I look at the test I had completed the day before, and it’s marked with a ‘100.'
“I don’t mind switching,” I say. “I understand where you’re coming from.”
“Thanks, but it can only get easier from here, right?”
“Right,” I lie. He’s completely wrong. Being around him every day is definitely not going to be easier. I could move back to Texas today and I’d still feel too close to him. However, I still can't come up with a good enough argument for my conscience to convince me to switch classes.
He crumples up my transfer form and chucks it toward the trash can. It misses by about two feet. I pick it up as I walk to the door and toss it in.
“I guess I’ll see you third period, Mr. Cooper.”
I see him frown out of my peripheral vision as I exit.
I feel somewhat relieved. I hated how we had left things yesterday. Even though I would do whatever it took to rectify the awkward situation we’re in, he still somehow finds a way to put me at ease.
“What happened to you yesterday?” Eddie says as we enter second period. “Get lost again?”
“Yeah, sorry about that. Issues with admin.”
“You should have texted,” she teases in a sarcastic tone. “I was worried about you.”
“Oh, I’m sorry dear."
“Dear? You tryin’ to steal my girl?” A guy I have yet to meet puts his arm around Eddie and kisses her on the cheek.
“Layken, this is Gavin,” she says. “Gavin, this is Layken, your competition."
Gavin has blonde hair almost identical to Eddies except in length. They could pass for brother and sister, although his eyes are a chestnut compared to her blues. He is wearing a black hoodie and jeans, and when he moves his arm from Eddie’s shoulder to shake my hand, I notice a tattoo of a heart on his wrist…the same as Eddie’s.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” he says as he extends his hand.
I eye him curiously, wondering what he could have possibly heard.
“Not really,” he admits, smiling. “I haven’t heard anything at all about you. That’s usually just what people say when they’re introduced.”
He turns toward Eddie and gives her another peck on the cheek. “I’ll see you next period Babe. I’ve got to get to class.”
I envy them.
Mr. Hanushek enters the room and announces there's a chapter test. I don’t object when he hands me a test and we spend the rest of the class period in silence.
As I follow Eddie through the crowd of students, my stomach is in knots. I’m already regretting not having switched to Russian Literature. How either of us thought this would help make things easier, I don’t know.
We arrive in Will’s class and he's holding the door open, greeting the students as they arrive.
“Mr. Cooper, you look a little better today. Need a mint?” Eddie says as she walks to her seat.
Javi walks in and glares at Will as he slides into his seat.
“Alright everyone,” Will says as he shuts the door behind him. “Good efforts on the test yesterday. Elements of Poetry is a pretty mundane section so I know you’re all glad to have it out of the way. I think you’ll find the performance section more interesting, which is what we'll focus on the rest of this semester.
“Performance Poetry resembles traditional poetry, but with an added element; the actual performance.”
“Performance?” Javi asks, disdained. “You mean like in that movie about the dead poets? Where they had to read crap in front of the whole class?”
“Not exactly,” Will says. “That’s just poetry.”
“He means slamming,” Gavin adds. “Like they do down at Club N9NE on Thursdays.”
“What’s slamming?” a girl inquires from the back of the room.
Gavin turns toward her, “It’s awesome! Eddie and I go sometimes. You have to see it to really get it,” he adds.
“That’s one form of it,” Will says. “Has anyone else ever been to a slam?”
A couple of other students raise their hand. I don’t.
"Mr. Cooper, show them. Do one of yours," Gavin says.
I can see the hesitation in Will's face. I know from experience he doesn’t like being put on the spot.
"I'll tell you what. We'll make a deal. If I do one of my pieces, everyone has to agree to go to at least one slam this semester at Club N9NE."
No one objects. I'd like to object, but that would require raising my hand and speaking. So, I don't object.
"No objections? Alright, then. I'll do a short one I wrote. Remember, slam poetry is about the poetry and the performance."
Will stands in the front of the room and faces the students. He shakes his arms out and stretches his neck left and right in an attempt to relax himself. When he clears his throat, it's not the kind of throat clearing people do when they're nervous; it's the kind they do right before they yell.
Expectations, evaluations, internal evasions
Fly out of me like puddles of blood from a wound
A fetus from the womb of a corpse in a tomb
Withered and strewn like red sheets on the bed
Of an immaculate room.
I can't breathe,
I can't win,
From this indelible position I'm in
It controls the only piece of my unfortunate soul
Left to fend for itself in this hollowed out hole
That I dug from within, like a prisoner in
An unlocked cell sitting in the deepest pits of hell
Unencumbered he's not in his sweltering spot
He could open the door 'cause he don't need a damn key
But then again,
Why would he?
Circumlocution is his revolution.
The silence in the room is deafening. No one speaks, no one moves, no one claps. We are in awe. I am in awe. How does he expect me to transition if he keeps doing things like this?
