But I'm a creep"
- Radiohead Creep
Vanilla. That is how David would describe himself. He had no outstanding characteristics, no unique traits. Crap, even his name was boring as hell! His parents couldn't have given him something to go on and named him Knox or Xander or some other non-traditional moniker that trendy parents do these days. For the first fifteen years of his life, David has been possibly the most obscure creature on the face of the earth. He was not tall or drastically short, he wasn't fat, dreadfully skinny, or built with muscle mass. Short brown hair and green eyes-nothing that makes anyone notice. Maybe that is what life is supposed to be like: blending in with society until there is only a massive drone of people marching along like cattle. Regardless, if this was the fate of the world, David had plenty of experience doing it.
It wasn't like he was trying to be a standout in the cliché world of high school, but he wasn't trying to be left alone, either. If asked, 75% of the student body at Grisham High School would say "who?" when referencing David Clifton. Of the 25% remaining, there wouldn't be much to say because he just didn't do anything remarkable. He was not an athlete, but he did enjoy watching most sports. He was not musically gifted, so the band was out. Being a B+ student, he wasn't breaking any academic records. Theater was out too because, if David couldn't make himself interesting, how the hell was he supposed to make a character entertaining? Vanilla-that's what David Clifton was.
One would think that without any glaringly obvious attributes, a desire to be something he wasn't, or any adversaries to speak of, David would not have anything to worry about. Truth was, David did want to be recognized, to be known, at least be remembered. He hated that he was drowning in a sea of obscurity. He could find a way to open up. He could find a way to make himself known. What was stopping him? Stella Rogers-that's what. He was so intimidated by her that he never put himself out there for fear of looking like an idiot in front of her. Maybe he could do something different this year, but he was complacent and he really knew nothing would change.
Throughout school, David had a pretty good friend named Taylor Waters. Taylor was not the introvert David was, but he never really had to be noticed, either. Taylor was just liked and he reciprocated the same to everyone. David often wondered how they became friends and, after Taylor knew him, what made Taylor stick around. Taylor just knew him. Although he didn't think anyone noticed, Taylor could see how much David liked Stella.
"Dude, go for it," Taylor said one afternoon on the way to their bus.
"What are you talking about?" David replied.
"Come on, really? I think Mr. Mells could see how much you like Stella." Taylor was trying to be a smart-ass by referring to the old, nearly blind janitor who bitched about the slightest messes the students made.
David didn't know how to respond to Taylor's revelation. Was it really that obvious? He had planned on coming up with a diversionary tactic to get Taylor off the subject when Taylor kept his point going.
"I'm telling you, she knows man! And, since she hasn't made it a point to tell you she isn't interested so, who knows? You might have a shot there, Romeo!" Taylor seemed so convincing when he put it out there. David still had his doubts, but was then willing to listen to what Taylor had to say. While he didn't have a girlfriend of his own, Taylor didn't seem to struggle to have girls wanting to talk to him. He was taller than David, but not by more than 2-3 inches and his physique was built for basketball and soccer. With curly blonde hair, blue eyes, and dimples you could plant seeds in, he was attractive to say the least. He never let on that he felt like he was anything special though. That did nothing but make him even more approachable.
Staring at Taylor like he held all the answers, David finally gave in and said, "Okay, how? I'm not good at that sort of thing, so what do I say? I'm too shy to just walk up and start a conversation. What about my look? Do you think she would like me like this? Should I do something different?" David's words flew out of his mouth without stopping now that he knew someone knew his secret.
"Okay, so as far as your look, be yourself. If she doesn't like your style, too bad! Don't change for someone else, man!" He wrapped his arm around David's shoulders and continued, "And as far as talking to her, just follow my lead when we are in Trig tomorrow."
That night was excruciating. He texted Taylor for a while before he finally decided to just try and forget about the Stella problem until the next day. He fought through dinner with his parents without making it obvious he was freaking out about the next day. Either he was pretty good at hiding the things that bothered him, or they were horrible at reading his emotions. His dad wouldn't have noticed something was bothering David even if he tattooed it across his head. Maybe he could tell and just didn't care. Regardless, he made it to bed without incident and stared at the ceiling trying to play out the coming day in his head. Was he really going to try talking to her? Could Taylor be right that there was a possibility that something could happen between them? Whatever the case, David finally gave in to the night and fell asleep.
The next morning, David got up with some positivity about what lied ahead. With a sudden cramping in his stomach and anxiety taking over his body, David walked down the hall toward Mr. Stevenson's classroom. Normally, the dread he was feeling walking into the door was reserved for the vast majority of the students who sucked at math. He was not a genius with math, but David could do the work without much problem most days. Stella did not exude that same amount of confidence. As they took their seats before the bell, Taylor started talking to Stella about the homework the night before. Panic was instantly seen on Stella's face.
"Oh my God y'all! I couldn't figure that crap out to save my life!" Stella's slight Southern drawl still hadn't faded even though she had moved from Atlanta in the 4th grade. "All these theorems and proofs, ugh! 'Consider the triangle ABC and tell the relation to the ratios...' blah, blah, blah. Why do they have to word it like that? It is just so annoying!"
Taylor's eyes travelled to David who was staring at Stella. He cleared his throat and David finally looked over. He opened his eyes wide, mouthed "Go on" and looked over at Stella. David finally saw Taylor's nonverbal cues and began looking for a way to chime in.
Stella continued, "Mr. Stevenson must be nuts to think we are going to use this one day. Who the heck does he expect us to be? I don't plan on being a mathematician one day. I have no desire to prove to the world that a triangle is a triangle because twenty old men came up with theories to show it."
David opened his mouth to say something and what should have been an articulate and intelligent response came out as a small stutter and a faint sound from his throat. He wasn't sure if she noticed, but her response proved she did.
"See, Taylor? Even David couldn't do it," Stella said with conviction. Before David could regain his composure and say something, Mr. Stevenson walked in and demanded that everyone put all objects on the floor and prepare for a pop quiz. What should have been his chance to make an impression left him looking like an idiot. David realized there was no hope. He was never going to get the girl.