Her, Him, and the Receptionist MAG

January 13, 2009
By SamanthaS BRONZE, Encino, California
SamanthaS BRONZE, Encino, California
1 article 0 photos 370 comments

Our daily jog together. At least I like to think of it as our jog. It’s not like we actually run together, but in close proximity in separate universes.

It is hard to remember the days when we did not run together. My elliptical jogs right behind his treadmill and always keeps up. It would have been so easy to say hi the first time. But with each passing day, it has gotten harder and harder, and now impossible. We have had occasional looks back and forth, but those were probably coincidences. Of course I ­always look at him. As for the times his glance met mine, perhaps something else called his gaze. And I’m way too shy to budge from my routine to approach confirmed rejection. Why can’t he just make the move? I know, that’s a funny one. Look at him and then look at me – especially without makeup!

I don’t turn red from exercising, but I do blush when I’m nervous or embarrassed. So my cover story would be that my redness is from my heavy-duty workouts. After all, I am at the gym. I’m struggling to keep up with myself. My mind is going faster than the elliptical. My fervent fears, my neurotic nerves, my taxing trepidations, my angry anxieties whirling through my brain. Now I’m really dizzy.

Even he has flaws. It’s not like I think he’s perfect or anything. How could he be perfect with shoes that smell like that? He comes close to perfection. And his feet come close to me as he lifts them on the treadmill upwind of my elliptical. Just as my iPod advances to the next song, a wave of toxic air per­meates my nostrils. “Tell me how I’m supposed to breathe with no air? Can’t live, can’t breathe with no air … If you ain’t here I just can’t breathe. There’s no air, no air,” sings Jordin Sparks. Whew, how can I breathe in this air? Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Ahh. How can toxic air be refreshing? But amid these toxins, there is some sweetness. I can just sense it; I have that tingling feeling in my nostrils.

It’s hard for me to hold back a little smile. I can’t get away from it this time. It draws me closer. The occasional silent connection I have with him is worth the foul air I endure. I must be high on either the stench or endorphins, because I don’t believe in drugs. I am exercising longer than usual. I am pumped. I am not getting tired. Exercise is a healthy form of procrastination for what I might do next.

The elliptical bars are sandwiched ­between my palms and my fingers. I am pushing on them with all my strength. Just as I alternately push and pull on the levers – left, right, left, right – my strength to contact him alternates with my fear of rejection. Our closeness has been on a meta­phorical treadmill – no matter how hard I try, no ­matter how fast I run, we don’t get any closer. The counteracting forces of acceptance and rejection are pulling on me equally. I am in equilibrium. I am moving at a constant velocity on the elliptical, but I can’t get myself to move toward him. Physics. Echhh!

I try to look cute in my gym clothes, but it’s hard. The mirror tells me I look fat and ugly. Those are the only things the mirror ever tells me, besides red hair, freckles, Raggedy Anne.

My pink good-luck sweatband hasn’t brought me any luck. I’m going to go buy some new colored ones. I’m getting kind of sick of pink. People must think I wear the same sweaty headband every day, but I have dozens of them from that sale at Costco. I know that’s what he’s thinking when he turns around: freak, loser.

Droplets of sweat drip down my face, ravaging my pores and burning the roots of my confidence. But he gives me a feeling all over my body just by looking at him. So I know it’s worth it.

The odor burns my nostrils, but I can’t resist. I tiptoe into the hallway outside the men’s locker room; one hand holding the heart-shaped Post-It, the other plugging my nose. I see them resting on the wooden bench, right where he left them after “our” jog, laces untied and tongues forming obtuse angles. Why are they here? My hands are shaking and my legs are trembling, but I bite the corner of my lip and stick the note face up in the heel of his right shoe.

I am leaving the gym and I can’t stop thinking about him. Still. I hope he feels the same. But he won’t. I hope he will call. But he won’t. It’s been seven minutes since I put my note in his shoe and put my heart on the waiting list for rejection.

I enter my apartment and begin pacing. It’s been an hour and three minutes. I shouldn’t have done it. He doesn’t like me. It’s ­going to be awkward. No way. I’m not giving in. I’m not going to change my workout routine. But it will be hard to look at him tomorrow. I hope he saw the note before he put his shoes on. If not, I hope the ink doesn’t smear.

***

There she is. I could set my watch by her if I had one. Same gym. Same time. Same workout. Same as me. She never misses a day. I don’t think I ever will either. My mom and dad are both kind of, I don’t want to say chubby, but yeah, they are. I can’t let that happen to me. But I have another reason too.

