She’s the kind of girl who never gets anything right the first time around. She isn’t dumb; she’s just never listening. She gets exactly half of every assignment correct, and that half usually depends on when she tuned in or out. But once she did figure it out, usually after a teacher’s criticism and a two-day extension, she got it good, and she’d sheepishly tuck her 100% to the bottom of her cluttered messenger bag, along with all the others.
I thought I had her a few months ago, when she showed up for basketball tryouts. Her long legs, the sole reason Coach Casey invited her to play in the first place, turned out to be clumsier than a deer learning to run. I smiled inwardly as she blundered around the court, her doe eyes wide and overwhelmed by all the whistles and echoes and shrill sounds of rubber on court.
She didn’t show up for the second day of tryouts. I secretly wanted her to.
She had a boyfriend, of course. Girls like her always have a boyfriend – the beta type who followed them around like an adoring shadow, affirming their every move, than a real man. But she wasn’t dating a half-man. She dated that guy back in middle school. His name was Rupert and he had big glasses and his voice sometimes squeaked. She broke up with him the summer before high school, face to face, despite our insistent advice that she should just stop talking to him until he got the hint, seeing as they’d be going to different schools anyway.
He still calls sometimes. She always answers.
Her boyfriend now is on the soccer team, and he’s good. He can play every position, but mostly he played midfield. He was untouchable. When he was running down the field with the ball, it usually meant we’d score and the bleachers would go nuts. She never went nuts when we scored. She’d clap and smile and after the game she’d run onto the field with the other girlfriends and he’d swoop her up and wrap his big sweaty arms around her before going on to celebrate with the rest of his team. She didn’t seem to mind the sweat and she seemed to genuinely enjoy the touch of his muddy hands on her clothes. One time she wore white pants and after he hugged her there was a giant green and brown stain on her backside with a piece of grass hanging between her thighs. I didn’t tell her. Instead I laughed from my place with the rest of the school as she came over to join us, cheering louder than I ever had before.
When we applied for college, I got the big letter. Her letter, however, tiny and insignificant in size compared to mine, was the center of the conversation. “It’s only the first response,” dad said patting her on the back, but she didn’t seem upset. She didn’t want to go to college anyway; she told me months ago. Mom went through all the schools she’s definitely getting into, regardless of “this school” having monkeys on the admissions board. My letter, full of congratulations and hope, was heavy in my sweaty palms.