|Failure is Always an Option
Author: amiablehacker PM
Susie's liked Calvin all her life. But when he starts acting strangely, she wants nothing more than to make it all better. She wants to fix him. What's bothering Calvin anyway, and will he accept Susie's help? But should Susie be getting involved in the first place?Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Hurt/Comfort/Friendship - Calvin & Susie Derkins - Words: 21,492 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 27 - Follows: 4 - Published: 07-14-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8318657
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This is Susie's Rant with a plotline. This is based on thoughts I've had. Well… not entirely, but enough to keep the story going.
Please be warned, I like ambiguous endings.
A lot of these stories start out with A Day. A day that changed it all, where they realized that the nerdy boy who was different was the perfect guy for them. I don't have A Day. I guess I'm not really A Day kind of person. For me it was My Life, the majority of my life, when I knew that Calvin was the guy for me. Even though I know he has issues, I know he's mean, I know he's never had a girlfriend that I can talk to about this with so I have no idea how he'll treat me. He might not even like girls. For some reason, I don't care.
It's funny, really, that I would like a guy like Calvin. He isn't my type at all, or at least he shouldn't be. I'm supposed to go for the nice guys who will treat me right, because I'm genuinely repulsed by the "bad boy" persona. Something about Calvin just gets me. Hard. I feel as if nothing could pull me away, not for a minute. I think about him way too much. I shouldn't like him, I really shouldn't. He can get violent, and he's even used drugs to "enhance his creativity" for his stories. Clearly, my heart likes to torture me.
I can't tell anybody, not even my parents. They've always strongly disliked Calvin. They would think I'm going to elope with him or something to be rebellious. It's not like that at all. I just like him a lot. I wouldn't even say I'm in love with him. Love is what you know, liking is what you feel. Girls say that they're in love all the time in these types of stories and I don't want to be put in that category because half the time the love that the girl feels is highly unrealistic. Like, they just walk up to the boy, say "I love you" and they kiss and get married two years later and blah blah blah. I think that idea of love is a bad example for preteens today, because they learn to expect that the first guy they date will be the one they marry. A lot of guys aren't even thinking of marriage when they're dating that young. It doesn't mean they're always sex-crazy, but they might just want a nice companion for a while and then maybe get another one in a couple of years. Or months. Or days.
Another thing about these stories is The Parents. The Parents are the ones who don't know anything about love (despite the fact they're married) and are always wrong at the end. No, I don't think that way, and I get incredibly irritated by anyone who does. My parents are right about Calvin. Very right, in fact. This is why I'm so distraught about this whole affair, because my heart pounds faster every time I'm around him, even though I'm pretty sure he'd be a terrible boyfriend.
Calvin isn't a "normal" rebel, whatever that means. He doesn't drive a motorcycle with his long, flowing hair. He doesn't have any tattoos or piercings (that I know of). His grades are fairly good, but not the best. Calvin is actually a huge nerd, which may be the reason for me liking him so much. He loves writing, but he also regularly plays video games with his friends, or at least people he tolerates. He's not a computer nerd (although many of his peers are). He likes comic books, isn't too keen when it comes to appearance, and has a very expansive vocabulary. One thing that makes him stand out amongst other nerds is how articulate he is. This results in me loving to talk to him because I'm so incredibly fascinated. And that sentence just sounded so incredibly stupid and pathetic. Who the heck is attracted to words anyway? Just goes to show how nerdy I am I guess. But I'm book nerdy. I just like books, not video games or Star Wars or whatever. Calvin is like a rebel/nerd mix of some kind. He's nerdy, but doesn't like to follow rules that he thinks are unreasonable or unjust. Even though he's right most of the time, it doesn't usually end well when he tries to correct a teacher or change the way they handle the classroom.
I've always considered him a friend, at the very least. That may be because I've always liked him. The most difficult thing about this whole ordeal is that I never have figured out if he views me as anything. Anything. He must tolerate me because he doesn't turn the other way when I walk by or avoid me. But I don't want to date a guy who tolerates me. I don't even know if I want to date Calvin at all. I just really like him and don't know what to do about it. What am I going to do? What am I going to do? No, seriously, what am I going to do? My best days are the ones I talk to him, even if it's just for a minute. That sounds so completely stupid. Women are auditory, but that means they like compliments and can be seduced by words. Calvin could be insulting me and I would be mesmerized by it!
I remember when we first met like it was yesterday. It was my first day at his school, and I was trying to look pretty for all the new friends I was going to make. I wore my best clothes and put forth my best attitude. When I saw Calvin sitting at his desk looking bored, I immediately thought he was cute. Almost all little boys are cute, and he even had the blonde hair and blue eyes to enhance the cuteness. I sat down in front of him, the biggest mistake in my life. Immediately I felt a wet spot on the back of my freshly washed hair. It was a spitball. Even though I was infuriated, I smiled because I knew that Calvin had acknowledged my existence. Calvin the Great (as he used to call himself) had noticed me. Still, I wouldn't refer to that as A Day, because my feelings for him fluctuated, depending on how angry he made me, throughout my life. Overall, though, I still liked him. I've always liked him.
During school, I try to find him at lunch. It's one of the few times I can talk to him for longer than thirty seconds in the hallway. Of course, I always make up some excuse to leave my friends for a couple minutes because they don't know. They like Calvin all right (I'm a nerd, remember? Therefore, I have nerdy friends who aren't repulsed by his category of peers). They just don't get him.
I find him sitting outside reading a book with that smirk on his face. That smirk always indicates that he's just discovered some new idea. He looks up.
"Hi Calvin," I say. I'm past the point of blushing (fortunately) because I've known him for so long so I don't feel awkward being around him.
"Derkins," he says sullenly with a nod. He says almost everything sullenly. I've seen him snap and scream at someone before, but I've never seen him giddy. I wonder if it's even possible for him to get really excited about something, or at least say something in a giddy way. I wonder if he ever feels anything but sullen.
There's silence, so I say, "How are you doing?"
"I'm doing well. I just found out something interesting. Have you read Sherlock Holmes before?" That smirk came back.
"Indeed I have." I try my best to speak as dignified as I can around him. I feel like he'll view me as an idiot and stop talking to me if I don't.
"Ah, I see," he replies, turning back to his book, "I have too, and I've always found it to be a good read. However, I am finding that Holmes isn't all that brilliant. In fact, the reason he solves all these cases is because he guesses right."
I didn't know that. "Really? How do you know?" If there's one thing that Calvin always has, it's proof.
"Well, I'm reading one of his books with the notes in the back. It says that Holmes's conclusions don't have a systematic method, and he only solves the mystery because the author wants him to. I figured as much, because I've never really seen much of a method in Holmes's cases."
"Hmm. That kind of ruins the book, doesn't it?"
"Not necessarily," Calvin replies as he stands up and closes his book, "Now I have more analysis I have to do. Then maybe I can conform my ideas into a story that reveals that Sherlock was never all that intelligent, and should not be referred to as such." I cling to every word he says. I'll remember this conversation for days, for no reason at all.
"Wow, sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you," I say, dropping the intellectual side of me for a second because no wise words come to me.
"Yes." He starts walking toward the library. I follow him.
"Where are you going?" I ask stupidly. He's going to the library. Obviously.
"To do more research. I have to compare Doyle with Christie."
I know Doyle is the author of Sherlock Holmes, but I don't know who Christie is, but I didn't want to look idiotic by asking. "Well, I have to get back to lunch, I'll talk to you later." I turn.
"Farewell." And he's gone.
That's about as romantic as our conversations get. I don't think he's ever said my first name before, let alone compliment me. Of course, I probably shouldn't be expecting compliments from him, but I still want one. Calvin's more of an acknowledger of things. Like, if I wore a different shirt, he might say, "You're wearing a different shirt," but that's it. Nothing about how it looks on me. But I still dress up for him. Sometimes.
I sigh, but not that dreamy sigh. It's more of an irritated sigh, although I can't tell if it's because he won't give me a sign whether he likes me or not (even as a friend), or because I dropped my intellectuality at the end of the conversation. I return to my friends and lunch ends all too quickly.
I may see Calvin at the end of the day if I catch him at the right moment. He won't wait for me, and I don't want to be seen waiting for him because he'd be creeped out or something. If he sees me in front of him, he usually passes right by until I say something, unless he has some new idea he wants to share. But he never acts like he doesn't want to talk to me, and he's the kind of guy who speaks his mind no matter what. I'd know if he didn't like talking to me. Still, I'm utterly confused by him.
I always have to think about what I want to say to him before I start a conversation, or else we'll be walking in silence, and sometimes that results in him walking faster than me because he figures our interaction is over. But I never want it to be over. So I decide to ask him about the research he did in the library, that is, if I see him.
Calvin ends up being behind me, and as he walks past I say hi to him.
"Derkins," he replies with his sullen nod again.
"So! How's your research coming along?"
He smiles. "Lunch is only so long. The ten minutes I had to research was only enough time to check out an Agatha Christie book."
Oh that's who he was talking about earlier. "Oh, I've read her books before. She's good."
"Really? I've never read a book by her so I wouldn't know. I'm looking forward to it."
"You really like researching, don't you?" I say, slapping myself mentally for how idiotic I sound.
Calvin smiles again. It's funny, when he was younger he always had a huge smile on his face when he was playing with Hobbes. Over time, it's gotten smaller and more subtle. He's one of those guys who never smiles in school pictures, which has always irritated me. Some guys I know have really awesome smiles and they should really show it more often. Calvin's smiles are rather captivating. Did I just say captivating? Geez. "I suppose it could be said that I enjoy researching. But I mostly like being right," Calvin replies.
"Yeah, you're pretty right about everything, aren't you?"
We reach the bus and I sit near the back with my friends and he sits in the very front seat by himself. He says that it's easier to think up there, and I can see his point. The back seats are where the loud kids hang out, along with my friends. I've thought about sitting with Calvin sometimes, but I never have. I'm more worried about Calvin not enjoying my company than my friends thinking I'm weird. Most of the time, I don't care what people think of me, but I've always cared what Calvin thinks of me, even when we were kids.
Usually, by the time I get off the bus, Calvin already has his back turned to me. This is the last chance I have to make an impression on him that might last the rest of the day.
"Hey Calvin," I call. He turns. I go through all the things I thought about earlier in the day in order to form a question. "This is a totally random question, but I was just thinking earlier today about when we were kids and stuff. Um, whatever happened to Hobbes?"
He's taken aback. "I haven't thought about that old tiger in a long time. I'm not really sure. I guess I just outgrew him. How did that stuffed animal wedge its way into your train of thought?"
I smile at his question. "I dunno. I guess I was just thinking about when we were kids earlier. I do that sometimes. Do you think about that too or am I just crazy?" I giggle a little to play my question off as a joke, but I really want to know.
"Sometimes, I suppose. I've never been one to reminisce much."
"Oh. I guess I'm crazy then." I smile at him.
"No, you're just normal. I'm the crazy one." He continues walking. He's never been a "goodbye" person. More like, he doesn't say goodbye very much. He just continues doing what he's doing, presuming the conversation is over. So I turn my direction and walk to my house.
Just normal. I'm just normal to him. My over-analyzing brain starts going over every possibility of what that could mean. Of course, I know what it means. According to Calvin, I was normal and he was not. But I try to find some subtle compliment in there that Calvin didn't even try to make. That's how much I like him. Like I said, my heart likes torturing me.
