I'm not saying I've never seen a black person. That's not what I'm saying at all. But in the suburban parts of Colorado, it's pretty rare. So, when I saw him the first time, I wasn't sure my eyes were working right. Once, during my sports physical, the doctor said I'd need glasses but hell, I don't wear 'em. Jerry rode my ass one day about them.
He said, "Quarterbacks don't wear glasses. Take those things off!"
I never wore them again.
From what I've heard, everyone is calling him Landard Jackson. The name rolls off my tongue pretty weirdly. I tried saying his name before but it still comes out a bit strange. Today, I'm being kind of a stalker. I'm just curious, really. I mean, the guy looks different from everyone here. And well, I like different. I like when things stand out.
Of course, I feel like an obvious stalker. Standing by the side of the classroom door, with my cellphone out, head down, and eyes glued to the screen doesn't appear inconspicuous. I'm right out in the open but I don't want to miss him as he walks by.
Out the corner of my eye, I suddenly see the guy approaching. There's no mistaking him. He slowly walks by me and I smell his cologne. It's nice―very strong. It makes for a lasting impression. Right as he enters the classroom, I follow behind, taking a few seconds to check Landard out more fully.
His clothes are really baggy. Nothing is tight on him. Even his dark jeans sag around his waist, which is surprising because he's wearing a belt. His shirt is a lighter color but nothing name brand. It's plain but he makes me want to buy a thousand shirts like the one he has on.
"Take a seat, Duncan. Class is about to start, young man."
Mr. Richard points to my seat. I'm instantly embarrassed. I catch Landard's stare for a split second and then suddenly, he looks away, directing his eyes toward the window.
I move toward my group of friends at the back of the room. Being the star quarterback pretty much allows me to do whatever the fuck I want to do. I'm also always surrounded by people who will do anything I say.
"Why were you looking at that guy?"
Nick Shuller is my best friend since...well, since forever. I guess you could say our friendship was destined. We were four at the time and his mother and my mother were friends. We'd have play dates together and since elementary, it was hard to ever see us separated from each other.
"Why are you watching me again," I ask back.
I have to admit, although we're close, Nick can be an asshole sometimes. He reminds me of my parents. I can't seem to get him to understand I'm my own person. When we were growing up, he felt the need to be my big brother. And for awhile, I liked him being my protector.
Now, however, I'm not the shy, scared kid he sheltered back in middle school and elementary. High school changed me. I mean, I still get butterflies in my stomach, but that's not to say I can't handle myself.
"I'm not the only one that saw you," his back is pressed against the chair. He slightly tilts the seat as his eyes gaze up at the ceiling, "Anyway, I'm just asking, bro. You just seem overly interested in him."
"He's new to the school. It wouldn't be a bad thing to just introduce ourselves. What's wrong with saying hi or something?"
"Nothing is wrong with it but," Nick suddenly turns to me. His voice lowers, " you know, he's black. And black people aren't nice so, let him be."
I don't say anything else to Nick. He's still giving me a serious stare, like he's waiting for some type of response. I don't give him one. Mr. Richard is being a prick again by pointing and yelling at us to be quiet and pay attention. Nick finally turns away and resumes eyeing the ceiling, like something up there is interesting.
My attention, however, is back on Landard. I don't believe anything Nick said. And I can prove to him that he's wrong.
"There you go again," Nick mocks, causing me to blink and focus my attention else where.
" Shut up about it, okay," I snap. I wish he'd leave me alone.
"Mr. Moore and Mr. Shuller, care to share your little discussion back there!"
I hear David, the blond guy in front, sternly whisper, "Shut the fuck up because if he walks back here, I'll have to put my phone away and I'm on level 20!"
The class ends with me, David, and Nick being quiet during Mr. Richard's lecture. When it's time to go, I hesitant on purpose. I tell Nick to wait for me outside because I have to talk to the teacher. He nods, throws his brown backpack over his shoulder, and walks out the room with David, who is still playing a game on his phone.
Really, I'm not a shy guy. I mean, I used to be but lately, I feel like I'm bold enough to do certain things. But for some reason, I feel nervous as I walk over to Landard. I shouldn't be this uneasy. He's just a normal guy like me. Yeah, he dresses differently and looks different, but we're all the same in the inside. That's what my mom is always insisting. Still, I'm fucking nervous.
"Hey," I manage to say.
Brown eyes look directly at me. Seeing Landard from afar revealed some interesting features but up close, I notice he has bright, clear eyes. They're piercing and strong. I feel a bit intimidated, which is weird because all he just did was look at me.
"Yeah, what's up," was the gruff reply.
I don't think he wanted me to answer because he starts to pack his books and paper. I expected his attention after he greeted me, but he's not giving me even a second glance. It's as if he's instantly uninterested.
"Uh," I think of something to say as I watch him continue packing, "nothing, I guess. Um, I'm Duncan."
