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It couldn’t be him, I thought as he walked into the café. It just couldn’t. The ghostly form zipped into the building before I had time to ascertain his identity.
It’s your imagination Emily, I told myself. There was no way Sid could be back in your life—back in your town. I corrected myself. No way. Sid was gone. And good riddance.
I should have known back then, just a couple of days ago that that wasn’t true. There was no way I say something is so and then it is. Because that never happens.
I had a lot on my mind back then. Graduation in only a couple of days.
I remember being asked about my future—repeatedly. I’m still trying to get through my graduation! Can you check back on me in ten point two milliseconds?
So, I was immersed in plans for the future, plans for the graduation and bicycles.
My mother was in the middle of a breakthrough with robotic sciences. She had invented a remote controlled bike! Now if only she knew which remote belonged to which bike. And if only she didn’t persuade me into being her guinea pig. She promised me an all-expense paid for trip to my favorite spa and threw in a couple of new clothes. Both of which you must know I haven’t received to this day.
“It’s built for someone a little lighter than me, otherwise I would do it.” She said, smiling sheepishly.
“There’s not much difference between the two of us, mom.” I said curtly, tired of going along with her wild experiments.
“Oh, Emily!” she laughed, “You’re much smaller.”
I am not, but she made me ride down a hill on that doomed contraption anyway. I was supposed to careen down a steep hill and just as I reached the bottom, Mom would push a button on the remote and the bike would automatically stop—without pitching me off overhead. It’s a sort of safety bike.
Maybe it would have worked but (as usual) something went wrong. I went down the hill, as I reached the bottom Mom pressed the button. But instead of my bike stopping, another one ran down the hill after me. That’s right, Mom had the wrong remote.
As she ran back into her workshop to look for the right one, I flew down the hill and drove straight into the pond, the other bike following me. Such are the pastimes of Emily.
Anyway, in between college plans and graduation plans and zooming straight into the pond on a bike, I would chat with my friends, ask them about their future plans (in a relaxed, undemanding way) and then tell them of my own. I was lucky enough to find a reasonably priced college that would take me and it was right in my uncle and aunt’s town. I would be staying with them till I got myself a place. I would be studying journalism.
On that fated day, I was hanging around in my favorite restaurant. It’s a cozy little place on the side of the road that looks like it cam straight out of a book. It even has pale yellow umbrellas over the tables; my word for it is picturesque. It always has a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere and great food.
I needed somewhere (where there weren’t any chains, screws and wheels littered around,) to contemplate my future and sort out my thoughts. A place without bowling shoes littered across the place. Oh, that’s my dad’s forte. He designs and manufactures bowling shoes. Cool parents, huh?
Anyway, I was sitting at one of those outside tables that overlooked the busy street, savoring my mug of coffee and sticky bun. The sun was setting; the clouds were a mystical orange and pink. I felt as if I were right up there with them.
Until he showed up. He swaggered in; leather jacket, greasy hair, complete with diamond stud in his left ear. At first, I wondered what the bike dude would want in a romantic place like that.
But as I looked I noticed something. His nose was slightly crooked; pug at one place, straight in the other. The kind that could look good or bad depending on the angle.
There was only one person I knew who had a nose like that. Sid.
Back in third grade to be precise, Sid was the terror. He was the class clown, class bully and class genius. He teased girls, as all little boys do, but he did it with style. When he threw spitballs, he used calculation. If he wanted it to land right in your book on the word ‘surprise’, it would. When he made up silly rhymes about you, he did that with style to. Having a rather extensive vocabulary for a third-grader, his rhymes were impressive. There was no way you could point out that it wasn’t grammatically correct or realistic because they always were. He was knowledgeable in every subject; a teachers dream! He got away with everything because would he raise his hand during class while he slipped a spider down some girl’s back.
He was the strongest, fastest and cutest boy in the entire grade. And he wasn’t even dirty. You’d be surprised at how hygienic he was. He always dressed in pressed pants and ironed polo shirts which may have looked ridiculous on some other kid, but not on Sid. It just made things worse. It made him look better!
