If you think I don't see you, you must be crazy. You're mingling in with the cherry blossoms like light through a window, refracting. You're the first sign of spring. It's like I know you.
Every day, I glance out the window at 1:30 and see you there, running into the horizon. Is it part of a class? Or something else?
"Pay attention, Kalmin," Mr. Gentry slaps a ruler across my desk with a despicable screech. I stare as it bounces back and forth. Right, left... right-
"You don't come to my class to sleep!" He turns back to his desk, where an ancient computer occupies most of its polished wood table. When I finally look up, I see that everyone's still typing away at whatever random essay he's assigned. Glasses reflect small fonts and large words. My screen holds nothing but empty notes and long-forgotten files.
Had I imagined him?
"And one more thin-" Gentry bolts up, his toupee almost sliding off from the force. I doubt he does that much movement daily. Meanwhile, I can barely sit still for the hour his class steals from my life.
"Sir?" I cringe at myself, but I don't stop for a moment. I know I'm not supposed to interrupt people, and I know I do it too much. But is it too much to ask to get a word in? "I wasn't sleeping. I was just looking out the window"
"This is an ap English class!" he erupts with anger, keeling toward me. I can sense the ruthless stares from my classmates, as well as Boomer's foot on the back of my chair. I know he's only trying to comfort me; too bad it's not exactly his forte. "We do not just sit and stare out the window! You follow my instructions and write!"
"Yes," I mumble, already able to tell where this conversation's heading. Why did I ever sign up for this? I'm not the smartest; everyone knows that. Middle school was probably where it began; I decided to follow Boomer in his ideals to become the best. We'd been friends ever since I first met him. I still remember the glare he gave me, steely and cold. He'd been bullying a kid I recently did a group project in. We weren't friends, but I hate seeing people not able to stick up for themselves. It means the world to me to see people help one another. But that wasn't what Boomer wanted; The first time we ever came in contact was when my fist flew into his face, knocking him back onto the ground. One second later, he returned the favor. Our fight was broken up by a teacher, and we were slammed into detention. It wasn't the first time for either of us. I have a hard time paying attention, and he has a hard time keeping his anger in. That's where his nickname came from, I think.
It was hard to separate us after that. I kept him from hurting other kids, and he taught me how to stay motivated when nothing felt like it mattered. When it came time to choose high schools, I was all for following him. We were the first two kids to end up at this private school from our class. My mother still doesn't believe the acceptance letter. If I have to be totally, brutally honest, neither can I. Boomer thought it was a dream come true. I didn't even know where to begin.
Our ecstasy soon turned into grave annoyance. The classes were tough, but Boomer was tougher. People assume he doesn't know anything whenever they meet him, but he's smarter than anyone else here, I think. If he didn't argue so much with the teachers, he'd be their favorite.
Of course, whenever there's an abundance of talent, there's always the lack of it. I've never thought of myself as completely useless; I'm the star quarterback of the team; it's the only place where I don't have to set up everyone else's wins; I bring the team home more victories than anyone else. Then again, before Boomer and I came along, it wasn't like there were many other contenders; most kids here don't have to worry about paying for college, or anything else like that. The only kids in sports and clubs are the ones who actually want to be there.
I fell behind in school. I'm taking what's supposed to be the lowest level courses, and they're still a lot. My mom... she warned me not to do this. But I wanted to help Boomer, and I didn't want to leave the friends I've made here. There are tons of kids who just turn their noses up at me, but some are genuine and true. I've even been helping her pay the cost of admission too; I love working with kids, but sometimes, it's a bit much.
There are some nights when I don't want to be strong. Why do I have to? It feels like I carry the world. I just want to help others. Sometimes, this point-toothed smile isn't for me; it's for everyone else who doesn't have the strength.
"Hey red," Boomer flicks a pencil at me as the screeching bell picks up. "I was thinking of goin' off-campus for lunch. Whaddya think?"
"Sure," I blush, my face growing as bright red as my hair. When I catch a peek at his computer, I see an almost completed essay staring back at me, perfectly formatted and clean. Mine's covered in wavy red lines, slashing across like scars. "I'd be okay with that"
"'Kay, dork. Let's get outta here then"
We mill around the other kids in the class, and it's almost hard not to feel like I'm being watched. Boomer needlessly shoves kids out of the way, giving me the chance to apologize for him. It's hard to keep up with him sometimes. At least he's not kicking the desks out 0f the way.
