There is the oddness that intrigues me about the perkiness of the Cosmos flower. They are typically bright and cheery, but are small and strange all the same. They always sand out, even though they are not particularly tall flowers. On the petals, it seems as though there are individual thread strands on each petal, beautifully sectioning them off. They have long and gangly leaves that are scrawny and seem to provide the flower with nothing. The flower comes in many colors which I consider girly. Sometimes pinks and purples are nice, but I find them annoying most of the time.
My friend Holly Synder loves those colors. Rarely do I walk into our dorm room and see her not in some shade of pink. She owns a plethora of skirts and heels. I personally do not care for heels. Sure, I have no balance, but my feet cannot seem to stay inside of any pair of heels I find. Holly has never gone a day without wearing heels. She says it’s all part of her image. I think she’s insane. She thinks I’m insane.
Once, she took me shopping. It was quite an experience for both of us. I had never known that there were so many places to purchase clothes and so many rules for buying clothes. I just had to get stuck with a Fashion Merchandising Major. Sweet girl, not the brightest, but her heart was in the right place when it counted. She meant well, telling me what I should wear. She just ended up insulting me.
There were so many comments about what I should wear and how I should look. There was nothing that I could say to her. She could pull anything off the rack and she looked wonderful. I wished that I had so much skill in dressing myself. Everything I picked out for myself made me look awful and seemed to highlight my flaws and diminish my highlights. I doubted there was a redeeming quality to my physique, but Holly was insistent that she would make me look absolutely perfect. Try as hard as she could, even she became discouraged as piece of clothing after piece of clothing looked gaudy and pathetic on me that looked just as it should on her. It only made sense. She did model sometimes.
I thought all about how I didn’t belong in her world. Perhaps that was why, those years ago, when I was slightly more daring and a whole lot more naïve, Ricky would not want me in his life. I stuck out like a sore thumb. He pointed that out blatantly upon meeting me that day. I had hoped he wouldn’t ever bring that up again to me. Sure, I seemed put together on the outside, but there was everything proving to the world that I was everything and anything except for together and on top of things.
On that night where I had lain on my back lethargically and gazed at the fading rainbow surrounded by bright stars in a dark night sky, I had ended up falling asleep there. It must have been comfortable and I must have been a wonderfully sound sleeper, because I woke up to the sound of Ricky’s voice telling me to “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty. There’s no prince charming for you here.”
I forgot where I was and reached for a blanket which was not there. Somehow, a pillow had been placed underneath my head, henceforth the conclusion that I was a sound sleeper. Well, that in combination with the blanket that I saw underneath me when I went to sit up. I was wondering how on earth a blanket had gotten under me. I knew I hadn’t brought one. I figured that I may as well strike up a conversation with Ricky, who owed me at least that for oddly sneaking beside me while I was sleeping.
“So, what exactly did you do while I was asleep? Put a blanket underneath me and a pillow under my head in an attempt to extend an olive branch? That’s adorable and maybe admirable to someone out there, but I don’t find it sweet. I think that it’s creepy.” I was exhausted. It meant I was cranky.
He seemed to be stuck between going ahead and sitting beside me and actually answering the question I longed to have answered. He chose to sit somewhat diagonally to me. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, prom queen of the debutantes.” If I weren’t so fed up with him, I may have laughed at his comment. “You can roll your eyes and become stone-faced all you’d like but I don’t think you get what your accusations imply. See, I simply came here so that I could see if the rainbow was still in the sky and I find you here. It may have made sense to me. Except for the fact that you left.”
“I left. And then I came back. That’s not an explanation for the bedding around me.”
“You were here and I was already on the way home from a football game. If you don’t believe that it was a lucky fluke that favors you and only you, I can show you my truck. It’s right there.” He pointed to a red truck with tall wheels with treads comparable to the size of my head. “What? You don’t think it’s mine, do you? I bet you think I saw you and then ran all the way home just to make sure that you could rest on a field comfortably. Just because you’re accustomed to getting everything handed to you does not mean that you deserve people to make your life easier.” He looked at me and I still blankly stared. I was stunned at his accusation. “Get over yourself, spoiled brat,” he muttered under his breath.
I had a choice. I could ignore the comment that could be seen because of the coldness in the air or react boldly to the comment and start a fight. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It could help the potential relationship we could have if I chose to pretend I hadn’t heard him. Then again, he might think I’m condescending him and it would only prove that I’m some snotty girl from the right side of the tracks who wants to prove to him that I am much better than he could ever hope to become.
Yet, were I to acknowledge what I had clearly heard him mumble, I would be entering a fight that I would have absolutely no hope of winning. He may not know me that well, and even if he were my best friend in the world, I still would not want to lose a fight to him. He would only gloat. Despite there being no clear choice, I opted to say something about it but not enough to give him much ammunition. “I know you think I’m some spoiled brat, but I didn’t expect you to do this. Thank you, by the way. It was nice.”