As a result, he became the boys’ leader and the girl’s love. Pretty soon, every girl wanted to be teased by him. And so he stopped and concentrated all his fire on the one chic who didn’t give him a second’s glance.
Oh yes…silly, foolish, me. I was full of pride and there was no way I was going to remotely like yucky Sid. Every girl said he must have a huge crush on me. After all, spitballs only fell on my books and only my braids got dipped in ink. I still won’t forget the time he mashed a banana right in my geography book.
I didn’t see that being the reality. I’ll be honest; I wasn’t the exact picture of ‘sugar, and spice and everything nice’. I was a roly-poly, talkative girl with a loud mouth and round eyes behind coke-bottle glasses that were always scanning the pages of a book. It didn’t occur to me that I was different from the other dainty girls in their pleated dresses and pink-ribbon pigtails. I went around in baggy sweaters and old jeans. I always knew I wasn’t exactly like the other girls. But somehow, it didn’t bother me. I got by after all, and I had some good times. I was okay being myself.
Until Sid came around then I desperately wished I could bat my eyelashes at him. But I couldn’t. I only told him exactly what I thought of him. This only spurred him on, of course.
Sid tormented me. He tormented me all throughout the third grade, the fourth grade, the fifth grade and then in the sixth grade, a miracle happened! We moved to where we live now. A nice, quiet little town with quaint small businesses, called Serendipity. Everyone always says Serendipity lives up to its name. And I was just about to find out how.
The fellow who looks like an older Sid has completely morphed from the well-groomed schoolboy into the rebel without a cause. I take in the new look as well as the biker-boots and patched trousers.
I notice he is staring at me. I also notice that I have been staring at him. I quickly look away, hurriedly wolfing down my sticky bun and trying to wash down my coffee. The obstinate hot coffee refuses to go down so I leave it and fumble around in my purse, looking for some change. I have none so I give the waitress a large bill and hope she wont take long getting me back the change so I can grab it and rush out of that place like there was no tomorrow.
No such luck.
“Hello, Emily.” A pleasant, deepened Sid voice says. A pleasant, taller Sid slides onto the seat next to me and smiles a pleasant Sid smile. That was the smile he gave when he was going to pull a prank. I automatically tensed into flight-or-flee stance.
“Huh?” I said, stupidly.
“Oh, don’t pretend,” he said, “I know it’s you and you know it’s me. We might as well acknowledge each other’s existence.” He still talked with a hint of smugness in his voice and with a half smile hiding somewhere at the corners of his mouth. I could only stare dumbly.
“Haven’t seen you in a long time.” He said easily.
There was a good reason for that. I thought of saying but said, “Yeah, well…we moved.”
The only thing I was thinking about him at that time was how chiseled he had become. Not that that was a surprise but…I couldn’t help but view myself critically. He had transformed. I was still roly-poly Emily, with a little more shape and style, I suppose. A few minutes ago I felt like I was mature and able to conquer the world. Now I felt like I was back in the third grade.
“Hmmm, he said. Job promo—right? For your dad, some sort of bicycle thing?” he said.
“Oh, no wait, that’s your Mom. Your dad’s thing was…shoes?”
“How do you know—” I cut myself off.
“Bowling shoes. That’s it. The best shoes for bowling.” He smiled, “interesting.”
I suddenly hated my dad’s occupation.
“So how have the years been?” he asked.
“Um….uh….good, I guess,” I mumbled, very unsure of myself.
“Graduating high-school, huh?” he asked
“Yeah…” I mumbled, then I had something to say, “Shouldn’t you be?”
He laughed again, “Already did. A year ago. School was no fun so I decided to finish it off early.”
“What? No girls to play tricks on?” I said. It popped right out of my mouth. I regretted it.
He just smiled demurely, “not exactly.”
I looked around. Where was my change anyway? I needed to leave.
“Waiting for your change?” he asked.
“Evidently.” I said.
He dismissed the sarcasm in my words and continued, “So how’s your Mom’s remote control bike coming?”
I almost fell off my seat. No one knew about that project except me, mom and dad. A couple of neighbors suspected, I guess.
“How do you know?” I blurted out.
