Laugh It Off

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Fifth Grade.
There’s a sudden clicking sound. I press the eject button, but no luck. The floppy disk with my project on it had cracked, so I taped it back together, and now it was stuck in the computer.
My friend and I quietly try to get it out, while the rest of the class is typing away on their computers, but the clicking only gets louder. Soon our teacher comes up. His forehead furrows, and his bifocals rise slightly on his nose.
“What are you doing?” he asks in an irritated voice, as my fingers desperately pry for the disk in the microscopic drive. My friend tells him what happened in a scared but self-assured voice, he’s safe this time. My teacher’s face reddens, and for the first time, he chastises me.
“ You’ve broken the computer, the disk is stuck…” I don’t hear a word he says, my stomach gets light, and tears well up in my eyes. The bell rings, and he leaves to dismiss the class. I’m frantically trying to rescue the disk. The room goes quiet, and I’m alone in the room silently crying. My dad comes in the school to pick me up, grabs a pair of scissors, and uses them like pliers to pull the disk out. No harm done, to the computer. My dignity on the other hand, is destroyed.

Sixth Grade
I put my cello back on its stand, and slide the bow back into the cabinet. Most of the class has already filed out of the orchestra room. It’s just me, and the girl I’ve liked for the past few months. There’s a dance that weekend, and I’ve picked up the courage to ask her to go with me. My heart is beating steadily faster as I walk over to her, like some demonic war drum. I take a deep breath to try and calm the pounding, but that only makes me more lightheaded.
I stammer, “Hey, uh… do you wanna come to the dance with me?” The pounding stops, waiting. She smiles, replies, and walks out the door. I stand there stunned. I could have taken rejection, at least then I know she’s not interested. And I would have had no problem at all with her saying yes. But, it’s strange, I prepared for ecstasy, and rejection, but not straight-up embarrassment. I walk out into the chaos of the lunchroom, and her words echo in my head, “Thanks, but I’m going with my friends, it’s not really that kind of dance.”
Freshman Year
Hot and sweaty, I enter the locker room. I joke to a friend as I walk down the aisle. I strain to hear his response over the echoes of guys yelling, locks clicking, and metal clanging.
24. Two turns to the left, to the corroded number 5, with the paint chipping off. Back to 37. I feel the lock vibrate in my hand as the shackle slides out of the lock. I open my locker, and change, putting my gym uniform back in my locker. I grab my sweatshirt, up from on top of my iPod, and put it on, the darkness, and clean cotton scent a welcome contrast from the harsh reflection of the incandescent lights on the brick red lockers, the sick jaundiced tile, and the permanent stench of sweat, salt, and spray on deodorant.
I surface from my quick respite, my hood catching on the back of my head. My iPod is no longer there. I look to make sure it is not in my pocket, or fallen on the floor, but it is gone. My brain rushes, I can’t think straight. I turn to the locker next to me, “Have you seen my iPod?” He names a kid, saying he just ran past, saying something in hushed tones to a friend. I rush out of the locker room, but the kid is no longer there. I go to my gym teacher and explain to him what happened. He makes me check my locker again.

I go to the Police Liaison, and tell him what happened, he asks me the kid’s name and the serial number, but says there is really nothing he can do. My heart stops for a second. My head starts aching. I go home, empty-handed. While telling my friends, I remember that the suspect, used to be a close friend, a few years before. He’s in my 8th grade formal picture. He’s gotten a little sketchy in the past few months, but we could reason with him. I confront him on Myspace, and my parents call his house, but he angrily denies it all.

2 years later, I find out that the kid whose locker was next to mine was selling stolen iPods during our freshman year. But I still haven’t talked to my old friend.
Junior Year
I get out of my car and shiver as the cold winter air hits my face. I open my phone and read the text I had just received, “I’m going to be about 5 minutes late.” I smile and reply. I look up to the movie theatre, and see a line of shivering bodies filing out the doors and down the sidewalk. I don’t care tonight though. I was out to see Juno with a friend, whom I had developed a liking for. The day before, one of her friends had came up to me at school and told me that she had a crush on me, and advised me to ask her out. Thus, now I’m waiting in line to meet for a movie. My bones are burning with ecstasy, and the cold breeze doesn’t affect me at all. She gets out of her car and yells to me, and she is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

We wait in line, joking about the line, the cold. As we enter the theatre the lights glisten of her flowing brown hair, and her eyes seem to glisten. We arrive at the counter, “Juno is sold out.” We quickly choose another movie showing at that time, the post-apocalyptic tale I Am Legend featuring The Fresh Prince himself. “Theater 6, to your left.”

We sit down as the movie starts. I make a couple snarky jokes about a few obvious plot holes, and she laughs and leans in to me, her hair falling on my shoulder, like the branches of a willow tree arching into the water. I put my arm around her. She hesitates.

“I uh… um… I might be getting back together with my ex, so…” she trails off. I sit back, and we act as if nothing has happened. Will Smith talks to a mannequin, in tears. I make fun of the absurdity of the film. She laughs.

Credits roll, and we walk out. “That was fun, thanks” she says, and gets in her car. As she fades away, I walk into Coldstone Creamery, and buy myself some ice cream. I walk across the dark parking lot to my car, the dark stars arching over me, watching. I pull out my keys, and press the unlock button. Nothing.
Maybe the battery in the key died. I unlock the door and open it. Then I turn the key in the ignition. Silence. The car seems infinite in the cold hush, and my spine freezes.

I call home, and my dad drives out with jumper cables. We jump my car and I drive home.
I laugh.





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