“I don’t need your pity. You can call me a creepy stalker and pretend you regard people as on your level. I don’t need you to be nice to me. In your fancy classes where you learn how to dance and be mannered in every situation, it’s probably wonderful. In the real world, honesty trumps proper manners.”
A part of me really wanted to dispute that claim. I knew that honesty needed proper manners with it if there was any chance of having people listen to it. They may not have been completely dependent on each other, but they were not independent of each other, which was something that Ricky had obviously never considered before voicing his opinion. Then again, why should I expect someone so judgmental to have a brain to begin with? The thought made me no better than he. Oh well. “Sometimes honesty is just as good as having proper manners,” I told him, still unsure of what “proper manners” meant.
“Just as good? You’ve clearly never gone anywhere outside of your precious, secluded bubble full of protection and security. Not that something like that would surprise me.” Already several minutes into a conversation and he had not once, but twice in two successive comments passed judgment on me about how I judge people too harshly. I wondered what it would be like to not have to have a worry that’s anything more than how to undermine your own credibility. It must be nice to have so few cares.
“And you’ve traveled outside of this small town?” I realized my mistake midway through my sentence and was immediately embarrassed. “Don’t you dare give me that look. You probably only came here because the other town kicked you out for acts of violence and other heinous crimes.”
“What would you know, rich kid, about leaving a town? I’m sure that whenever you go off to college, which you’ll have gotten into because your parents will have donated three libraries and ten science labs with state-of-the-art equipment, you’ll also be given an apartment of your own. But that wouldn’t be good enough of you, so you’ll get a house. Or, if you’re in a city, which all rich girls want to go to college in, your parents would simply buy a hotel and give you the penthouse all to yourself.”
“I would know about as much as you. I’m probably going to live in a dorm the first year and I would never dream of going to school in a city. There’s too much crime there. Besides, I love the small town vibe and the way that everyone in it is so close and connected. I could never leave that.”
He looked me in the eye. “The town I left was one full of chaos.”
“Way to be dramatic. What next? Let me guess, wildfire burned the town.”
“Actually,” I was expecting some snarky comment to come, “there was a wildfire in this very location we’re sitting about thirty years ago. The field was left in ruins. It was a shame, I hear.”
“What about your town? There must’ve been something that compelled you to leave it.”
“You’ll laugh.” I wondered what the big secret was. I hoped it was interesting.
“No I won’t.” I looked at him. “I promise I won’t laugh.” He wasn’t looking at me anymore.
“So, you hear all these stories about girls getting bullied and leaving. But you don’t ever hear about how some guy got bullied and decided it was bad enough to be reason enough to leave town. And that’s exactly what happened. Where I’m from, you live in the house your parents owned until you leave for college and then you’re in the same college as your parents and so on so forth, doing exactly as your parents did. There’s no room for error. You take all the right courses and cannot get anything but perfect.”
“I’m sure you could’ve chosen another path.” I had never experienced what Ricky had said to have experienced in his life. I had always been given choices and had the chance to pursue whatever my heart desired. There was not a single thing that I couldn’t do, or at least I was told so. If I had grown up in a similar scenario as that of Ricky, I would have taken a train to as far away as I could get right away.
“Oh, I could. But that would have been such a problem.” He was being overly dramatic.
“So, why won’t you answer my question? Why did you leave that town?”
“People pick on the nerdy kid with perfect grades and silly glasses. I had pinstriped shirts and suspenders.” I couldn’t see it. “I was going to become an engineer. That was the plan. I would go to the top university in the world for the major and graduate with honors in graduate and undergraduate school.”
I could not picture him as an engineer. “What finally made you change your mind?”
“I wanted to get out of that town. I tanked some classes, failed some admissions tests, and, for admission interviews, I was surly, rude, and in formidable. I then got a ticket to anywhere I wanted.”
“So you chose here?” Of all the places in the world, I had never expected him to pick somewhere that is such a mundane location. I suppose he had never checked out the place before choosing to live here. He didn’t answer me. “So… What do you think of this town? Better than the old one? Worse?”
“It’s a town. What do you think of it?” I asked him, not completely curious.
“It’s a town. Nothing special. I mean, the people in it are, but not the town itself.”
“Case in point. See you around, I guess.” He left without so much as a backwards glance. I would’ve been annoyed if I had been positive I hadn’t done that to him the other day. I suspected that I did and so I had no right to get mad at him if he had reciprocated the motion to me.
Even though he had left, I felt his presence. It may have been from the blanket and pillow that smelled like cheap cologne. He never asked about them. Maybe he didn’t want them. I looked out into the field, right where Ricky had said his truck was. I didn’t know how much time had elapsed, but it was certainly enough for someone who had left to have taken his car with him to go home.
The car was still there. I saw a girl who could not have been much over five feet hop, and she literally got a running start, into that truck. She didn’t seem like the type to have a truck. But who was I to judge? I had never expected Ricky to say anything to me even slightly cordially, and he had done that.
It was not until I was on my way home that I realized I had never asked anything about the trinket I had found or the artist who had signed and created it. There would always be next time during which I could ask Ricky about the artist and the wonderful art he created. If there was a next time, that is.