For those who are wondering about that paper on marital domestic violence, I submitted it for the Charles R. Ullman scholarship, one of many I hope to apply for in the months before I start grad school in the fall. It can’t come soon enough. I have missed being a student and a triathlete.
In this chapter, Ross lands a second interview with a wry but sincere lesbian. Yes, when I said relationships of all kinds, I meant it. No discrimination here 🙂
Chapter 12: Sammy Lawrence
Friday passes by with some lag. In pre-cal I nearly fall asleep, as Malerie gives me a couple of curious looks and jabs me once when she goes up to Harrison’s desk to turn in her homework. I just salute her and lie my head back down on my desk.
“I may have to interview a couple extra people while you sleep,” she says in teasing after class, giving me a gentle hip bump before we head our separate ways. Today she’s got on a simple white T-shirt with a dove across her breasts. In traditional Malerie defiance, though, the grey shading makes it look more grungy than fragile. Below the soaring bird are two lines of black curvy lettering which read, I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world.
“Beautiful shirt,” I call after her. I can see her smile out of the corner of my eye.
It’s during English when I’m finishing a practice AP prompt over a short story that another candidate pops into my head. Sitting up and smiling, I pass my paper up with some optimism.
Lunch rolls around next. Perfect time to search her out.
Arriving at our table, I greet Kristina and tell Matt that his curly hair’s getting out of control. He rubs it, then puckers his lips and shrugs. “When dandruff is snowing out of my hair, then I’ll cut it.”
Conversation goes on for the longest time, the three of us drifting from topic to topic: the test results Kristina and I got back on The Great Gatsby, my acquaintance with new girl Malerie, Matt’s insane dedication to his school work, which plays out as he gets up with his trash after a few minutes and laments that he has to go study for an anatomy test.
“Lame,” Kristina remarks, and he just shrugs matter-of-factly and leaves anyway.
“I’d better head out, too,” I say, and Kristina makes an exasperated gesture. “Hey, it’s for a project.”
“Oh, poop,” Kristina says, dropping her ciabatta role on her tray and sighing. “I need to find a boyfriend or something. Sitting alone sucks.”
I just laugh, and her feigned disappointment disappears as she wishes me well on my second interview. “Make it controversial,” she calls after me, and I think Oh, you read my mind.
Sammy Lawrence is, like I had hoped, at the table closest to the vending machines, sitting in the CMOB group, along with a couple of new guys from Goliad. She is, like most every other time I’ve seen her, smiling her cheek-smashing grin.
“I just think that there’s no biological sense in a girl’s boobs being crooked!” Andrew tells Sam, a skinny CMOB member with jet-black hair and an ever-present air of jadedness. She’s also the only lesbian I know at Bishop Lynn, which is why she probably fits in with a bunch of computer tech guys. “I mean, come on! If you’re going to try and be attractive, use a bra or something to fix those things. Jesus Christ.”
Grinning as she takes a swig of Coke, Sam replies, “And you’re trying to go out with her? You’re so critical, dude. You’re screwed.”
“I am not screwed,” Andrew replies, looking up at me as I stand by their table.
“Sounds like it,” I say, nodding at Sam and Zach as I work up the nerve to do this. “What’s up guys?”
I get some “what’s up” back and take a seat, feeling them eye me like I just intruded.
“I need to interview someone,” I begin, pulling the pen and note cards out of my back pocket. “A girl, preferably. It’s for the yearbook.” I tilt my head toward Zach as he chuckles and rubs the back of his neck.
“Legit, I’m down,” Sammy says, squinting as the sunlight bounces off the chain-linked fence. “Hobbies, CMOB, what do you want to know about?”
“All of it. None of that favorite pep rally moment bullshit, though.” Tapping my pen against the orange notecard, I clear my throat. “We’re trying to figure out what makes a high school romance work.”
There’s a pause. They all look at each other, Zach the only one choosing to stare down at the table in front of us. Sam is the first one to break a smile, and not an innocent one either.
“Sex,” she says without batting an eye. “And commitment.”
“Come on, girl,” Andrew snorts, and I can’t help but smile. His romantically passionate side is coming out, I can tell. “You and Mariela are like the only open lesbian couple in school.
“Lots of roses,” Janian offers, still enunciating his words a little slower than the rest of us, but with gusto. “And chocolates, no?”
“Not really,” Sammy says, folding her arms on the table and adjusting her beanie after she’s planted a swift kick on Andrew’s shin. “If you want to be cliché. But there’s more to it than that.”
“Like?” I ask, posing pen over notecard.
Licking her lips and looking up in thought, she just shrugs and says, “They need the small things, like, an extra instant message on AIM at two in the morning. Or a listener when the guy they just can’t stop thinking about lets them down, and they just need to vent, you know?”
I nod solemnly, jotting most of that down and glancing at her.
“And, of course,” she continues, on a roll now, “hugs. Some smiles, but people always say how to not make them ‘fake’ or whatever. I don’t get how people can be fooled by someone’s smile.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised,” Zach says, crumpling his bag of Doritos. “I’ve seen it done before.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Sammy curls the corner of her lips into a distasteful grimace. “But they’re not important. The guys who pick up after them, though, are the ones who matter. In my case, things are more complicated. Mariela and I have had our share of ridicule and gay bashing.”