Due to my almost failure last year, the school decided to place me under Boomer's care. He's near the top of the class, where I lie at the bottom. I guess they thought that he could help me rise up the ladder a little. Maybe they're just trying to get their two biggest mistakes out of the way. Either way, it's almost a miracle that I get to spend the day with him. For every bad thing he does, I try to make up for it with something good.
I want to change this city for the better. Every time we step out onto the grounds, that's the overbearing thought that comes to mind. Cherry blossoms are still clinging onto the trees, even though it's already the middle of April. I reach out to catch one, leaving Boomer disgruntled.
"You don't have to do that every time"
He nods. "Literally every damn time. What is it with you and grabbing random things?"
"I saw it falling, and I wanted to catch it," I defend, but Boomer's already bored of the conversation.
Just then, I see you coming across the path, holding an armful of books. "Hey!" I cry out, only a second too late. I watch as you stumble, books cascading down onto the ground.
"I'm sorry," it takes me a moment (and Boomer's cynical snickers) before I realize that the boy is lying in my arms, his nose an inch away from the pavement. "I'll pick up your books for you"
Now it's his turn to grow a brighter red than me. "It's my fault I-"
He flinches again, staring up at the looming teacher before him. She adjusts the glasses lying haphazardly on her nose. "I see you've decided to return to class"
"I already did all the work and passe-"
"Nonsense!" she waves her hand in the air, and for a moment, I almost think she's about to slap him. My body reacts before I can control it, standing in front of him
"Don't hurt him!" I cry out.
"Hurt him?" she lets out a low, dry chuckle. "I'm a teacher; who are you to say what I can and cannot do?"
"Major villain vibes," Boomer grunts. "C'mon, Kalmin; we won't be able to get out if you keep this up!"
But I ignore him. "What's so wrong that you have to punish him like this?
"He's been skipping my class," she hisses. "Isn't art important to you?"
"Me?" I ask. "Well... um no. But I still-"
"Not you, you dimwit! Oscar!"
"Your name is Oscar?" I lean around to look at him. He nods, his small face bobbing back and forth. His hands cover his face gently, so I flash him a smile.
"Hey..." I hold his chin in my hand. "It's going to be okay, you know"
"If you don't get into class right now," The teacher above us warns. "You boys will both get detention"
"Kalmin," Boomer grunts. "Get the fuck over here. I'm not dealing with this again"
I shake my head. "He needs my help"
"Fine," Boomer shrugs. "I'll buy you something. What do you want?"
I shrug. "Anything you think I'd like"
"Don't say I didn't warn you"
When I move to turn around, I see that the wicked teacher's already walking away, her sharp heels clicking with almost murderous intent.
"I've never seen someone stand up to her"
It takes me a moment before I realize that he's talking to me. "Really? What does she teach?"
I have to hear him repeat it before I understand. "Her? She really teaches art?"
A few stray papers cascade out of his bag, all covered in abstract colors and lines. "This is what she makes us do"
"Hmm..." I hold the paper up against my face, trying to examine it. "Well... it's certainly full of emotion..."
"Don't lie. It's terrible"
"No!" what's wrong with people and confidence today? "I think it's really cool"
"Yeah," he snorts, suddenly cold. "Well, it's not what I want to do"
"Well, I think you're really good at this"
Oscar draws a single piece of paper out of his bag, handing it shyly to me. "You wanted to show me your math homework?" his eyes widen with fear.
"Oh... turn it over"
I comply, filling myself with shock. "Woah... this is..."
His face goes bright red again, a mirror image of the drawing before me. It's hard to decide what I want to focus on first; the central picture is a house. That much is obvious. But when you look at it more, it gets almost chaotic. Rooms fly in from the side, connected to infinite hallways and the main room in the middle, holding a backyard with a double swing, occupied by two boys.
"It's just something I do when I'm bored," Oscar admits. A flash of lightning arcs above, accompanied by a smattering of rain.
"Look..." I try a smile again. "I don't want to leave you alone for lunch. And I doubt you really want to go back to her class"
And even though I usually hate cynics, there's something almost alluring about the way he says it like he doesn't even have to pretend he's done with the world; it's over with him.
Which is the moment I realize I've already fallen.
"Boomer might seem like a scary guy," I promise, holding my hand around my neck. "But he's cool. Do you want to pick where we go? There's a nice venue down the road where we can see the cherry blossoms. It'll be fun!"