Being my nerdy self, I get my homework done first and decide to be nostalgic. That's what I usually say when I try and look for Calvin in yearbooks and go through the few marks he left.
Almost all little boys are cute, as I've said. The pictures of him in elementary school look pretty much the same. He's adorable. Although, I think that about a lot of guys and how they looked in elementary school. Around fifth grade is when people started signing yearbooks, and I worked up the courage to ask Calvin to sign mine. He promptly took my yearbook and ripped the cheap, paper cover in half. Then he stuffed the half he ripped into his mouth. He was being a dinosaur. I pushed him to the ground and ran away, infuriated. I was the only girl who had the courage to defend myself in front of Calvin. Most girls avoided or ran away from him. By sixth grade I'd learned my lesson and didn't ask.
When high school rolled around, we'd both changed. I grew my hair out and devoured books more passionately than I had before and I aimed for a 4.0 GPA, even though my parents have never pushed me to get good grades. Calvin did the same thing, minus the 4.0 GPA. His book choices were different than mine. He started loving philosophy. At the time, he only quoted something to rub it in people's faces that he was smart, as did I. We both were tired of people not taking us seriously. I was too nervous to ask him to sign my yearbook then. The signing pages are filled with the snarky, immature remarks of my friends at the time.
By junior year, there was a higher possibility of us being considered friends. I talked to him more, and occasionally he approached me if he had something to say and no one else was listening. Even though I still liked him nonetheless, I became more comfortable around him. Asking for his signature seemed only natural. He accepted my yearbook and scrawled his name on it and handed it back. He'd left his mark. I had really wanted him to make some comment in my yearbook, but I guess guys don't really do that unless they're really good friends with you or have a lot of friends who are girls. It almost broke my heart, though I knew he hadn't intended it to be that way. Despite all that, I am looking forward to him signing my yearbook later this year.
Sometimes I legitimately need to ask Calvin for help. He is very good at math, and I struggle with the homework. I haven't visited him in over a week, so I could go over to his house without him thinking that I'm obsessed with him or something. Yes, I am concerned that Calvin would think I am obsessed with him if I visit him too much, although he's never made any comment of the sort.
His parents are used to my visits, so his mom lets me right in and I go up to his room. It's funny, really, that I can be alone in Calvin's room with him, and no one views it as weird, including me and Calvin. I never close the door though, because I don't think it's necessary and it looks a little suspicious.
As I walk up the stairs, I hear Calvin talking to himself. I find that slightly odd, considering that Calvin is always silent if he's thinking deeply. He's never been one to talk to himself.
His door is slightly open, and I see him sitting on his bed. The way he's talking, it sounds like he's having a conversation. Maybe he's on the phone or something. But as I reach the top of the stairs, I spot orange. I'd recognize that color anywhere. It's Hobbes! Calvin is talking to Hobbes again!
He spots me, and I continue to walk toward him as if I hadn't seen anything. He hides Hobbes quickly.
"Hi Calvin!" I say cheerily. Maybe too cheerily.
"Derkins," he says almost sullenly. I can tell he's flustered, but I don't think it'd be very wise to comment on it.
"Um…so," I play with my hair, as if I'm hiding something too. I am in a way, I guess. I crave his company. "I'm, um, having some trouble on the homework assignment I have."
"Ok. Let me have a look."
Within ten minutes I completely understand the problem I had struggled on for over an hour at home. Calvin explains things so simply, sometimes I question how right he is, but not for very long. He is always right. I ask him if it's ok if I do the rest of the assignment here, in case I have any other questions.
"I suppose that would be all right," he replies, his eyes shifting quickly to where he hid Hobbes.
"You suppose?" Usually he's very straightforward in answering questions like this. He either wants you there or not. Well, I guess a more accurate answer would be he either would tolerate you being in his presence, or he is repulsed by the very idea.
"That's what I said. I suppose that would be all right."
I smile, even though I don't mean to. His serious tone makes me a little giggly. And, as you might have guessed, his tone is always serious. "Well, it's just that you almost always say yes when I ask if I can stay. You seem a little hesitant this time."
"Perhaps this is one of those almost times."
"Perhaps. Still," I drop the overly intelligent façade for a minute, "is everything ok?"
"Yes," he says slowly, and gives me an inquiring look, like it's strange that I would ask him about his well-being. I can't tell if he really thinks that's weird or not. Calvin hides his emotions well, as I've said before. I decide to drop the subject.
"Ok fine. I'll get to work then. I want to try and be home be five."
"I'm sure you'll be done by then."
I smile again, but he doesn't seem to notice, like usual.
Of course he's right, I'm done by 4:15 with minimal questions. Maybe it's just because I like him so much, but our silences are never awkward. I'm focused on homework and he's focused on whatever he thinks about after school. He usually sits on his bed and reads while I use his desk. When I finish, I could easily gather up my things and leave without saying a word, and he would continue reading whatever philosophy book is nearby. But I like goodbyes. Then I at least know he knew I was there.
I put all my papers back into my well-organized backpack and turn to face him. He's reading the Sherlock Holmes book he must have been referencing at school today. That means he's researching and probably won't notice me. But he does, because when I smile he sees me in his peripheral vision and smirks back. Clearly his research is so far successful. It's written all over that smirk of his.
"Well, I better head home. Thanks for your help, as always. Sorry if I'm interrupting your research." I gesture toward the book.
"Oh that's ok." He goes back to reading.
"Um, ok. Bye Calvin." Then I turn and walk downstairs.
"Hm," he utters quickly. I start feeling bad. If he's so focused he can't say anything but one-syllable words, then he's busy. I regret asking for his help.
Calvin's mother is downstairs making dinner. She's always been nice to me, especially when Calvin teased me back in the day. "Thanks for stopping by! It's always to pleasure to have you visit, Susie," she calls from the kitchen.
"Thanks. I love visiting," I reply with as much enthusiasm as I could manage after hearing words I wish Calvin would say to me instead of his overly-nice mother.
"Come back any time. I love talking with Calvin's friends, especially you since you're not a smelly teen boy," she jokes.
I laugh a little and close the door. Irrational jealousy sparks in my heart. I'll bet Calvin's other friends have a much better time with him. I'll bet he actually makes conversation with them and he smiles at them and tells them he greatly enjoys their company. That feeling wears off slightly when I return home.
"How's Calvin doing?" my mom asks me. Although she doesn't like Calvin, she loves his parents. As long as they're home, she has nothing to worry about. She views Calvin as a bad apple, because obviously Calvin's parents did everything they could and he still turned out horrible. That's how she thinks anyway.
"Uh…I don't know. We don't really talk much. I just do my work after he answers my questions and he remains quiet."
"Hm," my mom replies disapprovingly, "It's so odd for a boy his age to remain silent for over an hour while my daughter sits near him. It just scares me a little. But he does help with your homework. I suppose for now there's nothing to worry about."
For now. That's how it is. My mother thinks Calvin will fall off the deep end when he's twenty-five or something. I don't know either way. Really, I wouldn't be surprised either way. After high school, you either have a complete turnaround or you stay pretty much the same. I'll probably stay the same. I have no idea how Calvin will be in seven years, and I'm curious to find out.
When I was around twelve or thirteen, I would spend much too long of a time staring out of my window. Calvin's bedroom window was across from mine. If the blinds are open, I can see him. I spent a long time wondering what he was thinking about, especially if he was thinking about me. Things have changed since then. Sort of. I have to fight the urge to peek out the window if I see movement coming from his room. The urge is too strong this time.
I discreetly lift up my blinds just enough to see his window. Surprisingly, his blinds are completely open. They weren't when I was there. Just as I expect, he's talking to Hobbes again. He looks almost angry. But he is clearly talking to him again. Part of me feels happy that he still uses his stuffed animal as his outlet for his feelings, because it's something only I know about him at this point. Then again, maybe Calvin doesn't have any human to talk to when he's upset. Or maybe he doesn't like talking about that stuff with people. I wish he'd open up to me, even if it's just a little. I know for a fact that he had no friends until fourth grade or so. I was the first person that was his age that he communicated with on a regular basis. I wish I knew if that meant something to him or not, because it means the world to me.
His window isn't open or anything, so watching him for more than a couple minutes is pointless. I'm not going to get anything out of it. I know something about him that he doesn't know I know. Should I tell him? No…then he might be embarrassed. Or he might try to deny it. But there is some reason he's talking to Hobbes again. I need to figure out what. My Calvin is definitely not ok, and no one else seems to care enough to fix him.
For the rest of the night, I toss and turn trying to devise a way to get him to open up. Nothing comes to me. Calvin just doesn't do that. He and that tiger of his were inseparable when we were kids. He constantly talked to him, and became irritated with him a lot. He didn't seem to understand that I didn't see Hobbes like he did. Calvin and Hobbes were like red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting. I've never liked the peanut butter and jelly analogy. It's overdone.
Anyway, I decide that the best way of action is not to push it out of him, but try to encourage him to open up instead.
When I'm able to talk to him again, it's about a week later. I don't like interrupting other conversations and every time I saw him he was talking to someone. Finally I see him walking to our bus by himself.
"Hey Calvin," I pant. I try to hide that I jogged a little to catch up with him, but I don't think I'm doing a very good job.
He responds his usual way, and I start to ask him what I had planned, but then I realize that we had talked a week ago. Things have changed. Trying to see if he was doing ok seems weird if we spoke so long ago. So I drop the "are you really ok" bit.
"Um, how are you?" I ask instead. Nothing better than that comes to me.
"Functional." He's never responded that way before. I wonder if "functional" is like saying "I'm hanging in there." Maybe he's fine, but not as fine as he'd like to be. But I overanalyze things all the time. Still, I'm curious as to why he said that.
"Functional? What, are you a robot or something?" I joke idiotically. It's the first response I think of.
"Maybe I am. Maybe I should be. Robots are better than humans," he says in his sullen way.
This is weird. What is he getting at? "So you want to be emotionless? Well, you pretty much are." No! Why did I say that? That was mean.
This catches his attention. "You think of me as emotionless?"
There's no point in trying to hide it now. "Uh…yeah. You're always serious about everything. Sometimes you're angry. But I've never seen you happy or sad since Hobbes detached himself from your hip." Great. I just brought up Hobbes again.
"Yes, that's how I try and be. Emotion taints your thinking." He pauses. "Why did you bring up that tiger again?"
I nearly blush. "It's…I…it was a coincidence. I just think you started acting more serious after you outgrew Hobbes or whatever."
We walk in silence until I can't take it anymore. "You never answered my question," I blurt out, "Why did you say 'functional' instead of what you normally say?"
"And what do I normally say?"
"You know…" I stop and realize what he's doing. "Stop evading the question and answer it! I'm just trying to figure out how you're doing, and you seemed to be ashamed to tell me or something."
He smirks a little. "I'm not ashamed. I am functional. That is what I said and that is what I meant."
"But what does that mean?"
He turns his head toward me. "What else would it mean?"
"People don't normally answer questions that way."
"Well I already told you before that I'm not normal. You're the normal one." He sighs like he's frustrated and I become sad. I didn't want him to become irritated by my questions. "Look, I am functioning like normal. I'm breathing, walking, seeing, smelling, all that. I'm functional."
