“da-Da-da-Da Da-da-Da-da” was the name of the siren song that was sung by the school bell. The hypnotic rhythm was magical as well; it would instantly rejuvenate all who heard it. School was over for the day and floods of eager students began to burst out of the classrooms. Even the teachers were not immune to its beckoning. Within moments, they too vanished into thin air.
Once brimming with life, the room was mostly empty now. I slowly rose from my desk and stretched my arms. It was the end of another long day, but now it was over. I was tired and my brain felt fried. I was done thinking for the day and I told myself that I needed a good nap. What a great idea, now I just needed to get home. And fastest way home was to bum a ride; I began wonder what my friends were doing.
I glanced out the window to my left. It could feel the warmth outside, the sun was radiant and the world was filled with green. A few student walked by the window, out of reach, liberated from the concrete box that held me. It was March and spring was starting to bloom. Nature was starting new life-cycles; new plants and animals were coming into the world. I noticed a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. I thought about the analogy to our quest and smirked. I collected my books and notepad, and headed for the door.
"Mike, is this your pencil?" said a shy voice.
I turned and saw a frail figure. A life sized silhouette of the pencil she held in front of me. Her hair was brown and so were her eyes. Though sitting in the cool shadows of her pale complexion, her eyes gave me warmth. Her clothes were mundane and her aura felt untraceable, but her smile always appealed to me.
"Oh yeah, thanks Marielle", I replied. "It must have rolled off my notepad when I got up. By the way, did you understand what we covered in humanities today?"
I hope she did, because I was too bored to take any notes. All I did in class was draw spaceships in my notebook.
"Yes", she replied. "We covered Renaissance art and the style used by the masters to bring life out of nothingness."
Marielle continued explaining in more detail, but my mind began to run. Life out of nothingness, hmm that sounded familiar. I could feel the short hairs on the back of my neck starting to rise. Oh shit, I need to meet up with Renno, Ricardo, and Chad right now! I quickly moved towards the door and replied, "Great, you can explain it to me before the next quiz. I've got to get going. Talk to you later."
"Let me know if you need help..." said Marielle as I bolted out the door.
The cafeteria was large and cavernous, but it was bustling. A mass of cliques dotted the landscape, railway stops in a sparse land with only stragglers connecting between them. Crowded around the tables were the fleeting civilizations of many. A million voices seem to fill the air. "Did you see that...I can't believe it...what are we going to do?"
Only partial conversation entered my ear as I made my way across the land.
I was exhausted and a bit disenchanted, but at last I saw it; my Camelot. The table wasn't round, but two of the knights were in good order. Both were preparing to battle a fearful enemy that they could only see.
As I arrived, Ricardo said, "Learn from the master."
"-bater", I coughed as I hid my schoolboy humor with a slight smirk. Surprisingly no one made a comeback. Everyone seemed a little too serious.
"I know who I'm going to ask." spoke Ricardo confidently. "And her name is Lisa."
"Is she a skinny blond and a junior?" inquired Chad.
"Yeah that's the one. She’s in one of my classes and she's my type. She's a cute, intelligent, and I've got the hots for her." replied Ricardo.
Ricardo pointed across the cafeteria and said, "Her locker is that way, I'll be right back."
That is all he said, as he as he began his quest. He strode with confidence. He knew where the grail was; he only needed to grasp it.
"Wow that was fast." I said. "I don't even know where to start. Did you think of someone already?"
"Yes." replied Chad.
Was I the only one not serious about this? I knew our bet might be life changing, but I didn’t take it that seriously. But now I felt like the odd man out. Trying not to look too dumbfounded, I decided interrogating Chad was the best diversion.
"What's her name?" I asked.
"Anna. But I need to find out if she still has a boyfriend. Have you seen Johnny?"
"Not yet. What's Johnny got to do with this? He's not even in the bet." I inquired.
"Johnny knows about a lot of girls in my grade. If anyone would know about her availability, he would be the one." said Chad.
Really, I thought? He doesn't even have a girlfriend and I never thought he had one before. Though I've hung out with Johnny, I really didn't know much about him. Maybe he would be a valuable resource. Oh well I thought, he was Chad's best friend so I'm sure we can depend on him.
"So what about you?" asked Chad? "Do you have someone in mind?"
"No one in particular, but I have a list." I replied. "I can't seem to settle on one person. I think it's all about the odds. Getting shot down by someone I really like or getting shot down by someone that is too cool for us. Those are my options."
"Don't you have someone that you really like?" asked Chad.
I gulped. Yes, I said to myself. She was the first girl that I saw when I came to the island.
Chad knew the answer, but he waited for me to say it.
"Yeah but she's in your class. The odds that she would date me are slim to none." I replied with a show of dismay.
"Then you have nothing to lose" replied Chad, "and a lot to gain if it works out for you. Plus she is a really nice person and we did take a class with her last year. You spoke with her every day. Just go ask her."
Easy for you to say, I thought. Boy he sounded confident. His bravado made escape from nerd-dom seem easy? On second thought, he wasn't a true nerd like me, especially is the eyes of everyone, Chad was a starter for the Bucs basketball team. Damn, it's not looking good for me.
