Twenty Three: Spoon Man

The following Monday
Alley


“How do I look?”

Taylor didn’t answer me. He was absorbed with the fascinating information on the back of the Captain Crunch box. Either that, or he was blatantly ignoring me.

“Taylor!" I repeated crossly. "How do I look?”

He rolled his eyes up to look at me, expression not changing. In one hand he held the box, in the other, a spoon poised for action.

“You look fine,” he said flatly, and turned back to the box.

Well, well... someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

“You don’t think it’s too... you know, different? Unlike me, or whatever? You think he’ll like it?” I glanced down at my outfit. Usually, to go to class I just wore whatever I could find that was clean. Or, sometimes, if I was really tired, whatever I’d slept in the night before. This was college, not a job interview. No one cared what I looked like, especially me. Well, until now, of course.

Today I had opted for a nice, cute pair of jeans (ones with decorative studs around the pockets -- Louise had convinced me to buy them in a moment of weakness) and a crisp white stretch blouse. In an effort to boost my height, I'd chosen black leather boots with a two-inch heel. Okay, so maybe the get-up wasn’t breathtaking, but it was much nicer than the stuff I usually wore. What's more, I had actually taken the time to blow my hair dry today, and for once it wasn't crammed back into a messy ponytail.

Taylor looked irritated at my continuous interruption of his cereal-box reading. “I don’t know what you’re making a big deal out of, anyway. That guy was a jerk, you said it yourself.”

I sighed impatiently. Why is it that guys never get these things? “Well, Taylor, people change, you know? Maybe he realized he made a mistake or something.”

“Whatever,” Taylor snorted. Sighing with irritation, I rolled my eyes and left the kitchen.

“You could at least pretend to be interested and supportive,” I mumbled as I marched towards the stairs to grab my backpack and keys. “Sheesh.”

I stomped up the steps angrily. Taylor followed, and for some reason he still had the spoon in his hand. He gently thwacked it against the palm of his hand as he entered my room. He reminded me of a cop with a baton, or something, brandishing it threateningly. Leaning lazily against the doorway, he studied me as I collected my stuff. I glared at him.

“What do you want? If you’ve come up here to mock me or berate me, you’re wasting your time, because I’m not listening.” I scowled for effect.

Taylor said nothing, merely continued to watch. I stopped for a moment, confused by his observations, and we stared each other down until I finally broke eye contact. Though I'd discovered that Taylor was generally a strange person most of the time, he was acting exceptionally weird today. And what was he doing with that spoon?

I dropped to my knees to stuff some stubborn books in my backpack, my hair falling messily over my face. I groaned. So much for keeping it nice and neat... Frustrated, I stood back up, tossing my hair back and throwing my bag over one shoulder. I grabbed my keys and started to march past Taylor to the stairs.

He put his arm out to stop me. I relented, sighing impatiently and wondering what the hell he wanted now. To my surprise, he reached up, his thin, strong fingers tangling in the front part of my hair, and gently flipped the curly locks to the side. I furrowed my brow.

“What the...?”

“Your part’s messed up. Oh, and you looked nice the other night,” he said absentmindedly. Strange... he was looking at me, but not really. More like looking through me...“I meant to tell you that before but I forgot.”

I stared. “Taylor, are you drunk? And why are you threatening me with a spoon?”

"Threatening you?" He raised his eyebrows slightly and glanced at his hands. “Well, I don’t know. Forgot I had it, I guess.”

“Uh, okay... now, if you’re done joking around, I’ve got a class to attend.” I flitted past him, preparing to dash down the steps.

“I wasn’t joking," he said, and I stopped to turn and face him. "About you looking nice. You should dress up more often.”

What did he think I was doing? Sheesh!

I grunted, irritated. “Taylor, I am! And you just pitched a fit about it!”

He looked irritated. “You’re just dressing up to impress some jackass who treated you like nothing. You’re doing it for the wrong reasons. That’s what I’m pitching a fit about.”

His 'jackass'-type comments were really starting to aggravate me. I mean, hell, he'd never even met the guy... “Well, what other reason would there be for me to dress up, Taylor? I’m not out to impress anyone else!”

He remained silent, apparently not having an answer for that. I sighed gently and leaned forward, resting my hand his arm.

“We can continue this discussion later, okay? I’ve got to go or I’ll be late.... and Professor Tanenbaum will have my head.” I ran down the stairs, turning back to wave when I reached the bottom. “Bye, Tay. Be good,” I added.

“Bye, Alley Kat,” he said morosely. I shook my head as I scampered out to my car. What a bizarre morning. What a bizarre boy.

I started up my car and peeled out of the driveway. A big pile of CDs lay in the passenger seat, and I tossed through them quickly, looking for something to listen to. I grinned as I encountered one of my Soundgarden CDs. Popping it in, I began singing along with the song “Spoonman.” Appropriate for today, considering Taylor's eccentric behavior.

All my friends are Indians, all my friends are brown and red,” I sang. “SPOON MAN!” The lyrics really didn't make a lot of sense, but hey, it was kind of a catchy song. Too bad Taylor wasn’t here now to appreciate it...

