My eyes jump back from my watch to my paper. The x floats tauntingly next to the triangle, the lines of black ink sternly cut off and lost in an abyss of white. I look at the calculator lying to my right. That blinking little line in the corner of the screen just seems to be laughing its goddamned head off.
I sigh and spread my arm across table, lying down on one cheek. Most of the couples spread out across the room aren't even bothering to glance at one another, either their noses in books or heads also on the table. Only in a few select spots is there the quiet, hushed sound of conversation.
With a cursory glance at the dusty-haired harpy at the checkout desk I let go of my pencil, useless since it won't solve variables by itself. It rolls across the wood before stopping to teeter on the edge. Turning my head in line with it, I blow. It drops to the floor. I narrow my eyes and watch it carefully. It sits there on the floor, the bright orange contrasting with the dull green of the carpet.
Some girl walks by my table. The sequins on her jacket have no place in this library. She glances at me, then the pencil.
And keeps on walking.
I lean over to pick it up when something shuffles from the other side of the room. At the librarian's desk there's some kid I've never seen before nervously clutching the straps of his backpack for dear life. I don't bother to strain my ears to listen to what they're saying.
Though… I open my book and prop it up so it covers half of my face. Kid is cute. Blond.
I like blond.
He glances from side to side. His face gets redder and redder as he speaks louder, stuttering his way into incomprehensibility. Poor kid; the librarian curls her lips into a nasty grimace and, after several moments of what seems to be slowly losing her patience, points to my table so sharply she might as well be sending him back to his prison cell. "Two to a table," she says sternly.
Kid looks at my table. Kid seems to comprehend situation. Kid starts to walk toward me. Come on now, you can do it.
He sits down across from me, smiles a shy, terrified smile, and props open a book in front of his face.
According to my book, blonde is one of the only words in the English language that has a gender. In most languages, like Russian, nouns are assigned genders, and the adjectives agree. But no, English has to be different and have no genders at all.
Except for… blonde. And blond. Apparently it goes either way.
It's the next day and I'm at the library again, staring the new kid down as he approaches my table with entirely too much confidence.
He doesn't seem to take the hint and instead shoots me a friendly grin. I want to smack him.
"Hey," I say as he pulls out the stupid green-and-white chair that is totally not aesthetically appealing in the slightest. This school has no taste.
The boy freezes at my greeting. I raise an eyebrow. He looks me straight in the eye. I lift my chin, challenging him. Come on kid. Say something.
He nods in my general direction like one of those assholes that smokes near the sandwich shop up the street after school. Those idiots who wear those giant-ass hats backwards. I grimace and bury my nose in my book like everybody else as he sits down.
It's 9:50. If this kid doesn't stop scratching his ears and his neck and flipping through every goddamned page in his book louder than elephants have sex, I'm going to have to kill him.
His hair is so pretty, though. The lights all bounce off its shininess. I can't kill someone who has hair with that much shininess. It would be inhumane. The police would come after me with some archaic shiny-hair bill that no one knew about because there was nobody heartless enough to kill someone with hair like that before I did.
The kid has started staring at me curiously, probably wondering why I'm gazing at his hair like a love-stricken fifth grader. I snap out of my daze and glare down at his book, a sudden feeling of contempt washing over me. It's irritating that he's trying to act so cool with his stupid little nod and his stupid little book on basketball. The kid looks five feet tall – why the hell is he reading about basketball?
"Kid," I say, exposing the nickname I've had for him ever since he walked through those library doors. He looks up at me with this gigantic pair of blue eyes. "You play basketball?"
His lips part as he cocks his head slightly to the left, and for the second time in less than five minutes I want to smack him upside the head. Jesus Christ, the book he's reading is entitled "The Rules & Regulations of Basketball." How dull.
I mean, I may be reading a book on grammar, but that's beside the point. "Basketball," I say, taking the cover of the book between my fingers and flapping it back and forth. "Do you play?"
"Basketball," he repeats. It's now the third time in five minutes I want to hit him. And the desire is burning hotter with every second. "Play?" There's a pretty distinct accent. Kid probably doesn't speak English. My tolerance doesn't waver.
"Never mind," I mumble. Just getting the kid to answer the question would take the entire period. The accent definitely isn't Russian, so no options lie there. Here's a sentence that should have been in his little immigrant travel book: "Where are you from?"
Bingo. "Germany!" His eyes light up as he sits up straighter.
The librarian shushes us, and the German kid looks back and trembles. Do librarians back in Germany carry whips or something?
"Cool," I say, now uninterested since I don't feel like being an ESL teacher for the next twenty minutes. When I was younger, most of my classmates avoided me like I was carrying a giant nest full of angry hornets ready to slip through my fingers, fearful of the prospect of fighting through my English skills. It's probably unfair though, since I moved to America when I was a very young and this high school kid seems to be fresh off the boat.
"Vare are you from?" I hear from behind my book. That's odd – I don't have an accent. Perhaps he's just repeating the question to make conversation. How irritating.
"Russia." I hide my face once more behind my giant grammar book. He goes, "Oh! Cool!" Better use the word I taught you before it goes out of style, kid.
After a minute or so of waiting to see if the trembling Nazi is going to say anything else, I attempt to actually concentrate on the mass of text inches away from my nose. Admittedly, it's obnoxious to keep it standing up, but one, it reduces neck strain, and two, I'd rather be unable to make eye contact with Schnitzel over there.
Without warning there's a high-pitched screeching in the room. Everybody instantly gets up, leaving their books and their papers on the tables to file out for the fire drill. The librarian is pushing everybody to the side in an attempt to form a neat line, but most students escape her and run out the door to find their friends. I too am trying to run out when I see Schnitzel looking left and right anxiously. I hesitate, standing there in the middle of the library as he tries to follow everyone else all panicked and lost. It's probably that the incredible noise of the bell is making his ears bleed. He's going to have to get used to it.
"Come on," I sigh, grabbing his wrist. Curse my pitying nature. He raises his eyebrows, probably because I put so much effort into trying to ignore him earlier. But I don't care. We head out with the rest of the group and I let go of his wrist.
So he latches himself onto mine instead. I'm probably the only person he knows. How cute.
All the students wander around trying to find their class's group. Schnitzel and I find a small huddle of kids from the library and stay there while we wait for the damned ringing to stop.
Oh. How nice.
It's 10:06 and raining.
When I turn around and bump into Schnitzel, he looks up at me with his blue Nazi eyes, the raindrops dripping down his face like fat tears of irrepressible gratitude.
And not for nothing, but Schnitzel looks pretty good wet.