Working Writer

August 31, 2007

“On Subtlety” (Assignment #0)

Filed under: assignments, personal essay — loganchance @ 7:23 am

My legs give out from under me and I hear the collective mood of the circle around me shift. It’s the first time I’ve ever been hit, really good and hit. Everyone – twenty people, maybe – twists their voice like they had been waiting for it. They knew it hurt. My neck pops and when my face lands I cough through the cloud of dust, cough again, throwing in the towel. I see Rachel Stevens squirm thinking I’m looking at her and not into the vanishing point beyond her and I know then I won’t be going to senior prom.

Truth be told, I’m a horrific liar and the names have been changed.

Meanwhile, Jeff Peterson steps over me like he just took out a quarterback. All I need to do is uppercut, and even blind I could lay him out, but I don’t. Couldn’t tell you why. Some sort of male honor code that applies even after a sucker punch to the cheekbone. I don’t think he’s smart enough to have figured it out all on his own, which means someone told him what I meant in creative writing class.

Three thousand words on a homophobic high school sports star still in the closet about his own sexuality. Thinking about it that way, I could have been more subtle.

Jeff keeps walking down Danny Porter’s twisting driveway with horse fences on either side where his piss yellow late-nineties Mustang is waiting for him at its mouth – top down, stained interior and a loud rumbling from a missing muffler. His fan club follows, a harem of rejected cheerleaders and band geeks wanting to be or get the throwaway trim. I’m not sure if they are, but I wrote it that way and I believe everything I read. In fairness, some of them might have made JV. Rachel and a few of her friends – Sandra Dees all – anchored the parade’s tail. Jeff imported a crowd and I’d like to believe Rachel followed out of concern for me. My gut tells me she wanted to know if what I did was true.

Bits of gravel stick to my hand and the Norteno wanna-bes or prospects hang back along the fence line of Danny’s property, talking amongst themselves – maybe we should hop in. They have a tendency of entering the fight when it’s over just to get a few jabs in. I’m probably fifty yards from Danny’s front door, my longest friend, a decade strong, and he walks out with a paintball gun to make a solid point. What it is could be anything: don’t fuck with my friend, the entertainment’s over, you can’t run with jeans around your ankles. They tip their chins up – a bunch of Davids looking down on Goliath – but take off to probably call one of their mothers to pick them up. I see them waiting for a teal minivan at the end of class every Friday.

Danny calls me a dumbass. A familiar mantra.

My hands brush against my jeans. I’m moving on autopilot. I get up to my full five-eight and catch his headshaking stare. I tell him it’s worth it.

He doesn’t say anything else, opting to walk back inside. He’s been on the other side of the fence enough to know lecturing me smacks of pot-kettle syndrome, and these stunts rarely have a habit of getting traced back to me. Sometimes I just want to stand up and hurl waves of profanities at everyone, but that equates to a visit with a vice-principal for discipline, or worse a counselor for counseling, so I pick my battles. I can’t say I lost this one, but checking out Rachel’s face (something I could take a class on) and seeing her expression tells me I’m not getting a ticker-tape parade tomorrow. More than likely glances over shoulders and hushed, quiet whispers in exclusive cliques. Which is to say: High School. It’s been three years. I have to know how this works by now.

The pounding of blood in my head starts to subside. The dust from everyone’s cars settles back to earth. My own piece of shit is still in the middle of Danny’s driveway, probably keyed by everyone who passed by it on the way back to the main road that leads into town. I’ve been here for three hours and somehow standing here makes that time disappear, or just makes it irrelevant. But the sun’s setting with or without me and I’m sure my cell phone with its American flag casing and Soviet national anthem ringtone will start buzzing with questions.

Today, it’s worth it. Who knows how much I’ll pay tomorrow.


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