Hmmm... Maybe that’s what his problem was. I’d told him the night before that he definitely wouldn’t be going to school with me today, as I needed to be completely distraction-free in case I got the chance to talk to Jay... Taylor had seemed incredibly irritated by that revelation, but I couldn't comprehend why he couldn't understand that his tagging along with me everywhere was a bad idea. Our little situation from the first day was enough to convince me of that. But who knew that he actually liked going to class? Lord knows I didn’t. So he was in a bad mood to begin with... and now apparently he was going all big-brother on me and deciding what guys were 'acceptable' for me to pursue. Good grief.

I glanced in the rearview mirror eagerly as I approached campus, doing a makeup and hair check. There was a part of me felt a little shameful at my prissy behavior -- it really wasn’t like me at all -- but another part was just excited. This could be huge... Finally, maybe, I would get one of those social lives that everyone always talked about.

I pulled my car into a space and hopped out, grabbing my bag and slinging it over my shoulder. Luckily, the wind wasn’t up today, and my hair made it relatively unscathed as I walked briskly to the biology building. Once I entered the double doors, I slowed my pace and stopped to catch my breath, my stomach feeling fluttery. It wouldn’t look too attractive to be heaving all over the place once I got in there.

When I had finally composed myself, I stepped into the lecture hall and slowly made my way down the rows, trying not to look too obvious. Jay was nowhere to be seen. Hmmm...

I sat down in a seat about three rows back from the front, throwing my bag into the seat next to me. I attempted to make myself look busy by getting out my biology book and reading, but in reality, my ears were perked, listening for that familiar deep voice... shit, what if he didn't even come today? All that effort for nothing...

I was mindlessly re-reading a paragraph about soil erosion over and over when that deep voice startled me.

“Hey,” Jay said smoothly, standing beside me. He motioned towards my bag. “Anyone sitting there?”

ACK!!!!!!

“Uh... no," I said nervously, my heart practically jumping into my throat. "No one’s... um, sitting here.” God, why did I always sound like such an idiot around him?

“Great.” He smiled one of those killer smiles at me, and my knees buckled. I was lucky to be sitting down, or I would have surely been lying in the floor by now.

“So...” I racked my brain for intelligent things to say. “How was your weekend?” Okay, so maybe it wasn’t intelligent.... but at least it wasn’t below average.

“Oh, it was nice. After I went to the art thing, I went to Richmond--” he proceeded to describe his weekend in great detail. I nodded rapturously as he spoke. I'll admit, I lost track of what he was saying, because I was too busy thinking of what I was going to say next. Yeah, I know they say that’s not what you’re supposed to do. They say you’re supposed to be an attentive listener, etc, and not worry about what you’re going to say. Well, you know what? They never sat directly next to Jason Edward Blanding, Jr., did they? He has this way of making your mind go blank...

“Cool,” I said, continuing to nod in all the appropriate places. Suddenly the class went quiet, and I tore my gaze away. The professor had just entered the room. He immediately began his lecture, as always, and I forced myself to concentrate, sighing. Jay was important, true, but so were my grades. I diligently took notes as Tanenbaum droned on, taking the time to sneak a glance over his way every once in a while. I couldn’t believe it. A few months ago he couldn’t even get my name right, and now he was voluntarily getting to know me. Truth is stranger than fiction, indeed.

The bell from the science labs rang and everyone began gathering their stuff. The professor’s voice rang out loudly over the shuffling of papers and books.

“Don’t forget, our first test is next week,” he stated calmly amidst the groans of the class. “And also remember -- I don’t give curves.” More groans. “You may go.”

I slowly put my books back, making sure to take my time, hoping for another chance at conversation. I didn’t want to leave, but I really didn’t have a choice. Finally, after stalling as long as I felt I could without seeming completely obvious, I stood up.

“Bye, Jay,” I said softly, disappointed, as I turned and headed towards the door.

“Hey, wait!”

I turned around, hoping I didn’t look too eager. He picked up his bag and trotted over to me, smiling.

“So..." he said casually. "You ready for the test?”

I looked at him quizzically. “Yeah, I guess..." I said slowly. "I mean, I need to do a little more reading, but I’m pretty much ready.”

“Oh, cool, yeah.” He nodded in approval. “Listen, I was wondering.... if you’re not too busy or anything...”

I would never be too busy for you... God, what was happening to me? That sounded so... corny. Is this what love does to people?

“...would you want to maybe study together?”

Be still, my heart.

“Sure!” I blurted out, forgetting about my corniness for the time being. He wanted to study with me? I would be in close proximity with him, alone?

“Great,” he replied. Oh, that smile again. “Can I have your number, so I can call you and we can decide when to get together?”

“Oh! Yeah, hold on.” I fervently hoped he couldn't see my hands shaking. I fumbled around in my bag and produced a pen and a piece of paper torn from an old homework assignment. I wrote my number down and handed it to him.

“Alright,” he said, nodding at me with approval once more. “I’ll give you a call sometime this week.”

“Okay," I said shyly, smiling. We went our separate ways, and I floated on high hopes to my next class. Unbelievable!