Writing down that last part, I look up at Sammy and say, “So you’re pretty considerate of your girlfriend.”
“Of course,” she says, fingering her palm like she’s thinking about drawing it out for me. “Just not around these guys. They’re bad influences.”
“Hey,” Andrew interjects, taking a quick swig of Coke, “don’t blame me, man. A guy can get by with either porn or a girlfriend.”
“Yeah, but you can’t say that for most of us,” Zach teases, probably to hid his own shame.
“That’s the truth,” Janian says, and we all smile before looking away a little too quickly. Feeling like my second interview is dragging, I say, “Sam, you should tell me about you and Mariela.”
“Yeah? Well, what I can say about my girlfriend would take up pages in a yearbook.”
“Ha.” I smirk. “So lay it on me. What makes her your special girl?”
“Everything,” she says, her eyes going far off. “Her eyes are beautiful, her face is perfect, her hair is long, and her smile. Just oh man. I’m just one girl, but she feels like five girls in one. She can be happy, and a deep thinker, and romantic, and social, and technologically savvy.”
“Especially that last one,” Zach says, tilting his head in admiration. “She knows how to install a shim so that the processor’s core isn’t crushed with the heat sink. I should know; she saved my ass that way.”
“Hell yeah, she did,” she says, her lax and nasally voice rising just a bit in pitch as she continues. “But I still had to teach her how to open up. Show her that she didn’t have to worry about what other people think.”
“Cool,” I say. “Hope you guys don’t have to face a lot more homophobia.” I didn’t really think about marriage equality until high school, when I met a track guy who, nearing the edge of his sanity with fear and sickness of his own silence, told me, “If people said this love was okay, I’d feel like a man.” Seeing Sammy and Mariela kiss at homecoming last year, I stared past the ugly looks and thought, “It’s love. Not hate.”
Sammy, flashing me a rare genuine smile, thanks me. “You know, I think you have a knack for interviewing people, Ross. You got me to open up more than I’m used to.”
Before I can respond, her eyes fall on someone behind me. I don’t have to have a mirror to know that it’s Ana.
She’s holding her hands together like a nun, her hair pulled back in a super tight bun. Thanking Sammy and the guys, I stand and motion for Ana to follow me, noting her already apologetic expression.
She speaks first as we round the corner of the main building and head down the narrow path between it and the library. “What was that about?” She nods at my backpack.
“Just this assignment for yearbook,” I say, stuffing my pens into my pocket. “Relationship stuff.”
“Mmm,” she says, her traditional noise of amusement and detachment mixed together. “Cool.”
“Yeah,” I say, as if it’s final.
“So I wanted to talk to you,” she says, pausing and looking up at me. “And just say that I’m sorry for not explaining why I did it better. But I wanted to be here and, maybe, earn a second chance to…”
“No, it’s fine,” I shrug, giving her my attention. “I’ve had some time to think about it.” I gesture back toward the pavilion. “Interviewing these guys, I’m starting to see a lot that I was missing.”
“Well, that’s good,” she says, looking relieved. I just try to keep looking at her, respecting her willingness to start a conversation. But her eyes tell me it’s my move.
“What did you think I was missing?” There. Asked point blank.
She blinks. “Nothing was missing from you, Ross. I just-”
“Wanted change?” I try to help her along. “I needed more fight in me, I guess. I was too sensitive.”
She exhales and looks more irritated than ashamed. “Yeah, that’s right. God, I feel like such a bitch for admitting it, but that was how I felt. That was what I wanted in you.
“You’ve been so great about treating me right. You always asked me how I felt, and even when I didn’t know myself, that question made me feel better. But sometimes I got tired of you asking me. I didn’t always want to talk about feelings.”
“I figured,” I say, my voice barely terse. “That’s how I am with my parents, especially my dad. I just wish they’d get off of my case every now and then. Me worrying about myself is enough.”
She lets out a little laugh at that, a deep admiration in her eyes. “I know what you mean. And yeah, you’re right. You were always right, I guess.”
I wave her away. “Don’t blame yourself, either. Feelings change all the time. I just hope LeRoy’s doing a better job than me.”
“Oh, he’s trying,” she sighs, clasping her hands together around the strap of her white and green designer bag. “But he’s got a pretty busy life, with church and his grades, y’know.”
“Oh, sure.” Can’t forget track, either. “I feel him on that. We have a track meet tomorrow, too. Rio Grande City”
“I’ll probably be there,” she says, no longer sounding apologetic. “Cheer you guys on.”
It’s in this moment that, for the first time since last September, I’m starting to view her as a friend. As someone who will gladly come support our team and then say goodbye to me with nothing more than a hug. It’s a soothing realization, one I could get used to.
“He wants to talk to you sometime,” she tells me, as the bell for fourth period sounds. “He’s feeling sorry, and wants to explain himself.” Stepping back and look off with a mawkish smile, she adds, “I think he feels guilty, like our breaking up was his fault.”
“Sure,” I nod, taking a step back myself as people start to flow out of the buildings. “I’ll talk to him. I don’t think it was ever his fault, though, but I guess only you can really tell him that.”
As people start to move around us, Ana shrugs like she has given up on something she lost and says, “I haven’t been able to yet.”