Word Count 500
By Sam McManus
I’m what most people would call socially awkward, the kind of guy who can’t see the forest for the trees. Way too many trees. At Loma Linda High, you could say I’m often mistaken for the scenery. I didn’t get stuffed into lockers because most seniors didn’t know I existed. It’s okay. It’s barely an existence anyway.
Nothing good had ever really happened for me, outside of getting my first cell phone last year. Of course, I had only ever texted my one friend, Gil, since then. So, when Carrie Lynn sent me her sister’s number I waited for the pail of water to fall on me.
“What’s the catch?” I texted her back.
“No catch,” she insisted. “She just thinks you’re cute.”
Bunnies were cute. Baby chicks in a nest were cute. But me? I couldn’t reconcile the words with any opinion I had ever had of myself. Sure, my mom always called me cute, but she was my mom, and it wasn’t remotely the same. Especially not when it was someone like Megan Collier. With brilliant hazel eyes, a pert, upturned nose, and impossibly clear skin, Megan Collier was a goddess.
Looking back, I realize I had been completely blinded by those seven digits on my screen. If an orangutan had been dancing the hula in my bedroom at that same moment I wouldn’t have seen it. I texted Megan with shaky thumbs, trying to sound casual.
“Hey Megan,” I wrote. “It’s Ben. You know, from Calculus? Just wanted to say hi.”
I sounded like a complete loser. I wasn’t so blind that I couldn’t see that. Cleared that screen.
“Hey Meg,” I wrote, then deleted it. We weren’t close enough for “Meg.”
“Hey,” I began again, trying to remember casual. “It’s Ben, the math genius. How you been?”
Why was math the only thing that came to my mind? Of all the things I could have said, that was certainly the lamest. But we didn’t really have any other touchstones, any other shared reference points. I took out the “math genius” parts, thinking hard.
“It’s Ben,” I tried once more. “I’m your destiny. I mean, like, really. We belong together. I’ve known it since Miss Lawton’s kindergarten class. I’m glad you realize it too.”
So, okay, I guess casual went out the window. I heard somewhere that writing down your true feelings can help you get over nervousness. Of course, I was never going to send that text. It disappeared one letter at a time from my screen.
“It’s Ben,” I started over again. “Want to get a Cinnabon sometime? I have a coupon.”
Oh my god. How hard was it to sound casual? It was everything I’d ever wanted, right there in front of me, the screen inviting me into her world, but I couldn’t sound human enough to take advantage of the situation. I took a deep breath and tried once more.
“It’s Ben,” I wrote. “I think you’re cute and stuff.”
Then I fainted.