Nothing exciting ever happens here. Sure there was an occasional good moment here and there, but in terms of absolute bliss, it has yet to happen. Not in my life, at least. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I just repel amazing moments that constantly surround those around me. Like love. My older brother and sister have certainly had their moments. Both are happily married to their significant other. Even my friends have shared with me the details of their romantic adventures. Regardless of the fact that the majority of those relationships lasted only a few weeks or months, I always found myself envying them.
I guess I've just never been lucky when it comes to love. I've tried. Believe me, I've tried. I went out with half a dozen girls in my life. Each different and special in their own way. But, nothing ever seemed to click. The longest relationship I had was with a girl named Iris. Iris was great to hang out with. She was beautiful. Brunette. Dazzling eyes. Amazing body. And despite all that, I somehow managed to screw it up by analyzing our relationship. It must have been a few months into our relationship when I started to realize that we had nothing in common. With didn't like the same music, always argued over which movie to see, and even canceled a few dates because we couldn't decide on a place to eat. My friends did love her though. Max liked her a little too much, if you ask me. When I had decided to break up with her, he threatened to avoid speaking with me for a whole month. I convinced him though, by passing along her phone number. They left me alone for a while. Soon after, though, the invites to parties started up again.
Recently, it's reached the point where I actually avoid hanging out with my friends, my best friends, and even my family. Why go to a couples' party when you're the only one lacking a couple? That's just awkward. Then the questions start: why are you still single, why haven't you found anyone, what kind a person are you looking for, are you being too picky, you know perfection doesn't exist, right? Blah, blah, blah. Of course I know it doesn't exist. If it did, then I wouldn't be single. In a perfect world, all would be well. A partner for everyone. Oprah would be giving them away. Relationships filled with ever-lasting love.
Work and college are great excuses that usually do the job. But regardless of how often I can successfully avoid the people I care about, the truth of the matter is still lurking in the shadows of my mind: I'm alone. So, I do what any right-minded 20-year-old would do when faced with my dilemma. I ignore it. Bury myself in work like my dad does. The less I think about it, the less depressed I'll feel. The less heartache. Oddly enough, the strategy has been a complete success for this past semester.
I just recently avoided a grand get-together with my friends. They're celebrating an anniversary. That's right, a wedding anniversary. While I'm here, still single…wait. Stop. Work. Think about work. Semester's over, but I've still got to work. That's right. In fact, I now have more time to tutor. More time = more work. More work = more cash. More cash = buying distractions.
When I get to work the next morning, my boss hands me my week's schedule. Apparently, I'm in charge of working with some new kid named Eli. He'll be showing up five days a week for two hours each session. Mr. Randall, my boss, tells me Eli's in high school and his grades have dropped consistently year after year since entering middle school. He's been in fights, got caught smoking weed at school, and was suspended from January up until March. Mom finally decided to do something about it because she's so concerned about his future. If she was so concerned in the first place, she would have done something sooner. If the kid needs help, you fucking help. As soon as possible. I didn't tell Mr. Randall that last part. No, I just nodded and folded the schedule into my back pocket.
About fifteen minutes later, Eli shows up. At least, I assume it was him. The door chime rings and I can hear voices coming from the entrance. One of them is definitely Mr. Randall's voice, deep and baritone. The other, however, is soft and almost weak. Not exactly something you'd expect from a pot-smoking, troubled teen with poor grades. The voices grow louder as they make their way down the hallway, and I can't help but feel a bit nervous. I am usually quite in control of myself. But this is not one of those moments. I'm on the edge of my seat anticipating this new problem child that I'm supposed to shape up for school after his parents tossed him under a bus by neglecting his needs.
"Well, right this way, Eli," Mr. Randall says pointing toward my table. He gives me a raised eyebrow look that could either mean 'oh holy hell this is the spawn of Satan' or 'I accidentally left the stove on at home'. I guess you could say I'm not too keen about reading people's thoughts.
Eli peaks around the corner. I smile and wave. He's, for lack of a better word, interesting. Nothing like his file suggested. For starters, he's just shy of Mr. Randall's shoulder, which means he probably comes up to my nose. Aside from lacking height, he's got short, brown hair poorly combed to the side, light brown almond eyes that he's masked well under his bangs, and a small frame that's buried under about two or maybe three layers of clothing. Did I mention it was summer?
Eli tucks his head back. Mr. Randall turns, blocking off my view. I can't make out what their saying, but it doesn't sound good. Mr. Randall turns back to look me over, then returns to the conversation. Now I just feel a bit self-conscious. I check to make sure my fly isn't open. Nope. Everything seems to be in order. I'm wearing a button down shirt, unbuttoned of course. My undershirt isn't exactly offensive, unless the thought of a walking burrito frightens you. I have an odd sense of humor. I take out my phone and use the screen as a mirror. Hair's combed, smile is present, teeth are clean.
Mr. Randall walks back to the entrance, leaving me to my thoughts. And boy, do I have quite a few at the moment. "Hello, Mrs. Koizumi? Good morning. This is Mr. Randall. I'm calling because, well, because Eli is having reservations about today's session. Well, I…" Apparently, Mrs. Koizumi didn't like what she was hearing. Mr. Randall is not someone who loses control of a conversation. "Yes, but…I understand. The problem? Well, the problem Eli has is with the tutor."
