fshionableNblack: *My head bounces gently, rhythm-bound, against the passenger side window of the car. The sun is gone for good, I see, and we're driving through gray air. I don't ask where we're going. It doesn't really matter, I think. My back is slumped against the seat, and the seatbelt is keeping me from falling out, or falling into you. I don't say a word. I watch the road.*
alternate stan: *I don't remember what CD is in my player and so strains of "Seek Up" startle me. I don't turn it off, mostly because my CDs are probably under your seat. I find myself singing along, watching the road and trying not to look at you. I don't know where we're going, but as long as it's not school or home, I'm glad.*
fshionableNblack: What is this? *I murmur, looking at you through the corner of my eye. I see that the book is in your lap. Your face is shadowed*
alternate stan: *I glance at her, then back at the road.* Dave Matthews Band. They're .. One of my favorite bands. *My fingers tap on the steering wheel, matching the beat of Carter's drums.*
fshionableNblack: Oh. *I smile faintly. It's not surprising.* I take it they're played in the locker room frequently?
alternate stan: *I shrug.* Sometimes. I listen to them a lot when I do homework. Some of the boys think they're music is too ... It's not manly enough. *I snort.*
fshionableNblack: *I roll my eyes.* I'll say it again: boys. *I mock-scowl at you*
alternate stan: *I laugh.* You're right. Although they'd never let you call them boys. *I shake my head as we pull up to a red light.* Not that they're not .. Boys, I mean.
fshionableNblack: Yeah. *You sound shaky. Or, you still sound shaky. I lick my lips, looking around us.* Any idea where we're going?
alternate stan: *I shake my head.* I know this spot. I mean, I know several spots. But usually. It's not ... *I want to tell her that she's too nice to take there. Too nice for fucking in a back of a car. Not that I want to do that. I want to take her to Cleveland ... To the coffee shops in the bookstores. To places that aren't trendy, places that Delilah never wanted to go.* I don't know.
fshionableNblack: Sounds good. *I lean my head against the seat rest, hands in my lap. Maybe I could just ask you if we could drive all night.* I like being surprised.
alternate stan: Okay. *The light turns green and I glance at you before driving forward again. The song changes from "Seek Up" to "Proudest Monkey" and I change to "Two Step," almost without realizing it.*
fshionableNblack: They're, uh. Not so bad. *I notice that I had been staring at your hand as it fiddled with the CD player, and now as it's resting on the steering wheel. Fingers. Wrist. Knuckles. I smile to myself.*
alternate stan: *I don't look at you as I take the northbound ramp to 71.* I .. I always skip those songs. *I say, almost dumbly. I bite my lip before speaking.* I'm glad you like them. *Otherwise ... Otherwise I don't know what I do. I get distracted by Dave's words again, and start singing quietly to myself.*
fshionableNblack: *Not saying a thing, I let you zone. I zone. I run my fingers over your dashboard, rearranging dust, doodling little patterns. Near the back I write an S. M. I want to breathe on the window and write your initials like a five year old, but I don't. I listen to the acoustics and relax, not bothering to look at other cars or think about school.*
alternate stan: *My fingers drum on the steering wheel as the song comes to and end. I skip another song. And smile as I sing along. I remember going to the concert with one of the guys from football camp this summer. We smoked up before the show. I want to tell you, but I can't stop singing. I never can when I'm listening to them. We've merged onto the high way and I suddenly remember a coffee shop in Strongsville. I squint and pull out my glasses from my pocket. I slip them on and find that we're 15 minutes from Strongsville. Before I can tell you, I get lost in the music again.*
fshionableNblack: *I hide a yawn behind my arm, and wonder if anyone even notices I'm gone.*
alternate stan: *I hear you yawn and I suddenly feel bad.* Did ... Did you have plans for tonight? *I ask, faltering over my words.*
fshionableNblack: Yes, I did. A date. *I smile at you reassuringly* With a book.
