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Simple Man This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

By
He is usually the last one in the door before the tardy bell rings. Every day I watch him saunter in and plop down at his desk. That desk is next to mine. On my other side is a faded, cracked brick wall painted pistachio green. Between that sick green wall and Eddie Diaz – is me. Stuck in that confining space.

Lonely me.

Desperate me.

Affectionate me.

Anyway. I watch him every day when he walks in, slings off his bag, and crashes down in the chair like he just got through running a race. Sometimes when I see him collapse and sigh, I forget what class I’m in or why I’m there.

Then I remember. It’s first block, Government. It’s the class I like the most, although I can’t say why. The professor is tough. His lectures are always him nearly screaming the history of Madison and Jefferson, and Federalism and the House of Representatives. But everything is clear-cut. The homework is always reading, reading, reading, and the tests aren’t bad. We’ve only had two essays so far, and I got a B on both. Everything is in order in this class – simple.

Except Eddie sitting at the desk next to me.

Eddie Diaz. The name is romantic to my ears, and every time I hear the professor call it during attendance, I find myself drifting soothingly into Eddie’s presence, his intoxicating ambience.

When I’m sitting there, jotting down the day’s PowerPoint lecture, I let my eyes drift over. His arms are what catch me first. They fill the sleeves of whatever T-shirt he wears, his biceps curvy and strong. His arms are thick, above average. Soft bluish-green veins pop up at the wrists, spreading out like roots that I can see when he rests his hands palm up. He never takes notes, at least none I’ve ever seen, and his hands are always just there, idle. They are beautiful too, like a flesh sculpture, and big – almost fat – but totally omnipresent and bracing hands, I imagine.

I dream of getting a little courage, holding my breath, and reaching over to clasp his hand. Then he would turn and look at me, and I would melt. Because Eddie Diaz also has deep, godly eyes.

They’re not the beautiful, radiant eyes of a movie star like Joaquin Phoenix or Tom Cruise. They’re just brown, and most days the whites of his eyes are a little bloodshot, probably from drinking. Because Eddie is a basketball jock and he always has that let’s-get-ready-to-party look. I’m sure he does – lives it up with beer and girls on couches at some rich prep’s house every Saturday night.

But there is something else in those eyes too. Something flummoxed and a little sad. And maybe that is what makes them so special. The perfect shape and size, the way they invite you in and then consume you whenever he looks at you. At me.

Maybe he’s lonely. I wish I could tell for sure.

Then there’s his face. His fine face, with taut cheeks and a firmness that I have nothing on. He has a prominent nose on the verge of being too big, but it’s symmetrical. His skin is not radiant, but simple. Maybe one or two little marks left from acne. But every other inch is flawless, right down to his long, bulging neck.

It’s usually toward the end of the period that I take a good look at his neck. The skin there is soft-looking too, just barely tanned. His Adam’s apple stands out, taut and ridged. I remember when I was little, Mom told me that a boy isn’t fully grown until his Adam’s apple sticks out like a little hill with ridges. Eddie’s does. So I think dreamily, longingly, that he is a man. At 17, like me.

Stupid me. I am the unknown, with just a little bit of sharp humor for defense. That’s all.

“In other words,” the professor practically yells, bringing me back to reality, “Alexander Hamilton’s national bank had a profound impact on Federalism.”

Blah, blah. I look up at the projection screen, scribble down what I haven’t written, and yawn. A Deftones song creeps into my head – their remake of “Simple Man.” The original came from … who was the band? Not Coheed and Cambria. Lynyrd Skynyrd? Yeah. That’s it.

But I’ve got the Deftones’ version groaning in my head, haunting:

Momma told me when I was young
Sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say
Oh, if you do this, it’ll help you some sunny day


Where was I? Oh, God, yeah. Eddie. Well, what else can I say about him? Oh … his voice.

Eddie has a surprising voice. At least, I was amazed when I first heard him talk. Because even though Eddie is pretty well built, and handsome, with his Mexican heritage and Caucasian features, his voice is a few years behind his body.

I unzip my backpack, check the time on my phone – only ten minutes left – and steal another glance at bored Eddie.

Yeah, he’s got an immature voice, I guess you could say. Not high-pitched but youthful, with a lax way of speaking straight and plain. He’s always joking or making comments to lighten things up.

Eddie looks at me, and I shift my eyes to say a casual “what’s up.”

“Hey, what time is it?” he asks, leaning back in his chair and stretching. His chest flexes under his red track shirt.

I don’t let it faze me, though.

“9:29,” I reply, looking cool. Which I’m not. Not here, not now.

He gives me a closed-eyed nod and looks away. “Hell, yeah.”

I can tell he’s ready to escape, get out of this figurative rat cage. I want to too. So badly. Just get out of this dilemma. This stupid little affection that’s too useless to be called an obsession. Because I don’t think about Eddie Diaz that much. Not when I’m at home on my bed, staring up at the ceiling fan. Or when I call my friends to hang out. And as for the girl … well, we aren’t fully healed yet.

Boy, take your time, don’t live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love
And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above


No, things aren’t right between us. Not after I went to church for Easter. Not after I’ve slept for dozens of nights after that one day – the day I told her we couldn’t, because she was holding on to me and him, still. After three months.

And I was becoming attached to someone else too.

No, I only think about Eddie when he’s visible to me, and sometimes just as a passing thought. But when I think about him, I feel flooded with love and wanting. One and the same. I feel need, but never needed.