I roll my eyes. Calvin isn't usually this exasperating. "I don't want to know how your body is working. I want to know how you feel. How are you feeling?"
"Fine. Normal. Functional."
"Calvin, you're not giving me the answer I'm looking for."
"Then maybe you're asking the wrong question."
With that, we reach the bus and he takes his seat in the front, and I find my friends in the back. I'm not really mad at him or anything. He's just being irritating today. He's always been so blunt and straightforward now he's talking like a robot or something. What is his deal?
When I get off the bus, I call to Calvin one more time. He turns, annoyed, but I don't care at this point.
I try to look serious. "Are you sure you're ok?"
"Yes," he says quickly, "I'm ok." He turns away, discouraging anymore conversation. I'm crushed with sympathy. Calvin has never acted this way before. But if I can't get him to talk about it, then there isn't anything I can do. I force myself to ignore the problem for a couple days. He doesn't get any better.
As it turns out, I need homework help eventually. Instead of just popping by, I decide to call Calvin's mom instead. Maybe she knows what's going on.
"Hello Susie! How are you?" she says when she recognizes my voice.
"I'm fine. I have some homework questions, but Calvin has been acting especially reclusive lately so I just wanted to ask this time if he'd be all right with me coming over."
Her voice lowers. "I know what you mean, Susie. Something is wrong, and I don't know what. He's never been very open about his feelings, even with me and his dad. His friends are the same way, unfortunately, so they have no idea how to get him to open up. Please do come over. I'm hoping you'll be the one to get him to talk about what's bugging him for over a week."
I regret not doing this sooner. Still, I'm nervous. What if I fail? "Uh…ok I guess."
"Great. I know you'll be able to do it. Oh, and Susie? Don't feel obligated to tell me what's going on right away, unless it's something that could harm someone else. I don't think he wants me to know. Whenever you feel comfortable telling me what's going on, I won't tell him you told me anything, ok?"
This relieves me. Listening to someone's problems can be stressful, and with a guy like Calvin, I have no idea what to expect. I'm glad I'll have someone to vent to if his problems become too burdensome. I seriously doubt that my mom will want to listen to me talk about Calvin for more than a minute.
"Ok," I say cheerily, "I'll be over soon."
"Thank you so much! Calvin will be in his room, like always."
"Ok. See you soon. Bye."
I immediately grab my jacket and shoes. I almost walk out the door when I remember my homework. I did have an original purpose for going there. My backpack secure, I call to my mom that I'll be at Calvin's. She acknowledges me warily, but doesn't say anything negative, so I keep going.
Calvin's mom ushers me in quickly. As I walk up to Calvin's room, I hear him talking again. No doubt it's Hobbes. I wonder if he genuinely doesn't understand that I can hear him. It seems so obvious.
I knock on the door. I don't usually do that. Calvin rustles around his room a bit until saying "Come in!"
"Hey there," I say slowly as I walk in and shut the door a little. Just enough so it won't swing open when I let go. "I have more math questions."
"All right. Let's get started." Again, he looks flustered.
I cross my arms. "Calvin, for the past week you've been acting strange."
"That's new?" he says smugly.
"Oh stop it! You know what I mean. What is going on with you? What do you think's going to happen if you tell me what your deal is? Do you think I'm going to tell everyone? Is something going to happen if you show emotion for once?" My face starts to get hot. I don't know why.
There's an angry flicker in his eyes. "Nothing is wrong," he says firmly.
"Calvin. Stop lying to me."
He gradually gets angrier. "I'm not lying to you. Why are you suddenly so interested in how I'm feeling? Don't you have better things to think about? I'm not lying to you! Stop accusing me! Do you think I like being constantly nagged? Stop trying to make me 'open up' or whatever you call it! I have nothing to open up about!" He paces as he talks. This is ridiculous.
I sigh, and try to pretend what he just said didn't hurt me. I ignore the growing lump in my throat. Calvin has never been angry at me ever since we were kids, and I've always hated being yelled at. "Calvin," I exhale, "I know."
"You know what?" he hisses, "Stop speaking in riddles and just tell me!"
"Calvin! I saw you talking to Hobbes, ok? I know! Something is bothering you. I saw you talking to Hobbes again!"
His eyes lock on mine. I don't dare look away, and I don't really want to anyway. I like looking at him.
"You what?" he says.
I sigh through my nose. "Yes, Calvin. I saw you."
He rubs his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. He looks almost embarrassed. There's no way to defend that without completely lying, which I don't believe Calvin would do. He sinks back into bed and sighs heavily. Silence.
I don't care if Calvin doesn't like people, this is a situation where a friend is needed. So I walk up to his bed, sit down on the floor next to it, and don't move.
I don't move for a long time.
Sitting in silence next to Calvin is almost exciting. I'm mostly just happy he hasn't screamed at me to get out yet. Maybe he doesn't even know I'm still here. I lean my head against his bed and close my eyes. Working on my math earlier made me sleepy, and sitting in silence isn't helping. I almost doze off when I hear Calvin getting up and I start awake.
He starts pacing his room. I look at Calvin and follow him with my eyes as he paces. He stops and stares at me. I blush. Calvin doesn't usually make steady eye contact with me. But I guess I should expect it because recently, he's been doing a lot of things that aren't usual for him.
"Why are you still here?" he asks steadily.
I'm taken aback slightly from the question. "Well…uh…I just thought you were talking to Hobbes because something is bothering you. If something is bothering you, I want to help."
"What do you mean why? I'm your friend. I don't want you to be angry or upset. If I can help, then I will."
"Hm." He continues pacing. I wish I knew what he is thinking right now. He stops again. "You can't help me. I'm unfixable."
"What's that supposed to mean? No human is perfect. They can't be 'fixed.'"
"I just mean, you're wasting your time."
"I beg to differ. And if you'd tell me what the heck is going on, then I'd prove you wrong."
He explodes. "That's exactly the problem! That is exactly why I'm so pissed off! I was wrong!" He grabs his hair as if he's trying to pull himself off the ground. "I was wrong. Wrong! How could I be wrong? I know all the answers!"
"Calvin, that's silly. You can't possibly know everything."
"No…but I can always research it to find the answer. And I did, but my sources were flawed. I was wrong. The whole world now knows how wrong I am!"
"I didn't. So that's one less person," I say, "When did this happen? When were you wrong?"
"Last year in debate. The only time our side didn't win and it was all my fault."
I almost laugh. "That was a year ago! No one remembers that!"
"But I do. But I tried to move past it. I immersed myself in other things I could be right in. I succeeded. I was right in everything again. People forgot. But I didn't. This feeling of wrongness never went away in my heart. I feel wrong all the time, even when I'm not."
"That just shows you're a human being."
"I don't want to be human! I want to be better! The best! I'm so sick of ignorance and stupidity. I never want to be put in the same category as those morons!"
He has a point. Sometimes I despise being human too. "Calvin," I keep saying his name like his mom would. "You have to move past this. You need to let out this anger and frustration that you have."
"I can't let it out. That's not who I am."
"That's how everyone is."
"I'm not like everyone else. I told you, you're the normal one. Not me."
"Yes, I know. But at the end of the day you have the same heartbeat, same blood, same basic brain functions as everyone else. Minus the ones who have conditions and stuff, but you know what I mean."
"Yeah. And I hate that."
"You can't be better. It's simply not possible. There's no way to get past this unless you release. Hobbes is a great outlet. I know how you guys were when you were little. But he's not enough. You need to, like, I don't know, punch something or whatever. You need to feel the anger and frustration."
"I don't know how to do that. I've outgrown that stuff."
"No one outgrows letting out their feelings."
"I have. I try not to have them. I clear them out of my head whenever possible. Crying and screaming and irritation only put a damper on my goals. It's stupid that's I've talked to that tiger again."
"No, don't feel that way. Your body is trying to tell you that you need to let these feelings out sometimes. It's not like you need regular therapy or anything, just a vent or rant or something."
"That's what I write for."
"But writing is silent. That doesn't always work. You need to feel the anger, not just write it down and internalize everything when you're done."
For some reason, this is overwhelmingly frustrating. How do you comfort a person who simply cannot accept he's only human? I sigh angrily. "That's just how people are. That's how they work. That's how you work. You just refuse to accept it."
"If this isn't going anywhere, I'm going to take the F on this assignment and go home."
"Are you talking about your math homework or me?"
I pause. "I'm not sure. Either way, I don't think this is going anywhere." I sling my backpack over my shoulder. For the first time in my life, I'm angry at Calvin. He doesn't want to be human, but he has to be.
He doesn't say anything as I leave. Neither does his mom, although I know she heard us. There should be some profound metaphor here, as I slip out of the door quietly like a something something something. But I can't think of anything. I'm not Calvin. Calvin's Calvin. And even that isn't enough for him.
My backpack is carelessly thrown on my bed. I'm not sure if I should be crying or screaming in anguish or anger or what. I lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling so I can think. That was the longest conversation I've had with Calvin, and it wasn't pleasant. What does this mean for our relationship, or lack of one? All this time I've been trying to grow closer to him, and I guess he hasn't wanted me to. I guess…
I turn over and groan loudly into my pillow. All I can think is: Boys are confusing. Especially nerdy boys who don't like people. It figures that this would be the type of boy I'm attracted to. I wish Calvin would just give me a note entitled "This is How I Feel About You." Then again, I would think a lot of people wish that, and it wouldn't be fair to them if I am the only person who gets that luxury. So, just like everyone else with confusing crushes (if you could even call what I feel toward Calvin a crush) I am stuck sitting, wondering, wishing.
The solution comes to me in the middle of the night. I'm half-asleep, and I can't stop thinking about Calvin. Suddenly, it comes to me and I bolt out of bed. Then I realize that I can't do anything at three in the morning, and try to go back to sleep. I fail.
The next day I find my dad's toolbox. In it, he has three hammers. Perfect. Why does he have three hammers? I don't know. All I know, it perfectly fits my plan. I find some safety goggles (because I'm cautious like that) and go around our house, putting together garbage. My mom, obviously, asks me what the heck I am doing.
"Calvin needs to let off some steam, and he refuses to do it himself. So I've taken the liberty of helping him out."
"How will garbage help him?"
"It's not just any garbage. It's smashable garbage. I was thinking of meeting him at that abandoned park down the road and smashing some stuff."
My mother is perplexed. "Why is Calvin so upset? It's not girl trouble is it? He could be manipulating you, you know. This could be a trap so you two are left alone together."
I stop. "Mom, I know it's hard for you to accept this, but I trust Calvin. I'll have my phone and his house is, like, right by the park. His parents will be home and it'll be not even dusk."
She sighs. "You really think this will help him?"
"Yes. I'm not doing this because he's a boy that's seduced me. He's my friend and I want to help him. And no, it's not girl trouble. He just has trouble expressing his feelings."
She sighs again. "Oh all right. But don't do this kind of stuff all the time. You know how I feel about Calvin."
"Yes. I do."
She still is giving me a funny look, but, even though she doesn't like Calvin, I think she trusts him too.
I finish gathering together my bag and go to his house. His mom is home, as always, and I give her a synopsis of my plan.
"It sounds like it could work," she says, "And even if it doesn't, it certainly can't do any harm. Why is he so upset anyway? Or do you not want to tell me?"