"There you go," he says matter-of-factly as he walks back to his seat. The rest of the class period is spent talking about slam poetry. I try hard to follow along as he goes into further explanation, but the entire time I’m simply focused on the fact that he hasn’t made eye contact with me. Not even once.
I claim my seat next to Eddie at lunch as we set our trays down. I notice a guy that sits a couple of rows behind me in Will’s class walking toward us. He is balancing two trays with his left arm, and his back pack and a bag of chips in the right. He positions himself in the seat across from me and proceeds to combine the food onto one tray. When that task is complete, he pulls a two-liter of coke out of his backpack and places it in front of him, unscrewing the lid and drinking directly from it. As he is chugging the soda, he looks at me and places it back down on the table, wiping his mouth.
“You gonna drink that chocolate milk, New Girl?”
I nod. “That’s why I got it."
“What about that roll? You gonna eat that roll?”
“Got the roll for a reason, too.”
He shrugs and reaches across to Gavin’s tray and takes his roll just as Gavin turns around and swipes at his hand, a moment too late.
“Dude, Nick! There’s no way you’re gaining ten pounds by Friday. Give it up!” Gavin yells.
“Nine,” Nick corrects him with a mouthful of bread.
Eddie takes her roll and throws it across the table. Nick catches it midair and gives her a wink. “Your girl has faith in me,” Nick says to Gavin.
“He lifts weights,” Eddie is directing her comment to me. “He’s got to be nine pounds heavier by Friday to compete in his weight class, and it’s not looking good.”
With that, I grab my roll and toss it on Nick’s tray. He winks at me as he dips it in a mound of butter.
I’m thankful to Eddie for accepting me into her group of friends so easily. Not that I had a decision, it was done pretty forcibly. In Texas there were twenty-one people in my entire senior class. I had friends, but with such a limited pool to choose from I never really considered any of them to be my best friend. I mostly hung out with my friend Kerris, but I haven’t even spoken to her since the move. From what I’ve seen of Eddie so far, she’s intriguing enough that I can’t help but hope we become closer.
“So, how long have you and Gavin been dating?” I ask her.
“Sophomore Year. I hit him with my car.” She looks at him and smiles. “It was love at first swipe.”
“What about you?” she asks. “You got a boyfriend?”
I wish I could tell her about Will. I want to tell her about how when we met, I immediately felt something I have never felt about a guy before. I want to tell her about our first date and how the entire night seemed like we had known each other for years. I want to tell her about his poetry, our kiss, everything. Most of all though, I want to tell her about seeing him in the hallway when we realized our fate was not our own to decide. I want to tell her how much I am hurting, knowing I can’t talk to him. But I know I can’t. I can't tell anyone. So I don’t. I simply reply, “No.”
“Really? No boyfriend? Well, we can fix that,” she says.
“No need. It’s not broken.”
Eddie laughs and turns to Gavin, discussing possible suitors for her new, lonely friend.
The end of the school week finally arrives and I have never felt more relieved to pull out of a parking lot in my entire life. Even though he lives across the street from me, I feel less vulnerable when I’m inside my house than I do two feet from him in a classroom. He successfully achieved an entire week of absolutely no eye contact. Not saying I didn’t do my best to catch even a glimpse in my direction, I practically stared him down.
I plan to tell my mother everything that happened. I just haven't found the right time yet. She's been leaving for work before dinner every night so we really haven't had a chance to talk about Will.
During the drive home, I make a detour to better formulate my plan to spend the entire weekend indoors. It’s called movies and junk food.
Mom is sitting at the bar in the kitchen when I walk through the front door. I can see by the stern look on her face that she isn’t particularly happy to see me. I walk into the kitchen and lay the movies and bags of junk food on the counter in front of her.
“I’m spending the weekend with Johnny Depp,” I say, attempting to appear oblivious to her demeanor.
She doesn't smile.
“I took Caulder home from school today,” she says. "He mentioned something very interesting.”
“Oh, yeah? You sound sick Mom. Do you have a cold?” I try to sound nonchalant, but I can tell by the tone in her voice that what she’s really trying to say is, "I found out something from your little brother’s friend that I should have found out from you."
“Anything you want to tell me?” she asks, staring daggers through me.
I sip from a bottle of water and take a seat at the bar. I had planned on talking to her about everything tonight but it looks like it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.
“Mom. I was going to talk to you about it. I swear.”
“He’s a teacher at your school, Lake!” She starts coughing and grabs at a kleenex as she gets up from the bar. After she regains her composure, she lowers her voice as she continues speaking in an attempt to avoid garnering attention from the nine-year-olds that are somewhere within our vicinity. “Don’t you think that’s something you should have mentioned before I allowed you out of the house with him?"