Moment of Strangeness, Part 2

I am standing just outside the school’s exit, waiting for Allen Stevens to procure any of the items that must be taken home with him. As I stand there, I mentally go over the schoolwork that I must have done by the next day. Despite this being but the third day of school, I have—and I speak in the vernacular—a ton of homework to complete.
Allen has offered for us to work together on our homework, but I have chosen to decline. It’s not because I dislike Allen Stevens; nor is it the fact that we have only known each other for only seventy-five hours. It is more the fact that allowing Allen to come to my house involves introducing him to my parents, which intimates that I have made a friend—which is something that, as my parents well know, is not something that Margo Palmer has a great deal of, if at all—which then will lead to undue sentimentalism, awkward conversations with Allen, and the like.
“I sincerely apologize to have kept you loitering here at the school premises, Ms. Palmer,” Allen says, bringing me out of my thoughts. “Shall I give you a ride in my car, or would you rather wait for your mother to transport you to your domicile?”
“Well, during my last period, I received a text message from my mother saying—and I quote—‘will be 30 minutes later. Srry. Love u.’ Spelled s-r-r-y, and the last word is solely the letter ‘u.’”
“As the dispatcher of said text is a close relative of yours, I shall refrain from further comments. May I assume that you wish to be driven home?”
I smile. “You have assumed correctly.”
As we walk towards the area where Allen’s car is situated, I take the time to study Allen Stevens. I have realized that Allen Stevens enjoys keeping those who observe him constantly guessing. While on the first day of school he was in jeans and a plaid shirt, the next day he wore a flannel black shirt with hot pink edges, and tight pants. Today, he is wearing a crisp white shirt and black pants. The other thing that stands out is the fact that he has painted his fingernails jet black. He does not bring it up, and neither do I. I respect his privacy.
And then we are at his car. It is a Honda, and it appears to be new. Allen merely says, “A perquisite of having Riley Stevens as my father,” before opening the door for me. Once I am seated, he starts the car and stares at the small screen that shows him what is behind the car as he backs out.
He presses a button, and music fills the car. The display says that the song currently playing is “King Of Carrot Flowers.”
“Neutral Milk Hotel?”
“Correct,” Allen says. “It is another group I enjoy listening to. It used to be an obscure band, but recently, it has become the current trend.”
“High school students are so terribly vacillating,” I say. “The only thing that’s worse than fickle teenagers are those who attempt to be hipster for the mere sake of being…hip.”
“I loathe them more than I despise those who listen to the arrhythmic affront that is supposedly music.” Allen hangs a hard right, and I grip the seat tightly. “At least the latter genuinely enjoy what they listen to; the former, however, spout off various no-name indie bands that make them seem all sophisticated, when in point of fact, they really are simply being ostentatious.”
“Aren’t we all hypocritical, though? Isn’t it the sine qua non of being human?” I ask.
Allen merely cocks his head to one side, purses his lips, and drives in silence. “Ms. Palmer,” he eventually says, “might I have the pleasure of taking you to an ice cream shop and getting something to eat?”
I take only a moment to answer. “Why yes, Mr. Stevens. You may.”
“Splendid.”
A few minutes later, we come to a somewhat jarring halt in the parking lot in front of the rectangular one-story stucco building that is presumably the ice cream place. I have never been here before; then again, I have been to few places since we moved here three months ago.
“If you’ll hold on, Ms. Palmer,” Allen says as he gets out of his car, “I shall get the door for you.” He opens the passenger side and waits for me to get out. “Shall we go?”
“Indeed,” I say. Allen Stevens escorts me inside the brightly colored interior. The room is decorated with bold curtains and vintage paintings. The floorboards are just slightly creaky, but it can hardly be heard over the ambience of laughing children and talking adults.
As we get ready to order, Allen says for me to go first. After looking through the menu, I say, “Uh, a double scoop of pistachio mint in a cone, please.”
“No, no, no,” Allen exclaims, his face etched with a look of horror. “Dearest, you simply cannot be so banal, so predictable in what you choose to eat while dining with me. A double scoop of pistachio mint? Are you in earnest?”
“Yes,” I retort, defensively.
