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It’s Not About Olives This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I had been sitting on a bus for almost five hours, listening to music and occasionally sneaking glances at the seat across from me. Its occupant had his eyes closed, with his feet sprawled across the aisle, resting on the edge of my seat. It was a long ride back from Earlham, Indiana, and we were about to take our first pit stop. I really had to use the restroom and also wanted to eat.

Our trip advisor stood up and raised his hand to silence the bus. I unplugged my earphones and looked up. I could tell from the snoring to my right that my neighbor had not realized an announcement was being made, so I kicked his feet off my seat, hoping the shock would get his attention. Sure enough, he opened his eyes and looked at me, bemused. I pointed toward the front of the bus and he sat up, stretching his arms and making that adorable noise he always does when he stretches. Of course, I say that now; when I heard it, all I wanted to do was hurl things at him. I resisted the urge.

“I know it’s been a long ride, but now we get to have a nice lunch. You and the person next to you will be buddies,” our trip leader explained.

I rolled my eyes.

“When you get off the bus you will be given fifteen dollars to purchase lunch for the two of you. This rest stop has two options: Subway and McDonald’s. Please try to make up your mind now so we don’t waste time there.”

He and I don’t usually talk. After I told him I loved him and he said he would never love me, we didn’t really have anything to say. I wanted to be his friend; I tried for a while, until I realized it wasn’t working, so I just stopped. I would be lying if I said I didn’t resent him for it. Let’s just say that the idea of being alone with him for the next hour made me lose my appetite.

He turned to me and said, “Where do you want to eat?”

I ignored him, pretending to listen to music.

“Hey?” He waved his arms in an attempt to get my attention, then finally reached over and pulled the earphone out of my ear.

“Yes?” I said.

“Where do you want to eat?”

He eats healthy. In fact, when I met him, I don’t think he had ever eaten at a fast food restaurant. I had originally found this fact foreign and attractive. Now it just seemed obnoxious.

“Do you plan on eating at McDonald’s?” I said, in a tone that I was hoping would make him feel stupid for asking.

“No, not really.”

“Well, then, I guess Subway it is.”

I enjoyed my solitude for the next half hour until our bus stopped. We were parked outside McDonald’s, and Subway was across the highway. The aisle became a sea of teenagers stepping on each other’s toes. I was in no rush to get off, and so, finally, it was just the two of us.

“Ready to go?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

I did feel kind of bad. The way I was treating him was unfair; it really wasn’t his fault. But he’d told me we couldn’t be friends, and to me, that made him the enemy.

We walked toward the highway and waited a couple of minutes until there was a lull in the traffic. Then we ran as fast as possible across the lanes, both panting. I went right to the restroom and took an extra long time washing my hands. As I left, he nearly ran me over trying to enter.

When he came out of the restroom, he sat across from me and asked, “What are you going to order?”

“The veggie delight.”

“Oh, cool. I was thinking about the meatball marinara. You ever tried it?”

“Nope, I’m a vegetarian.” I couldn’t believe he’d forgotten. I’d been a vegetarian when I met him two years ago.

“Oh yeah. You ready to order?”

Why was he being all pleasant? Maybe he had remembered how good a friend I was back in the day and wanted me back, or maybe he was just in the mood to rebuild some burned bridges. Either way, it was going to take a hell of a lot more than common pleasantries to fix this. It was like he’d turned back into the person he was when we first met – shy, timid, but fun to talk to. But so much had changed, there was no way for that to be the case now.

We both got in line. The woman behind the counter asked me what I wanted, and as I began to order, he interrupted.

“Wait, I’m not that hungry. Want to split a sandwich?”

“Well, don’t you want meat on yours?”

“No, whatever you want.”

“So what will you be having?” the woman behind the counter asked impatiently.

“Hold on,” I said, “give us a sec.” I held up a finger and turned to him. “What the hell has gotten into you?”

“What?”

“Three days ago you wanted nothing to do with me. Now you want to share a sandwich – so, I repeat, what the hell has gotten into you?”

“Do you really want to do this here?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Can you guys decide what you want on this sandwich and argue afterward?” the woman asked.

“You pick,” I said to him.

“What kind of bread?” the woman asked.

“Honey oat,” he said, then turned back to me. “I’m tired of fighting with you. We used to be good friends.”

“What kind of cheese?”

He was still looking at me. “Cheddar jack.”

“Well, I’ve wanted that for years, but you said you couldn’t be my friend,” I retorted.

“Do you want it toasted?” the woman asked.

“Yes,” he said, then, “I know what I said, but then I realized that except for that whole you-loving-me thing, you were a great friend, and I think that maybe I should forgive you and give you another chance.”

“Well, ‘maybe’ isn’t good enough for me. I don’t want you to give me a second chance. You hurt me really bad, and you think you should give me another chance?”

“Do you want olives?” the woman asked.

“Do you want olives?” he asked.

“I don’t care about olives,” I screamed. Tears were welling up in my eyes.

I turned to the woman, plastering on the fake smile I’d gotten so good at recently. “We would like to make this a combo, with an extra drink,” I said. When I handed her the money, my hands quivered.

I walked back to the booth and rested my head on the table. I couldn’t believe this was happening. The pain he had caused me was so great – the worst I’d ever felt. I had really loved him, and he had cut me off so quickly, so easily. I didn’t know if I could trust him. I’d just made a scene in a Subway over him rejecting me. I couldn’t imagine the damage I might sustain if he did it again.

I felt the table shake as he sat down. “I got you a root beer.”

As I looked up, I suddenly felt a surge of embarrassment.

“Thanks. I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

He smiled. “It’s okay. This was a lot to spring on you.”

“I would love to try to be your friend again, but I need something from you first,” I said.

“And what would that be?”

“I want us to start with a clean slate. No more anger, no more yelling. A fresh start.”

I closed my eyes, waiting to hear him say that that wasn’t possible, that too much had happened.

“Sounds good to me,” he replied.

“All right. Let’s eat.” I grabbed my half of our sandwich and took a bite. He sat staring at me, waiting to see my reaction.

“How do you like the olives?” he asked, half smiling, half laughing.

I returned the smile. “They’re the best damn olives I’ve ever had.”

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




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