He waited for his moment to speak. He longed to utter something cool, to say something that would make them notice him, something that would make them laugh. He ached to make them laugh, to see them notice him, to be accepted. For once he wanted to be the focal point, the center — even if just for a moment.
But not at something he said.
The girl in yellow told a story about buying her books at the bookstore that morning. She droned on about the difficulty of finding the right class numbers on the English department shelves. She earned a giggle from the crowd. He didn’t care. There was nowhere for him to join in this story. There was no entry point for him. He wasn’t even in the book store that day. Oblivious to his needs, the girl in yellow rambled on.
“Oh. Oh,” he remembered silently. “I’ve got a story about an English class. There was that one time when I was in line waiting to sharpen a pencil. They will like that. They will laugh at it.” He internally smiled knowing this would be his moment, knowing this story would bring him the inclusion he was hoping for. He would tell the story and it would attach itself to the group. They would repeat it over and over. Maybe the girl in red would bring it up again at tomorrow’s lunch. Then they would start calling him The Pencil Guy. Or Penn. A nickname! He could have a nickname. A nickname. Oh how he would love a nickname. He tuned back in to the girl in yellow’s monotony, hoping for an entry point to pounce on.
But the conversation had moved on. He was too late. The window was closed. The boy in blue whom everyone loved was now carrying on about the length of the line at cash register nine and how he stood there waiting and waiting for a his turn to be seen by the cashier. Blah, b-blah, b-blah, blad-di-dee-blah. He did not care. He had no stories about waiting he thought would get him the attention he deserved. Definitely nothing that would catch the girl in red’s attention.
The girl in red prepared to leave. “NO! NO!” his mind screamed. “Not again. I’m not ready. I haven’t shared. You haven’t even seen me yet.”
She placed her lasagna stained spork on her empty plate. “No, no, no,” his mind whined. He frantically began searching his brain for something about waiting. Anything at all.
She began to stand. “No. No. Too soon. It’s always over too soon.”
Unaware of what was happening in the conversation, he anxiously jumped in with far to much enthusiasm. “Ha, ha! Yeah,” he said, “that line was craaazy today. Like there was this one time when I was in a line…”
“Sorry gang,” said the girl in red, sincerely apologetic for interrupting, “I’ve got to get to class.” And she stood, lifting her tray from the table. She gave him an apologetic grin. “I’m sorry James,” she said to him. “Maybe you can tell me the story later?”
“Yeah, me too,” said the boy in blue. “James, I’ll catch you tonight at dinner right?”
“Sure,” he said forcing a fake smile, hoping to hide his disappointment. He watched them leave and despair washed over him. He stared into his plate and twirled his spaghetti with his fork.
“What were you saying, James?” the girl in yellow asked. “Something about being in line?”
“It’s not important,” he said with a sullen sigh.