She doesn't know I'm waiting for her on this chilly October afternoon. She gets out of school at 3:15PM, and I, cold and confused, await her. Last week, seemingly out of the blue, I'd told her I had developed immense feelings for her. I spit it all out, in one long, mumbling but genuine gush of affection. It didn't go too well.
I'd been friends with Sally Cartwright since 3rd grade; thus, me spilling my heart to her so many years down the road proved to be a delicate and difficult situation. I watched a dead leave get pushed across the pavement of Hensley Ave. by the frigid wind. I looked up at a classroom window, saw a boy, he was staring at me. I meekly waved; he blinked, and then disappeared.
The sounds of school buses grinding to a stop, the smell of fuel, the murmur of excitement were all around. I looked down at my feet, my red Converse shoes I'd had since two summers ago, the very same ones I wore on my first vacation, a trip to Colorado last spring with my father. He and my mother divorced when I was 9, I lived with her and my younger brother Anthony in an older two-story house right outside of downtown. Anthony had a pet frog named Frogzilla, wore glasses, and liked to have me take him to the magic store on 4th & Boba St.
The bell sounded and students started pouring out of Eisenhower Jr. High. I saw Sally turning a corner with two of her friends, they stopped briefly, said their goodbyes, and then Sally continued by herself.
Brandon: "Sally! Hey!"
I caught her attention, but her smile seemed somehow forced, as if it wasn't necessarily a pleasant surprise.
Sally: "Hey, Brandon. What's up?"
Brandon: "I thought I could walk you home, and, you know, talk."
She didn't respond.
Brandon: "Is that okay?"
I could tell this wasn't going to be as smooth as I planned. We started walking down the leaf-covered sidewalks of our hometown, past the noise and commotion of the school, into the quieter neighborhoods. I saw old man Mr. Matthews raking leaves on his front lawn. Before his wife died, they'd always pass out the best Halloween candy in town, big candy bars and handfuls of suckers, taffy, and other sweets.
Brandon: "So, how was class?"
Sally: "It was alright, I guess. I've got this history assignment due for Mr. Bomholt tomorrow. I need to study for my French test, too."
Brandon: "Foreign languages are cool."
What? Why did I have to say something so stupid?
Brandon: "And, so is other stuff, like I guess cars, or hockey, and movies are pretty cool. Well, some of them, at least. Remember the first movie we saw together?"
Sally: "How could I forget? Toy Story 2 with our moms, and Anthony, of course, who ate too many Goobers and nearly got sick."
Brandon: "Man, Buzz Lightyear can really soar, huh?"
Oh, my, god. Did I take a stupid pill this morning?
Brandon: "I'm planning on taking Anthony to the arcade Saturday afternoon. Play some games; maybe grab a hot dog or two, and a few root beers. Want to come?"
Sally: "I don't know. I'll be pretty busy this weekend."
Brandon: "You used to love going to the arcade. You're the only girl that's ever beat me at Tekken 3, although, I don't admit it publicly. I'd even pay for a round of laser tag!"
Sally: "How generous."
We arrived at Sally's house. I could see her mother inside, diligently washing dishes. Sally's mom liked me, or I liked to think so, I made her laugh.
Sally: "I'll call you. If I decide to go, or, whatever."
Brandon: "Sounds good."
Sally: "Thanks for walking me home, Brandon."
Brandon: "Hey, my pleasure. Any time, really."
I waved goodbye, watched her enter her house, and then started off across Prairie Dr. towards the city. I was going to go home, sit by myself in my room, all alone in my worry; but opted instead, to head downtown for an hour or two. I went into Opal's Diner; it was nice and warm inside, a nice change from the chilly autumn air. I took off my jacket and scarf, hung them up, and then took a booth in the corner with a window so I'd have a view. I ordered pancakes with blueberries, bacon, hash browns, and coffee. As I ate, chewing extremely slowly to get the most out of each and every bite, I stared out at the bustling streets and watched vehicles and faces go by. The warmth of the restaurant, and of the food, filled me with not just heat, but life. What was love, really? I pondered this, and came to the conclusion that I really don't even know myself. But, I do know there's a few people in my life I care deeply about, and that's important to me. I sat and reflected on childhood, a particular memory of Sally, little Anthony, and I, rolling down a hill together. I took a bite of a pancake and a big blueberry, grinned, and almost laughed a little to myself when the thought occurred to me how content I was sitting there in my booth watching the world go on busily. How utterly hopeless and silly it all was!