“Ms. Palmer,” Allen crosses his arms and turns to face me, frowning, “each person has but one sole life to live, and that is all. When you lie on your bed in a hospice several decades from now, reminiscing over all that you have accomplished and done, will you be able to say ‘Well, at least I was able to order a completely novel creation of my own at that ice cream place when I was with Allen Stevens back in my junior year’? Will you?
“These little choices, my friend, hold more importance than you think. You go to school, graduate, continue to further your education, get married, have children, work, retire, die, and you live your life as countless others do. But it’s all a paper life that burns away in a moment if you do not take care to not be cautious about this thing that is called Life. All these little choices, Ms. Palmer, all these are significant in your life. In short, I cannot in good conscience allow you to order merely…pistachio mint. You must be venturesome, my friend. Venturesome.” Allen Stevens takes a deep breath and shakes his head slightly, unsmiling, yet I know that he is not displeased; I already know the nuances of his facial expressions and body language, and I can tell that he is merely waiting for me to make up my mind.
“Very well then, Mr. Stevens,” I say, “give me a moment to decide and I shall see if I can satisfy you and create a moment that I can remember as I lie on my deathbed.” My voice is jocular as I speak, but I do not yet know what will happen.
As Allen orders an ice cream sundae with three different flavors and a myriad of toppings, he pauses to tell me that I can create my own item. I decide to do just that, and order a blend of cappuccino, vanilla, and chocolate ice cream to blended to a milkshake-like consistency. Allen and I decide to add chocolate chips to the mix, followed by instant coffee crystals and just a little bit of caramel and almond flavoring. I then ask Alicia, who is making this new concoction, to add some ice to the whole mix so it comes out frothy.
The drink is poured into a large plastic cup, followed by whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and a maraschino cherry. Allen is clearly pleased—as am I. He opens the door for me on the way out, and we walk outside and sit on the prickly grass in the front of the homey building. There are bone-colored plastic chairs and rocking benches scattered around the front and sides of the ice cream place, but I want to sit on the grass, and apparently, so does Allen. I’ve always enjoyed sitting on grass and staring at its verdant greenness, pulling up clumps of it and smelling the earthy soil beneath it, and observing the tiny insects marching to and fro amidst the towering blades.
But that is not at all: while some people see grass for just being a nearly omnipresent sort of vegetation, I see it as more, something complex. While the ubiquitous grass represents life as it grows, dotting the landscape with its signature bold colors, it is also death: once a body is buried, the grass eventually begins to grow out of the freshly piled mound of dirt, out of us. And so the grass is life and death, hope and despair. It is a complicated metaphor which one can spend hours puzzling about, as I often have.
But now, I am here with Allen Stevens, and he is here with me, and we are together, and my heart is not beating rapidly, as I thought it might have. Instead, it continues to send blood throughout my body, allowing me to go on living. And never before have I been quite so grateful for that fist-sized organ that is called the heart, because I have never experienced the feeling that fills me at the moment: a sense of going on and on, and an underlying sensation of happiness that is not dominating my faculties, but merely allowing me to realize that this moment that I wish could go on infinitely is one that must not be forgotten.
Then again, I am not sure that I could forget it, even if I did want to.

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7 thoughts on “Moment of Strangeness, Part 2

  1. “Are you in earnest?” When I read that all I could hear was Eugene exclaiming that in his slightly panicked voice.
    *goes back to looking up the big word she doesn’t know how to pronounce*

    ~IrishTiger

  2. Ostentatious and ubiquitous…I meant to type “words” but didn’t notice I forgot the “s” until after I posted. 😛

    ~IrishTiger

  3. Haha oh IrishTiger you can do better than that! Hast thine nose not been embedded in enough books yet? 🙂 I finally read The Glass Swallow, btw. Was good but Dragonfly is better 🙂
    I’m loving this Joshua! How is it to write from a female’s perspective?

    • Not as hard as one would think, to be honest. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be; I just used fewer contractions than I might normally use, focused on a few different things, and voila. It also helps to have read many books that come from a female character’s perspective 😉

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