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Sometimes, I wonder if certain people are just invisible to some other people. I don’t mean invisible literally—I mean that you see the person, but it is not someone you would ever put thought into. When your eyes sail across the room, your gaze will always smoothly pass that person, never stopping, never really noticing. When they talk to you, you will not think of them as someone with a story and a personality, you would just take them as someone you have bumped into that day of your life, and never think of them again.
I sometimes wonder if I am invisible to Todd.
Of course, it is not to the stretched extent of invisibility that I mentioned before, because we are acquaintances, we often speak to each other. In English class, he may lean forward and ask me a question, make a joke, point out his opinion, but that’s just because he’s a very social guy. When he sees me in the hall, he smiles at me, and when we bump into each other at the local café after school, he talks to me for a while.
But it’s not enough. It’s not what I want.
I want Todd to see me. It frustrates me to no end when he talks to me, eyes focused on mine, but their gaze never ever penetrates the surface. I’d like it so much if one day he fixes his grassy-green eyes on mine and suddenly, miraculously they shoot through the color of my brown ones and he suddenly sees my soul. Okay, or at least my personality. Is that too much to ask? Because I definitely, definitely, can see his.
He’s like a light, hot to the touch and always burning with no chance of fading. Always smiling, happy, and enthusiastic. Inspiring, to me. He can overcome anything he faces, and has so much inner strength. I wish he would see me like that too, maybe notice that even though I’m quieter than he is, I’m just as strong. I may be a coward, but I have a good heart, too. Just once, once, notice me, and I’ll have a chance.
I’m running my finger over a deep scratch in my wooden school desk again and again as I’m lost in thought about these things. When I resurface from my daydreams, I raise my hand and glance at my index finger, which has a black pencil mark from the rubbing I did. I dab at it absentmindedly with my thumb and watch it fade to a smeared gray as Ms. Grayle, the English teacher, talks about literary devices and applying them to our writing. Directly behind me, a deep voice perks up.
“Miss, can you give another example of a simile? ‘Cause I don’t really get that first one.”
“Sure, Todd. Let me just get my notes.”
Todd. I sigh. Life can be quite cruel sometimes, placing me so close to the person I like just so that he can feel even more out of reach.
“Do you understand this one, Todd?”
“Uh-huh, yeah, thanks Miss. I just need paper ‘cause I should copy it. Hey, anyone have—Sara, can I have a piece of paper?”
My heart thumping, I reach for my green binder and discreetly wipe my sweaty fingertips across it before reaching in for a piece of paper. I didn’t want to give him a sweat-stained sheet so he’d know how nervous he makes me.
“Sure,” I say, and reach back with my hand without looking. I feel him take the paper and smile to myself, and take my hand back.
“Thanks Sara.” The sound of him scribbling is all I can hear, because I’m smiling so hard my ears are buzzing. Pathetic, I know, but what can I do?
“The rest of you should copy this quickly as well, because there’s only about three minutes of class left,” Ms. Grayle says.
I’ve already copied the notes so I pack up my things and push my chair out, careful not to hit Todd’s desk behind me. I swing my school bag over one shoulder and walk towards the door, staring at the red second-counting arm on the ticking class clock.
I’ve helped him out again today. My grin is incredibly wide and incredibly obvious, so I force my mouth into a strange straight line. Other people have crowded around the classroom door as well, but Todd’s probably still copying down the notes. On his paper. That I provided for him.
I’m smiling again as the bell rings, but it’s okay since it could just be taken as happiness about the school day ending. Dozens of feet shuffle out of the classroom, bodies pushing each other forward like a parade, random legs escaping from the mess when at their locker. Excited voices making plans, because it’s Friday today. More smiling on my part, because sometimes I bump into Todd at the local café on Fridays.
I shove my binders into my locker and then head out of the building, almost skipping down the dusty sidewalks. The café looms ahead of me, and I pull my spiral notebook and pencil out of my backpack as I enter and head for my favorite seat. I’m an aspiring writer, and this is where I write my stories. Today will definitely be a good day, because I’m bursting with creative energy after the incident with Todd. A smile still playing on my face, I raise pencil to paper. Let the writing begin!
“Why are you sitting in that seat?”
…What an old, cracked desk. Must be uncomfortable.
“Are you feeling okay?”
I raise my hand and glide it over the wood, feeling the bumps along the way.
“All right. I’ll leave the door unlocked for when you decide to leave. If you still don’t feel better, you can head to the nurse. Goodbye.”
I feel myself nodding as my fingertip reaches a deep scratch that was probably made angrily by someone with a sharp pencil at one point. I push my finger along the raggedy line until it reaches smoother wood again. I lift my hand, palm towards me, and examine it. There’s a black pencil line on my first finger now, and I stare at it for a long time. “I would hate this desk,” I say aloud to an empty room. I rub at the black mark and it fades away.
But I’m glad.
Glad that she sits at this old desk, that is.
Right in front of me, every day, last period.
Right up front where I can stare at the back of her head, neck, shoulders, and it looks like I’m concentrating on the board. Why doesn’t she ever wonder, “Why is he so slow at taking down notes?”? How come she never thinks, “Why won’t he just use his own paper? He has plenty.”?
Maybe, I think, because she never turns around to look at you.
I laugh to myself, leaning back in the chair.
“She knows your name,” I say to myself.
“She knows you’re in her class…Well, duh, you’re always asking her for random stuff. You’re probably the annoying kid to her.”
I chuckle and close my eyes. “Yup. That’s what you are.”
I take in a deep breath. “Or maybe, you’re invisible to her.” The laughing stops, and my lips pull into a downward “C”.
Quiet fills the room. Teasing, mocking silence. In a sudden, surprising fit of anger, I bang my fists on the desk, about a dozen times repeatedly. Then, sore knuckles aching, I shove my hands inside the desk, slide them over the cool metal inside the desk, letting the burning sensation cool.