With a sudden change of tone, he inquired, "How about someone in your grade?"
"Well there one person that I was thinking, her name is Britney. She's beautiful, popular, and hangs around an elite crowd. I'm sure that is a NO waiting to happen, but it would be worth it just to find out." I replied.
Suddenly a smiling face appeared in my mind. I never thought about her this way before, but somehow the idea made me smile. Without thinking about it, I began speaking out loud.
"Well make that two. The other, is your friend Darius's sister."
"What" responded Chad with a surprised look?
"Yeah I know she's very plain and mostly unnoticeable. But she's nice and for some reason something tells me it would be fun to get to know her better. I don't know why, maybe because she’s always helping me out."
"Are you serious?" asked Chad.
Then Ricardo was back and he was smiling.
"I did it." he said.
I was shocked. He actually did it. Wow! I couldn't believe it. It seemed too easy to get a date.
"Is she going out with you?" We asked.
"No" replied Ricardo with a shrug. "She said that I was nice, but she's not ready to go out with anyone. And that was it."
He just got rejected in front of his friends and our Samson still looked proud. Ricardo still had a big smile; I guess he can do anything if he puts his mind to it.
"Are you sure she didn't just blow you off? Who would want to date you?" I questioned sarcastically.
"Stop being a dork Mike. I'm over it now." replied Ricardo still showing signs of confidence.
"At least I tried. How about you?"
"It's not my turn; Renno is next. By the way where is he? I haven't seen him yet." I said.
"Right over there, talking to Lisa." replied Chad.
Three stunned faces turned and looked at the hallway across the cafeteria. Sure enough, there was Renno speaking with Lisa. It can't be, I thought. He doesn't have that kind of courage. He must be asking her for homework; however his dance seemed to indicate otherwise. Renno always used hand gestures when talking about something important to him. Somewhere between the tango and the two-step he managed to smile. They must have talked for a few minutes. I got the feeling his arms were getting tired. Then it ended and he started his journey back to Avalon.
Upon his return Ricardo inquired, "So who are you going to ask?"
"I just did." replied Renno.
"Did you just ask out Lisa?" responded Ricardo; a sense of envy began to fill the air.
"Yep, but she said no" said Renno. "I tried to find out why, so I kept on asking her questions."
Renno looked dismayed.
"In the end, she said no because I'm not a Mormon. Can you believe that, maybe I should change faiths.” said Renno jokingly. But he didn't look like the jovial fellow I always knew. His pride shows signs of a crack.
Ricardo let out a slow long breath; a little more relaxed now, he looked relieved. Chad was speechless, but the lights were on and I started to wonder what he was up to.
And I, well....
I couldn't stop laughing; two friends, crashing and burning from the same girl within a few minutes. Now that was classic. It's hard to make this stuff up and it was happening right before my very eyes. No matter what I did to control myself, I couldn't stop the flooding. The dam was broken. Driven by my own fears of rejection or perhaps in order to suppress them, I continued to laugh.
Chad grinned, but didn't laugh.
"Mike you're a real dork." said Ricardo with a look of parental disapproval.
"Grow up, kiddy." said Renno. "I don't think you'll do any better. You probably can't even speak to a girl, so you might as well pay up."
With that Renno started to look lively again. Putting down underclassman always seemed to bring out the Frenchmen. Was this his Waterloo?
"What? Me pay? I don't think so. I've gone out with a few girls before and I’m sure that more than you two jokers combined." I replied in full arrogance.
"You're so full of it. You've never gone out with a girl before. Nerds like you don't go out on dates and face it, you're still a kid." said Renno with conviction.
Now I was getting irritated, especially since I wasn't lying. I had gone out on a date in 8th grade, but I'm not sure if I could call that a real date. Especially since my friends followed us to the movie theater. I walked her home afterwards, but in the end, nothing happened. Just out of curiosity I got to second with another girl. But somehow, those experiences didn't seem to stack up against what was happening here.
"I’m not lying, just go ask my brother. I know more about dates than you." I replied with an air of defiance.
Though I know it was only slightly true, my pride wouldn't have it otherwise; based loosely on fact my ego would defend my honor.
"Can you guys cut it out? We all agreed to do this, two to go right? Let's just think about that." interjected Chad.
"Right" said Ricardo. "Hey it's your turn now Chad. So why don't you just do it right now?"
"Hey hey, there's no rush. I've still got a week from today. I think this is enough action for today, let's get out of here," replied Chad.
So we all started to walk out of the cafeteria.
"Psst Chad" I whispered. "Don't tell them about any girls on my list. Otherwise they'll sabotage me. Thanks."
I could see the devious laughter in his eyes. But he nodded in agreement as we left though the gateway to our freedom.
The rest of our gang was waiting for us outside, Arman, my brother, and Joe among others.
"What the hell took you guys so long?" said Joe.
We told him and he couldn't stop laughing and making fun of us for the rest of the day.
All of these guys looked like the same group of people that I met on the first day of school, but somehow after today they all looked a little different.
I didn't realize how tough of a day it must have been for Renno and Ricardo until many years later. And that the courage they showed me that day would never fade away from my memory. Thanks guys for helping us all grow. The seedling just saw the sun for the first time on Okinawa.