Inspired by a song; A story of one sided love and the awkwardness of being a teenager
He wasn’t dedicated to anything.
It was the reason he would stare down at the butt end of his pencil and wonder if anyone could guess that he was writing nothing just by the circles the pencil would make. Would they realize there were no letters flowing onto his paper? Could they tell by the blank emotion settled into his stare that each stroke was only an empty tale he didn’t have to tell?
Write about a moment when you felt proud of yourself.
What was pride?
Wasn’t pride such a useless thing to have? It didn’t cause his heart to sore, flutter or skip. It never made his stomach drop, face flush or nerves panic. There were no clumsy moments to cover up, no clever words to be spoken or looks to be dashed under streetlamps at midnight. No final kiss, no second glance, no sighs to decipher as promises of forever.
His eyes wandered away from his paper.
The classroom was suddenly louder with the scratch of each pathetic tale to be told.
He glanced to his right. A girl that had been in his class since first grade. Long hair, bright blue eyes. Pretty little nose but a mouth too wide to be called beautiful. She had a sort of rushed look about her as she concentrated, her pen racing down the page as if her hand just wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the story she had to get out so desperately. Desperate. Desperate to prove what?
He glanced to his left. A boy he only knew the name of. Tan skin, bored expression, pencil balancing oddly perfect on his long nose. Either he had immortalized his memory to paper already or he was trying to find a sense of pride in the ability to keep a thin bar of factory manufactured wood propped on his face. A boring story, he was sure. Nobody would remember it after reading it.
His stare became unfocused, eyes sliding over the rest of the classroom as if he was simply looking out his window at the scenery he had seen for years.
What story did he have to tell?
He wasn’t proud of anything.
He woke up. He dressed for school. He did his work. He went home, he ate and he went to bed. Pause and rewind. Rinse and repeat.
There was no fairytale to write about. Everything was too average, too quiet, too normal to be interesting. A story people would simply nod along to and, much like the boy with the long nose, would be forgotten after each sentence.
He wasn’t bright, he wasn’t spontaneous and when the bell finally rang to symbolize the end of class, he found himself walking to the front to hand in a paper covered with nothing but scribbles. No story to tell but his name was signed on it anyway.
He saw the sigh in his teacher’s eyes. There was no mistaking it when he accepted the paper reluctantly, like he was disappointed that he wasn’t getting insight into his student.
Briefly, he wondered why that was. Having caught the man’s eye as he turned to follow the line of students out, he was reluctant to fully concentrate on why it was that he suddenly felt guilty for having nothing exciting for him to read. He’d go home, shift through a pile of won contests, rescued cats from trees and come to his paper of scribbles. Maybe by then he’d be hoping for a fairytale and he’d get nothing but designs that were once letters.
In his mind, he could feel the sigh.
Maybe he shouldn’t have even signed his name.
He walked home that day, backpack slung over one shoulder, listening absently to a friend as he rambled about the day and some class and some girl. It got him thinking.
If he did have a story to tell the man, he wondered what it would be like?
The question bothered him even as he performed his evening rituals. Was he at his paper yet? The guilt continued to eat at his spine.
He gazed into the mirror as the brush scrubbed at his teeth.
He shouldn’t have signed his name.
He shouldn’t have signed his name.
The thought of disappointing him again with another failed assignment somehow ate away at him more then it would when he called his parents, another worried drawl about how he seemed distracted.
Of course he was distracted.
He spat his toothpaste into the sink.
He was 17 and he had to watch the forbidden wander in front of him every week for an 80 minute period. Like a quiet torment. Maybe this was some sort of punishment for being so average. Not divine punishment. Just… punishment.
He watched the water swish in his cheeks, each one puffing out as the water was circled to that side, gushing through his teeth.
It was pathetic.
He spat and coughed, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.
He was pathetic.
Feet dragged across the carpet, longing already for the linoleum floors of the school hallway. Every day was just a loop of anticipation for the next afternoon class. The evenings always took too long and he hated that he had to sleep alone through each one. Breakfast was always too quiet. Lunch was always too loud.
Flopping onto his bed, he flicked off his bed side lamp as he curled up in his blanket. Knees lifting to rest close to his chest, it was another night of wondering when and where and why it wasn’t true already. If he was older, if he was shorter, if he was….
Nevermind. It wouldn’t matter come morning, anyway.
Because he’d still be average. He’d still have no story to tell.
He’d still wake up in his parent’s house.
Sure enough, the alarm sounded in what felt like no time at all and he was convinced the sun hadn’t been there ten minutes ago. Why did it always seem to rise so suddenly as of late?
What was he thinking?
Of course he knew the answer.
He just hated that the sun seemed to know it as well.
