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one for the road

Chapter Three

August 2007

Chemistry, what a joke! It was not my best class, but it was my passion. At age 12 my parents made the mistake of buying me a chemistry set for my birthday. From then on I loved it. I had no use for the chemicals the set provided me; they were all too advanced for my understanding. What I truly loved was stealing kitchen ingredients and mixing them together. My favorite was NaHCO3, better known as baking soda, and HC2h3O2, or vinegar and watching it bubble in the test tubes the set provided me. I loved doing it and my mom let me do it in the kitchen as long as it was over the sink. That was until I mixed vinegar, rock salt, green food coloring, and baking soda in a test tube and capped the pressure until the lid finally burst off and sprayed my mom’s perfectly white kitchen walls with green food coloring and rock salt. That was the last time I ever saw my chemistry set.

But chemistry class was different. I had very little concept for the math involved, I had always hated math; but the theory behind it I ate up with vigor. I never really had to pay attention in class, especially when we were talking about theory and concepts. So from the moment I sat down my attention zoomed from Mr. VanFaasen to folded piece of lined paper snugly hidden inside my pocket. Weather VanFaasen knew or cared that I wasn’t paying attention didn’t really bother me. I was at the back of the classroom and could easily mask what I was doing as ‘taking notes’.

It was not what I had expected, but then again I did not really expect anything to come from it. I had never gotten a note before, so from the first line I knew that it was something I really wanted, really loved, but also really feared. It read:

What happened to you was a tragedy. I condemn who ever it was that hit

you. When I first learned that you, Kyle, were in the hospital I was horrified.

When I arrived at the hospital Saturday morning you were still asleep,

so I left my gift and went away. You undoubtedly already know that

pretty much the whole school knows about what happened and is

sympathetic to you. I am sorry but I had to make you into a victim

to change the way people were treating you. For over a year I have

seen how you are treated in the halls by so many I had to betray

your trust. I have real feelings for you and care deeply about you.

The roses were from me, and are more than a token of friendship.

If you want to know who this is, return this letter to locker #171 in

the green hall.

Wow, I can honestly say that I did not see that coming. The way people were treating me I did not know that anyone felt like that towards me at all. But then again this school year has gotten more interesting now that the year is almost over. The hell with chastity, the hell with my fears, I have to know who this is from. But she’ll be disappointed to find out I’m not interested.

Immediately after the boring lesson I made my way down the stairs to the main floor and through the art annex to the green pod. One by one I read the small and relatively pointless numbers on the lockers. They were enough to identify the specific locker but were either fading too badly to read without deciphering the numerals or just plain pointless because the owner does not use the locker anyway. I made my way through the circle of the west half of the green pod searching almost frantically for locker 171. I found it six spaces from the door to my fourth period Pre College English class. This was probably my hardest class that I had, but this wasn’t saying much. It was a good thing that I was taking such easy classes this year; with all of the other problems I was having at the moment, school was the farthest thing from my mind.

Making sure nobody took great notice in what I was doing, I as unobtrusively as possible made my way to locker 171, which for a reason unknown to myself stood ajar. I stopped at this point, wondering which way to go. The fear in me lost to the desire to see who was behind the sudden and so far positive change to my school life. I was surprised to find that the green door was not only ajar, it was halfway open. But like most of the lockers in the school, it was empty. The lockers are just too narrow to hold enough; and whoever used their locker always kept it shut to prevent anyone from walking up to it and taking anything out of it, like someone wanted me to do. I should have seen this coming. Who would want to be seen talking to me in the middle of the green commons between classes. Nobody ever talks to me, so why should it change now?

On the top shelf of the locker, in the space where the books are supposed to be, was another folded note written in the same handwriting as the first one. Now this was getting a little out of hand, although I must admit I do like the suspense. It was like I was in a murder mystery; only instead of finding out who killed whom to get inherence, I was trying to find out who killed their social life by befriend me. So either way the outcome for the perpetrator was more or less the same.

In the same rushed, messy handwriting as the first note the second note told me to wait after my third hour class behind of the performing arts building and that person would take me out to lunch and explain everything. Well who could turn down free lunch? I tucked this note safely in my pocket next to the first one and followed my usual routine to computer programming and then to strength and conditioning. Nerd class and then jock class, more or less a contradictory but I find it a good balance for me; not to mention showering after strength and conditioning is always a plus, I just have to be very very careful about things. It was a shame that I could not find an excuse to go down to the locker room today.

Lunchtime rolled around and relieved me of the boredom of watching other people weight lift from afar. I found myself walking faster than normal to the performing arts center. My anticipation to find out who it was that actually liked me and tell her that I was ‘off the market’ not to mention my need to fill the bubbling pit in my stomach was pushing me faster and faster to the back of the performing arts building.