alternate stan: *My stomach drops and then I smile, slightly bothered by the relief I'm feeling.* I had practice. *I say and grin back at her. I see our exit and slow down, eventually I pull off.*
fshionableNblack: Will you be dragged through the mud for skipping? *I look around, recognizing the surroundings. huh, I think. Far enough away to be away, but I would have kept driving. You are now leaving Ohio, kind of away. That's what I need. We need.*
alternate stan: Possibly. But I don't really care. *I pull into a parking lot for a building that looks sort of life an abandoned warehouse, but there are several cars. I park.* I came here a few times this summer. It's just a coffee shop. And internet cafe. But ... Well. It's not like places back home. *I say back home as if it's another country. And I suppose it is.*
fshionableNblack: *I peer through the windshield at the place, and I can just see from the other cars, the wood, the dark windows, that Home couldn't have paid for a place like this. I grin, heart beating with a little more gusto, and I open the door, unfastening my seatbelt, and climbing out. The sidewalk is solid beneath my feet.*
alternate stan: *I walk around the car and fight the urge to hold your hand.* Bring your book. *I suggest, mine is firmly gripped in my hand.*
fshionableNblack: uh. Okay. *I lean down, searching through my book bag for my notebook and pen. Finding it at the bottom, I shut the car door and join you, eyes searching the building.*
alternate stan: *I walk toward the door and then turn back, waiting for you to catch up.* I think tonight is jazz. They have other types too ... Friday is my favorite. *I wave to a sign listing the themed nights. Friday has "electronica" written next to it. I push the door open, holding it for you.*
fshionableNblack: Electronica? *I hesitate before I step through the door, ducking my head a little and brushing hair behind my ear.* Oh, how classy. *Though I smirk a little, not sure whether I was commenting on the music-of-choice or the door-opening. I step inside, notebook held up to my chest*
alternate stan: I like it. *I flash a smile at you as you walk by. I let the door fall shut. I follow you toward the counter and find myself standing to close, but I don't move. I lean down slightly.* You want anything to drink?
fshionableNblack : I don't actually, um. Drink coffee. *Your breath tickles my ear, and my shoulders hunch a little in response. Defense mechanism. I can feel the heat coming off of your body. Not bad. Not bad at all.*
alternate stan: They serve other things. Like Chai. And Italian sodas. *I want to tell her to order something, so I can pay. Besides, everything they offer here is good.* They have food. I mean. Bagels. Baked goods. *I sound like my mother. I try not to look at you neck.*
fshionableNblack: Italian sodas? *I'm not looking at the other people in the place. I'm not, though my eyes itch to, and I want to turn around in circles and look at the ceilings and touch the walls. They don't care who I am here, and that's cool. That's more than cool. I slowly relax, my arms relaxing around myself. I laugh softly.* I haven't had one of those since I was a kid. I used to be addicted. Strawberry. *I murmur, blinking,* Wow. I'd forgotten all about that.
alternate stan: Kiwi. *I offer, with a grin. I glance at the menu, even though I know what they offer. The waitress catches my eye. I nod at you, though I'm not sure if you can see, letting the waitress know I'm paying for you. then I order. A Chai and a bagel with cream cheese. I touch your waist.* Order. *I say, softly.*
fshionableNblack : I, uh. *I blink at the woman, clearing the haze in front of my eyes ('stokely, those are bad for you. when will you ever grow up? act like the young woman you are. sometimes, i swear it, you're a disappointment to me...').* A strawberry Italian soda, please. And a bagel. With cream cheese. *I straighten up, and flash a triumphant grin at you, though, yeah. I'm sure you don't know what it's for.*
alternate stan: *I watch as the woman fixes our order. I want to put my hand on your lower back, but I don't. instead to slip past you, toward the counter and hand you your drink. I pay before you can say anything, then grab my Chai.* They'll bring our bagels. *I say.*
fshionableNblack: *I open my mouth, but shut it again. I scowl, cool glass against my palm.* I'll get you back for that.
alternate stan: *I grin at her.* Next time. *I glance around.* Couch, table, or .. Those chairs. *I gesture toward strange looking beanbag-like chairs.*
fshionableNblack: *My eyes light up at the beanbags and I snigger softly. I think of how absolutely ridiculous you'll look sitting in one of them. And fuck, I feel like a child in a candy shop. I've reverted back to the age of ten, and I can smell my Italian soda, but I don't take a drink. It'll go away faster if I do.*
alternate stan: Couch? *I ask, because in all my experience, they're the most comfortable seats in the building. I start walking toward a blue couch, facing the room. I stop in front of it.* It this okay?
fshionableNblack: *I follow, finally risking a glance around. A lot of black, plaid, and/or messenger bags. A lot of studying. Reading. Laptops. It's quiet, and music is playing softly in the background. A lonesome saxophone. I feel like I should be swaying. I stand next to the couch, a little lost, but feeling very at home.* I like it here. *I speak softly, sitting down close to you. An inch or so between us. I don't move away, I barely even notice.* I like it a lot.
