12/23/16

The Boy From Illinois

His name was Alex.

That guy from my American History class. This I only found out by watching roll call a few days later, when I was in an inconspicuous enough seat that I could see when he raised his hand.

Because I had to run the distance of two buildings and relieve my bladder, I was always the last person to come running through the door before the bell rang. And everyday as I stepped into my last class, as much as I hated myself for it, I always looked for him. And when I found him, he was already looking at me and smiling. Always.

For the first month, I never smiled at him; always sitting as far away from him as possible. As far as I knew, he didn't smell. He was fun to look at, especially when he was smiling. But he scared me. Somewhere before this lifetime, we'd known each other. And I'd never met a stranger I already knew.

From August to December, that's how it went. I never saw Alex in the halls or at lunch, where I'd been taken under the wing of a trio of blond girls who had dragged me out of the library when they found out that's where I spent every lunch period.

I never made any friends in Mr. Allie's American History (unless you counted Alex, even though we'd never spoken), while Alex knew everyone and looked like he could've easily won a popularity contest.

Mr. Allie's class was unorthodox. There was fake blood, body parts, and weird colored fluids that were constantly flying around. Mr. Allie's stance on history was that it was best reenacted. When Mr Allie did something incredibly strange, let out a god-awful scream and shut off the lights, or had everyone rolling; everyone had a friend to cling to or laugh with.

It was hard to feel as alone as I looked because Alex's head would always snap in my direction and he'd give me crazy looks or laugh with me, from across the room. But during our few traditional classes with papers and lectures, Alex was always nodding off. Mr. Allie would sneak up behind him and scare him awake, doing his best to embarrass him. But Alex would look at me and just grin.

-----

It was the last day of school before Christmas break. School would be out for two weeks and when we came back we would have new classes for the next semester. I'd just started wondering if I'd have another class with Alex in it, when I walked in to class to see the TV and VCR set up.

Alex wasn't there.

My disappointment was intense, as I suddenly felt alone. I took a seat away from everyone, in the back. Movie time meant nap time so I settled in and laid my head against the wall. Mr. Allie cut the lights and someone sat down on my right.

That someone reached into my lap and grabbed my sweatshirt.

The thief was Alex. "You mind if I sleep on your shoulder?" You could hear the Spanish in his voice even though he was speaking clear English.

He was balling up my sweatshirt and all I could do was look at him. I couldn't find my voice.

Without waiting for an answer, he grinned and tucked my sweatshirt into the crook of my shoulder, laid his head on it and was out within a minute. My nap was forfeited. There was no way I could sleep with him asleep on my shoulder, breathing my air. And no, he didn't smell bad. His cologne was spicy and intoxicating.

At the end of the movie when Mr. Allie flipped the lights back on, I had to nudge him with my elbow. He sat up, stretched, and smiled lazily at me. I'd never known so positively little about someone and been so in love. I'm pretty sure I already loved him the moment our eyes met for the first time.

We had a few minutes before the bell rang so Mr. Allie asked the class to stick those glow-in-the-dark stars to the ceiling. Alex walked off and came back to where I was standing and handed me a bag of stars and a block of the white tacky adhesive. "Put the glue on these for me?"

I nodded and he climbed up onto a chair and put up stars as I rationed them.

"So where you from?" He looked down at me as I handed him a star.

"Colorado."

"Wow. What brought you to Calhoun?"

"My dad lives here. I was born here. I've always lived with my mom. We moved around a lot for my stepfather's job."

"So y'all moved back?"

"No. Just me." I was feeling self-conscious. "Are you from Calhoun?"

He reached down for another star and smiled, "No. I'm from Chicago. My family moved here when I was in 5th grade. My parents are from Mexico."

"Why Calhoun?"

"My dad lays concrete. There's plenty of business here. Plus, my parents didn't want me ending up in a gang."

I wasn't sure how to respond. "Oh."

He laughed at my discomfort as the bell rang.

I grabbed my bag and left the remaining stars on Mr Allie's desk and headed for the door.

"Hey Amanda?" Alex rushed up beside me, shrugging into his backpack straps.

I turned around, "It's Mandie."

"Oh." He smiled, "Hey Mandie?"

I couldn't stop my laugh. "Yeah?"

"Can I walk you out?"

I went home that day, way too excited about the fact that he'd finally spoken to me. And now had my number.

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