I thought for a second. "Calvin likes to think of himself as better than all humans. There's so many stupid people in the world, and he hates being part of the same species as them. So every time he makes a human error, like being wrong about something he was completely convinced was right, he has a hard time getting over it. Does that make sense?"
She nods. "Indeed it does. He's always been so much more mature than his peers. I guess when he does an immature thing, he internalizes because he doesn't know what else to do, but creates this self-loathing. I wish I could have helped him sooner."
"Oh don't blame yourself. I don't even know if he's going to let me do this. The only reason I found out is because…" I stop and lower my voice, "…I saw him talking to Hobbes again."
She looks amused. "Oh, that makes sense. Hobbes has always understood him best." I like that she spoke about Hobbes as if he were real, because he is to Calvin, and that's all that matters. "Don't worry Susie, I won't say anything."
I knock his bedroom door before entering. There's no answer. I knock louder. I feel Calvin's mom watching me from downstairs.
Suddenly, the door opens. I woke him up.
"Hey…Derkins," he mumbles. He's still struggling to come back to reality. His hair is all over the place (more than normal) and he has that "I-just-woke-up" voice that is very very attractive (ladies, you know what I'm talking about). So he's all delirious and trying to wake up fully, and here I am, holding a bag of garbage and trying not to go weak at the knees.
"Hi Calvin," I finally say, and he lets me into his room. He notices the bag.
"Uh…what's…what is that?" he asks, pointing.
"Oh…this is to-uh-let you...um…help you let off some steam or whatever." This sounds pathetic, I know, but I had practiced this whole speech in my head so I wouldn't stumble over my words. Then Calvin comes out looking superhot and all my coherency gushes out of my brain.
Calvin looks perplexed. "Let off some steam? What are you talking about?" He yawns, but he's pretty much awake at this point.
"You internalize everything so…I thought that-er-this would help."
"Bringing garbage into my room is supposed to help me?"
"No I mean…" I sigh in exasperation, "I'm sorry…this isn't coming out right. I had this plan and it's…it's not working out the way I thought it would."
Calvin sits down on his bed and yawns again. Hobbes is on the bed.
"What does Hobbes say to you?" I ask, completely deviating from my plan.
"What? Uh…I dunno…why?"
"I'm curious," I say, setting down the bag, "You seemed to have lively conversations when you were kids, so I've wondered sometimes what he's said to you that made him so easy to talk to."
He picks up Hobbes and tilts his head slightly. Then he looks up at me. "You know, you're the only person that knows that I still talk to this thing."
"Hobbes," I correct, "And yes, I know. Is that ok?"
He looks back at his tiger. "I don't know. I guess. I trust that you won't go off and tell everyone. But are you ok with it?"
"Why would I not be ok with you talking to Hobbes again? Hobbes was a big part of your life. He still is. Besides, as I've said before, he's a good outlet for you. It's not like you'll talk to anyone else about your feelings."
Calvin glances up at me again and does that smirk of his. I smile back. I've never been one to smirk. It looks suspicious when I do. When Calvin smirks, it's…cool.
"Is that what this is about? You want me to let out my feelings by using whatever is in that bag?"
"Uh…yes. That's pretty much the plan."
He chuckles a little. "Ok, what's in the bag?"
"Smashable garbage. I brought hammers and we're going to smash the heck out of this stuff in that abandoned park by your house!"
He shakes his head and chuckles again. "You're very demanding when you want to be. How exactly is this going to help me?"
"You're angry about being wrong, right?"
"I suppose. But I can handle it."
"Au contraire!" I exclaim enthusiastically, trying not to become too serious, "If you were able to handle it yourself, then you wouldn't be talking to Hobbes a year after the incident occurred, now would you? You need to feel your anger. And what better way to accomplish that then smashing glass and wood scraps from my shed?"
"Oh, don't worry. I brought safety goggles." I hold them up as proof.
He smirks again. "You certainly have thought of everything, haven't you? But this is completely unnecessary."
"I beg to differ," I reply, shaking my head, "Besides, what harm could it do to you? What are you afraid of?"
"Plenty of things."
"I meant things regarding this situation."
"I know, I'm just messing with you. All right, I guess we can do it."
"Splendid!" I say, and sling the bag over my shoulder and start down the stairs. He follows.
"Since when do you say splendid?"
"I don't know. Your vocabulary rubs off on me I guess."
"I don't recall ever saying 'splendid.'"
"I didn't mean your exact vocabulary. I'm just…I talk better when I hang around you."
"Ok." He sounds uncertain.
Calvin's mom doesn't even look at us when we leave. I suppose she thinks it'd be better if she didn't put Calvin on the spot. She's probably right.
We're halfway out the door when I realize something. "Wait!" I shout, "Here, hold this. Meet me down there. I'll just be a second!" I thrust the bag and safety goggles at him and turn around.
"Where are you going?"
"Just meet me down there!" I call as I walk away.
He leaves and I rush back up to his bedroom.
"There you are! What…why did you bring that?" Calvin says as soon as he sees what's in my hand.
"Just in case," I reply.
"Just in case of what?"
"I dunno. Just in case." I set Hobbes carefully in the grass. "Now stay here, Hobbes."
"You know it can't hear you."
"No," I stand and turn to face Calvin, "But that doesn't matter."
He gives me a funny look.
"Ok, time to dump this bag out!" I say cheerily. I carefully over turn the bag and out falls flimsy wood scraps, broken glass chunks, cardboard (in case ripping is better than smashing), soda cans, old computer parts, and two perfectly healthy watermelons.
"Yeah! Have you ever smashed watermelons before? It's awesome!"
"How did you carry all this to my house and upstairs?"
"I don't know. I just…did."
"You must be stronger than I thought."
He sounds genuinely impressed. This is the closest Calvin's gotten to complimenting me.
I try not to melt and say, "Ok, can I have a hammer and my gorgeous safety goggles?"
He hands them to me. I pause. "I'm not putting these goggles on until you do. Both of us have to look ridiculous at the same time."
"I hate looking ridiculous," says Calvin, suddenly becoming serious.
"Come on Calvin, it's only me here. You think someone like me, who thinks highly of you, is going to judge you at this point?"
He raises his eyebrow, another thing I've never been able to do. "You think highly of me?"
Thinking highly of someone doesn't necessarily mean having a crush on them, so I go with it, although I had said that unintentionally. "Yeah, sure I do. You're smarter than me, are good at explaining things, and you're just really cool."
He seems taken aback, but not flattered or happy. "Really?"
"Yeah." Before an awkward silence took place I said, "Ok, let's get to smashing!" Since everything is on the ground, I have to kneel in order to properly smash everything. I start with a soda can or two. "This is fun, actually." I look up at Calvin. "Well, aren't you going to join me?"
He's staring at the cars passing us. The abandoned park isn't completely hidden from the street. "How can I? Everyone who passes us is staring at us, thinking we're idiots."
"Hey, you know what? You never answered my question earlier." I have to distract him.
"You never told me what Hobbes says to you."
Looking down at me is a little awkward, so he kneels across from me so he's at eye-level. It's harder to see the cars that way too.
"Hobbes tells me what I need to hear. Nothing special."
"But what do you need to hear, exactly? I mean, I tried to get you to talk to me but it didn't work. What does Hobbes say that I don't say?"
He ponders the question for a bit. "Everything you said was true. I just trust Hobbes more than you." He taps the soda can with his hammer.
"Really? That's it? He says the same things as me?" I smash another soda can.
"Well yeah. He just says what I'm thinking. He says what I need to hear. I know that everything you say in this regard is true. But I only really accept it if Hobbes says it."
"So he's kinda like your conscience?"
"Sort of, I guess. It's hard to explain."
"Ok, you don't have to try and go into details. I was just curious."
"Hm. You seem to be curious about a lot of things I do."
I smile. "I am. You're mysterious to me since you don't let me in. Smashing garbage is about as personal as I can get." I don't want him to feel bad or anything so I add, "But that's ok. Smashing garbage is fun."
Calvin slowly reaches for goggles, so I put mine on to encourage him. I laugh.
"I look silly, don't I?" I say.
"Perhaps. But a more accurate statement would be that you're acting silly."
"Of course you are. Gorgeous safety goggles? Talking to Hobbes and calling smashing watermelons 'awesome'? You don't usually talk that way."
"Oh…I guess I'm just comfortable around you or something."
"Or something." Calvin smashes the soda can he had been tapping on earlier.
"There you go! Come on! Smash something hard! Get mad!"
"Anger isn't something you can just make happen. Something has to get you mad."
"Well, I can do that." I stand up. "I can get you mad."
"That probably isn't the best idea."
"Why not? You can do it! Get mad about being wrong."
"No…don't bring that up again."
Seeing his serious face intimidates me, so I stop. "Ok. I'll just let you do your own thing." I sit down and start smashing alongside him in silence.
He glances up at me. "You can keep talking. I just don't want to think about my mistakes right now."
"Well…I don't know where to turn the conversation because I don't know how you think."
"You don't, or shouldn't anyway, know how anyone thinks."
"Yeah," I say and continue smashing, "But I can usually figure it out enough to know what they like to talk about and what things I should never talk about with them. I can never figure you out."
"Oh. I suppose I can seem mysterious at times."
"You're mysterious all the time."
Calvin stops smashing, glances up at me and raises his eyebrow. He doesn't say anything.
"See?" I say, "Right now, I have no idea what you're thinking. You're being mysterious right now."
He continues smashing.
After a while, I start thinking this is pointless. Calvin still isn't showing the emotion I want, so it looks like this isn't working at all. I stop and sigh quietly and watch him smash things until he notices my silence and looks at me.
"What?" he asks.
"This isn't working, is it?"
"What isn't working?"
"This," I say, gesturing to the ensemble of garbage. "You aren't feeling better and I'm wasting your time."
He gives me a funny look. "I think you jump to conclusions too quickly. Who said this isn't helping me?"
"Is it?" I ask almost sarcastically.
"Well, not in the way you want it to, but yes. I've been overthinking my mistakes recently, and right now I'm not thinking about anything. So, yes, this is helping me a little. This is clearing my mind."
I smile, but am still a little uncertain. "So…should we keep going?"
"I don't see why not."
Considering the fact that I am helping Calvin, he doesn't seem very grateful. I'm just…there. I'm not doing anything special or talking about anything, I'm just there. Whether Calvin appreciates this or not I may never know. There's so many things I want to ask him right now while I'm smashing soda cans, but I never will be able to. Like, does he ever look into my window? Does he ever think about me? If someone else smashed garbage with him, would he like it more or less? Does he like it when I talk to him? Why can't I be his outlet?
I realize we've forgotten the watermelons. I was looking forward to smashing them, but I've lost all enthusiasm. The sky slowly gets darker around us as I lose track of time.
"I'm going to rest for a while, ok? I'm getting tired," I say. I lie on the grass and stare at the sky. Only then do I realize that the sun is setting. "We've been out here longer than I thought."
"Hm," Calvin says.
I sigh angrily, and this time it isn't so Calvin notices. He doesn't anyway. He won't give me anything. I'm not expecting much. All I want is for him to acknowledge that he appreciates my presence.
Hobbes is still observing us. I decide to sit next to him. That Calvin notices.
"What are you doing?"
"Sitting next to Hobbes while I catch my breath."
