We’re talking about finding the grace in the awkward years at Write on Edge this week.
My mother cringed as he introduced himself outside the pool. His clear blue eyes and crooked toothy grin were almost lost under a mop of dirty blonde locks. Clutching a ratty towel tightly against his bare chest, he waited, eyes darting over her shoulder seeking solace in my face.
He was a senior, again, while I was just a sophomore. We shared only a creative writing class together. As a mother of daughters, now I understand better my mother’s hesitation. She saw a troubled young man from a broken home who was treading water in high school. He reeked of smoke and uncertainty. He had already given up on his future, while I had barely begun to dream
I was drawn to him. His nonchalance masked a fear of judgement and in everything he wrote, I could feel his passion. I could see the man he wanted to be hiding behind the dingy t-shirts and holey jeans. I held out my heart for him, hoping he would believe in himself as much as I did.
His father was giddy the first time we met in the darkness of their tiny apartment, shaking my hand with such vigor it shook my whole body.
“Please, come back any time” he pleaded, as his son and I left to take a walk passed the waterless pool and unkempt community grounds.
For weeks I stared at the back of his head in class, trying to get the courage to ask him to be my date to the band banquet. He avoided me outside of class, walked on the other side of the hall, chatting with his friends we called “the stoners”. Our circle of friends did not overlap.
Finally, I slipped him a piece of paper.
“Band banquet this Friday? with me?”
I wrote all the details, sucked in my breath, waited for his response.
“Maybe,” he said, smiling.
My best friend drove us to the banquet. I saved a seat, hoping, staring at the door longingly.
“He’s not coming,” she said, rolling her eyes, hoping too.
But there he was, standing in the doorway, wearing the most obnoxious powder blue tuxedo. The pants inches too high, and his long hair slicked back. We grinned at each other uncontrollably as he wandered over to my table.
“This is for you,” he mumbled, placing a flower on my wrist, “I borrowed the suit from my dad.”
“You look very handsome,” I said.