The waitress is trying to ask me for my order, but I’m not answering yet, because my mind is doing that little panicky thing when I think maybe I’ve gotten myself into an embarrassing situation. I don’t have my rough-draft notebook, where I record rough ideas for my stories. Have I left it in the school? I close my eyes and sigh. When I open them again, the waitress has left, and I immediately flush a deep red. “Oops…sorry,” I whisper, even though no one can hear me.
I hope I haven’t left it in my English desk for the janitor to find. Hope he doesn’t decide to flip through it for some strange reason. It’s not the rough notes that are embarrassing, it’s the very inside cover that would have me digging a hole for myself to crawl into.
Frustrated, I push my brown hair off my forehead and get up from the table, heading for the exit. As I walk across the café’s parking lot and towards the school, my mind pulls up the image of the inside cover: thousands of scribbles, surrounded by fat, lumpy hearts, of my name over, and over, and over again. Along with Todd’s. With a little plus sign in between. Very embarrassing for a senior in high school to do, I know, but I can’t help myself. I feel like the more he doesn’t notice me the crazier I become.
Nearing the old school building, I’m suddenly certain that it’s in my English desk. I remember slipping it in at the beginning of class. As I push the glass doors to the front foyer open, I hope Ms. Groyle hasn’t locked the classroom door yet. Thus, I hurry past yellow cleaning signs and up the only set of stairs the school has, all the way to the measly second floor only used for the English department. I see that the door is already closed and I curse, but I’m still running fast as if I’m going to fling myself at the door and tackle it down, off its hinges.
Instead, I reach my arms out, and for some odd reason, I’m shaking as if there’s something to be afraid of. I grab the doorknob hard and twist it with excessive force, maybe hoping if it is locked I’ll just brake the knob off.
It’s open, so suddenly I’m flying across the room like a crazy person after the mad dash I’d done to take down the door. I crash into the teacher’s desk, which thankfully, is empty.
Huff huff huff…..I’m breathing insanely hard after what I’d just done, my body bent over the teacher’s big gray desk. Slowly, I pull myself up, sweat dripping off my nose. After straightening my body I turn to face my desk, already walking towards it, when something makes me stop so suddenly the wind’s knocked out of me.
“Oh my gosh,” I breathe. I stare with wide, unblinking eyes, as if I’m under a spotlight. “Oh my gosh…” I take in a deep breath and finally will my eyelids to open and close. The scene in front of me burns into my eyelids so that I can refer back to it whenever I want to remember my humiliation at this moment.
In front of me, sitting at my desk, is Todd. Which yes, would normally make me nervous, but not to this extent. Right now, I just want to drop unconscious, because open on Todd’s desk is my rough-draft notebook.
If Todd was just reading a random page of my notes, I would be calmer, maybe thinking I wasn’t exposed and embarrassed just yet. Unfortunately though, Todd has the notebook open to the first page. Specifically, with the scribble-covered inside cover lying there in plain view.
To my utter horror he gingerly picks up the book and holds it up for me to see, with the inside cover facing me—like he was a teacher reading to a preschooler.
“Sara,” he begins. I feel a tear roll down my cheek, so he stops talking. He looks even more shocked than I do now. “Sara?!”
Suddenly Todd’s up and across the room, staring into my face right in front of me, leaning over to see my teary eyes. At this point I am too petrified to even cry anymore. How…how am I going to sit in front of him for the rest of the year, when now he probably thinks I had some sort of creepy obsession with him?!
There’s a cool touch on my shoulder, and it takes a while for my mind to process the fact that the boy I like is squeezing my shoulder. I blow air through my mouth in a desperate gasp for breath, and when my hair flies from my face, I notice that Todd’s eyes are directly in front of mine. Those green, lime-like eyes are looking at me—and for once, maybe I wouldn’t mind literally being invisible. …What was he thinking? What could it be?
“Sara…” His lip quivers a bit, and it’s the only thing I can stare at. “Do you…like…”
My eyes fly to his again, and we both seem to wonder if he dares finish the question. Finally, when he loses the staring contest, Todd swallows hard. “…Me?” Now, he lets go of my shoulder and steps back to study me.
I think that maybe if I hold my breath long enough, I’ll just faint right here and never deal with him again. Of course, the logical part of my brain laughs at this, and I realize I must deal with this now. So, I take a deep breath and straighten myself.
I look Todd straight in the face, and say, “Yes. I like…”
His mouth is already open, shocked.
“…You.” I take a new, deep breath. “And I know you don’t see me that way, but I li—”
Todd grabs me again, and now he looks…dare I say…angry?
“Don’t SEE you?” He shakes me, just slightly, but enough to make a point, and for the first time when I’m brave enough to really look at him…his eyes seem to be penetrating mine.
We stare at each other for a long time, and then I say, “Oh.”
Todd nods vigorously. “Yeah!” Then, with a smooth sliding motion, he slips his fingers all the way down my arm, leaving my skin tingling, and then pushes his fingers between the spaces of mine. He’s staring at me this whole time, his eyes practically burning a hole through me.
“Do you finally see me…looking at you?” he asks.
I nod, my mouth dry, because no matter how much I liked Todd, I never thought something this good would happen. “I like you Todd,” I choke out, my voice a rasp.
Todd’s face is a mask at first, and then the bright light in him breaks out and he’s grinning. “I like you too, Sara. And I’m glad, that you finally see it.”
He pulls on my arm, and tugs me out of the room. Down the stairs and out of the school, and the whole time I’m thinking, Wow…I never really looked.
Then, I laugh to myself, tightening my hand’s grip. Can’t believe I never realized.
Todd sees me.