"Not…not that. I mean, it's like you're trying to be with Hobbes in order to make him talk to you or something. What are you doing?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." I actually don't. This isn't that cliché line in a romantic comedy. I actually have no idea why he has a problem with this. "I like Hobbes. I've always liked Hobbes, even when we were kids. Even though he wasn't my toy, I still felt like he was partially mine because I saw him so much."
Calvin gives me a weird look as I realize I wasn't describing my feelings toward Hobbes. I just described my feelings toward Calvin. Well…only if you replace "toy" with "friend/boyfriend" and "mine" with…well anyway, I'm sure you get it.
"You really like Hobbes that much?"
"Of course, why wouldn't I? I mean, I was a kid and attached to my toys. Besides," I add, smirking, "Hobbes was much nicer to me than you were."
He sort of smiles at that. "I suppose he was. He always liked you anyway. I remember one time when you took him from me after I stole your doll. He told me that you rubbed his tummy and he almost told you our secret codes for our club. Yeah, he liked you a lot."
I smile. In my heart, I hope that Hobbes liking me means that Calvin likes me too, at least when we were kids. "I remember that day," I reply, "You almost beat our door down. But I actually remember that day because I felt bad for taking him since I knew he meant a lot to you."
"Well…I deserved it. I stole your toy."
"Yeah but I stole your best friend. I still remember the day when I realized how much he meant to you. It was that day when I found him after that dog took him from you. I didn't recognize him since I didn't know you well yet. I was having a tea party with him and you came up and saw him sitting there. You were so happy that you kissed my hand and said thank you a million times."
"Hm. Yeah I remember that too. Wait…a dog took Hobbes? How do you know that?"
"Uh…when I got home I told my mom what I did. Apparently your mom had already contacted her so she could look for Hobbes too. My mom looked me in the eye and told me I had done a very good thing. I asked why and she said that Hobbes was the only friend you had. She had seen you circling the neighborhood calling his name and felt sorry for you. She told me that you might be nicer to me now, that's how much he meant to you. But that, of course, didn't happen." I try to say that last statement lightheartedly. I don't want Calvin to feel bad for teasing me when we were little.
It doesn't work. He stops smashing too and yawns. "You know, I sometimes think about all that crap I put you through when we were little. I'm sorry."
"Oh geez. I didn't mean to say it like that. Don't feel bad. When I look back, those are all good memories."
"How are they good memories? Sometimes I made you cry."
"Ok, maybe not all of them. But most of them. I don't know, you usually didn't do anything horrible. It was fun actually. I know that I got angry, but it was mostly play angry. I knew you wanted me to get angry, so I did."
"Oh. Well that's good I guess."
"Yeah it was. I liked getting you angry too, you know."
He smirks. "Yeah. I know. From what I can remember, I genuinely was angry, but it wasn't at you. I'm pretty sure I was angry because I wasn't winning."
"Oh, so you hated being wrong even when we were kids."
Calvin hits his hammer against a piece of wood. It doesn't break, but it isn't supposed to, really. "I suppose you're correct," he says, "but I'd rather not think about it."
"Calvin, I really don't like the idea of you bottling this anger inside you. It is going to come out, one way or another. I don't want you to do anything you'll regret. What if you get so angry that you throw Hobbes away or something?"
He sighs angrily and closes his eyes. "Why do you keep bringing up that damn tiger? That tiger is a piece of my childhood I'd rather forget, and you keep bringing it up!"
I'm stunned. Calvin is using me as his outlet. This is what I had wanted, but I didn't expect it to be like this. I want to correct him as he rants, but I don't. He needs to yell at something with no interruptions. If that something is me, then so be it.
Calvin keeps going. "A few weeks ago, you ask if I remember it. Of course I remember it! That's the problem! I've been trying to forget it for eight years and it won't go away! That damn tiger has nothing but bad memories behind it! Back then I was so stupid and childish. Who the hell carries a tiger with them anyway? No wonder no one liked me. That tiger ruined my damn life because he wouldn't shut up! No one else could see him, so everyone thought I was stupid. And I was! Incredibly stupid, in fact. Because I kept talking to him like an idiot! For the first nine years of my life I was wrong! So so wrong! That damn tiger never existed! It could never could talk! It was never real!
"By the time I had abandoned it, I had no friends and I had no life. I had to read books all the time because no one would even look at me. One time, a kid that went to our elementary school sarcastically asked where 'Hobbes' was. It was terrible. Everyone around him laughed. I had to prove that kid wrong. I had to be smarter than him. I started reading more and more books and learning about philosophy. I was going to prove them all wrong.
"But I'm still wrong. My plan didn't work. Now I'm interested in things no one understands. A lot of adults, including my parents, don't understand or comprehend philosophy like I do. I'm still an outcast. Fortunately, I like video games enough to have a few friends but they think I'm being conceited if I bring up some book I thought was interesting that they haven't read. The 'smart' kids only like math and chess and only read fantasy books. They all read things that aren't real. Fantasy books and video games have the exact story laid out for you. There's no imagination involved at all. Nothing! I'm smarter than them, and I'm more creative and all I do is get teased. Every time I'm wrong in class…or debate…then it just adds fuel to the fire. It gives them another flaw to point out."
Calvin stands, grabs a watermelon and throws it on the ground. It just bounces. "Wrong! I've always been wrong!" He starts smashing it with his feet. "So! Damn! Wrong!" He grabs his hammer and beats the watermelon until it's nothing but pink mush and cracked rind. Calvin sighs heavily and glares at me. He rips off his goggles so I could clearly see the fire in his eyes.
"You just had to bring up that tiger, didn't you? Even though it makes me a little bit angrier every time you do! Stop bringing up that tiger and, for the love of God, stop trying to help me! I don't need your help. I'm not your responsibility and, frankly, you're not doing anyone any good. Got it?"
I nod. This is what I wanted to happen, right? Somehow, I'm not relieved that he finally got mad. I'm hurt. This entire thing was counterproductive. Calvin says so. All my efforts only made him mad at me.
Maybe he only said all that because he's angry. No, what he said was true. Calvin isn't my responsibility. All I'm doing is making him uncomfortable and bringing up feelings that he chooses to suppress. If he wants to be angry and never express it, that's his choice. I shouldn't have intervened and try to make him change. I'm not even good enough friends with him to do this in the first place. A lump rises in my throat. My head starts hurt like it does when I'm about to cry.
Calvin doesn't say anything. I don't expect him to immediately apologize for yelling at me. He's angrier than most people. He doesn't. He just continues to stare at me while my face changes from stunned to shattered. I don't care. I stand up with my head down. Never do I want Calvin, who I view so highly, to see me cry.
I take a shaky breath and manage to say, "I'm sorry" and walk away. Dad won't miss a couple hammers. Calvin watches me go. He doesn't come after me and apologize, but he doesn't look as angry as he did before either. I don't know what to think.
My parents are watching TV when I get home. I take my goggles off and sneak upstairs without anyone noticing. As soon as the doors close, I let the tears surface. A few fall, but not many. I sit in my bed until the tears stop momentarily. I usually cry in waves. The tears stop, then I start thinking about the sad thing again, and then the tears flow once more.
Calvin never has, and possibly never will, truly know how much he means to me. It's beyond just thinking he's attractive and wanting him to be my boyfriend (which I still don't know if I really want anyway). When I see him, or when I know he's there, my world feels whole. When he's gone, something's missing. I know that sounds desperate and pathetic, but it's not like I need him in order to survive. It just feels like something in my life is missing when he isn't around, but I'm not sure what. We can go weeks without speaking to each other, but as long as I see him, I know everything's ok. God, that sounds so clingy. Is it possible to describe a crush meaningfully without sounding like a desperate, confused puppy? I'm thinking there isn't. But I don't want to imply that I'm "head over heels" or whatever. I want to think logically about this, like Calvin would. Maybe infatuation isn't something you can be reasonable with. Really, there's no logical explanation as to why I think about Calvin practically every minute. I shouldn't. I really shouldn't. But I do. The tears surface once more as my thoughts become incoherent and even more confusing than they already are.
After a couple of hours of thinking, the sun is completely down. I should probably go get those hammers.
I pass my mom in the kitchen and tell her I forgot something at the park. She's skeptical, but trusts me enough to know it's not like me to go sneak off with some boy. I tell her that I have my phone and a flashlight and that I'll literally be in the view of Calvin's parents, who were still home.
When I get there, I gasp. Everything's right where I left it, including Calvin. He's asleep on the ground! What am I supposed to do, just leave him there? His parents probably think he's still with me. If Calvin gets kidnapped or something, it will totally be my fault. He must have gotten worn out after he yelled at me.
It's almost nine. Calvin probably won't sleep all through the night on the ground, but I still feel weird leaving him here. I call Calvin's mom.
"Is everything ok?"
"Um yeah…it's just that Calvin fell asleep. I left him because, well, I thought he would go right home. But I left the hammers and stuff. I just came back to get them and Calvin's asleep on the ground."
She scoffs. "Doesn't surprise me. He can sleep anywhere. And I don't think he's been sleeping well. You know, because of stress and all."
I nod, even though she can't see me. "Well…I…uh…what do I do? I feel like I should stay with him. I mean, it's dark. You guys can't really see him. What if he gets kidnapped or something? I doubt he'll sleep for too long. I can just stay until he wakes up."
I can tell she's worried, more about me than Calvin. "I don't think that's necessary for you to do. I'm sure he'll be fine. I mean, I could stay out with him."
"What is it?"
"He's mad at me. He made me feel like it was my fault that he's so stressed out…"
"Susie, that isn't true."
"I know." I don't believe her. "But I feel obligated to stay out with him so I can, like, prove that I'm not here to make him miserable and stuff." When I'm nervous I start talking like a stereotypical thirteen-year-old girl because I don't think before I speak at all.
"I seriously doubt that he thinks that way about you."
"Please, can I stay with him? I really feel like I should. I, like, brought him out here and stuff, he yelled at me, so I was the one who got him all tired and whatever. Even though I know he won't think this, I don't want him to feel like I abandoned him." I pause. "Can you, like, see my flashlight out the window?" I wave it around. Calvin's mom waves back. "See, you'll know I'm out here because of the flashlight. You'll know I'm safe."
She sighs. "I guess this would be all right, but don't get your hopes up. Calvin isn't one for expressing gratefulness. Don't expect him to thank you for staying with him or even apologize for blaming you for all this."
"I know, I don't. Something in me just tells me that I should stay here with him."
"Does your mother know about this? I know she isn't too fond of Calvin."
"Ok, don't worry. I'll tell her. She'll trust my judgment, I hope. But I doubt this will be able to happen again."
"Oh, I know. I'm almost 100% sure this is going to be a one-time deal. Thank you so much."
"You're welcome. If you start to feel unsafe out there at all, though, come over. I don't care how late it is."
"Ok. Bye Susie."
Here I am, alone with Calvin in the dark. Quietly, I pack up the garbage. It doesn't take too long for me to realize that Calvin is a heavy sleeper. There is quite a bit of rustling and whatnot, but he doesn't move a bit. That worries me, so watch him breathe for a second to make sure he's actually alive, but he is.
As my eyes adjust, I notice that Hobbes isn't sitting in the spot he was before. I look for him with the flashlight, and see that he's in Calvin's arms. Softly, I giggle. It's too adorable. After that, I spent a lot of time thinking. It's rather nice, actually, sitting under the stars. I can't lie down, because I need to make sure the flashlight is visible by Calvin's mom at all times. But I don't mind. It's so beautiful out here.