Sitting on a bench behind the building was a pretty good guy I knew. Ross was probably the closest thing I had to a best friend. I have known him since the beginning of elementary school when we met and I found out that after a short half mile walk through the woods behind my house was his. For all of elementary school we were best friends and inseparable. We were so close that his grandpa would even buy me birthday and Christmas presents. The strong bond that we had between us was so powerful that I knew that whenever I needed I could turn to him. And I was lucky to have him as a friend. He was always smarter, stronger, and faster than most in our grade. Whenever people would pick on me he was always there to pick me back up and defend me in whatever way possible. Unfortunately, we started to grow apart in middle school. He was caught up in football, wrestling, and lacrosse while the only sport I tried out for was track. He got a new circle of friends and although we still talked whenever we saw each other, we hardly ever hung out. After I came to terms with myself my freshman year I knew that if I told him, things would get too awkward between Ross and I for us to so much as talk to one another. I decided that I would rather leave him where he was at and drop out of his life as best I could. He didn’t need to worry about my well being and risk his own reputation on my behalf. I was not going anywhere in life so to hold him down would be a horrible thing to do. The last gift of friendship I could give Ross was to drop all together out of his life.

I crept up behind Ross as quietly as I could so that he would not hear nor see me. I stood for a moment to admire the sight of him; his weird but attractive grey-brown hair reflecting the sunlight, his toned and sculpted arms resting haphazardly on the back of the bench, and his built torso slouched lazily in the corner of the bench without a care. Once or twice I had fantasized about Ross; I mean he was really ridiculously good looking and not stuck up or anything. But seeing as how he was a great guy and I am not so great, I decided long ago that it was just wrong and it would never happen and I should not objectify him in that way or else I could never talk to him like I was not able to talk to Jason before I found out he was gay.

“There you are Kyle,” came a voice that I knew from somewhere. “How are you feeling?” I spun around to see Valentine Blakely standing behind me leaning against the PA building, tucking her dirty blond hair behind her ears. Before I could answer Valentine walked past me to where Ross was leaning and asked him, “I hope it’s all right if Kyle joins us. I really need to talk to him.”

“If you two already had something planned this can wait,” I told Valentine.

Valentine gave me one of those ‘ha ha ha too bad’ looks and said, “ha ha ha too bad, I need to talk to ya.”

Realizing the futile efforts of staling I conceded and followed Valentine and Ross to Ross’s car. Hoping to lighten the mood, I called shotgun and basked in the glory that would be the front seat. At least I would have if Valentine hadn’t hip checked me out of the way and run to the car. I chased her to the passenger side door and actively engaged her in a box out battle for the front seat. By the time Ross got to the car we still did not have a clear winner, seeing as I had a bum just about everything but a drive to win no matter what. “All right you two, since you can’t settle this like civilized people, house rules dictates one of two things: either you ro-sham-bo or rock-paper-scissors for it. Kyle, since you’re physically handicapped for ro-sham-boing, I suggest you go with the man law and shoot for it; best of one shoot on three.”

I quickly agreed and turned to Valentine. “One,” she said.

“Two,” I replied, ready to throw scissors.

Down came my hand transforming from a fist into my fighting scissors as Valentine shouted “dibs” and threw her index finger to her nose in the ultimate show of sidestepping the rule. Damn her how could she know the ultra secret move of secretness?

I accepted defeat and consented the front seat to Valentine while I gingerly climbed into the back seat making sure not to poke or prod my wounds which was a task seeing as my whole left side from hip to hair was damaged in some way be it cuts or broken bones. Once the quite painful task of getting into the car was complete, Ross turned around and asked, “so where are we going for lunch? Your pick Kyle.”

After a brief pause I decided on a place I had not been to in way too long. “Gregordog. Definitely Gregordog,” I told them.

Ross’ big brown eyes shown back at me, his face completely blank. “And where exactly is that?” he asked.

“Yeah I’ve never heard of it either,” Valentine chimed in.

I closed my eyes and shook my head in utter awe that these two did not know of the best hotdog place in the entire world. “Just head downtown,” I instructed Ross. “Once you get there park behind The Peanut Store.”

I spent the entire two minute car ride downtown making small talk with the car’s other two occupants. I was really really nervous. One of the other two in the car had feelings for me. I really didn’t want to disrupt either of their lives any further, and I needed a way to tell them how I really felt without hurting their feelings or getting them too involved in my life. God I hated these situations. I have met so many people over the past few weeks and had so many new experiences. The only problem is that I was comfortable the way things were; letting my life pass me by while I waited until the end to come alone so I would not hurt anyone with my passing.

The snapping of fingers in front of my face brought me back to reality. “Yo, space-o, we’re here. So where is this place?”

“You see that little alleyway over there? The one that leads to College Street? Gregordog is in that little strip of shops right through there.”

“Ha ha ha…strip.” I turned to scold Ross, but then found out that he was behind me. Valentine was still sniggering behind her hand as both Ross and I shot her amused glances.


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