And be a simple kind of man
Be something you love and understand


“Ben.” It’s the professor. Surprised, I snap to attention. He is staring me down behind his glasses. He has never called on a student before in class.

“Yessir?” I find the voice to ask.

“Can you tell me who wrote ‘Federalist Number 10’?”

I blink, look around. Almost everyone who’s not sleeping is looking at me. Including Eddie. Ever-present Eddie.

I smile a shaky smile. “Um …” I pause to consider. Then the answer pops in my head.

“Alexander Hamilton,” I say. Surely it’s Hamilton.

“Nooo,” the professor says, drawing out the “o” as if to emphasize that I am a loser. “James Madison.”

He goes on lecturing. People turn away like they’re glad I messed up. And Eddie, shaking his head in joking disappointment, says, “Oww, not quite, man.”

The bell rings. Everybody shoots out of their seats, including Eddie. The professor looks disappointed that he was cut off and says, “All right, study for your exam next week. Have a good day.”

Boy, don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself

But I realize that I have lost it. As Eddie gets up, throws his bag on, and starts walking out.

Follow you heart and nothing else
And you can do this if you try


I thought I was following my heart. With her. With him. Because, you know, even the biggest dreams are a part of reality.

I stand up too, at last, and get my backpack on. I fall in behind him, and look at his back, like a mirror of unknowing and uncertainty facing me.

All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied

I’ll stay hushed, probably forever, about Eddie Diaz. As he turns left in the hallway, and I turn right, I see that that’s just how it is for now. Watching him one last time, at least for today, I see that Eddie may never know, but that’s okay. He may never hear the words I want to speak, or hold me the way I want to be held, but that should be okay.

As I hear the echo of that song in my mind, like a memory of love, faint and timeless and haunting, all I can follow is the shadow of the simple man.

And that is not me.

Momma, that is just not me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the February 2009 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.




Join the Discussion

This article has 17 comments. Post your own now!

RaquieseEisenheim said...
Feb. 16, 2011 at 9:50 pm
I am sated. This was the first thing I read since joining this site, and I am absolutely sated. Wow. I'm only disappointed in the fact that I shall never read anything better. This is written in such a way that it forced me to feel empathy. And the song was definitely well-incorporated, it coincided with the piece quite nicely. I'm just in awe of this magnificent piece of work. Very well done. Whoo... now I can sleep peacefully.
 
AAD602 said...
Dec. 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm
I truly enjoyed reading this story. It had great details and delved deep into the character's mind. I felt like it was me thinking. The only change i would make would be to keep the mystery of who's thinking this go on longer.
 
ManekiNeko replied...
Nov. 29, 2011 at 7:53 am
I happen to think it was perfectly placed.
 
brightgreenike said...
Oct. 29, 2010 at 10:11 pm
Very well done. There is a boy in my class who this article reminds me of. He is beautiful to the point of perfection and absolutely fascinating to look at. It's interesting that everybody has a beautiful boy in their lives.
 
isela said...
May 28, 2010 at 2:01 am
anonymous that was the most touching and awesome thing ive probably have ever read I LOVE IT and the fact that you had enough guts to put that up was amazing i will never forget this i love the desription. LOOOOOOVVVVVVVVEEEE IT
 
crawfordkid This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 17, 2010 at 9:33 am
Wow, this is incredible.  Simple, yet eloquent and deep.  I commend you anonymous author, on a fabulous article. I honestly wish I was brave enough to post things similar to this...kudos my friend, kudos!
 
kassidy.14 replied...
May 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I found this on your page as one of YOUR pieces of work..?

 

 
crawfordkid This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm
No, I didn't write it...It is marked as one of my favorite articles though, that may have been it.
 
miss_mt_dew said...
Apr. 11, 2010 at 5:01 am
This is epic!  You are so brave to even write this.  You are so inspirational and this article really made me think.  
 
klutz16 said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 11:21 pm
Anonymous, this is truly amazing!! i can't believe you would put this up as Anonymous. I love that you were gutsy enough to write on such a controversial topic. I LOVE it. although i don't understand why this was posted as anonymous... anyways, this is probably my favourite piece of work on this ectire site... and i am definitly telling my best friend to check this out... he'll be super happy... thank-you....
 
Ishmael said...
Jan. 24, 2010 at 10:19 pm
Wow! I literally said that out loud after reading this. That was amazing. I wish I could read more of your stuff, but you're published as anonymous.
 
Kate. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm
This is really, really great! I love how you incorporated Skynyrd's song into this.
Usually my comments are long, but one I really do not know what else to say. I am speechless.
Bravo, my friend. Bravo!
 
TheColorRose This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 11, 2009 at 8:00 pm
Nice description, very nice
 
forgetttting.my.fllaws said...
Mar. 5, 2009 at 2:53 am
REALLY good. this is soooo well.... I don't even know. It's really well written though. But mainly good. :)
 
StellaBlueThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Feb. 18, 2009 at 8:30 pm
This is one of my favorite articles on this site, and believe me, I've read a ton of them.
 
x3kandykane said...
Feb. 13, 2009 at 9:14 pm
Usually when I read something I skim past it, I don't let it envelop me,
it swallows me. I know things shouldn't be that way, because I'm a writer. Usually I have to try extremely hard to like something, but when I read "Simple Man" it wasn't like that. I could not have been more in shock to find out the author was a man. "So I think dreamily, longily,
that he is a man. At 17, like me." I commend the author, honestly, I do.
Just today I had been convinced that men f... (more »)
 
BetsyC. said...
Feb. 11, 2009 at 4:17 am
I love this! Great job!
 
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