Posted by: Laura A. H. Elliott | May 2, 2010

Fact or Fiction? Sixteen-year-old Suckiness

Sophmore Year

As a teen, what new thing made/makes you bubble up inside with just-so-coolness? Here’s my answer. Fact or Fiction?

I’m the poster child for, well, everything that sucks about being sixteen. The zits. The braces. Never going to the popular parties. Studying and working all the time. Caring about what I might do in college, which makes IT that much worse. But what makes IT just that much more excruciating? Twisted even? This evil yearbook photographer.

I picked up my yearbook this morning I couldn’t wait to get my friends signatures. Summer always feels so long when I’m away from them. I’ll get to waitress more, which is awesome. Almost saved enough for my own car. Junior year will be the year I’ll stop taking the freaking bus. I mean, seriously. Sixteen and riding the bus. I didn’t have a lot of control over IT, all that sucked about being sixteen. But I could buy myself a car. And that made IT, everything, even looking in the mirror, OK. I’d have my own car. I’d be less sucky. Soon.

I walk up to my locker and fly through my combo so I can open my door and use it to shield me as I flip through the pages real quick before my next class. I find the not-too-many pages where I’ll see my picture. AFS, National Honor Society and the fall play, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man In The Moon Marigolds. Yeah. I know what you’re thinking. It gets even suckier. This just-so-coolness bubbled up inside of me because I’d sort of forgotten I had been in the play. It was way back in the fall. It was the first time I’d ever kissed a Senior. It was the first time I’d ever kissed a leading man, a guy so amazing I couldn’t believe he’d want to kiss someone as silver-toothed as me. The first semi-cool thing I’d ever done.

So I’m flipping through the pages and my heart stops. Two huge photos of just-me, on stage, took up two half-pages of the play pictures. Me, smiling my full-on yes-these-are-my-braces-and-would-you-like-to-get-a-better-look smile, my eyes dreamy like I’d taken a belt of booze at the wrap party.

I want to hide. Want to slam my locker shut and run down the second floor hallway outside the institutional prison they call high school. Leave. Forever. But, I have to take the bus. Summer can’t come fast enough.

“Sign my book?” The First Senior I’d Ever Kissed, The Only Senior I’d Ever Kissed, the leading man from The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man In The Moon Marigolds pries my locker door out of my hand.

Me? Our little romance hadn’t gone anywhere after the play and now he wants to be the first to sign my yearbook? Didn’t he see my sixteen-year-old suckiness fully documented in black-and-white on pages 102 and 103, for all future sixteen-year-olds to see forever?

“Ah, sure.” I grab my binder for Calculus and we exchange yearbooks. We write-walk to 4th period. I hadn’t gotten my cute saying for the year figured out yet. You know, the thing you write in yearbooks of guys-you-made-out-with-in-the-fall-and-then-sort-of-forgot-you-existed-after, and for all those other books you sign for people you hardly know, signature hounds. I blank.

We exchange books back, long after the second bell. He and I are the only ones in the locker-lined hall.

He reads his. To a fair kisser and a great leading man from the girl you won’t remember tomorrow.

He lets out a laugh, kisses my day-old slick, no-braces self on the lips.

I can’t breathe. He walks into the classroom across from mine. My tongue explores my brace-less teeth. He takes his seat and stares at me through the reinforced, industrial-glass window of the classroom door. When I finally catch my breath, I smell his aftershave. Him.

I slide into Mr. Olsen’s room. I put my hand on my chest, certain everyone can see my heart pounding. Mr. Olsen pauses at the white board long enough for me to take my seat before continuing his differential equation. I tell myself to breathe. Imagine every other boring day I’ve had in math all year. Get it together. It’s no use.

I open my yearbook. Flip to page 102. Hollywood’s called. They want you. And I do too. Let’s go to the movies. Tonight. His signature and number scrawled right beside my silver smile.

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