At last week’s Writers Centre workshop one of the guys brought along a number of prompts, and we ended up with the broken plate. As we were leaving I picked another one and folded it way without looking at it. This is where I ended up…
It wasn’t a day he liked.
It was yet another day that re-inforced just how unpopular he was. Before his school days his parents had showered him with admiration for his intelligence, for his keen interest in how things worked and for his preference for David Attenborough over David Beckham.
They had told him that his glasses looked cool.
School taught him, as it should, though it taught him a lesson that it shouldn’t. It taught him that people who didn’t watch South Park were weird, that people who knew what the EU was were weird and that people who could point out the scientific impossibilities in the plotlines of Doctor Who were Geeks. In fact, if Geek were a country he’d have been King.
It also taught him that glasses were not cool. Since Crocs, plastic shoes with holes in them, were seemingly the height of cool then he felt that somehow he was winning that round, thought he had learnt not to say that for a second time.
Primary School gave way to Secondary School, boyhood gave way to puberty and unblemished skin gave way to a face like a pizza. The mockery gave way to mockery. The boys still slagged his taste in books (mainly the fact that he read them), his ignorance as to who Lionel Messi was, and his glasses. The girls ignored him, which was somehow worse.
And never was his isolation more keenly felt than on this day. A classmate would brag of receiving five cards, another would top it with a claim of six. He knew that this was just rubbish. The same boys used to boast back when they were all eight that they had eaten ten pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, and he knew that it was impossible to eat more than five without throwing up.
He had proven this to himself by the empirical method.
But the fact is that they had all received some cards, and he had received none. Well, one, but he knew it was from his mum.
Today was the annual reminder that in the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is laughed at.
He went into the class with the words “bet it’s from Natalie, she’s really into me” and “I think I got one from each of the twins” ringing in his ears. He told himself he didn’t care, but he knew deep down that he did.
He opened the lid of his school-desk to take out his book for the first class and saw the card inside. He opened it gingerly, half expecting it to loudly play the Laughing Policeman at him. It didn’t.
Inside was a fairly good caricature of himself and a short poem. The first two lines were the usual reference to botanical colouring, the last two said “I like Science and so do you”.
He looked around the class in astonishment. Nicola was blushing furiously. They were friends, or as near to a friend that he could have, they had been paired for a chemistry experiment and had proven that a particular mix of chemicals could produce a small explosion, though this was not what they’d been trying to prove.
He smiled over at her and she smiled shyly back.
They walked home together after school, her card in his bag, his card (hastily made during French) in hers. They talked about To Kill a Mocking Bird. She told him who Zac Efron was, he told her who Lionel Messi was (he’d known all along, the boys had just assumed that he wouldn’t).
They didn’t hold hands or anything (it would take many weeks before he would work up the courage to do that), but they talked, and laughed and at times just walked in comfortable silence, at ease with each other, and that would do for today, a day that he no longer hated.
And the prompt? Oh, it was “write about Valentine’s Day without mentioning these words: Valentine’s Day, Roses, Love, Flower, Heart, February, Cupid”.