Not If I See You First
“Impressive, I know.”
“I was going to say a familiar song.”
“I have an advantage over you full-featured models: if you don’t make accidental eye contact, it’s not awkward.”
“What the hell do you know about accidental eye contact?”
“What you’ve told me many times. And don’t forget I had seven years of twenty-twenty before the accident. I had plenty of awkward eye contact in the second grade. Remember Patel?”
“We’re not going to talk about him. We’re talking about—”
“Nothing happened. Nothing’s going to happen.”
“He’ll be in your Trig class every morning from now till June. You’re just going to pretend he isn’t?”
“That isn’t as hard as it sounds—”
“It’s not hard, it’s crazy. He’s going to come talk to you eventually. Then what? Give him an Amish shunning?”
“It worked at Marsh.”
“For a couple of months till we graduated. You think it’ll work for the next nine months?”
And just like that, I’m not having fun anymore. I wasn’t actually having fun before, but I wasn’t having a serious conversation either.
“There are no guarantees in life,” Sarah says. “But I guarantee he’s going to talk to you. He’s going to apologize—”
“He already tried—”
“He’ll try again. He’ll say he’s sorry—”
“I don’t want him to—”
“That won’t stop him. He’ll find you alone and talk to you and if you think it won’t happen you’ll get caught by surprise and not know what to do—”
“I’ll know what to do.”
“What? Ignore him for days and weeks and months? That’s fine for thirteen-year-olds but we’re not kids anymore. He’s going to say he was just a kid himself and it was just a stupid thing and he’s sorry and he wants you to forgive him—”
“I know you can’t—”
“But you think I should.”
“I didn’t say that—”
“Jesus, Sarah, you’re on his side! You think I’m making a big deal over—”
“No, Parker, listen to me. I’m on your side—”
“Then why are you badgering me?” My voice quavers. This disgusts me and I harden it. “You weren’t there. It was unforgivable.”
“I know it was. Un-for-givable. I just want you to be ready.”
“If he tries any of that I’m-sorry-for-what-my-thirteen-year-old-self-did bullshit, I know exactly what I’ll say. I’ll say fuck you Scott Kilpatrick and your sad little story about being a stupid kid. When people do dumbass things everyone has to live with the consequences so get back to living with yours and I’ll live with mine and don’t ever talk to me again or you’ll just embarrass yourself because I won’t answer. There, how’s that?”
“That’ll do, P. That’ll do.”
swear to God, Rick, you better not be blowing on your food.”
Every Friday is Bar-B-Que Day and I hate it. Rick knows the smell of Boston baked beans and scorched corn turns my stomach and he likes to blow the smell toward me.
“It’s hot,” he says with his smiling voice.
“For two years now,” Sarah says, “the food here’s never been hot.”
“Even the hot salsa yesterday wasn’t hot,” Molly says. “The mild salsa was probably just chunky ketchup.”
“Yuck,” I say. “That’ll teach you not to forget your lunch.”
“Excuse me,” says a voice I don’t know. Sounds like a male teacher standing over us.
No one says anything. I can’t even tell if he’s talking to us. I sip my C-6.
“I’m Coach Underhill. Can I talk to you a moment, Parker?”
I choke a bit and cough into the crook of my arm. “Me? I already fulfilled my P.E. requirements. Ask Coach Rivers—she’ll tell you.”
“It’s not that. I saw you running this morning.”
The hair on the back of my neck stands up.
“Running?” Molly says.
“Early this morning. I—”
“Way-way-wait a minute! Can we talk outside?” I stumble to stand up, grabbing my cane.
“Sure, of course. Sorry to interrupt.”
I lead him out into the hallway, moving slowly through the crowd. “Can you find a place where no one can hear us?”