. Or, at least, that’s how I feel. The universe would be better off if it was a little less jam packed full of stuff.
As something outside the window catches my eye, I freeze. My eyes dart to the clock and read off the time: 4:48. He’s early. I try as hard as I can to hold still as his lanky frame strides past my house. I pray that the invisibility I manage at school carries over with me into my own home. He’s almost past my house now. Just when I think I’m in the clear, a precariously perched book slips off the edge of my desk and plummets to the floor. At that moment, he turns and looks directly at me. We make eye contact for what feels like forever, until I can’t stand it anymore. I look away and then chance a glimpse back up again once I’ve counted to 30 in my head. He’s gone; around the corner and out of sight.
Usually I have time to compose myself, get into a position where I can observe his passing casually. Today, though, he came by early. I walk over to my desk, which sits below my raised bed and scoop up the offending novel. I push it back into a more sturdy position on the desk. My eyes drift over my notebooks which are also piled there. In the tiniest scrawl “Mrs. Carter Foley” is written. That’s his name: Carter Foley. I’m not sure what his middle name is, but one day I’d like to find out. One day I’d like him to tell me.
I’ve never spoken a complete sentence to him. Twice, though I’ve just barely been able to string together a phrase in response to one of his questions. This year we only have current events class together. Normally we have Latin, too, but I couldn’t fit it into my schedule this year. So I just have to make do seeing him three times a day: once while in class and twice more when he’s walking by.
On Tuesday I have current events second period. Wandering through the halls on my way there, I come across a couple of girls engaged in a shouting match. As a crowd starts to gather, pressing behind me to see what’s going on, one of the girls says, “Right, Cameron?” to me. My head whips towards her and I mutter something incoherent before ducking my head and slipping out of the spotlight. I feel my face burn red as I push my way out of the swarm. Now I have to move quickly so I can get to class on time. I end up sliding into my seat in the back just as the bell rings. My fingers immediately reach for the camera that’s a constant fixture around my neck before I remember that I don’t have any pictures on it to review and examine. I turn it on anyway, to see how much battery life I have left and to look like I’m doing something.
A minute later the teacher walks in, apologizing for being late and telling us about how we’re going to get partners that we’ll discuss topics with every other day. I shrink down in my seat a couple of inches when she says that. I don’t know many people in this class besides Carter and really would rather not have to be pressured with the burden of making conversation with him or someone else in this class. I had really liked this class before now, too. I could go unnoticed with barely any effort at all. Now Ms. Haden is starting to read off her list of partners, and I wait anxiously to hear my name. When almost all the other kids’ names have been called she says mine…with Carter. I glance over at him, but immediately regret it. He’s looking at me, too. And then, when I’m about to look away again, he smiles. I wonder if he’s just smiling to be polite or if he’s actually happy to be my partner. While silently debating this, I realize I should smile back and do so. Ms. Haden goes on to say that we should go and sit with our partners now so we can introduce ourselves and discuss our first topic: The limits age puts on us and how being sixteen affects what we can and can’t do.
I start to gather my belongings, but then peek over at Carter and see him heading my way and think better of it. He drops down in the seat to the right of me and says, “Hey, I’m Carter. We usually have Latin together, don’t we?”
“Um…yeah, we do. I’m Cameron, by the way.” After saying that, I wonder how it managed to spill out of my mouth. I usually like to plan out every word that leaves my lips.
“Are you not taking it this year? You’re not in my class.” He looks a bit confused as he says this.
I feel happy that he noticed this, but make sure that my emotions are held in as I say, “No, I couldn’t fit it into my schedule because I had to take gym as one of my electives this year.”
A look of understanding dawns on his face as he says, “Oh. Well, it’s too bad, you seemed like you were really good at it.”
I smile, and from there, conversation flows smoothly. My voice doesn’t crack, my brain doesn’t fall out of my skull, my mouth doesn’t disappear. None of the terrible things I worry about happening do. And slowly, very slowly, I start to feel less awkward. I am actually beginning to enjoy talking to Carter.
From that day on, Carter doesn’t act like I am a nonentity. When he sees me in the halls, he smiles or waves. I start to really look forward to current events, so I can talk to Carter. In class we start to discuss about things that are more controversial. Even when we disagree, we still argue in an amiable way.
One day Carter and I leave class together and he walks with me to my next class because his locker is close by there. After a minute or so, I get up the nerve to ask him why he was always walking. I mention that I would often see him pass by my house but don’t say much more about that. At first he looks really uncomfortable about telling me, but as he starts to talk he seemed to gain more confidence.
“My mom loved to walk. She would go for a walk every day, no matter what the weather. When I was eleven, my mom died of cancer. For a while I couldn’t do anything without it reminding me of her. Then one day I saw a flyer about a cancer walk and decided to go. After I went on that, I started walking every day. At first I couldn’t bring myself to walk the same route she took, but now I do.”
For an entire moment I stare at him in shock, paralyzed by the fact that he just told me something that was really important to him. And then the flow of words through my brain starts up again and I say, “I’m sorry about your mom. That’s really nice that you walk with a purpose.”
That afternoon, I sit poised at my desk, waiting for Carter. It isn’t until he’s come into view that I realize what I should be doing. I hop up from my chair and yank on a sweatshirt, shoving on my sneakers on as quickly as I can. I then walk out the front door nervously. Carter is almost past my house. I call out his name and jog over to him when he waits for me. “Mind if I join you?”