My mind wanders to the moments where Calvin teased me and where I got him back. I got better at it when I got older. The first time I caught myself staring at him through my window, when I was about eleven, I came to terms with the fact that I had liked him this entire time. After that, I was really giggly when he teased me because it was the only proof I had that he acknowledged my existence. Then, around the time he stopped hanging with Hobbes all the time, the teasing stopped. He stopped making eye contact with me, so I stopped talking to him altogether. Everything stopped. Now there's nothing to tell me if he knows I'm there. If I stay with him, he'll have to know I'm here. Maybe staying with him is just a desperate attempt to get him to talk to me some more. Maybe I'm just a desperate, confused puppy who only wants to be loved. No, that's wrong. I am loved. I don't even necessarily want Calvin to love me. I'd settle for liking me as a human being. According to his rant, he doesn't have any real friends. I want to be a person he doesn't hate. I want to be real to him.
Honestly, and unfortunately, I can think about scenarios with Calvin for much longer than I'd care to admit. I think about how he would react if I said something differently in a conversation. I think about impressing him. I think about hanging out with him because he wants to hang out with me. This is why I feel weird calling this a crush. Not once have I thought about us dating, holding hands, kissing, or any of that stuff. I've tried…and it kinda grossed me out. All my "fantasies" about Calvin include being his friend and being there for him when he needs me. Nothing romantic. Still, considering how long I've thought about these scenarios, this would still probably be considered a crush.
It's about eleven thirty when he starts to stir. I'm glad, because I was dozing off myself, but I kept worrying Calvin's mom wouldn't see the flashlight and then call 911 or something.
"Ow…my neck," Calvin groans. He can't see me. It's too dark.
I quietly clear my throat. "Yeah…you must have been tired."
He starts. Then he recognized the voice. "What the hell are you doing here? Did you stay here this whole time?"
"Well I, uh, came back to, like, get the hammers. But you were, like, asleep. So I thought maybe you could get, like, kidnapped or something. So I stayed here to make sure you were ok and whatever." A blush creeps up on my face, and I'm suddenly glad it's dark.
"You what? You're talking way too fast. You thought I was going to get kidnapped?"
I try to calm my heart down, which is easier said than done because not only did I startle Calvin, but he has his just-woken-up voice again. "Y-yeah. I didn't like the idea of leaving you out here." It sounds like I'm taking responsibility for him again. Didn't he say earlier he didn't need my help? Does this count? I've probably made him mad again. "I-I'm sorry. I shouldn't have helped you. I shouldn't have stayed. It just felt weird knowingly leaving you here by myself. You would have been fine on your own, I know. I'm sorry. I'll just…I'm going to go home. It's late."
That kind of sputtered out of my mouth, so I don't think Calvin quite understood me. But he got the reference to his earlier rant. "Oh…I'm not mad right now or anything. I'm just really tired. But, really, I would have been fine. Ow…God…my neck is killing me. How long was I asleep?"
Two hours and thirty six minutes exactly. But that would sound creepy. "I don't know, about two and a half hours, I guess. How come you were so tired? Did yelling at me really tucker you out?"
"Uh, not really. I was just thinking. Time got away from me and I fell asleep. I've done it a lot, but usually I'm at my house when I think."
I fight the urge to ask what he was thinking about. "Yeah I pretty much did the same thing when I got home. Well, I didn't fall asleep. But I was just thinking." I pause. "I didn't mind staying with you. It's a beautiful night. I've never had the chance to look at the stars like this. I never went camping like you did."
"Camping is overrated. It sucks," Calvin says bluntly.
"Perhaps. But I like looking at the stars and talking…" I stop myself from saying "talking with you."
"Me too. Minus the talking part. Talking is overrated too."
"True. I do it way too much."
"You think so? You don't seem to talk that much."
"Around you I don't. You have much more interesting things to say, so I just listen."
"Huh. Didn't know I was so interesting." He says it almost sarcastically, so I shut up.
Surprisingly, we end up sitting together, looking at the stars until almost midnight. To me, it's amazing. We sit in silence, but that doesn't matter. I keep thinking that Calvin doesn't even care if I'm there. He likes looking at the stars. I like looking at stars with Calvin.
After a while, though, my neck gets sore and I keep yawning.
"I'm tired and my neck hurts."
"Yeah, same here."
"Then why are we still out here?"
"I don't know…"
"I should probably go. I'm practically asleep."
"Yeah, me too."
I stand up slowly, but I get dizzy anyway. I had already thrown away the garbage, so I grab the hammers and flashlight and walk toward the sidewalk. I can hear Calvin behind me.
"Do you have Hobbes?" I ask without thinking. "Oh, gosh. Sorry, I didn't mean to ask that. I don't want to leave him out here either."
"I got him, it's fine." Him. He called Hobbes a "him" again.
I smile, again glad that it's dark. "Ok good. You know, I like looking at the stars. I should do it more often."
"You should. It is nice sometimes."
"But it's no fun without anyone to share the moment with," I say.
I think for a second. "This is where you and I are the most different. I like to share my moments with others. Having an awesome moment by myself isn't nearly as gratifying. My world always has room for one more."
Calvin pauses. "Oh. We are pretty different then. People are terrible. And my world isn't worth sharing."
"People are terrible, yes. But in my opinion, it's all worth it in the end. If I watch the stars alone, then I feel really alone. To me, the world is much too big not to share it."
Calvin is silent for a second. "You chose happiness. That's why we're so different. To you, the world is big and beautiful. Everything's great. But the more you know, the sadder you become. I didn't have people, so I chose intelligence. You can either have immense happiness or immense intelligence, but you can't have both."
"Really? You can't?"
"Do you know anyone who's really intelligent and knows a lot about the world, but is also very happy?"
"No…Stephen Hawking maybe?"
"Perhaps. But he's handicapped, so he probably had a pretty hard life. And he just so happened to get a lot of attention. What I'm referring to is knowing a lot about the world and how it works, not necessarily being at genius levels. I mean the people who are able to comprehend a lot things and ponder deeply. Those people often don't get noticed, because what they know is nothing new."
"Oh…in that case, no."
We reach Calvin's house and he turns to his walkway. As he reaches the porch light, I see Hobbes in his hand. I don't think he ever let go of him.
I don't know why, but knowing this results in me walking home with a big smile on my face.
That's the most intimate experience I've ever had with Calvin. I still can't get over that he actually let me sit in silence with him in the dark for almost half an hour. Surreal is the only word I can think to describe that half hour. The strangest thing is that I didn't think about going further than that. I mean, we were in the dark and I never thought about reaching for Calvin's hand and I never had the desire to kiss him. Looking at the stars with him in complete silence is enough. Although, as he walked toward his door, I did want to give him a hug, but only because he's so sad and angry. I don't want anyone I care about to be sad or angry.
After I got home, I worried that it would be awkward at school on Monday. But I don't think so anymore. Calvin rarely initiates conversation, and I doubt I have changed that about him.
Over the next few days, I only glance at Calvin without speaking. I kinda sorta look for him while I'm at school. Not too much, but I kinda sorta know the route he takes to classes. For some reason, I need to know he's at school. Yep, there goes that desperate confused puppy side of me again. Anyway, he's at school and he looks fine. I wave at him when I pass him in-between classes, but he isn't the type to make eye contact. It's really hard not to talk to him at lunch, since I know he's right there, but I control myself. What would I talk about anyway?
"Have a good day, Calvin," I say on Thursday as we walk to our houses.
"Yep." He nods at the ground. I think that's a canned response because he isn't listening, but I don't mind.
I go to my room to think a little bit. Calvin has been treated horribly by humans all his life, to the point where he's insulted to be the same species as them. Everyone around him is ignorant and stupid, in his opinion, because they've always treated him badly for knowing more than they do. He probably is better than his peers in a lot of ways because he's matured faster than they have. But you can't go around acting like you're better than them because then everyone will think you're stuck-up and not want to be around you. Calvin needs to learn how to be smart without making people think that he's trying to be. He isn't perfect. He has his faults. For instance, he refuses to express how he feels unless he's pushed over his limit. That won't bode well for future careers and whatnot.
I don't know what to do with this boy. I just don't know. The best thing is probably to leave him alone, but since I care about him so much it's hard to let this go. But I guess I'll have to pretend I never looked at the stars with him, never knew about Hobbes and never tried to help him. He most likely doesn't want to bring it up anymore, so why should I?
After a couple weeks of not talking to Calvin, I start to become more puppy-like. I take any chance I get to have a conversation with him. So I see him walking ahead of me to our bus, and walk quickly to catch up.
"Hi Calvin," I say.
"Derkins," he replies with the same nod and the same tone.
"How are you?"
We're right back where this whole thing began. I haven't made any progress whatsoever. This disappoints me more than it should, but I try not to let him see it.
"Oh. Ok. What have you been up to?"
We walk side by side in silence until we reach the bus. He doesn't walk ahead of me like he usually does. Right before we reach the doors, Calvin takes a step back and lets me on first. I can't tell if he's being polite or if he just wanted to avoid the awkward situation of deciding who gets on first. Either way, I thank him, but I turn before I see his reaction. I sit in back and he sits in the front, just like normal.
As we go our separate ways, he waves goodbye to me. I don't think he's ever waved goodbye to me before. I wave back and smile, but I'm freaking out a little. What is he doing? Maybe he feels sorry for yelling at me, and wants to start being nice or whatever. But he only does it a couple more times after that.
A few days later, I need help on math homework again. I had been doing pretty well, but we just started a new unit and…well, you probably don't want to hear about math right now.
When I call his house, Calvin picks up the phone.
"Oh hi Calvin. I was just wondering if I could come over and get some math help."
"Um," he replies, "Maybe. My parents aren't home."
I wish my mom could have heard that. I want to prove to her that Calvin isn't some perverted guy who's waiting for the chance to be completely alone with me. "Oh," I reply, "Well then never mind."
"Well, I mean, if you really want the math help then I could come over there."
"Uh…I don't know about that."
"I know your parents don't like me that much, but we can do it in the kitchen or the living room so they don't get suspicious or anything."
Calvin hasn't been in our house since we were kids and my parents tolerated him. "Can I call you back? I'll have to ask them. I'm pretty sure they'll be ok with it. But I don't know for sure."
"Ok, I understand. Last time I talked with them, I was pretty bad off. I think I offended them. But I'll behave myself, I promise." I can hear him smiling.
I smile too. "Like I said, I'm pretty sure they'll be fine with it. You don't need to worry."
"I know, but still. My parents should be out for a while, but I'll let them know I'm coming over after you call me back."
Nervously, I ask my dad if Calvin can come over. He frowns. My mom, who's sitting near him, shakes her head slightly.
"We won't go into my room or anything. This is just for math help, I promise. I seriously doubt Calvin would come over just to see me." My mom sighs. I think she knows he's harmless, but still doesn't like him.
My dad raises an eyebrow. "Well, all right. But I reserve the right to kick him out."
"Absolutely," I say happily, "I'll call him back right now."
When I let Calvin in, he looks around in surprise. "Wow, I didn't think this place would have changed so much." He puts his coat in the closet and finds my parents. He goes and finds them. He must really want to make a good impression.
They stand up to shake his hand.
