Perfection and Other Illusive Things
I hid the school newspaper from my best friend.
Billie wouldn’t appreciate that I wasn’t reading the news part of it, and she’d roll her eyes when she realized it was Hawk’s words I was melting over. Him again? she’d say. Honestly, Eden. He’s going to be working at a gas station for the rest of his life.
Except we didn’t even know if he worked at a gas station in the first place. Her point, of course, was that I wasn’t the type of girl to date a guy who’d end up in a job like that. My point, if I actually felt like having the conversation, was that his words were perfection and clearly he was more of an intellect than she took him for.
Mr. Keller clapped and I startled, crumpling the paper in my hands. I resisted the urge to smooth it on my thigh and draw attention to the fact that I wasn’t listening in class, because, you guessed it, I also wasn’t the type of girl to not listen in class.
“Your semester project will, of course, end with a thoughtful essay—psychology applied, if you will—but for starters I just want you to pick something, preferably something you don’t like very much, and make a list of pros and cons for it. I’m going to give you some time to work on this, and then we’ll get into the details later—what the next step will be. Sound good? As it’s a large part of your grade, make sure you put a little thought into it.”
Something I didn’t like very much? But everything I wasn’t supposed to like, I did like: Hawk’s poems, Hawk himself, the watch my grandpa gave me right before he died…it had been my grandma’s and this morning, in the drizzle that he loved, I’d almost put it on. Then I heard Billie’s words in my ear: “Watches are obsolete.” And my mom’s: “That old thing? Does it even work?”
It did, actually. Well, sometimes. When it wanted to. But even if it didn’t, I’d still love it. It was gold and vintage and delicate.
When I put it on, though, I was reminded of how not delicate I was. Not that strong, independent girls like me were supposed to want to be delicate. Strong and sturdy made for good volleyball players, and I was supposed to care about what my body could do, not what it looked like.
And no, I didn’t want to be delicate only because Hawk’s best friend Ivy was ethereal. Or because the girls he went for were usually as thin as her. A girl like me didn’t have a chance with a guy like him anyway. Or, as Billie would put it, a guy like him didn’t have a chance with a girl like me.
Frankly, I was pretty sick of being a girl like me.
Girls like me did what they were supposed to, that’s what I’d come to realize. Not what they wanted. Girls like Ivy did what they wanted, and, it seemed to me, seldom what they were supposed to. There had to be a happy medium. There had to be an in-between.
The bell rang and I stuffed the crumpled paper into my pocket.
“What are you doing your list on?” Billie asked, collecting her stuff from the desk next to mine.
“My grandma’s watch.” It was the only thing in my head. It just came out.
“You’re supposed to pick something you don’t like. Were you even listening?”
“No one else likes it, though. Maybe my pros will convince them.”
“Wes likes it.”
I refrained from rolling my eyes. “Wes likes everything.”
She winked. “Wes likes everything to do with you.”
Yeah, yeah, I wanted to say. A girl like me would date a guy like Wes. Only, Billie and I had been best friends with him and Isaac for so long that when he’d kissed me three months ago, it felt more like kissing my grandpa. And when we managed to still act like best friends the next day, it seemed better that way.
See, I had everything a girl like me should want: stellar grades, early admission to my third-choice college, a solid spot on the volleyball team, the most loyal best friend, the sweetest little brother, a mom who loved me, et cetera.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want those things; obviously, they were very nice things. It was just I wanted things outside that box too. Things Billie didn’t understand. Things my mom wouldn’t understand. Or Wes. Obviously, because he thought I should want him. So if I didn’t want the things a girl like me should want, then maybe I wasn’t really that girl anymore. And what was I supposed to do with that?
Maybe I should do my project—the pros and cons—on me.
Maybe I should do it on the girl I was supposed to be.
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