12 - Buzzer Beater
It was Wednesday and for two hellish days Renno tormented me. Though it was Chad's turn, my gut still wrenched. It was lunch time and extremely noisy, but I couldn’t hear a thing as fear of embarrassment consumed my mind. I sat in the cafeteria with my head on the table next to my partially eaten KHS styled Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes. I wasn’t at the table alone as the gang was here with me.
"Mike you don't look so well." asked Chad.
"I haven't been sleeping well lately." I responded. I didn't even bother to lift my head off the table as I mumbled to answer.
"How can you be so clam? You only have two days to left to find a date. What happens if Anna isn't available?"
"Not a problem." he replied with a smile. Chad didn't look nervous at all. On the other hand I felt quite ill. Deep down I knew; I waded far beyond nervousness. I swam alone in the Nile; however, it felt much better than open admission of my insecurities. Weakness, if seen by the others would provoke a life time of ridicule. The others had shown no signs of doubt; why was I consumed by it? Perhaps it was just my age, maybe I was too young to date.
"Johnny should be back in a few minutes with the details. He's off talking to Anna and her friend Trisha right now."
With a look of amazement, I wondered how Johnny was able to walk up to a girl and gather information about dating so candidly. He didn't seem anymore skilled at this than Chad or I, but he was a very care free individual. However sometimes, he was a bit goofy. If anything, he was the anti-Joe, but his fairly good looks might have helped. Johnny was taller than average, athletic and carried a great smile; maybe that's how got their attention. He was also nice and considerate to everyone, but he was a nomad as well. I knew Johnny was a core member of the gang, but he seemed to hang out with many other groups besides us.
"What's up chicken?" said the reaper.
"How's it going Renno?" I replied with an uneasy tone. I didn't even bother to look at him.
Slamming his books on the table, Renno came crashing down next to us. "Ready to join the club, the reject club?" he remarked with a big smile.
I sat up and replied. "I'm better than that, trust me." But my confidence was wavering and the sharks smelled it too.
"Nope, your seat is reserved with us: You, me, and Ricardo."
"You’re such a dork Renno." replied Ricardo.
Then a smiling Johnny was back. "I got the news. Anna did break up with her boyfriend. But she's really bent out of shape about it; I think he cheated on her. However she might be ready to go out again. Chad you'd better get going, Trisha told me that a bunch of other guys want to go out with her."
With that, Chad started to smile.
I looked at him and didn't say a word. Neither did Chad. He knew my question, "When?" By the look in his eyes, I knew it would be soon. Crap I thought, then I'll be on the clock. Once again the plague of self doubt that rotted within me began to spread.
The rest of the day came and went in a flash. Consumed by own insecurities, I lost track of time. The night was restless and several nightmares woke me from my sleep. Like a mobster in the yakuza, I felt that my decision to eat lunch with Renno back in 9Th grade would keep be labeled as a nerd forever. I didn't know if I had the stomach to change. It was easier to stay out of the spotlight and hang out in the shadows. Asking out a girl would definitely move me to into the public view and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to do that. Like most boys, I feared rejection, but what really worried me the most was the embarrassment and teasing that followed. Oh what the heck I thought, going from true nerd to a reject sounded like a better play, at least socially. I guess I'd better stick to plan “A” and ask out Alison; with that I finally slept.
It became Thursday and Chad was smiling. "I did it. I asked her out." he exclaimed.
Classes just ended and the four horsemen sat at the cafeteria table. Except this time, Johnny was there as well.
"Welcome to the club, pray tell how did you crash and burn?" inquired Renno.
"That's the thing, I didn't.", responded Chad with a big smile. "I'm going out with her this weekend!"
"Holy shit!" I yelled as I stood up from my bench; people around us were staring at me. Filled with embarrassment I quickly sat down. What the heck! I'm totally screwed!
“I can’t believe it!” added Renno in disbelief.
Ricardo didn’t say a word, but I could tell he was a bit down.
"Congratulations on being the first to escape...errr...succeed." I said with a smile.
"Thanks Mike." said Chad, "You know what, at first I was nervous when talking to her, but after a while it got easier. It’s an amazing feeling; you have to do it to understand."
Signs of despair quickly surfaced on me. Chad noticed it, so he gave me a sign of reassurance. Without speaking a word, I could tell he was saying "don't worry it will be all right."
"It's like when I made the game winning shot at Kubasaki. You just need to focus, trust yourself and do it."
"Thanks for the advice." I replied. But it reality it didn't help. I was even more scared now. Being a fourth failure I could live with, being the third, I couldn't. There's no way in the world that I was willing to join Renno’s Reject club.
"So are you ready for Alison?" asked Chad.
He was blunt and even worse, he inquired in public. My face turned red and the guys looked at me.
"Alison the cheerleader, are you crazy? For sure, you are going down like the rest of us." added Renno.
"I don't think so" I responded, but they could sense I was lying out of my teeth. But what else was I going to say, in situations like this, my ego always spoke first.
"Well if you are talking about that Alison, then don't bother. She's just started to go out with senior and he's a Panther varsity athlete. So unless you want to get rejected for sure, you’d better think of someone else." added Johnny.
Great! So much for plan “A”, at least I still had my list. It was short, but I had a backup plan. Let's see how things would go either Britney or Marielle. I still didn’t know which one would cause my doom. But I still had time, seven days. But it seemed awfully short.
"By the way; can I join your game?” inquired Johnny.
"Sure" added Ricardo. "We could always use another in our corner, 4 is better than 2."
"Don't count on that." responded Johnny. He had a wicked smile so I knew he had a plan.
"I'm not joining your reject club either, so you’ll have to find another member." I added, but no one seemed to care. Ricardo was taken aback by Johnny's bravado, Johnny seemed to be focused on something else, and Renno, well, he didn’t bother to believe me.
"So Chad, what are you going to do on your date?" inquired Johnny.
"I've got it all worked out." said Chad with a sly tone and a big smile.
We all listened intently as coach Chad gave us the winning game plan.