"Are you sure he'd-"
"Boomer's fine with everything," I lie, already cringing. I interrupt everyone. Why do I have to be so loud? I mean, in this school, it's like my entire existence is one big interruption.
He seems to think that's enough, following me dutifully. I'm almost amazed that he can keep up with my pace as I run after Boomer.
"Why do you run every day?"
Oscar doesn't miss a beat in answering the question. "I have art this period. I signed up for a lot of those classes, but her class is painful. I guess... I should have read a little bit more about the class. Her class is about "Abstraction" and I don't get it. So I just submit what I know how to do, and that's all.
"The track team bores me. They're all... I mean..."
I hold his head up again. Smiles have to work, right? "It's hard for you to talk to sporty people?"
He nods, flustered. I catch a whiff of vanilla from his dark brown, tousled hair.
"Well," a laugh escapes my throat. "You're doing it right now!"
I can't help but smirk. Kalmin; 1.
"Yeah, well... it's not like I couldn't tell"
My expression falls. "What do you mean?"
"You're like 80% muscles," he points out, staring at the tight-fitting fabric stretched over my skin. "Probably getting straight cs and bs, if you go to this school, right? Maybe you're trying to protect Boomer from hurting someone because you know he's going to hurt people"
Well, Oscar; 1. Kalmin; 1.
"I didn't mean to..."
But he doesn't have to say anything. We stay silent for a moment, our running turning into a brisk walk. Eventually, it's like we're not even moving.
"I see the people like you, and it feels like I owe myself"
"What do you mean?"
Oscar holds his neck on both sides, looking down toward the puddle. He jumps lightly into it, splashing his scribble-covered converses and the bottom of ink-stained jeans. I follow, accidentally stomping into the puddle. Water flies up around us, catching on his thin white hoodie.
"Hey!" he protests, returning the favor. "Well... I think everyone around me is doing great. They're confident, they love their bodies... and then I'm me"
"Yeah. You're you"
"That isn't exactly a compliment," he raises a hesitant eyebrow.
"Are you kidding me?" we're already soaked, but I barely care. It's almost pouring buckets now. I pluck a wild-flower from the field around us. We've only just left school grounds, but it's not like we were planning to go far anyway.
The grass is almost up to his waist, swaying in the wind from the storm above us. "You've already caught me"
"I barely even know you. You don't even know me!"
"And that's just what makes you so special"
In a moment, our lips are upon each other, soaked from the storm, yet still sunkissed and light. Every moment is like a dream come true, like something I forgot.
How can you feel nostalgic for something that hasn't even happened yet?
"Ha," a little laugh breaks out when we part. His shirt is still sticking to his body, flush and wet. "I kissed you"
"Don't remind me," Oscar blushes. "Believe me... that's not what-"
"I told you you're such a great person"
"Why do you keep insisting on that? I'm a mess! I run because I'm afraid. Everything scares me, from acceptance to the future to-"
"And I want to stop that. How about we make a deal; whenever I'm with you, I don't want to see you sad. I'll even make it a challenge. I have to make every day better than the last!"
"Are you always this..."
He tries to search for a word but comes up with nothing. "Look," I huff. "I like you. I mean... I feel like I've known you for so much more time"
"It literally hasn't even been an hour yet. You barely know me"
"According to you!" I defend. "Every day, I look out the window of my English class and I find you. I saw you running toward your dreams, and I saw myself. You think we're so different, but is anyone? I mean, I know I don't fit in here, okay? And I saw that you didn't seem to either... and I loved it. When that teacher was about to go off on you, I knew I had to do something. So I did. So please... trust me when I say that I love you"
"What's that?" I cock my ear, teasing a little laugh out of him. "I can't hea-"
"Okay!" he smiles back. "I love you too, and that's all there is!"
"Good. But if you won't open up, I'll have to tease you"
Oscar buries his face into his hands. "Oh no..."
"Yeah... I think I'll have to. I've already seen that it works! You walked straight into that one!"
We stay silent for a moment, longing filling our eyes. Pink petals flow through the wind, balancing across Oscar's nose. He sneezes, shaking it off. "We should probably go get some lunch," Oscar admits. "I mean, I had my lunch period already. But I don't want to make you wait"
"I'd wait for you, my pebble..."
The rain lets up a little as we duck under a canopy. "I think this is going to be the beginning of something amazing," I admit.
"I think it already was"
And maybe we are.