Wall of Windows

My blog for the NaNoWriMo Challenge. No guarantee I'll accomplish anything, but eh, why not?

Location: Baton Rouge, LA, United States

Just a Yankee transplant to the deep, deep south, blogging about life, the universe, and everything.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Chunk 4

Finally - here is chunk 4. I struggled mightily the past few days to write anything - and failed until today. I forget exactly how many words this is (it's over 1800) but if you are really curious, check out the status thread in the Louisiana Elsehwere forum at NaNoWriMo. I'm Sherilyn George over there.

Oh, I should probably tell you that Brad is based loosely on two guys I've known. One is a guy I really went to high school with and the other was Mr. Fraternity Guy in college and is now a priest. Just goes to show that you never know.

“Geez!” Brad said as he slid into the booth. “You make it sound like I committed a felony instead of going to the seminary.”

“Oh, uh…no. Sorry. Didn’t mean to.”

“That’s OK. The collar catches people off guard sometimes.”

“Hmm…” Off guard was an understatement. Edna had trouble reconciling the image of the biggest player in her high school, the guy who had a different girl every weekend and flirted with everyone with two legs and breasts, with the man of God sitting in front of her. It just didn’t fit.

Edna also struggled with the whole God thing. She wasn’t an atheist; she definitely believed that God existed. She thought of herself as an anti-theist – She believed that whatever deity or deities there were hated her, and the feeling was mutual. She therefore couldn’t understand how people could commit their lives to serving Him (or Her or It or Them or whatever).

The next few minutes passed in silence as both of them perused the menu. After ordering, Brad broke the silence by asking, “So, tell me everything about your life for the past ten years.”

“Like I said, not much to tell,” Edna began, twirling her hair in an old nervous habit. “I went to college, graduated, and now I’m working. But tell me, when did you decide to do…that?” She gestured toward his collar in an effort to change the subject.

“Become a priest?” he asked for clarification. Edna nodded her assent. “Well, I suppose I was thinking about it in high school, only I didn’t want to admit it.”

“Wait,” Edna interrupted. “You were considering a life of celibacy in high school. You, who had a different girl hanging all over you every weekend. You, who flirted with every girl who walked the halls of Wright high school between the years of 1985 and 1989?” except for me, Edna added silently and bitterly.

“Yeah, hard to believe, huh? I guess I really didn’t want to consider the possibility of this,” he said, gesturing to the collar himself. “But that changed my freshman year of college.”

“What happened?” Edna asked, curious in spite of her mistrust

“I got away from Wright. I didn’t have that image to uphold. I didn’t have to be what everyone wanted me to be. It gave me a chance to explore who I a really am, and what I really wanted out of life. I talked to the diocesan vocations director in January of my freshman year and entered the seminary in my sophomore year. I was ordained two years ago.”

“Just like that, huh? I get the feeling you’re leaving out a lot of the story.”

“Some. But I did tell you more than, ‘college, work, you know.’ So what’s the real story for you?”

“I told you, my life is boring.” Edna tried another diversionary tactic. “So tell me about-”

Brad cut her off before she could continue. “Boring or not, I really want to know what has been going on in your life.”

“Why?” Edna asked before she could stop herself

“Like I said, I don’t see people from high school that often. I lost track after I started seminary. I guess I’m feeling nostalgic since this is our 10th reunion year. So…tell me.”

Edna hesitated, not wanting to divulge anything about her life, but afraid to outright lie. She may not have had any use for God, but there was something deep in her unconscious that said that lying to a priest was just wrong. She tried diversion again.

“I’ll tell you about my life since high school if you’ll answer some questions for me about those days.”

Brad raised an eyebrow at this, and his mouth turned up in a half grin. “Sounds fair.”

“OK. Tell me if I’m wrong, but you flirted with pretty much every female at Wright, correct?”

“Well, I think you’re exaggerating a little bit here.”

“Really,” Edna said in a disbelieving tone. “I’m pretty sure I saw you making eyes at Mrs. Evans in the cafeteria once.”

“Well, it was probably macaroni and cheese day,” he said as a blush appeared on his face. “Say what you will about school cafeteria food, but they made good mac and cheese.”

“Uh huh. And the attendance lady?”

“I was probably on the verge of a detention for tardies and didn’t want to miss practice. I was only a few minutes late.”

“And old Miss Bryce?”

“Umm…either pity or I needed a book and didn’t have the money to pay a fine that I owed. Hey, how come you know all these things? Were you stalking me?” His eyebrow rose again in the manner of the villain in every dime store spy novel.

It was Edna’s turn to blush. “N-no, not at all,” she stammered. “We had most of our classes together, so I saw a lot of you over the course of four years. I’m just an observant person.”

“Uh huh.”