Crack. Crack. My neck always cracks when I turn my head swiftly to check the clock behind me. At first this was a pain, but then I saw her. When I realized I got to look at her every time I turned to check the time, my neck strain didn’t bother me. I must be discreet. I love looking at her, but I don’t want her to know that her beauty keeps me staring. At least not quite yet. I’m not a stalker, just shy. I want to talk to her. I want to go up to her. But what if she thinks I’m just hitting on her? I’m really interested in knowing her. How is she supposed to tell the difference?

What a cutie. She’s just my type: tall, slender, and I can tell her skin is smooth. The cutest freckles. Milk chocolate eyes. Her gorgeous, wavy red hair is tied is back in a ponytail and she wears a pink headband. She must love pink. She should, it’s her color. Her hair sways with every step. Thank you, pink headband – not a hair is blocking my view of her face.

What I like most is that she doesn’t act like she is beautiful. She doesn’t know how nervous she makes me. She doesn’t know the grace she exudes. She has a story to tell. I want to hear it. But I’m afraid to ask her. Wimpy, maybe. Intimidated, definitely. I feel like I’ve watched the same Candid Camera episode 5,500 times. My failed attempt keeps replaying in my head. With every day that I say nothing, she’s more and more likely to think I’m either gay or I need a watch.

I want to know her name. Seeing her every day for weeks, I refer to her as Pink Headband. How pathetic. I have to know her name. At least for now, it would be easier to ask the receptionist for Pink Headband’s name than to ask her. At least if she refuses, it won’t be as humiliating as a no from Pink Headband.

So I make my way to the desk. I say excuse me to the nerdy girl behind the counter. I have caught her staring at me in the past, but the one time I actually want her attention, she’s preoccupied. I’m the only person here. The phone is resting comfortably on its hook. But she is talking to someone or something nonetheless. I sigh. I’m getting impatient. I feel like I’m hailing a taxi. Waving and waving, and they just drive by. Same with her. I’m waving and that freak seems to be talking to her stapler. Finally I get her ­attention. I ask. She answers. I write “Molly” on the envelope containing my note to the woman I used to know as Pink Headband. I ask the ­receptionist to please give it to her.

As I sit on the bench outside the men’s locker room, I fight my urge to chicken out and retrieve the envelope. I bolt into the locker room to take a shower. The hot water is soothing. Shoot! I left my shoes on the bench. Not to worry. Who would want to steal those smelly old things?

Realizing I must have left my cell phone in my car, I get dressed quickly, jump into my shoes, and leave. I don’t want to miss her call.

***

I hate working at this place. Why do I work here? I need out. I need a work out. I’m so funny. I always laugh at my own jokes. Ha ha ha, snort, snort.

All day I inhale air tainted with the smell of sweat. And no, it’s not me doing the sweating. Oh, here comes Mr. “I’m so much better than you that I won’t respond when you greet me.” I scrunch my nose to push up my glasses, the way I always do when my hands are busy. He’s headed right toward me. It seems like he needs to ask me something. This will be a first. How will he do this and still keep his perfect record of never saying a word to me? Of course, it must be so hard to say “good evening” to someone who has just said it to you.

I can feel my nervous twitch starting up again. My top lip is moving diagonally; my invisible enemy has strung a thread through my lip with his needle. I try to yank it in the other direction, back into place, but it won’t budge.

The name of the girl in the pink headband? Uhhh. The girl in the pink headband! If she’s wearing her pink one today, it must be either Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. Gross. But apparently he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. How sweet. For once he is nice and it is hard to hate him. He writes “Molly” on the envelope and hands it to me. Sure I’ll give it to Molly, all right.

He heads for the locker room; he is out of sight, but he sure isn’t out of my mind. Neither is the favor he asked of me. He wants me to give the envelope to Molly. Sure I will. I’ll be as good at giving this to Molly as he is at responding when I say hello. Actually, better because now my paper shredder’s name is Molly. Molly loves envelopes. She’ll fall bin over wheels!

***

Is there something in my shoe?



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This article has 1756 comments.


on May. 8 2009 at 7:21 pm
Rose Wolf SILVER, Boise, Idaho
5 articles 0 photos 6 comments
I really like the karma effect.

on May. 8 2009 at 6:18 pm
NancyP PLATINUM, Aurora, Illinois
26 articles 0 photos 1 comment
wow. this is really good :]] i loved the last line, "Is there something in my shoe?" i thought he would never notice!

megan39 BRONZE said...
on May. 8 2009 at 2:59 pm
megan39 BRONZE, Bohemia, New York
4 articles 0 photos 19 comments
i dont get it, can someone explain please?