Another long walk to school but a sense of calm filled him from his feet to his fingertips when they met those tiled floors. Everything was white and crowded. The place smelt like bleach and over perfumed youth.
It was paradise.
But the morning classes always lagged on and on. The girl that wasn’t quite beautiful was as attentive as ever. The boy with the long nose was still trying to find his story from behind closed eyelids.
Lunch came and he found, once again, he couldn’t eat. How could he stomach something now? The moment he walked through that door, he was going to see that look of disappointment and the food was going to feel foreign to his system.
Luckily, lunch was always too loud. Nobody noticed an average boy who couldn’t choke down his ham sandwich.
The bell rang.
A deep breath.
Moment of truth.
“Good morning, class! I see all of you actually made it to my class on time today. How rare.” His voice was smooth. He sounded as relaxed as always. How could he, when he was seated only three rows away from him?
The class chuckled quietly and one made a comment that sent the class into further laughter. He hadn’t caught it. He was too busy staring, desperate to find that flicker of disappointment when he would look his way.
But he didn’t. He only smiled. “Now, now, that’s not fair.” He started. “This is an English course, after all. It wouldn’t be English without a few writing assignments.” A pause. “And speaking of writing assignments, I graded all your creative writing journals last night.”
Here it was.
The guilt was building.
“I have to say,”
Dear God, no.
“I am quite impressed with what you all wrote.”
“Each and every one of you showed a remarkable ability to decipher the exact theme of yesterday’s subject. Pride. While some of you seemed to miss the basic teaching I was trying to bring forth,” He glanced to the boy with the long nose. “You all seemed to have at least brush up against the mark, if not having hit it entirely.”
He slid toward his desk and picked up the journals, waving the stack with a grin far too bright to be shown in public. “You can all rest assured that you passed this one with flying colours. Your stories were all very engaging and it is wonderful to finally get a class who displays such apathy to the idea of modesty.”
The class was beaming and began to chatter amongst themselves.
The teacher tapped the stack against his desk. “Now, now, quiet. That wasn’t permission for you to attempt to prove me wrong. I want you to come up to the front when I call your name, take your journal and please refrain from showing your passages off to your friends. These are meant to be anonymous but some of you seem to have difficulty remembering that.” His eyes flickered to the girl who wasn’t quite beautiful.
As he started out the roll call, eager and lazy students alike walking up to receive their individual praise, he couldn’t help sitting there, utterly struck.
He was aware that his own journal page was filled with nothing, rig–?
Long fingers waved the journal in the air.
The name spoken in his voice settled pleasantly into his spine.
His sneaker screeched as he pushed back his chair. Moving to the front, he held his hands out obediently, having the journal placed into his palms. He glanced up and met the man’s eyes. That grin. Damn that grin.
His stomach ached.
“I found your story especially interesting, Kieran. You should write more often.” He glanced up at him through light eyelashes. “You have a very loud voice; I can’t wait to hear it for the next assignment.”
He just stared at him, mouth hanging open a little.
Were they talking about the same assignment?
He was supposed to be disappointed in his work, not proud. How could he have a voice in a page filled with rambles that didn’t even resemble the English language?
“You’re a young man with a lot to say.” His teacher assured, a quiet smile. A finger reached out and tapped the journal. “Be sure to remember that.”
Confused but worried he’d pass out from lack of oxygen if he stood here any longer, he slowly returned to his seat, the next name called no longer his. He slipped into his seat and flipped open his journal, fluttering through the pages until he stopped at his latest assignment. Yep, still the page of nothing. And yet that wasn’t what had caught his eye. Written right over the scribbles, in bright red ink, was a simple message.
What was he even talking about?
‘Kieran – You’re only as tall as your heart will let you be and you’re only as small as the world will make you seem. When the going gets rough and you feel like you may fall… just… look on the bright side: you’re roughly six feet tall.‘
Well, he thought, slowly glancing up at the man. He wasn’t an English teacher for nothing. As he stared at him, as if an answer to the short poem would be clear if he looked long enough… he caught his eyes over another student’s shoulder.
And he smiled.
Not the grin.
A quiet smile.
A private smile.
You’re roughly six feet tall.
That smile seemed to say everything without making a sound. It caused his heart to sore, flutter and skip all at once. It made his stomach drop and suddenly he was thankful he hadn’t taken a bite for lunch.
You’re a young man with a lot to say. Be sure to remember that.
A return smile snuck onto his lips without notice, his gaze fond without being completely aware of that.
Maybe… this wasn’t punishment after all. Maybe, just maybe, being average was okay.
And in that one moment, Kieran was content to be just that.
and roughly six feet tall.
FIN ★ ☆ ★ Constructive critique always welcome!