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The Troubles with Hello
All I want in life is just being? able to say “hello.” It is impossible for me to do it. Something inside of me just tells me that I can’t. When I try my heart starts racing, I start sweating, and I turn red. Everything makes me panic. Germs, pregnant ladies, sporks.... It’s so much easier to just stay hidden and unnoticed. It’s like I’m an anxious chameleon. I worry about everything and blend in.
I wasn’t always an antisocial pessimist. That’s a lie, I always was. My anxieties didn’t start getting bad until kindergarten when I tried making friends, but everyone rejected me. It also doesn’t help when you’re labeled as a germaphobic freak.
It’s pretty obvious to say that I don’t have many friends. I only have one friend. Her name is Clementine, a confident, hyperactive, lesbian, with purple hair and a lip piercing. She’s a bigger girl who loves musicals, and skin tight skinny jeans. She wears thick black eyeliner and seven bracelets on her left arm. She is a fearless chaotic mess. An earthquake during a hurricane. I have no idea why she befriended me, we are polar opposites. And she scares the crap out of me.
I was never good at making friends: it took me eight years to be comfortable with Clementine. I was pushed into my friendship with Clementine, much like Mufasa was pushed off the cliff by Scar in The Lion King. Nudged, then doomed. She Came up to me during recess one day when I was in second grade and she was in third. Eventually a friendship started to grow, like a dandelion weed. I can’t just go up to people like Clementine can. So when Jack O’Brien decided to sit next to me in Chemistry, I was in big trouble.
I don't know why Jack sat next to me, but he did, and I instantly felt a rock form in my stomach. I hurry and cage the butterflies before they can escape. My face is starting to burn, I’m probably turning red. I don’t say a word to him, and he doesn't say a word to me. I'm okay with that, I can’t make a fool of myself by not talking. Wait, yes I can. He probably has me pegged as a mute, or a pretentious jerk. Or maybe he realizes that I’m “shy”. I don’t know, I’m losing myself in my thoughts. I’m starting to panic. I try and calm myself down before I explode. An hour passes and finally I can go to lunch and get away from Jack.
As soon as the bell rings, I grab my backpack as fast as I can, and run towards the front door. I can hear Jack laughing behind me, he’s probably laughing at me. As soon as I’m outside I see Clementine waiting for me by a tree.
“Clementine, let’s go,” I shout at her as I'm heading towards the parking lot.
She quickly catches up to me.
“Greyson,” she says, “where do you want to go today?”
We reach Clementines car, a pink, rusted, and dented station wagon that her dad bought for her for her sixteenth birthday. Clementine unlocks the car and we both slid in.
“How about burger king today?”
“Oh yeah, I’m down!” she says with a smile as she starts the car and revs the engine.
Clementine refuses to listen to music quietly. She always has the music blaring. She's going to be the reason why I loose my hearing. Usually we don't talk on car rides, the music's too loud. That’s okay though, talking is hard.
Finally, we reach Burger King and sit at a table for two near a window and wait for our numbers to be called. Of Course while we wait, I clean the table with some hot water from the bathroom and some napkins.
I hear a loud laugh come from the door. I know instantly that it’s Jack. I start to panic, I try to keep calm, but I know my red face gives it away.
“Hey that’s the new kid, Jack.” she says, pointing in his direction. I don’t turn to look because I know who it is.
“He’s in my choir class,” says Clementine. “He’s funny, and a good singer. I’m a lesbian and even I would tap that.”
I don’t know what that means, but I assume it means something sexual.
“Why are you turning red Greyson? You’re kinda scaring me. The last time you turned this red was when you had a crush on that one Amy girl in fifth grade when she complimented-Wait, do you like Jack?” I can hear the hope in Clementine's voice.
“What? No.” I say defensively, clearly lying.
She doesn’t believe me and gives me a hard stare.
“Okay, fine, you’re right. I do like him, but not in the way that you think. I want to be his friend, but I also want to hold his hand-He seems cool, and he has a nice smile with perfect teeth. And his eyes are really pretty. And he’s exploding with happiness, it’s contagious!” I realize that I’m sweating profusely and talking fast, so I stop. Clementine is sitting there with a giant smile on her face and a crazed look in her eyes.
“Stop looking at me that way,” I say. “it’s creeping me out.”
She’s still staring at me.
“You have to promise you won’t tell anyone Clem, especially not Jack.” I’m panicking.
“Oh please Greyson, I would never” She says still smiling.
We then lock pinkies. And hear our numbers get called.
“I’ll go get the food.” Clementine says still slightly smiling. As she does so, I get out my hand sanitizer and quickly run the alcohol over my hands till it dries.
When Clementine gets back, she hands me my food and we start devouring it.