"Hello Mr. Derkins. Good evening Mrs. Derkins. How are you this evening?"
"I'm fine," my mother says politely. "How are you, Calvin? It's been ages."
"I'm doing well, thanks. I'm glad I can use my knowledge of math to help people."
My dad gives him a weird look. "Yes. Right. Well, I suppose we should find a place for you two to work. The dining table is right through there. There's plenty of space and a good amount of light. Susie, do you have your assignment?"
"Yes," I say quickly and hold up my papers and a calculator.
"Ok then. There you go."
"Thanks for letting me come over," Calvin says, "My parents aren't home right now, otherwise I wouldn't have barged in like this. My parents love having Susie over."
"Do they?" my mom asks, "I didn't know. And don't worry Calvin, it's no trouble at all having you over. We're glad that Susie can get the help with math she needs."
"Good," Calvin replies. He turns to me. He looks like a different person when he's trying to get my parents to like him. "Shall we get started then?"
I nod and lead him into the dining room. He sits right where my parents can see him, no matter which way he moves. I wonder if he did that purposely.
"Told you I'd behave," he says in a low voice.
I smile and look over the problems I didn't understand.
My mom appears in the archway. "Calvin, do you want anything to drink?"
"Oh no, I'm fine, thank you."
"All right." She walks back to the den and sits down.
We're done in less than an hour. We would have been done sooner, but we chatted a little bit in-between problems. Just about school. I started ranting about how horrible my math teacher is for a while. He just listened.
"Ok, I think I got it now," I say, "Sorry I keep asking you help like this every time we have a new unit."
"That's ok," he replies, "Math is challenging for some people. At least you have the guts to admit you were wrong without getting all…you know." He gives me a look.
I'm taken aback by his subtle hint at his rant a couple weeks ago. It surprises me that he brought it up again. But I decide not to mention that. My eyes drift to the wall. "Yeah," I reply, "Admitting you're wrong is a big step when it comes to stuff like that. But it is difficult. People need to make that step on their own. Sometimes, one person can spend all their time trying to prove to another person that they're wrong, but it only makes things worse." I look back at Calvin and raise my eyebrows.
He smirks at me. He gets it. "Well if you're understanding this, then I guess my work here is done." He gets up and says goodbye to my parents.
"See you tomorrow then," I say as he walks out the door.
"Yep," he says. Then he's gone. It seems we're both at an understanding. He's still having difficulty accepting the fact that it's ok to be wrong sometimes, but I will let him figure it out on his own.
A few days later, I see Calvin at lunch with that smirk on his face. He's reading.
"Hi Calvin, what's new?" I say.
"Hello Derkins. Nothing much."
"I'm not interrupting some epiphany, am I?"
"No." He lowers the book and raises an eyebrow. "Epiphany?"
"What? Usually when you're, like, smirking at what you're reading, that means you've had some great new idea." Wow. That sounded really pathetic.
He shakes his head. "You're overanalyzing my countenance. I smirk at many different occasions. I smirked at your house. I didn't have any new ideas then."
"Oh. Then why do you smirk?"
"What do you mean, why do I smirk? Why do you smile?"
Of course, I smile at that. "I smile when I'm happy."
"Nope. You're wrong." He closes the book. "People don't only smile when they're happy. Some smile when they're upset or empathetic. I'm pretty sure you smile at things that amuse you. And when you're being polite. When you meet someone new, you smile. You may not be particularly happy at that moment, but you want to be polite. You're smiling right now, but that doesn't mean you're happy."
"Actually, I am happy right now." I can feel my cheeks get hot.
"Because I like talking to you." That sounds too weird, so I add: "I smile whenever I talk to people I enjoy being around, unless we're talking about, I don't know, death or something."
"Anyway, I'll let you get back to reading. Are you still doing that Sherlock Holmes thing?"
"Oh, I guess. Writing is more of a hobby. I'll get around to it. I like to research for a while before I write the paper."
"Ok. Cool. Well, talk to you later I suppose."
"All right." He goes back to reading and I walk back to my friends.
About a month goes by with those typical conversations. Then Calvin isn't at school for three days. I end up calling his mom.
"Hello?" she asks when she answers the phone. She sounds tired.
"Hi. It's Susie."
"Hello dear. Do you need some homework help? I don't think Calvin will be up to it today."
"No, I actually just called to ask if Calvin was ok."
"Oh, it's nothing to worry about. He's just a little under the weather is all. Calvin's had the flu for a couple days, and now I think we're getting it to."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Do you guys need anything?"
"You're so sweet. No, I think we're fine here." She sighs. She sounds really tired. She's older than my mom. I know that Calvin and his dad don't know how to cook.
"Wait a minute. What about dinner? You're exhausted I'm sure. Why don't I make some soup and bring it over? Would that be ok?"
I know Calvin's mom doesn't really like asking for help, but I think she needs someone to make dinner and tidy up the house a bit. "Well…it would be nice. But I don't want to get you sick or anything."
"No, don't worry about that. I have straight A's so missing school for a couple of days if I get sick will be no problem. Besides, our family had the flu a couple weeks ago. Calvin probably got it from me."
"Ok…well…if it isn't too much trouble."
"Of course not! I'll be over around four thirty."
"You're incredibly sweet. And I do love having you over. Ok, see you soon dear. We might be asleep so I'll unlock the door for you at four twenty. Make sure to lock it behind you. Goodbye."
"Bye." I can't fix Calvin, but I can be there when he needs me, at least. I get started on the soup. I'm a pretty good cook if I do say so myself.
"Susie, are you cooking something?" my mom says as she appears in the kitchen. Tonight she isn't making dinner.
"Yeah. Calvin and his parents are sick, so I'm making dinner for them. I'm pretty sure they got the flu from us so I don't think I'll get sick. I'm just making them some soup."
"Oh. Are you going to bring it to them?"
"Yeah, if that's all right."
"It's fine with me." She knows Calvin's mom gets stressed if the house isn't clean and she isn't able to make dinner for her family. "Just don't stay too late."
"I won't. I'll just see if they're ok and tidy up a bit."
The house is quiet when I walk in. I set the soup on the counter. The dishwasher is clean, so I empty it as quietly as I can. I've been here so many times I know where almost everything goes. But Calvin's mom hears me anyway.
"Oh there you are," she says and sees the appliance I'm holding. "The blender goes over there." I put it away.
Calvin's mom has a blanket around her. She looks pale and pretty sick. "Is this the soup? It smells delicious," she says. "Did you make it yourself?"
I nod. "I'll get some bowls as soon as I'm done with this."
"Ok. I'm going to lie down on the couch."
The clinking from the dishes and the conversation must have been heard by Calvin. He's almost fully recovered from the flu, so he comes downstairs quickly.
"What are you doing here?" he asks, surprised.
"Helping your mom out. She told me you were all sick so I made you all some soup." We speak in hushed tones since the living room is across the hall where his mom is resting. I look for the place to put the large, ceramic bowl I'm holding.
"You're just over here to feed us?"
"And clean the house if I can."
I set the bowl down. "Because I want to. I like helping people. Is that so hard to believe?"
"Uh…I guess not. Since you're here and all that. Oh," he grabs the bowl, "This goes over here. Let me empty the rest. I was supposed to this morning anyway."
"Ok. I'll just grab these bowls and start dishing out the soup."
He smirks at the dishes.
I look at him right as he does so. "See? You're doing it again."
"Smirking. What is it with you and smirking?"
"I don't know. I just do it whenever. It's a reflex."
"No, no it's not. You usually do it when you're reading and have some new idea. The last few times you've done it, it's when I've started getting all fussy over you and when I started trying to help you. Not just whenever."
He looks at me. "You're overanalyzing my countenance again."
I looked up that word the first time he said it, so I know what he means now. "I am not. To me, you're still mysterious and emotionless. Every time you smirk, you're showing slight emotion. I take mental note of it because I'm trying to figure you out. You're the only person I know that I can't figure out."
He raises his eyebrow and smirks again. "You're an odd individual. You're wasting your time trying to figure me out."
"I beg to differ. You're interesting." I open the lid of the pot and start ladling out the soup.
"If you say so." He continues emptying the dishwasher.
"Are you going to have any of this?" I ask, using the ladle to gesture toward the pot.
Calvin looks the soup over. "Hm…I guess. I'm not that hungry right now. But I probably will later."
"Ok, I'll leave it out for you then. I'll just eat the bowl I made for you. I'm starving." I bring the two bowls into the kitchen, surprised to see Calvin's dad lying in his recliner with his eyes closed, but I can tell he isn't asleep. Calvin's mom smiles up at me.
"Oh my, that smells so delicious," she says.
"Dinner is served," I say and set the bowls down. Spoons! I forgot spoons! I walk quickly to get them and end up running into Calvin.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I realized you forgot spoons." He steps back awkwardly and hands them to me, along with my bowl.
"Thanks Calvin. Will you be joining us in the living room?" I smile up at him. He's significantly taller than me.
"Um…no. I'm fine. I'll just be in my room. I'm not completely over this flu yet, so I'm a little tired."
"Ok. Let me know if you need anything," I say just like his mom would.
"Um…right. Ok." He leaves.
I chat with Calvin's parents a bit. They both love (or at least say they love) the soup. I think it's pretty tasty, considering I threw it together without thinking it through first. After scarfing his soup down, Calvin's dad falls asleep. I purposely didn't give either of them very much, thinking that they probably didn't have much of an appetite.
"So Susie," Calvin's mom says as she sets her bowl on the coffee table, "I know that Calvin won't say anything, so I will. Thank you for all that you've done for Calvin."
I'm surprised. I thought I had to stop because I wasn't helping him. "What do you mean? I didn't do anything."
"Oh, but you have! He's stopped talking to Hobbes as much, which means that he's working through his problems more on his own now. And he really did appreciate you staying with him that night last month. He came home and asked me why you did it. I told him because you cared. He didn't reply to that, but I could tell it meant a lot. He's never had someone care so much about him before, other than Hobbes."
"Really?" My cheeks hurt from smiling so hugely. I lower my voice, worried he'll hear me. "I actually didn't know if Calvin thought of me as a friend or not, since he never reciprocated any feeling toward me. Like, not even acquaintance feelings. Recently, I've just let him do his own thing."
"That's exactly what you need to do. It'd be too much of a burden to be responsible for him. That's my job anyway. But I mean you kind of jerked him awake, so to speak. I think he feels like he should solve his problems more independently, knowing that you're going to notice. Besides, it's good for him to have someone he could vent to, potentially, that's in his own peer group and understands him."
I raise my eyebrows. "I don't understand him at all. That's part of the reason I tried to figure out what was wrong in the first place, because he's so…mysterious and emotionless."
"But you try, sweetie. That's what he wants. I don't know what he's told you, but every time he tried to be himself around his so-called friends in the past, they'd think he was trying to be better than them and they would insult him."
"Yeah…he mentioned that."
"He did?" Calvin's mom frowns. "Oh, I felt so bad for him. He's just trying to be who he is, and every boy his age would cut him down. And the girls all thought he was weird and wouldn't give him a passing glance. I mean, I know he isn't the most attractive boy."
I blush, not sure how to respond to that.
