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Sometimes You Put The Pen Down

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If you don’t know where to go, if you don’t know who wants to talk to you, eventually you just have to step outside, put on your hat, and find out. Out into the rain and the wind, in your dark jacket and plaid boots, out into the blowing cold, you must go. How will you know who wants you unless you go find someone to ask?

He is the boy who sits behind me in my college class. The first time I saw him I had two thoughts that came from opposite sides of my brain and collided in the middle, to form one weird conglomeration: He’s really hot I hope he stays back there and doesn’t sit by me. But as it turns out, I was the one who moved to sit by him. We sit in the row that is on the far left side of the room, if you’re facing the front towards the professor. Sometimes our desks are angled towards the next closest row of chairs, so we face out across the sea of desks and our chairs are side by side. Those days used to bother me. I would turn my desk as far forward, as far away from him as I could. He made me mad. He was hot, and that made me mad.

I surprised myself again. One day, someone took his seat, so he sat in the next row over, slightly in front of me. I leaned over my desk that day, and started a conversation. And to my surprise, he kept it going long after we had anything left to talk about. I stopped being mad, then. The next class, back in his regular seat, but with the desks angled, he talked to me. The whole class, we chatted and made comments about whatever the professor was babbling about. I remember the conversation better than the lecture.

He went to New York over break. I know, because I asked him. He told me when I asked. But I don’t know how it went, because after break, after a day or two away to get perspective, I realized I am always the one to start our conversations. Does that mean he doesn’t want to talk to me? Is he just shy? Or does he spend all his time behind me staring at the pretty blonde girl who sits across the room? I don’t smile at him when he walks by. I stare at my books and pick at my nails. My nose is too big and I don’t wear designer boots. When the blonde girl sat in our row one day, she smiled at him. She is used to smiling at boys. He smiled at her first.

Sometimes when you are out in the rain and the cold and the blowing, with your jacket clutched around you like a life saving buoy, knocking at a door, you need some help. You stepped out into the rain, you struggled through it till you reached your neighbor’s house, but at some point they have to open the door. You can’t stand there knocking forever, or you will freeze. Your wet hair will get matted down onto your neck, your mascara will start to run and your toes will go numb. And eventually, you will give up, go home, and find your cup of sugar somewhere else.

Have you ever tried to write the fictional next chapter to your very real life? If all your hopes and dreams and wishes came true, what would the next step be? Sometimes, with it all poured out of you, put down on paper, you realize that it is not so glamorous or desirable as you would have first thought.
“So did you end up going to New York on break?” He asks me. I make a face- we had a bit of a misunderstanding last time. He had apparently forgotten that I am still in high school, that I wasn’t on break when he the college student was. When I said “I’m trying to get my friends to go on break” I meant Easter break. I look at him, now. “We’re thinking we’ll aim for spring break.” I explain. And since the next polite thing to ask is obvious, I ask him. “How was your break?” He tells me it was good. They hung out at someone’s house whose name I don’t recognize because I am not in college. I am just a senior in high school, but he is a sophomore in college.

I can’t imagine anything after this conversation. Is that why I have stopped starting conversations with him? What is my best dream, my craziest hope? A date with him? Then what? A relationship? I’m leaving for college in Chicago next fall, he is going back home to Massachusetts at the end of the semester. There is no future available for the taking. Sometimes destiny is like a giant rolling ball, and even if you get all your friends together and brace as one, you still can’t stop it from mowing you down. Sometimes you put your pen down, and give up on a story that refuses to be written.



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