Max Three Four

January 24, 2010
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I walked down the wide hallway on my way to eat lunch at the cafeteria. I saw the group of girls I had been eating with for the past month. The girls seemed nice enough, though they were often talking about subjects I didn’t care to listen to like annoying teachers that I didn’t have or boys I had never heard of. I waved to them and I made eye contact with one of them, but she just turned her head and marched up the steps to the lunch room with the rest of the group.
Maybe she just didn’t see me. Yeah, that was definitely it. Still, in the back of my head I kept going over and over the encounter.
I slumped to the library in a poor mood. The library is where people who don’t have anywhere else to eat go. I peered in and saw the table full of librarians chatting amongst themselves, hardly noticing me. There were a few other tables. In the back corner behind a few wooden shelves, I could see a person sitting peacefully and reading a book. Yes, someone else who would rather read in the library than deal with the cafeteria’s impossibly tight friend groups. Maybe I have found someone to eat with, I thought as I took a deep breath. “Can I sit here?” I asked the tall, shifty eyed blonde boy. He looked to be a little older than me. He had glasses and kept shivering every few seconds. He shrugged, so I decided to take that as a yes.
I sat down and opened my homework planner, looking for something to do. Anything to keep me occupied from the fact that all my friends had just ditched me on purpose.
This was a new school, and I was shy of making new friends on account of what had happened the previous year at my old school. The year before, I had a group of girls who were “backstabbers.” The supposed friends at my old school seemed nice at first, but out of nowhere they stopped talking to me because I asked the guy one of them liked to prom and then the whole clique gave me death stares in the hallways.
I decided to try and make friendly conversation with this interesting stranger. Who knows, maybe we would turn out to be a lot alike? “Hi,” I said. He was humming now. I couldn’t exactly identify the tune, but it sounded a bit like Jingle Bells, which struck me as odd, since it wasn’t even Halloween. I guess he was in the Christmas spirit early. Nothing wrong with that. I, myself, always loved hearing Christmas tunes. I always searched the radio stations for Silent Night or Jingle Bell Rock, which annoyed anyone else in the car, so I usually just listened to it by myself in my room. “Hi,” I said a little louder.
“Hi,” the boy said without making eye contact. Instead, he pulled out something to read. It was a thick book. If I didn’t know better I would say it might have been thicker than the dictionary. That was sort of intimidating. The kid, though he seemed weird, must be really smart.
“My name is Annie. What’s yours?” I asked in a welcoming tone, something I hadn’t practiced for awhile.
“Max Three Four,” he told me simply. Max Three Four?
“Oh.” I said dumbstruck. What else could I say? I could tell he wanted me to say something back because he kept making these quick little glances toward me, waiting for me to say something. He began moving his body back and forth in a swaying motion. I sighed wishing I was eating somewhere else.
“So, do you like reading?” I asked, glancing at his book. It appeared to be a boat manual. I saw a diagram of a boat on the page he was reading and instructions on how to put each part together. He nodded vigorously.
“Me too. I usually read novels.” I said.. “But that book seems cool too.” I added, hurriedly. Okay, so maybe the kid wouldn’t be my best friend, but I bet he wouldn’t mind someone to talk to at lunch right?
“I like boats,” Max Three Four informed me.
“So do I.” I did love boats. I hadn’t been on a boat since the summer before when I went to New Jersey to visit my uncles. They had just bought a sailboat which they called the Sea Monkey. It was a nice, white boat that we took in the water on a clear, warm day. I smiled recalling the memory, as I decided to eat the carrot sticks my mother had packed for me.
“Want one?” I noticed Max Three Four didn’t have any food.
“Nope.” He shook his head violently. He looked like my Newfoundland when it picked up its chew toy.
“Oh,” I said munching on my carrots. Max Three Four and I were good lunch partners.
The next day, I headed straight to the library. I didn’t want to bother going to the cafeteria and eating with catty girls who didn’t really care if I was there or not. I hated that feeling. It’s like being at parties and having no one to dance with. A flash of Homecoming shot at my head like a bullet. No one had my back. There was no one who actually wanted me there. I was just a shadow. And no one pays attention to that. Thinking back to homecoming, I didn’t remember seeing Max there. Poor Max. He probably didn’t go to the dance.
Now, There was Max, sitting by himself once again. He didn’t seem to mind that he was eating all alone. If I was eating alone, I would feel depressed for days after.
“Hi Max…” Oh no. Does he like to be called Max? Or should I call him by his full name Max Three Four? No way. Too weird. Definitely not weirder than us sitting together though.
He didn’t respond to me. Great, I thought. He doesn’t want to talk to me, and he doesn’t even remember my name. But, he’s all alone. Why wouldn’t he want to talk to me? Was I being kind by eating with Max or actually selfish for eating with him so I wouldn’t be pathetically alone? Just then, Max let out a loud burp.
“’scuse me,” he said. I started blushing, even though the librarians didn’t even hear it. Max Three Four just belched louder than I had ever heard anyone before and he just kept on reading. This time he was actually reading the Encyclopedia S volume. I peered over to catch a glimpse of the article which was about serpents.
I shook my head. “So…” I said. I didn’t really know what to say, but I felt like talking. Max didn’t look up, he just kept on reading. “You sure like reading, huh?” I asked.
“Mhmm,” he muttered. “It’s the best.” He seemed like he could retain a lot of information and was really a smart kid, but he just wasn’t too bright when it came to making friends.
Max and I sat together for a few more days before we were kicked out of the library. According to the teachers we weren’t allowed to eat in there. Max Three Four and I had to face the real world in the depths of the atrocious cafeteria, but I would never forget that first encounter.

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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

Shell said...
Feb. 3, 2010 at 6:51 am
Very inspired Annie. Thank you for sharing your encounter in a poetic way. I still have nightmares about high school "mean girls." You and Max are the kids with bright futures because you have soul.
Lee 0 said...
Jan. 30, 2010 at 8:05 pm
LOVE IT, ANNIE! You really brought me back to those gritty high school days when the air was thick with peer judgement!! I'm anxious to have another installment and find out about this curious Max 3 4 character -- keep on writin!!
Swimmer123 said...
Jan. 30, 2010 at 9:40 am
Hey Annie it's Livvy !! Your story is so proud of you :) keep on writing!!
Seascapes5 said...
Jan. 30, 2010 at 6:49 am
I love that story. The timeless story of the high school cafeteria! Shy people ate always the most interesting people. They notice more about the world and others around them. Keep writing!
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