“You know he might actually like you back, all you have to do is talk to him.” Says Clementine with a mouth full of food.
I almost choke on my food.
“Nope. No. That’s a bad idea. I can’t.”
“How are you going to get anything out of life if you don’t start reaching out to new things? And, in what way is it a bad idea?”
“So many things could go wrong, Clementine. You don’t understand.”
“Explain it to me then. There has to be a little bit of positivity that runs through your mind, isn’t there?”
“No, all I can think about is how I’ll embarrass myself, instantaneously labeled as a germaphobic fool! And, nobody would end up liking me, not even you. And talking is hard, just-I can’t explain it. Okay? So, can we please change the subject?”
“No. And, in all honesty, I thought you were straight? What’s going on with that?”
I’m a little annoyed at this point, but I proceed to answer her question.
“I don’t really know what I am, I don’t really like the idea of sex, but sometimes I do feel a sexual attraction. Most of the time I’d rather snuggle or watch a movie with a person while holding their hand.”
“Oh, but do you prefer girls or boys?”
“Does it matter?” I’m quite offended that she asked me this, but I can tell that she didn’t mean it in a bad way, just simple curiosity.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Yeah, that’s okay. It’s just, nobody has asked before. I like a person for their personality. If they look good, then it’s just a plus.”
I check my phone, “We should probably get going the bell is going to ring in like eight minutes.”
Clementine and I grabbed our stuff and headed out to the car. Once inside, Clementine turns up the music.
Eventually we get back to the parking lot and park. “You should really say something to Jack, Greyson. You’re a cool guy, even, with all your problems. I think he’d like you, even as just a friend!” Clementine tells with a wink.
“I wish I could, Clem, but I can’t.” I feel my heart drop as I grab my backpack and climb out of the car.
Why can’t I be normal? Why does everything make me worry? Why am I always so stressed?
The Next three periods go by slowly. My last class of the day is Calculus, which actually makes me fairly happy considering that my anxiety has been through the roof today. Clementine is in this class with me too.
I walk into the classroom and head for my seat, but Something is different. We must have gotten new seats, I think to myself. I walk to the front of the class where the seating chart is and find my name, I also look to see who sits around me. I got lucky, Clementine sits right next to me. The seat on the other side of me is empty, and seated in front of me is Jack O’Brien. Great.
I start to panic, Can this day get any worse?
I take my seat. Next, Clementine walks in and asks me where she sits. I point to the seat next to me and she plops into the chair.
“Greyson, I've missed you so much!” She tells me excitedly.
“I missed you also, even though I saw you two and a half hours ago.” I tell her, trying to sound sincere, but my anxiety is tearing me apart.
Next comes in Jack with his dimpled smile and sparkling eyes. Clementine gives me that crazy bug eyed smile she gave me at lunch. As soon as he sits down, the bell rings, and class has begun. Clementine can’t stop smiling, and I can’t stop sweating.
For the next half an hour, I sit in agony. Waiting for work time so I can focus on my work instead of Jack’s perfect brown hair with blue streaks.
Finally we get the rest of the hour to work on our assignment, but I can’t seem to focus. All I want to do is say hi to Jack, but my brain won’t let me.
“He seems friendly!” I tell myself.
“But he wouldn't like you, who would?”
“Clementine likes me.”
“Yeah, that’s because she’s stuck with you.”
“I really don’t think that’s true.”
My brain keeps arguing with itself.
“Why can’t Greyson just say hello, would that be so wrong?” My brain pleads.
“Because Greyson would make a fool of himself. And anyway, Jack wouldn’t like him. Not even as a friend.” My brain is a relentless negative jerk.
I’m starting to panic again. Of course nobody can tell that I’m going through hell, but hey, a person has to be good at something. My special talent just so happens to be being scared and worried about everything, and over thinking, all while keeping a straight face.
Just then, Jack turns around. I can tell my face is turning red, and the butterflies in my stomach that I've kept in their cage has finally broken free.
“Oh no. This can’t happen. What is Greyson going to do?” My brain screams.
“He’s going to choke, won’t be able to say a thing. He’ll probably throw up.” My brain is a tsunami of thoughts and feelings all crashing in on itself.
Jack gives me a welcoming smile. Warmth spreads throughout my entire body, but that's probably my brain overheating itself. Suddenly everything goes quiet. A circuit must have finally shorted out.
“Hey! I have chemistry with you, don’t I? I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name earlier. My name is Jack O’Brien. Nice to meet you!” Jack puts his hand out to shake mine.
“Hi, My name is Greyson Lewis, Nice to meet you also.” I muster, taking his hand and shaking it. I don’t even worry about the germs that will eventually kill me.