alternate stan: *I turn and look at you.* I do too. I. I actually come here a lot. *I bite my lip, then take a sip of my Chai. It's perfect, better than Mom's at home. I close my eyes for a moment, savoring the taste on my tongue.*
alternate stan: *I turn and look at you.* I do too. I. I actually come here a lot. *I bite my lip, then take a sip of my Chai. It's perfect, better than Mom's at home. I close my eyes for a moment, savoring the taste on my tongue.*
fshionableNblack: No wonder. *My eyes move from person to person. They don't look up at me. And it's not like I'm invisible, like at home, like at school, like anywhere in Herrington, but it's almost as if I...* Feel like I belong here. In a way.
alternate stan: That's part of why I come here. *I say, softly. I want to say more, about the other part. The getting away part, but our bagels come. I munch on mine, watching you as well as the other people.*
fshionableNblack: *The bagel is warm and the soda is cold. Bite, sip. Bite, sip. I sit with my notebook balanced on my knees, aware of you, aware of the music (saxophone now joined by bass cello and drums), aware of everything. I resist the urge to rearrange myself on the couch. I feel like I should be lounging out, lying sideways, putting my feet up. I lick cream cheese off of my thumb without giving it a second thought.*
alternate stan: *I find myself staring at you, watching you eat rather than eating myself. I can't remember the last time I saw Delilah eat ... It wasn't that she didn't eat, it's that I never watched her. I don't know what I did. I watch the cream cheese on your finger and watch you lick it off. I'm still staring and try to distract myself, finish my bagel. I do finish, but I find it hard not to look at you. I set the now empty plate on a small table and then tuck my feet under me. Neuromancer resting on my lap, my Chai in my hand.*
fshionableNblack: *I feel your eyes on me, and my face reddens. It's like before, under the bleachers, and I think that I've spoken more to you than anyone all week. All month? Year? I don't know. I really don't. I finish my bagel, mmming my approval, and set my plate on top of yours. I cradle my glass close to my chest, leaning back. No, change. I switch my weight around a little, fluid body movement, until I'm half facing you, half facing everyone else. My fingers move around my notebook, following its cover, and I raise my eyebrows at you in question.* What's your favorite thing to eat?
alternate stan: *I take a long drink from my mug. I turn toward you.* My mother once took us to Cleveland for Indian food. Ever since then she's been trying to replicate it. I don't think I've taste anything better than curry. *I hold the mug in both hands, the warmth spreading through my body, though I'm not sure if it's just from the mug.* You?
fshionableNblack: Ho-hos. *I grin into my glass.* No, seriously. I could live off of those things. Chocolate twinkies... the best invention ever. *I lick my lips, and I taste strawberry. It should be sunny outside, I think. Sunny and seventy-five degrees.* Your turn.
alternate stan: *I grin at her, then push my glasses up, thinking.* What's your favorite place you've never visited, but wanted to? *I take another sip of my Chai.*
fshionableNblack: *My brow furrows, and I take a few moments to consider.* Greenwich Village. In New York City. ...circa 1960. *I chuckle and shrug.* I've never really been anywhere. That I can remember, I mean. My parents used to take me on vacation with them when I was little, but I can't remember. And they stopped taking me ten years ago. *I drink deeply, lowering my eyes.* What about you?
alternate stan: *I run a hand through my hair.* London, present day. Real football. *I laugh slightly.* I often wondered if I picked the wrong sport.
fshionableNblack: Soccer's less... gruesome, that's for sure. *I wince, looking at your hand.*
alternate stan: *I shrug.* It's still dangerous. *I finish my Chai and set my mug next to the plates. I fold myself back onto the couch. Knees up to my chest, arms wrapped around.* I played when I was little.
fshionableNblack: Didn't everyone? *I catch your book from sliding onto my lap. I fit it between us, fingertips smoothing over the cover.*
alternate stan: Did you? *My hands slides from my legs and end up resting on top of yours on my book. I don't move them.*
fshionableNblack: I think so. *My hand tingles, warm, you're very warm, and my teeth click against the glass accidentally. I set it aside.* Before we moved, maybe... when I had friends in the neighborhood and I used to go out to play. I don't, uh. Really remember.
alternate stan: *I don't move my hands away from your hand. I kind of like it. I look at you.* You moved? From? *I wonder if I'm being too nosy.*
fshionableNblack: *I snort softly, shaking my head.* It barely constitutes as moving. My mom remarried, and as a result we moved from Meadowlands to Lakewood Park. *I lower my voice, fiddling with my notebook, as I fight to keep a hint of bitterness out of my tone. I don't win the battle.* I didn't even have to switch schools.
