An Unfamiliar FaceThe story begins back when I was a senior in high school. I was the small kid everyone picked on; not the annoying kid who typically got bullied, but just a regular kid who everyone seemed to have a problem with. I stayed away from drugs and alcohol, I didn’t play sports, I wasn’t in any clubs, and eventually the whole “no friend” situation got so bad, I had to start eating lunch in the bathroom. Things were at their worst and I could only pray for the day where I stood out in my own skin.
It was the day before Halloween, and I was sitting at home after school when I got a text from my old friend Joey: ‘Hey, we are going to the volleyball game tonight, it’s at 7, and I’ll pick you up in a few’ it read. Immediately I started getting ready; this was the second school sporting event I had ever attended, and for some reason on this particular night, I was feeling adventurous.
“Hop in! We are going to be late,” he exclaimed. “It’s an hour drive and that assuming we don’t hit any traffic”
“What’s the special occasion?” I asked with a puzzled look across my face. “We haven’t hung out in months, or even talked for that matter!”
“That’s the occasion! It’s been too long since we’ve talked. What better way to catch up than a nice long road trip and watching girls play volleyball!” he answered in a confident and pumped up tone.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
Like old times we sang in the car, and a few karaoke sessions later, we arrived. To our surprise there were no other students from our school there to support the team. So Joey and I went to the back corner and watched the girls warm up before the game. Moments later, another team showed up to watch the game, and all the girls sat in front of us. Our team started dominating the game and we quickly lost interest.
“Hey, do you play volleyball” Joey shouted down towards the girls, just trying to start some conversation. Hoping it would make the game a little less boring to watch.
“Yeah, why do you ask?” replied one of the closer girls to where we were sitting.
“Well why are you here?” he questioned.
“We are playing the winner of this game next” she replied. “Our coach made us come to this game so we could see our competition for our next game in the tournament.”
From then on, the small talk continued. We ended up moving down towards the girls and sitting with them. This was a little out of my comfort zone. I couldn’t even eat lunch like a normal kid and all of a sudden I’m in the middle of a huge group of girls who all wanted my attention.
“Do any of you know how to do long division?” one of the prettier girls asked her teammates.
“My friend here is in calculus, I’m sure he can help you out,” Joey obnoxiously butted in.
She walked up a few rows in the stands and sat down right next to me. Our legs brushed ever so slightly in a friendly but also rather awkward manner.
“Hi, I’m Elizabeth,” she said with a slight grin. She was beautiful: like a horse’s mane, her golden hair trailed down her back, her elegant emerald eyes glistened under the bright lights of the gym, her voice was fit for none less than a queen, and her charisma was inexplicable.
“I’m Benjamin. What can I help you with?” I asked while returning a friendly smile.
“I’m doing long division. I know it’s easy, but I forgot how to do it,” she said in an ever so fragile voice.
I reached for the pencil and our hands awkwardly touched, but in that moment, there was a spark, something that made us both smile, and in that instant my world changed. The neurons in my head were rewired and all of a sudden I was fearless. I put everything that was a part of my life up to that point behind me, and just went for it. She finished her homework, and we continued the small talk until the game was almost over.
“Let’s leave early and beat the traffic!” after getting nudged in the ribs by Joey.
“Bye, Elizabeth” I said slowly in a saddened tone, “It was nice meeting you” and I walked out.
It was pouring out, so we ran to the car and got inside.
“Wait!” I yelled before Joey could start the car. “There’s something I need to do.”
I got out of the car and ran back towards the doors, frantically looking for the girl of my dreams. I searched the parking lot, nothing. I went inside, she was gone. Soaked and disheartened, I began walking back towards the car. I opened the car door, and I heard the school door slowly screech open. I looked back over my shoulder, and there she was: Elizabeth.
I ran over, “Hey, I had a great time tonight, do you want to go out for coffee?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’d like that” she replied in her soft soothing voice. She took my phone out of my hands “Here’s my number,” she stated as she punched in the digits.
She started walking towards her car, and I went back to mine. I pulled the door shut behind me, and called her.
“Hey, it’s Benjamin, where should we go?” I asked.
“Hmmm, how about Starbucks?” she replied, after a slight hesitation in thought, as to what was closest to us.
“Sounds good” I replied and ten minutes later we were sharing coffee. Joey tagged along since he was my ride home. Small talk filled the shop, but after an hour or two it was time for us to leave. I said my goodbye, and left: hugless.
I’ll never forget that night, lying in bed, thoughts racing, wishing I had hugged her on my way out, wishing I could relive that night; the highlight of my senior year. The next day we started talking and every Monday after that we met at that same coffee shop, sat in our same seats, and shared our coffee.