"Land," is the single word said.
"Land?" I'm perplexed.
"You can call me Land. It's short fo' Landard."
I'm shocked when he looks my way again. His eyes jolt me, causing my heart to rapidly beat. I know being close to him would rattle me a bit. But seriously, right now, I feel like my heart might explode. I know I shouldn't be this shaken up. It's not like he's going to hurt me. But this neighborhood and the people here, have me convinced I should keep a distance from anyone who doesn't look white. My friends even feel the same exact way. Regardless of what they think, I want to think for myself.
"So," I hesitant for a moment, nervous about offering any assistance to him. He looks well prepared and I doubt he couldn't find his next class. But I want to make a good impression. I think I want him to see that I'm cool with him being the way he is.
"You know, I could help you find your next class. I'm pretty familiar with the campus."
"Nah, I'm good," he brushes my offer aside, turns away, and starts walking toward the door.
I watch him for a few seconds. What he said wasn't awful but I'm not used to rejection. I think my approach was respectful enough but he seemed interested in avoiding me. And well, people don't avoid me. Actually, people love me. They desperately want my attention. So, I'm curious why the cold shoulder. Anyway, I'm not going to admit Nick was right. Black people aren't mean. Maybe he's being cautious. I might have come on too strong.
"Hey, are you coming?"
Nick is looking at me like an impatient girlfriend. I swear, he gets on my nerves sometimes. In the hallway, I walk with Nick on my left and David on my right. Some girl, wearing a red mini skirt and white, see-through blouse, calls my name. This chick claims she has a huge crush on me but I heard she likes everyone on the football team.
"Cutie," she teases, "I just want one date!"
I walk with Nick nudging my side, as if he wants me to stop and give this girl exactly what she wants.
"You're too picky," Nick nags.
"You're not picky enough. If you like her, you date her," I push him away, preventing his big elbow from nudging my side again.
He snaps his tongue. Nick only does this when I piss him off―like truly piss him off. "Whatever, dick face! You're a sophomore and still a virgin. I'm just looking out for you, bro. Appreciate me, okay!"
My mom used to tell me all the time the truth hurts. It does hurt. The truth is: I am exactly what he says I am. I'm a virgin sophomore and in a couple of months, I'll be a senior who is still a fucking virgin. No one can understand it. Hell, I can't either.
I'm a good looking guy. My mom says I have eyes like my dad. They're a nice blue―big and bright. I have a slender build but it's because of my position. I'm not on my bones but I'm not fat either. Girls like me. Guys want to be like me. By now, I should have fucked someone, but I haven't.
" You'll die a virgin, man!"
If not for our friendship, I think I would have punched Nick. Instead, I walk quickly away from him, ignoring his shout for me to wait up. I go to my next class pretty pissed and the anger doesn't settle down. Right after the last bell, I high tail it off the campus, heading straight for the student parking lot.
On my way to the lot, I see plenty of people I know. Some wave to me and I wave back. The football guys are sitting in their muscle cars, revving their engine to get my attention. I shot a bird, feeling half amused and half jealous that their parents got them such cool rides. My mom is practical and so is my dad. She's into the, "I want you to be safe" and so I'm stuck with a Hyundai Sonata. It was either this or a Subaru Outback and I hate both, really.
The best thing about the car its alarm. I love beeping this damn thing off. It's the one thing I have to be proud about. I throw my backpack into the back seat. I'm ready to hit the road. I might go sightseeing to level my head after the crap Nick said to me.
Just when I have the engine warm, Landard passes by on his bike. I'm used to seeing sport bikes around here. He's riding something I've not seen before. Like ever! It's low to the ground with big, silver wheels and high handle bars. Everyone is staring at him and for good reason. He looks out of the ordinary riding that thing. But he does it while looking so fucking damn cool.
Right away, I know I want to offer him a ride. I have to admit, what Nick said made me more interested. Mainly, because I wonder if it's really true. Are all the things I heard about people like him, is that stuff for real? Can I really prove Nick wrong?
I watch as Landard nears an intersection. I stop my car a few feet ahead of him. In a rush, I press the window button on the side panel. The window quickly slides down, allowing all the noise from the traffic to enter my car.
He stops pedaling to turn my way. Immediately, his stare freezes me up. I want to speak but can't find the words. I know I look like an idiot to him.
"Yeah," he answers which is surprising because I thought for sure he'd start pedaling away.
"Uh," I'm doing this uh business with him too much, "need a ride home?"
"Nah, I'm alrigh'."
I was brushed off before but I don't want to be brushed aside again. Twice in a row is too much. I know I shouldn't take any of this to heart but I am. Like, why won't he just let me help him?
"You sure," I try again, hoping this time he'll budge.
"I gotta go," and that's when he starts pedaling again.
I don't drive off yet. I'm still kind of shocked by his attitude. But I swear I'm going to find out what this guy is all about...