alternate stan: *I nod, running a hand through my hair. My other hand is still resting on yours and unconsciously my fingers curl around yours in an almost comforting gesture.* I always wanted to move. Schools, towns. Then high school came. *I shrug.* No kids in the new neighborhood?
fshionableNblack: *My voice falls flat as I remember their faces when I had asked in my little seven year old voice, can I play? Remember the snickering, the dares, the jokes about my clothes, my hair, and it probably wasn't me. It was probably just kids being kids. But kids are pricks, and I was the new kid in town, who in time gave up going outside in my "play clothes" and instead found refuge curled up in my bed with a book five years ahead of my reading level.* Oh, there were plenty of kids. *My hand twitches in yours.*
alternate stan: *I feel her hand move and I want to squeeze it, be comforting, but somehow I don't think that it's enough.* Just not ... *I trail off, I understand.* Never mind. *I try to tell myself to let go of her hand, but I don't.*
fshionableNblack: *I bite my lip, and my head falls back against the couch, eyes trained on the ceiling above, hair brushing your shoulder and falling into my face, but I don't move to brush it away. The song changes (subtle, barely audible), and now it stars a sorrowful clarinet.* Kids like you, Stan... they're the ones who have it made. It starts off when they're picked first for kickball. Next you know it, they're head cheerleader or captain on the football team. If you fuck up early in life, it drags on. You can never escape it. It follows you around like the moon when you're driving.
alternate stan: *I don't know quite what to say, I know you're right.* I'd tell you that you're wrong, that it isn't always easy. But I can't, because you aren't right. But if you'd told me that last year, I'd have complained about all the pressures of being captain, of dating the head cheerleader. *He absently slides his hand around yours, holding it ... Not quite loosely, but enough that you could easily pull away if you wanted.* What a difference a year makes. Or, oh how the mighty has fallen. At least I can freely admit that I wasted a few years of my life pretending to be someone else. *I look at you and brush a few strands of hair away from your eyes.* But you ... You're better than anyone I've ever known.
fshionableNblack: *It feels like all of the air has been sucked out of my body. My skin slowly shrivels as the moisture follows, and I'm left breathless and numb. My mouth works on its own accord, and I murmur,* You don't know me. Who I am. My life.
alternate stan: I didn't say I knew you. *I say, and know, as soon as the words leave my lips, that I'm being defensive. I mentally kick myself.* You're smarter than most of the people I know. You don't try to fit in. And, selfishly enough, you talk to me as if I'm more than just the soon-to-be former captain of the only think that people seem to care about at our school. *I take a breath.* But that's not my point. My point, *I say and look at our hands and then straight at you.* my point is that I want to know you.
fshionableNblack: *Is it possible for my brain to be working at this top-notch speed? Is it, really, because I'd sure as hell like to know. You're there, right next to me, but not exactly, because I feel removed. Like a slice of dough that's been cookie-cutted out. I feel your fingers against mine, your eyes on my face, and I at some point turned to look at you, but my eyes aren't in exact focus. I'm thinking aloud, and that's only a few choice words. My head spins like a top.* You don't know what it's like... having people look at you and see right through you. People know who you are. People'll pay attention if you so much as look at me; not in that good, touch down, cheerleader dating kind of way, and you don't want that. Stan.
alternate stan: *I blink several times and try to think of a way to make you understand. Except that I don't want to make you understand, I just want you to.* You're right. Again. I don't know what it's like. But why would I to be liked only because of my status on a team? Why do I want people to like me only because they think it's cool? I can count the number of friends I have on one hand. And you'd be surprised at how few there really are. *Then I realize I'm missing your point.* It's not about what I wait ... So much as that it's about what you want. I don't care if people think that I'm stupid for talking to you, because I like you. Talking to you, I mean. *I curse myself for that slip. But I just stumble on ahead.* Do you want that, Stokely?
fshionableNblack: *Wait a minute, slow down, pull over. I furrow my brow, caught on vowels and constants and wants and likes. The way your lips move to form words, the way your eyelashes brush against your cheeks. Such little things. I pull myself back into coherent thought.* W-want... to talk to you, you mean?