“Anyway,” she said quickly, “I’m the one supposed to be asking the questions now. So given your propensity for false flattery of females,” he suppressed a smile at her alliteration, “why did you never flirt with me?”

His blush returned and intensified, and he broke eye contact with Edna. Of all the reactions she had been expecting, embarrassment was not one of them. He began to stumble through an answer but was saved from continuing by the appearance of the waitress with their food.

They began to eat, the silence at their table only broken by the clink of silverware on their plates. Finally, Edna asked, “Are you going to answer me?”

Brad swallowed the food he was chewing and said, “I was just trying to figure out what to say. I wasn’t expecting you to ask me that.”

“Obviously.” Edna had long ago mastered sarcasm as a way of hiding her feelings, in this case hurt.

“OK. It’s like this. Do you remember how Mr. G. always let us have a free lab period in Bio II whenever we had a Calculus test?”

Edna wasn’t expecting the apparent non sequitur, and just stared at Brad for a moment before answering in the affirmative.

“Do you remember how I always looked for you to study with?” Edna nodded. “Did you ever wonder why?”

“Constantly,” she replied. “I thought everyone knew I was pretty much useless when it came to math.”

Brad took a sip of his drink before saying, “You don’t give yourself enough credit. Math was just the only subject you didn’t excel in.”

Edna blushed. She didn’t like to hear people say that kind of thing about her. Complements always embarrassed her. “Yeah, well. You were about to tell me why you wanted to study with me despite my mathematical inadequacy.”

“Yeah. Well, the fact of the matter is,” he paused. Whether it was for dramatic effect or to collect his thoughts, Edna did not know. “I respected you.”

Edna stared dumbfounded at Brad. Respect? He barley recognized that she existed outside those study sessions, and now he claimed it was out of respect. Edna was confused enough that she didn’t respond to his statement. Brad noticed, and after a short time he asked, “Aren’t you going to say something?”

“I don’t know how to respond to that, really,” she said in reply. “You sought out the least capable person in the class to study with out of respect? I don’t even know what you mean by that.”

“Who else was I going to study with? Kristy? She was smart, but entirely too much of a mall chick. Yeah, she was fun to flirt with but she never took anything seriously with me. Jennie? Same deal. None of the other girls in the class were in Calculus.”

“You know, you could have studied with one of the guys,” Edna replied with a roll of the eyes.

“Right. Alex was afraid of me and never talked when I was around. Chris viewed hanging out with me as a way to enhance his own reputation. When I was with him, he never talked about school. And Tony was usually too hung over to bother with.”

He did have a point, Edna thought. “But what does that have to do with respect.”

Brad leaned into the table and replied, “Edna, of everyone in Honors, heck, of everyone in the school, you were just about the only student I really respected as an equal.”

Shock was too mild a description for what Edna felt at that point. To hear that Brad Smolkowski, the boy she admired secretly and from afar, respected her as an equal was too big a revelation. She didn’t know whether to be elated or humiliated.

When she recovered, she asked, “So what, does respecting me as an equal mean that you couldn’t see me as female as well?”

“Yes! I mean no… I mean…” Brad winced and paused as he tried to find an answer to her accusation. “Look, I was an arrogant jerk in high school.” Edna raised an eyebrow of her own at his candid admission. “To me, most girls and women were just objects to have fun with. Not like that!” he hastily added when he saw the horror in Edna’s expression. “I mean…flirting was a game for me. It didn’t matter to me that I probably hurt quite a few girls by leading them on. It didn’t matter to me that I was essentially lying to them. I enjoyed the teasing, the flattering. And I enjoyed the fawning looks they gave me. The helped me to rationalize that the…calling I was feeling wasn’t real. After all, if so many girls were falling all over me, I couldn’t possibly be meant to be a priest.”

He paused and finished his drink. “But Edna, you were different. You didn’t get all giggly around me. You didn’t suddenly forget you had a brain and ramble on with vapid, pointless comments. You were just…you. A smart, witty, rational person. Not a girl, a person.”

The great crush of her life just told her that he saw her as a sexless being. Now Edna knew which emotion to pick – humiliation. “You didn’t see me as a girl. So I was just one of the guys, then?” She stared at the table as she spoke, the hurt clear in her expression.

“Yes! I mean no! Geez, this shouldn’t be this hard.” Brad ran his fingers through his hair as he gripped his head in frustration. “Yes, I knew that you were female. But you weren’t a girl.” He paused again. “Look, I’m doing a lousy job of explaining this. What say we get out of here and go somewhere else? Maybe that will give me time to collect my thoughts.”

Edna wanted to say know so that she would be able to avoid answering his questions about her life, but wanting answers to questions she had been holding on to for the past ten years compelled her to agree.