This is a regular column featuring original fiction by and for high school students, provided by Figment.com, an online community writing site for young people.
Ever since second grade, I would watch him and his friend Andrew shoot hoops from my bedroom window across the street. Because I did my homework at my desk, and my desk was at the window, I couldn’t help it at first. But then, I got used to and looked forward to them playing for hours and deep into the twilight.
I also knew him from school. Andrew and I had the same last name so we were always seated next to each other in class. I got to eavesdrop on his conversations about how he and his tall friend pushed themselves on their YMCA team. And before I moved away, I would bully my brothers to take me to those games. That’s how I learned about basketball. I loved how he would stick his tongue out when he soared in the air for a dunk.
Then I moved away for several years because of my dad’s new job. While we lived in Minnesota, I got involved in drama class. My best friend Bessie was also really into blogs like Feministing and Jezebel. We wore dark hoodies and black nail polish. When our classmates made fun of us, I would say something sarcastic like, “Did that insult take all night?” or “The rhetoricians of our time would disembowel you with an ice cream scooper.”
Once, Darryl Gantz asked me to winter formal, but I knew it was a joke. Bessie and I taunted him with text messages about how we should match his socks to my corsage. It terrified him, and he backed out of it. Bessie said I should save the texts.
“You can use it later in your art about how the modern devices of our time entrap stupidity like time capsules for later ape-human generations.”
Then my family and I moved back because of Dad’s job. It was the start of freshmen year, and he was there. Bessie wasn’t. I had this strange thump-thump in my chest. I blushed for the very first time when I realized he brushed right by me. Once again, I was alphabetized next to his friend Andrew in math class, and I could hear him talk about them practicing. I didn’t have sisters to talk to about my feelings. I didn’t want to tell my mom I had a crush on a boy. It would make her so happy to have proof that I wasn’t a lesbian.
So I called Bessie.
“What do I do? I think I really like him?”
“Are you sure it isn’t indigestion, Sarah? I read on TheFBomb about how attraction is really based on how females feel socially obligated to find the men of the species attractive. Did your Mom buy you a skirt again?”
I tried to explain to Bessie about our shared history.
“He gets this intense look when he plays basketball. I think about him looking at me like that.” Just thinking about it made me feel gooey. I felt like I had a virus I couldn’t expunge. “But he’s into basketball. I’ve said ‘Hi’ to him in the halls, and I don’t think he sees me.”
“Well maybe you need to take a page from the normal girl’s guide. If this were a romantic comedy, what would you do?”
I lived in a house full of men. I grew up on Transformers. The only romantic comedies I had seen involved girls in bikinis and guys with bongs. Bessie was equally clueless. So we downloaded some “rom-coms” from BitTorrent -- My Best Friend’s Wedding, When Harry Met Sally, and The Wedding Singer.
“Well, it looks like you need a gesture,” Bessie said from way over in Minnesota. “A big dumb stupid gesture. That’s all I really got from it.”
“What kind of gesture?” I asked.
“I don’t know. But think about the rules of economics. How much do you need this boy to notice you vs. you doing this big dumb gesture.”
It turned out I really needed him to notice me.
There were basketball tryouts, and I decided to show up. I wanted him to notice me, but I didn’t want to look like I was trying. Also, I didn’t want the other students to think I was serious about going out for the varsity team. So I showed up in my Ramones T-shirt and my tattered jeans. I lined up with all the guys.
“Are you here to make some sort of statement?” the Coach asked.
My natural instincts kicked in: “I read a book that said tryouts are a metaphor for life and I’m here for the experience.”
I heard someone laughed and I hoped to all the gods and goddesses and spirits and plants that it was him.
I later told Bessie all this over the phone -- how I puked all over the court. How I managed to get one more quip in to cover my tears. But then, the next day, Andrew turned in his chair and talked to me. He told me he thought I was cool for coming out to practice. From then on, Andrew and I talked a lot inside and out of class. He’s told me about his friend who was so intent on making the basketball. He told me a lot about the ups and downs in tryouts. He was impressed that I knew so much about basketball. He also said that he and his friend liked The Ramones. I told him that when tryouts were over, they should come over to my house and listen to my Dad’s records.
“He has all their records with a really neat audio setup in the basement,” I said.
“You’re really cool, Sarah. I’ll let Tyler know. He could use a break,” Andrew said, waving goodbye to me. I ran all the way to the parking lot so I could hide between the cars. My heart was pumping so fast that I wasn’t sure it would ever stop, and I was smiling like the sun.