“I know a lot of things, Emily.” He said
“Like your Mom’s project. And your dads art.”
Now that was a shock. My dad did a little art in his spare time but only someone who lived here and knew us would know. I could only stare. Dumbfounded.
“Where will you be attending college?” he asked next.
“I…” I didn’t want to tell him.
“Over at your Uncle and Aunt’s town right? Nice place. Been there a couple of times.” He said.
“I gotta go.” I decided, standing up.
“…oh.” I sat back down.
We sat in silence. He was looking at me queerly. It was a Sid look I had never seen. I didn’t like it.
“…so, “I asked after a bit, trying to break the quietness, “What have you been up to?”
He shrugged, “this and that. I studied some micro technology and software.” He looked at me, “you know, like the guys who make computers.”
He said it like I was an eight year old; like I didn’t have a clue about what he said. He didn’t have to, even if I didn’t.
“Why did you quit?” I asked, trying to look and sound older.
“Too sedate. Not as much diverse experiences to be had in a field like that as opposed to other jobs.”
That was real Sid talk. I suppose I was lucky I had read a lot of books and could follow along.
“No kidding.” I said.
“I’m looking into other professions now. Sciences, physiology, maybe anthropology.”
“Anthropology?! You?!” I blurted out again.
“Is that so hard to believe of me?” he asked, grinning.
“Uh…no, I guess not.” I said, “what’s the deal with the…”
“Earring? Jacket?” he finished, “I’m breaking free. Experimenting. Metamorphosis, that kind of thing.”
“Sounds like rebellion.” I said.
“Most art is rebellion.”
“I wouldn’t call that artistic.” I said bluntly, seeing no reason to hide anything since he knew all about me, “it looks more like imitation. Like you feel a need to make a statement or fit in some stereotypical group.”
For once he didn’t look as smug, “maybe it is.” He paused, “You know Emily you’re the kind of person I don’t easily forget. Even back then in elementary. You were…well, very self assured.”
That did it. I could take a smug, grown-up, Sid. I couldn’t take a smug, complimenting, grown-up Sid.
“I really gotta go now.” I said, looking around for my change. The waitress was nowhere in sight.
“If you must.” Sid said, “tell you what, why don’t we renew that third-grade friendship we had?”
I looked at him like he was a lunatic, “what? We were never friends.”
“Well. Let’s be friends. After all, there’s no ink to dip your braids in anymore.” He said.
“I hope you think you’re funny.” I said flatly, standing up.
“Oh come on, Emily, that was just a joke!” he said.
“Sure.” I muttered.
“Look, we’ll start over. How about tomorrow night? You know that little Chinese place down the road?”
I froze. I couldn’t believe he was asking me out on a date—was he? Or was he pulling my leg? I stared at him. Nope. He was serious. The audacity.
“Er…” I fumbled; rage, irritation and a good long speech welling up inside me. It just wasn’t coming out.
“I’ll come by your place at seven. I know the place. Near the pond, right?” he said.
“Or we could just meet there if you prefer.” He said, shrugging, “your choice.”
“Sid!” I interrupted.
I swallowed, “are…are you asking me out on a date?!” I hissed.
He looked like I hadn’t been there all this time and had missed something.
“…Yes. Isn’t that obvious?”
“Why?” my childish self asked then wished it hadn’t.
He laughed, “Why do people go out on dates Emily?”
“I don’t know. Because they like each other?” I said pointedly.
“Or they want to get to know each other better.” He said superiorly, “so are you coming?”
“Why ever not?”
“Just say yes. Unless you have another reason not to.”
“I don’t know”
“So what’s the problem?” Sid demanded.
“I don’t know!” I yelled
“Then come!” he insisted.
“Fine!’ I shouted finally, snatching my purse and attempting to storm off.
“Uh…Emily?” Sid said.
“What?” I whined, turning around.
What can I say? One would expect me to stand him up and that’s what I expected of myself. But funnily enough I went. Serendipity is the one to blame. My logical side is sure I will never see him again after this but my more mature side, which is incredibly childish, thinks that’s not a possibility. Sid was always one to have a back-up plan. And again, with Serendipity and all, who knows?