What amazes me about school lunch is how damned nasty they are. Most of the time, someone sneaks off campus and gets some McDonalds or something, but since we're not supposed to leave campus, we don't do that very often. So most of us pack a sammich or something and get chips and shit from the lunchroom. No one said this was supposed to be filling or good for you, but Pops always tells me to do what I can now. "It catches up to you, believe me," he says. He usually emphasizes the point by patting his stomach, which is motivation enough.
B's gotten to eating lunch with the football players. He's one of them, but they have no idea that he reads and writes and likes numbers. All they know is that he's a damned good tight end, so they spend lunchtime trying to figure him out. He's funny enough, he wants to get laid as bad as they do, but he's not quite one of them yet, and they can't figure out how. I laugh to myself and think that he's playing the part of Nerd Undercover, which usually earns me a punch in the shoulder.
When the football players aren't around, though, he hung with me. We would sit in a corner of the lunchroom, speaking wordlessly about the parade of young female flesh being paraded in front of us. When we did talk, it was about usual shit, like school, or his mom's new boyfriend, or me watching Ang grow up. He didn't talk about football with me, even though he knew I liked it and liked playing it, but I supposed that he was living football, and my outsider ass was just on the sidelines watching. I suppose he didn't want to drown me in football talk, which was fine with me, because once he started, he was really hard to stop.
I had told him about my visit to Christine's place, and he oohed and ahed in the appropriate places. He laughed at my uncomfortableness, and wondered out loud what it was that caused Chris to avoid me after she had dumped dude. Was she going to tell me about it ever? Was it some big secret? I had no idea, and for once, B didn't either.
Before first class, Christine found me and asked to see my book. My mind was preoccupied and I hadn't even woken up properly, so I absentmindedly handed them over. Two manilla folders full of notes and drawings and outlines and photocopied pages from "Write a Novel, You Dumb Ass!" type books written by world famous authors who were already comfy on top of their literary mountains and speaking to the peons at their feet. It's bulk had replaced my books, as I ended up leaving those at home and bumming a book off of someone in class. Hell, it was odd I even had books to take home. In Mrs. Mick's class, we didn't have enough books to go around, and she would fume about budget cuts or so-and-so government person who talked a good game on education but fucked teachers over. You know, that kind of stuff.
When I had the chance to wake up, I realized what I had done and almost cursed out loud in the class I was in. The word "FUCK!" was headed out my mouth, and then I realized that I was first, cursing, and also cursing out loud, and what came out was something like a sneeze with an F in front of it. I played it off when Mr. Mick looked back at me over his collection of beakers and shit and said nothing. He was a science teacher who was married to Mrs. Mick, but his budget cuts didn't let him do shit. I felt for him, because we were supposed to be able to do shit ourselves, like mix chemicals and dissect frogs and go on field trips, but apparently there was no money, so we read shit and did problems out of this huge-ass science books they had MAYBE ten copies of for an entire junior class. Mr. Mick laughed a lot, though, and was funny as hell, and it was his class I usually worked on the Grant book. But now, with Christine "borrowing" it, I actually had to pay attention.
I survived that, and was engaged in a heated discussion with B about something fucking stupid when Chris showed up. Neither of us noticed her until she slid her tray down to our lonely end of the table. Comic books? Who was a better sucky act, MC Hammer or Master P? Whatever it was, everything ceased as we stopped and looked at her.
"Damn. Were y'all waiting on me or something? I ain't trying to interrupt y'all nerd talk, so go ahead. I'm hungry as hell anyway, so let me eat." With that, she stuffed her mouth full of french fry and ignored us.
Fuck it. If she wasn't coming out with it, I wasn't gonna press it. I had to get my shit back, though, but I figured she'd spend the morning reading it, so maybe she could help me along. I turned my attention to the shitty opinion B was trying to get across. Whatever it was, it sucked and was wrong.
Chris would look at me every now and again, an outsider but in our circle. I felt her glance in my peripheral and ignored her. B kept looking at her, ready for the time where he could excuse himself and be out of our conversation. Hell, if she didn't wanna talk, I wasn't gonna make her, but I damned sure wanted to know where her head was at. I also needed my work back, at least.