alternate stan: Talk. Hang out. Be friends. *But not that order. Be friends should be first. I watch you, I reach out and brush the rest of your hair out of your eyes. I let my hand linger to long before jerking it back to my body.*
fshionableNblack: *I swallow, and fuck if my hand isn't sweating in yours.* I've never really. I mean. It's kind of... hard. For me to... *I trail off, my throat clicking. I avert your eyes.*
alternate stan: *I suddenly wonder what I'm doing. Fuck, I think to myself, all this trouble for a girl. Then I look at you and think, it's not trouble. It's not anything but an attempt to make sense of life. To make friends.* All we can do is try. Right?
fshionableNblack: *I lift my eyes to yours, and before I can make enough sense out of it, I blurt out,* What color are your eyes?
alternate stan: *I blink.* Blue-grey.
fshionableNblack: *I nod, and leaning into you slightly, I take my hand away from where it was holding my notebook in a death grip, and put it tentatively just below your shoulder. I can feel the beginning of your collarbone under my thumb.* I really want to. Try, I mean. This... I can live with this. *I smile gently.*
alternate stan: Good. *I say and I feel my face get warm, but it's nice, pleasant. My other hand rests on your knee and neither of us move for a moment. I swallow, looking at you.* I want to, too. *I tell myself that wanting to hold you is a bad idea. Since we're not even really friends yet. Or. Something. I can't quite think straight, your hand on my shoulder is distracting.*
fshionableNblack: Yeah... good. *I sit still for a moment more, and then slowly pull away from you, though still remain close. My fingers rearrange themselves within the boundary of your hand, and curl a little in response. I shift my legs, and my notebook slips a little and falls open. I hurriedly close it, slapping the cover shut.*
alternate stan: *I shift, moving my legs. My side is pressed up against the couch, and I'm still slightly facing you. I glance down at our hands, my hand is big around yours. I close it slowly, gently. I rub my thumb over the top of your hand. I want to stretch my arm across the back of the couch, but I don't want you to think I'm trying to take advantage of you, so I don't. Instead I play with fray threads on the coach.* Yeah. *I echo you, trying to think of something to say, although we don't really need to fill the silence. The music does that for us. It's trumpet, sultry and sexy. Probably Chet Baker.*
fshionableNblack: *I smile, fingers reflecting yours on my hand against my notebook. I look around us again, and people have left, leaving new people in their wake; they look vaguely reminiscent of the others, however.* If you could be any animal, what would you be?
alternate stan: A cat. *I say without hesitation.* Sleek, quiet, sly. And graceful. But I could never be graceful. *I shrug, but I'm smiling at her.* You?
fshionableNblack: A wolverine. No one fucks with one of those. *I grin, think of cats rubbing against people's legs. I can see it; you doing it, being it.*
alternate stan: *I arch my eyebrow.* The only wolverine I can think of it from X-Men ... And ... *I stop and find myself smiling.* I can see it. Nice.
fshionableNblack: Well, thanks. I think. *I try not to scrunch up my nose too much at the comic book mentioning. Playful... I can do playful and friendly. Right.*
alternate stan: Definitely a compliment. *I half grin at you. I look around, then at my watch. And then finally back at you.* Do you want to stay here? *I ask, not quite sure what the alternative is.*
fshionableNblack: *I tilt my head, considering.* You, uh. Have some other place in mind?
alternate stan: *I shake my head.* No. I'm ... It's getting late. That's all. *I bite my lip. I'll get up and go to school tomorrow, no matter how tired. I'd rather be sitting here, half hour from home, with you than, well,
whatever I might have been doing tonight.*
fshionableNblack: Oh. *I run a finger under my eye, and when I pull it back, there's a black streak on it. I rub at it with my thumb distractedly* You, um. Wanna go?
alternate stan: *I shrug.* We could drive more. I mean. I could drive. You could ride. *I smile slightly.* And you can pick out a CD ... *I offer, then,* If I've got something you like.
fshionableNblack: *I smile, perking up. Driving. With you. At night.* Yeah. Yeah, I'd like that.
alternate stan: Good. *I say, and wonder how we've both come to overuse that word. I file it away, something to ask you later. I don't want to let go of your hand, but I do, sliding my fingers away from yours and picking up my book. I stand in front of you and offer my hand, even though you don't need it.*
fshionableNblack: Such chivalry. *I take your hand, half standing on my own and half tugging myself up by ways of you. I stand in front of you, close, far too close, for a moment too long, studying the collar of your shirt, your neck above it, your breath against my forehead, before stepping sideways. I carry my notebook loosely in one hand by my side. The other hand is still in yours.*
alternate stan: I try. *I smile at her. My stomach flutters slightly when you don't let go of my hand. I secure my own book in my other hand and gently guide us to the door.*