The tutor? What the fuck? I'm the tutor. I haven't even met the kid and he's already blaming me for not wanting to come here today? I think I'm beginning to understand a little bit more about this Eli character. I can pass judgment just as easily as he can. I bet he's more than capable of picking up his grades on his own, he just blames it on his classmates and teachers because of a poor relationship with his parents. That little piece of…
"You're not in town? But didn't you drop him off? Oh, he walked this whole way? That's a bit far. I see. Well, perhaps I can check the bus schedule to see if there's an earlier bus he can—No, I don't think it would be fair to make him walk. I…I understand. Listen, I know this can be tough for a family to go through. I won't charge you for the session. I'll take him off today's schedule. We'll try again tomorrow, with another tutor perhaps. Thank you. Goodbye."
Silence. I never thought it could be that uncomfortable. But it was. And that's that no one was even looking at me. Still, I felt embarrassed. Guilty for something I didn't even do. Next time, I won't even smile at that little shit. Wait. There won't be a next time. I'm getting replaced. Which is another real shame. Not that I care or anything, it's just that my replacement for this summer program is a real bitch of an instructor. Oh well. Too bad. Not my problem.
"Sebastian!" Mr. Randall called out from the entranceway, followed by a soft mumbling by a certain someone whose name I won't mention but who just cut my hours for the summer. "Sebastian?"
"Yes," I responded, actually afraid to get up and head toward my boss for fear that I would upset the princess.
There was a bit more of a heated conversation that followed. It was short and definitive. "Sebastian, I need to ask a favor of you. A personal one. Could you come up here."
I stepped away from my desk and started making my way toward the hallway when I heard the door chime ring. Alright, I may not be the most attractive guy out there, but I'm not freaking Medusa. That kid was going to lead to some serious psychological problems for me.
"Listen, I don't know what exactly is going on with this client, but…I think we can help him. He's definitely not what I expected. Am I right?"
"I didn't get a good enough look, but from what I saw, no. He's…" and once again I was struggling to come up with an accurate description. Delicate, believe it or not, was actually the first word that came to mind. I couldn't help it. His skin did kind of remind me of a porcelain doll. But, he's a guy, and it would be weird to say something like that. No matter how rare. So, instead, I just stuck with, "he's interesting, I guess. Definitely Different."
"Yes. Well, his mother is out of town and she won't be back for a week, maybe two. So, Eli's staying by himself at home. I'm not asking you to babysit or anything," he quickly added when he noticed me make a face, "but I don't think it's right that he should walk home today. Especially since he just got here."
"Mr. Randall, I'd love to help," I lied, "but I don't think I'm the best person to give him a ride. After all, I'm kind of the reason he didn't feel like showing up today, right?" I look over his shoulder, at the glass door, and notice a shadow pass across the sidewalk outside. A small, most likely obnoxious, shadow. "I didn't do anything, by the way. I don't even know why he's so bothered by me." My eyes can't seem to return to Mr. Randall's anymore. They're fixated on the spot where that shadow appeared.
"He's just using you as an excuse, Sebastian. Hell, I doubt he even needs our help. You should see his score on one of the exams I gave him before enrolling. The only section where he missed more than three problems was calculus."
I look back at him unimpressed. I breezed past those tests when I was in high school.
But Mr. Randall took notice and added, "Eli's never taken a single course in calculus and he still passed the section."
I clutched my fists and pressed my lips together. Bested by a high schooler. Eli is definitely proving to be quite complex. I quickly swallow my pride. "So what do you want me to do?"
"Well, I want you to give him a ride home. Talk to him. See if you can figure it out. If you are the problem, as Eli put it, then I'll have Linda switch schedules with you for the rest of the summer."
"I'm not sure." I looked away, down at my shoes like a coward avoiding a fight.
"I understand. He probably took off already anyway. Hey, don't worry about it. Listen, you woke up early anyway, so why don't you go out and have breakfast. I know you didn't eat anything, so you go while I hold the fort."
I nodded. Breakfast did sound great right about now.
After clocking out, I headed out the door. And, to be honest, I was slightly disappointed that Eli wasn't hanging by the door anymore. I'm almost certain it was him, but I wonder why he had even stayed to begin with. Anyway, I got in my truck and turned on the engine. As the AC kicked in, I turned on the radio and reclined into my seat. The pessimist in me regretted the fact that I failed to help Eli before I even had the chance, but the optimist in me knew that anything, even this little encounter with Eli, was a great distraction for the loneliness I kept buried deep within my subconscious.
I'm a sucker for biscuits. Add a glass of OJ and I'm done. I didn't even bother getting down. I just scarfed everything in my truck. On my way back, I decided on taking the scenic route. Hey, when the boss lets you take the morning off for breakfast, you take the morning off. It was at this moment that I spotted Eli off in the distance. Despite having seen him for half a second, I was absolutely certain it was him this time. It was like his outline was engraved in my mind. He was walking straight toward me, along the sidewalk, of course. When we were about to cross one another, I don't know why, but I slowed down. Since no one was behind me, I managed to drop my speed to nearly fifteen mph. And still, he dared not look up. He had to have noticed a big-ass truck creeping toward him, but he did not react. I thought about honking, then speeding off, but as I got closer I saw that it wasn't just sweat dripping down his face. There were tears there as well.
I suddenly felt alone again. I felt like we shared each other's sadness at that exact moment. And then I passed him, and sped up again. My head soon cleared and I headed back to work. I needed another distraction.