Magwump9801 said...
on May. 1 2009 at 2:25 am
Wow this is really great. I love the concept!!! I just want to know whether they ever get to talk to each other!?!?!

Brian Rabin said...
on Apr. 27 2009 at 3:31 pm
Best story ever!!!!!!1!!11!!!1!!1!



Keep up the good work.

on Apr. 27 2009 at 3:09 pm
The narrative is pretty pedestrian, but the structure has a tiny bit of sophistication. The author, like so many who are young and inexperienced, seems to mistakingly think writing DEMANDS unecessarily abstract composition, especially in poetry. This usage, for the most part, makes the story convoluted,extraneous, confusing and unwieldy. Cleary, I think, the author has been influenced by some ancient poetry maybe she didn't understand. Much of the story is disjointed, directionless, nonsensical (note I didn't say incoherent) rambling with no drive to the story's conclusion.



The structure is intriguing and, as I said above, a bit sophisticated. It is what made reading the story worth while after so much treading through dull narrative.



Enhance your technique, don't be so abstract without purpose, keep the sophisticated structure, and you have the potential for solid writing.

tweedle dee said...
on Apr. 25 2009 at 2:09 am
hey this is cute!!! i like it alot, but i was mad about the receptionist, that's rude! ha ha great job!

on Apr. 22 2009 at 12:45 am
HopelessRomantic GOLD, Fayetteville, Arkansas
18 articles 0 photos 5 comments
Awww how adorably sweet!

on Apr. 20 2009 at 10:36 pm
kumiko-chan SILVER, Moreno Valley, California
6 articles 0 photos 9 comments
i love this story in general! i want to read more stories by you! please keep writing!

on Apr. 16 2009 at 2:55 am
xcupcakesxbrokenheartx BRONZE, Seaside, Oregon
2 articles 0 photos 28 comments
Awww... that's sweet! I want to see how it ends! They'd be so cute together.

on Apr. 9 2009 at 4:54 pm
karen_xo PLATINUM, West Chester, Pennsylvania
48 articles 7 photos 29 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."
— Pablo Picasso

This was such a well written story and very worthy of publication. However, I found the depiction of the "nerdy" receptionist to be a little stereotypical..."Ha ha ha, snort, snort."



Also, in this type of story the characters should go in the same order, so it wouldn't make sense for the man to come after the receptionist at the end.

Silvia BRONZE said...
on Apr. 5 2009 at 11:29 pm
Silvia BRONZE, Galesburg, Illinois
3 articles 18 photos 33 comments
Love the structure. Love the ending.

on Apr. 4 2009 at 9:08 pm
J.R.Hensel BRONZE, Mexia, Texas
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments
Well written, superb, excellent. This is my first day on Teenink and if there are more stories like this, I know I made the right choice joining.

on Apr. 4 2009 at 2:59 am
CloudedCrystal SILVER, Florissant, Missouri
6 articles 0 photos 23 comments
i wish pink headband and stinky shoes well! Luv the story and, oh yes, there is definitely somthin in ur shoes Mr. smelly shoes!

Merry(: said...
on Mar. 31 2009 at 8:06 pm
Wow, that is absolutley amazing. You should make a sequel for this story. I want to know what happens nexPr

on Mar. 30 2009 at 7:59 pm
Fantastic style and story. Would love to read what happens next. The author knows how to capture a reader.

Laura55 said...
on Mar. 30 2009 at 7:41 pm
I have read hundreds of Teen Ink stories and this is my favorite so far. I love the author's style and how natural it was to connect with each character.

CatCave GOLD said...
on Mar. 30 2009 at 3:18 pm
CatCave GOLD, Duluth, Georgia
17 articles 14 photos 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
We do not inherit the earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.

This was so entertaining. I could picture EVERYTHING in my head perfectly. Few authors have that gift of truly connecting with their readers like that. :)

on Mar. 29 2009 at 4:21 pm
RainWashed PLATINUM, Park City, Utah
46 articles 1 photo 88 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Repeat the good and the bad. Do it all again. And pile on the years."

THis is a really good piece of writing.

Bex24 BRONZE said...
on Mar. 29 2009 at 3:56 am
Bex24 BRONZE, Toronto, Other
3 articles 21 photos 79 comments
I love, love, LOVE this! So nonchalant, yet amusingly so. The receptionist's point of view really ties it all together in such a witty, well-written way. Congrats on such an outstanding piece!


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