I came to a pause in whatever it was, and she came right in, no pretense, no leading into it. "Wanna know why I didn't talk to you for so long?"
B looked at her, and looked at me. I don't think he wanted to be there; he had always figured that we needed to quit bullshitting nd just get together, but he didn't want to be in the middle of it, since he was my boy and he thought Chris was cool.
I, in the middle of my retort to whatever dumb shit B had said six seconds earlier,never turned to her. "That's on you. You wanna tell me?" I then fixed my face into the coldest ice grill I could possibly muster to this girl who, I was quickly realizing, I would go to the ends of the world for.
She saw my look and I guess it was effective, because she starting babbling. Just pouring shit out, just talking. It was a faucet moment, where the handle was turned and there was no stopper in the basin.
"I'm sorry, but when you came to my house and my grandmama said that she liked how you carried yourself and how she could see you were a gentleman and I was trying to figure out how you got over there since we're WAY across time, and you kept asking me what was going on and I couldn't tell you right then because i needed to talk to you, and I was reading what you'd written so far and I liked it but I wanted to talk to you so bad about what was going on but you were at my house and didn't even know i was home" - I glanced at B, who gave me a half smile - "you seemed to care, and the guy you're writing about cares too, and we get along so well and Autry and me didn't get along so well and I wanted to ask you about things, you know, get a guys point of view, but I needed to figure out what was wrong and if something was wrong with me or I had high standards that couldn't nobody meet." She took a breath. I had no words, and B's mouth was slightly open. She looked at me, at him, and back at me.
"I just needed to think, that's all." SHe sighed and shrugged. I was just trying to figure things out."
I shrugged my shoulders as nonchalantly as I could. "That's all good," I said to the table between us. "I was just trying to figure what was up and why you hadn't said anything."
She smiled. Why'd you come out to my house, though, she wondered out loud. You didn't know I was home, and it's a long bus ride, and you have to transfer and walk a while. What were you trying to do? What could you have expected to say? I've told you about Grandma before, how old school she is. You couldn't hug me or anything, and you really couldn't talk to me. We sat there passing notes like we were twelve or something." She laughed, and then noticed my face, which I guess looked confused. What's wrong? she asked.
I didn't know why I went out there. I got B to play his part, and I took my ass out across the city to see someone I could have really seen at school. But maybe I had some other reasoning to do it. It couldn't be that I was just checking on her. Could it? All I could do in response to her question was shrug.
For a while, we three sat. I don't know how they felt, but I felt uncomfortable. My man was watching me shrivel in the presence of a chick I keep telling to anyone who would listen that I was just friends with. B busied himself by looking away. Chris kept looking at me.
She sighed, and reached into her bag. "Ah, well. I have your book, though." She pulled out the two manilla folders. Don't think I lost anything.
"What did you think?" B asked. God bless you, man. I wasn't in condition to ask much of anything. My mind was jittery and confused and hyperactive. She looked at me and started in.
She liked it, more or less. Of course I had some spelling errors, and some sentences didn't make a lot of sense, but she liked it. She knew about my quest to set the pace in English class, and liked that idea. The more big words, the better, but I had to be careful to use them where they made sense. She liked that he was a brother who wasn't on some pimp or hustler bullshit. She didn't like the new urban fiction either.
"All these chicks are on some gold diggin crap," she said angrily, waving her arms around. "They're waiting for some dude to save them, when they're shallow as all get out. If I was a dude, I wouldn't be trying to holla. It's sad that they don't have parents or got kids or whatever, but why they gotta be chicks you just can't root for?" She looked at us for support. B nodded affirmation, I managed a "uhm hmm."
So, what happens next, she asked. I shrugged. I honestly had not thought that far. I mean, it's obvious he likes her, right? And it's obvious she likes him, right? What the fuck else should they do? As much as I hate the nice, neat endings, I had grown tired of the gauntlet of bad relationships dudes and chicks go through in the books we had read.
"Maybe they fall back in love," I offered.