Edgar had never had a girlfriend before, so when it came time to woo the girl down the block, he was pretty much clueless. Should he call her? He hated the thought of sweating all over the handset while he strained to come up with things to say. Would an email be better? Her family owned a personal computer and he knew her AOL address, but she might think he was showing off. He decided to write a letter.
Dear Ms. Miss Rowena Cummings,
It is with great pleasure that I write this letter to you. You see, I have admired you from afar since sixth grade, and now I would like to admire you up close. If you are amanable to this idea, please let me know by winking once at lunch. Wink twice if your not interested.
P.S. I almost forgot. I sit at the third table on the left. The one with the bow tie. (I am, not the table).
He practically ran to school the next day and stuffed the letter through a vent in Rowena’s locker. Then he went to Homeroom, Geometry, English, and Health. Each class seemed to drag out longer than the last. Would she see his letter? Would she read it? Did he put it in the wrong locker? No, it had to be right. How could he forget locker 362? It was linked to Rowena in his head. He spent so much time spying on that locker that there were times he thought he’d be happy dating it if he couldn’t get her. No, he hadn’t put the letter into the wrong slot.
Finally, lunch came. He raced to the cafeteria, grabbed a tray from the pile, loaded random selections — he didn’t even like Jell-O! — and ran to his usual seat. Thank God, it was open. He plopped down, face steaming. Compose yourself, he thought. He took a deep breath and reached up to straighten his tie.
His tie! In his haste to leave the house, he’d forgotten to wear his bow tie. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Now what? Did he have time to run home? Of course not. Could he fashion a tie out of paper? What about the lines? College ruled. How arrogant.
And there was Rowena entering the cafeteria right on cue with her friend Jasmine. Edgar’s stomach went tight and tingly. She was so pretty, so tall and straight and confident, with eyes that sparkled when she smiled, and gazed with sympathetic attentiveness when she did not. She never ridiculed or tuned out like so many girls their age.
She glanced toward him, and his eyes went to the quivering cube of Jell-O on his plate. Was that a wink? A blink? He slouched in his chair. He couldn’t wave or draw attention to himself. The whole point was to do this without embarrassing her… or him. A surreptitious wink wouldn’t out anyone.
She came closer. Think fast, Edgar thought.
She was almost at his table when it came to him. He spread his hand along his collar as if hiding a bow tie. Now, that was clever. He looked up nonchalantly, careful to not quite meet her gaze.
Instead of winking, instead of passing by, Rowena pulled a chair out across from Edgar and sat. Jasmine sat beside her. Their expressions were stern. Edgar’s blood ran cold. This could not be good.
Rowena plopped an envelope onto the table. “Did you write that, Edgar?”
Edgar nodded. He wanted to throw a Jell-O cube, maybe start a food fight, but he was beyond childish pranks. His hand pressed tighter to his throat. He felt like squeezing, actually.
“I’ll make this quick,” Rowena said. Jasmine leaned forward, anxious for a chuckle at Edgar’s expense.
Rowena sighed. “Here’s the thing, Edgar. I mean, it was a romantic gesture and like that, but Edgar, Edgar, Edgar, you have to know I can’t be seen dating a boy who wears a bow tie.”
Clouds parted in Edgar’s dreading heart. He felt light. He felt right. A smile came over his lips. He lowered his hand.
“I’m not,” he said.
Jasmine’s confusion vaguely registered, but it was Rowena in the spotlight of his attention. And there she would remain.
Twenty-six years and counting.
Stephen V. Ramey’s work has appeared in a variety of places. He lives in New Castle, PA USA, where he regularly visits the odd ducks that live along the river. His collection of very short fiction, Glass Animals, is available from Pure Slush Books via Lulu.com and Amazon.