"But you saw past all that, Susie. You want nothing more than for him to be who he is. So what if you have to ask him to define a word he says or you've never read the book he's referencing? Of course, as Calvin gets older, he'll find people who know exactly what he's talking about all the time, and he'll be friends with them. But he'll never get there if he doesn't know there are people like you who genuinely care about him just because he is who he is. You've helped him make a big step. And I don't think Calvin will ever be able to tell you that until he's a lot older and both of you have gone you're separate ways."
"Wow," I say, flabbergasted, "I had no idea…he rarely even initiates conversation with me. It's great you've told me this, but it would mean a lot more if Calvin could express how he feels about me. Even if it's subtle."
"I know…but boys will be boys. I have never met a teenage boy who verbally expresses appreciation for his friends. But I know Calvin is grateful for what you've done. I'm sure he'll find his own way to show you. It might not be a heartfelt letter or flowers, but he'll find some way."
"Actually," I smile, "He has been associating with me slightly more. He's started waving goodbye to me recently, which he's never done before."
Calvin's mom nods and smiles back at me. "Like I said, he'll find his own way."
I stand up and collect the bowls. "I'll let you rest some more. I'll put these away and finish the laundry."
"Ok. But, one more thing…" Calvin's mom gestures for me to come closer. She says in a low voice, "You weren't doing all this fussing over Calvin because you like him, were you?"
I blush a deep shade of red and step back.
She smiles. "I know that you're like a mom to everyone, but I had a hunch. Don't worry, your secret is safe with me. It's even safe from your parents. Over the years, I've seen boys flirt with you Susie, but you always seemed to have someone else in mind."
I nod, still too embarrassed to say anything.
"Take it from me, Calvin will make an excellent husband. But I'm not sure if he's reached the maturity level to started casually dating girls."
I shake my head. "When I start dating, it won't be casual. I'm looking for a husband, not a casual boyfriend. That's why I've never…like…asked him out or anything. For starters, I think he'd say no, but I don't really want to date in high school anyway. I want to focus on school."
"That's a very noble thing to do. Besides, it's probably better to date when the boys are past their hyperactive sex drive phase anyway."
"Uh…yeah I guess. Ok, I'm going to get to work."
"Did Calvin eat?"
"I don't know."
"I don't think he did. Will you bring him up a bowl, please? I don't think he's eaten since 11 this morning. Your appetite does take a while to come back, but he's got to be at least a little hungry."
"Ok." I put the bowls I'm holding in the sink. The soup's a little cold, so I heat it up a little before bringing a bowl upstairs for Calvin. I remember the spoon this time.
Calvin sits up in bed when I walk in. He looks like he was just about to doze off.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I wake you?" I ask.
"No, no. It's fine." He sees the bowl. "Oh, thanks. You didn't have to bring me food. I said I'd get it later."
"It was your mom's idea." I hand the bowl to him and he eagerly eats it, like his dad did.
I bring the desk chair over to his bed and sit down. "So…" I begin, "I never really got a chance to apologize to you."
He pauses. "What do you mean?"
"I'm talking about the day we smashed garbage and stuff. You seemed really angry. I'm glad you vented your emotions finally, but I'm sorry if I made you do something you didn't want to do. You were right, I should never have brought up Hobbes and forced you to talk about your feelings."
He puts his bowl down. "I was pretty angry that day. But, despite what I said, it wasn't your fault. I know you meant well. And you've stopped fussing over me, so it's fine now."
"Ok. Well, I just wanted to get this off my chest so you'll have no excuse to hold grudges against me later." I stand up.
"I really can't picture myself truly angry at you. You're way too nice."
I cock my head and almost blush. "Was that a compliment?"
"No…I was stating a fact. I don't think anyone's ever been angry at you. Am I wrong?"
I think about it. "No…I think you're right. But still…it's nice of you to say that. I'd better go do laundry and stuff."
"Ok. I'll come help you in a bit."
It surprises me that Calvin's ok with me doing his laundry, where I'll be folding his boxers and whatever. But I guess it's more of a girl thing to be self-conscious about stuff like that.
After laundry's done, I head home. I say goodbye to Calvin's parents and Calvin opens the door for me to let me out.
"See you later, Calvin," I say.
"Yep, see you later." He shuts the door.
I'm halfway home before I realize that I ran into Calvin when I went to get spoons. Ran into him. Like, that's the most physical contact I've ever had with him, and I was too busy to get all giggly about it. Wow, when I'm in Mom Mode, nothing distracts me apparently. But that was probably for the best anyway.
Over the next couple of months, Calvin waves to me more regularly and even asked how I was doing once or twice. When I come over for math help, I end up staying a little longer sometimes because Calvin wants to tell me what he's reading and what he thinks about it. Most of what he says is way over my head, but I love listening to him talk just as much as I did before. I think he's finally stopped talking to Hobbes altogether. His mom tells me one day that she thinks he can finally accept being wrong. I'm not so sure about that, since he never brings it up anymore, but he's making progress at the very least.
Before I know it, school's almost out. I'm graduating. It seems unreal. I gushed to Calvin a couple times about how excited I was, but he's pretty uninterested. Our gowns arrive. Our school colors are purple and gold. The girls wear purple gowns and the guys wear gold. I'm so excited, but also kind of sad. I'm not going to have an excuse to visit Calvin anymore. I still have no idea if we're at a point in our relationship where I can stop by, uninvited. I still don't know if we're friends yet. But it's hard to get too sad when everyone around you is talking about they're amazing summer plans and they're scholarships.
My friends and I all talk about how we're going to hang out all the time. Honestly, I know we're not. Everyone says that and then hardly anyone does. Most "school friends" are just acquaintances. I've never been over to any of their houses. We never got to that point. But the last thing I want them to do is get mad at me. So I pretend I'll call them every day and blah blah blah. I know I'll more than likely never see them again. A couple are moving out of the state, some out of the country. One girl insists she's loves her boyfriend and they're going to get married or whatever. I'm happy for them, but I'm kind of sick of being around these people. High schoolers in general, actually. Except Calvin, of course. We're pretty much on the same page when it comes to this sort of thing.
"Do people really think they're going to hang out that much after graduation?" Calvin asks one day.
"I know, right? I mean, maybe for a few months. But not for long. And they always say 'let's hang out sometime' in everyone's yearbook, but it never means anything. Oh, that reminds me, are you getting a yearbook?"
"I guess," Calvin says, "I think my mom bought one for me this year. But I don't really get the yearbook mania that seniors get. It's like their life is ruined if you don't sign their yearbook or something. I think I signed twelve seniors' yearbooks last year, and I don't remember a single one of their names."
"You signed their yearbooks? I thought you didn't like doing that."
"I don't, but they practically forced me to. I just signed my name to get them out of my hair. That's what I usually do. I don't like all the sentimental crap because I'm not a sentimental person."
"I know. Unfortunately, I think I will get sucked into the mania. I am going to miss all my friends for a little while at least."
"Don't let it depress you or anything. These people aren't worth it."
I look at him, shading my eyes with my hand. "Calvin, that isn't nice!"
He smirks. "What? It's true. I don't think you truly know anyone in this school at all. It only makes sense that you'll forget them, so why bother getting sad over it?"
"You're right," I reply, "But I know you pretty well, don't I?"
"I guess you could say that. But you've known me your entire life. Even the kids that went to my elementary school you didn't talk to as much as you did with me. As I recall, you and I ate lunch alone."
I smile. "As I recall, I sat with you. I was the only one who could handle your grossness at the lunch table."
"Yeah, I still don't know why you kept sitting with me."
"Oh, I don't remember why," I lie, "I guess I didn't have anyone else to sit with or something."
"Hm. If you say so." He takes a step back to let me on the bus.
A few days later, everyone (except Calvin) is excited for yearbooks and stressed out for exams. I end up getting sucked into yearbook mania. Everyone on my mental friend list had to sign my yearbook. They just had to. I know that's unreasonable, and that Calvin was right, but I can't help myself. I keep looking for Calvin, but I can't find him anywhere.
Graduation is tomorrow. This is the last day he has to sign it because my yearbook is too big to carry during graduation, but I can't find him anywhere. I know this is stupid since I live next door to him, but I feel a little sad that I'm not going to get Calvin's mark on my yearbook.
Graduation is over. I'm exhausted. My parents have enough pictures of me to last a lifetime. I'm glad it's finally all over. While I'm waiting for my parents to meet me outside, I see Calvin with his parents. Calvin looks good in gold. It brings out his eyes.
"Congratulations Susie!" Calvin's mom says, and she hugs me.
"Thanks," I say.
"Sorry I disappeared at the end of school," Calvin says, his eyes on the ground. The sun is in his eyes. "I wanted to avoid the loud lunchroom and yearbook mania. But I brought my yearbook, if you want to sign it." He hands his yearbook and a pen to me.
I take it from him. A few people ended up signing his, even though I'm assuming Calvin didn't want them to. It's just some snarky remarks from his friends I guess. I find a blank page.
"We'll be in the car. You know where it is right?" Calvin's mom asks.
"Yeah. I'll meet you there."
"Ok. Bye Susie."
"Bye." What should I say? I only have a couple minutes.
Hey Calvin, I really liked having book discussions with you. Actually, I liked talking to you in general. I don't care what you say, you're still interesting to me. I know you're going to have an awesome life and do wonderful things! You have so much potential. Take care of yourself!
There. It's not too mushy or cliché, but it's nice. I hand the book back to him. He smiles.
"You're the only person I know who's our age that would use the word 'potential' like that. You sound like my mom."
"Is that bad?"
"I guess not."
Just then, my parents appear behind me. They congratulate Calvin and we go our separate ways.
After a couple more weeks, we get our grades in the mail. I have straight A's (if you're counting A minuses). While I'm feeling pretty proud of myself, I hear a knock on the door. My parents are out shopping for at least another hour, so I have no idea who it is.
I open the door. "Calvin?" I ask in shock. "What are you doing here?"
He seems flustered. "Um, I just realized that I never signed your yearbook. I know you wanted everyone to sign it and I never did. I'm sorry."
Why is he bringing this up now? "Um…no, it's fine. I didn't even think about it." I did, actually. A lot.
"No, I'd feel bad unless I signed it. Could you go get it?"
"Ok, wait here. My parents aren't home so, just wait here." I shut the door and grab my yearbook, wondering why the heck he's doing this.
He smiles when I open the door again. "Great. I have a pen with me. Hold on." He scribbles something out. It's definitely not just his name. He hands it back to me. "Read it."
"Ok." My heart's pounding. I have no idea what to expect.
Susie, let's hang out sometime. I mean it.
I look up at him with the biggest smile on my face. He's looking down and blushing a little. Blushing? Is Calvin the Great blushing? He meets my eyes.
"So…the other reason I'm here is to invite you and your family to a barbeque that my family's having this weekend. Do you think you can come?"
I'm trying so hard not to scream inside. "Yeah!" I say, "Yeah, I'm sure we can go."
"Great," he says, "See you there then." He turns to leave.
"Ok, bye Calvin."
I shut the door.
Maybe I'm still not A Day kind of a person.
But This Day…This Moment…comes pretty damn close.
A/N: Special thanks to my friend Rugphan for thinking of what Calvin should say in his yearbook and for listening to my rants when I had writers block. :) I hope you enjoyed this story. I've been working on it for a couple months and I'm pretty proud of it right now. Please tell me if it was too cheesy! I hate stories that are too cheesy.
Also, while you're down here, check out Rugphan's profile. She writes amazing stories! :D