Day One – Right of Passage

Prompt: The prompt is from Amy Tan’s book, THE JOY LUCK CLUB, pages 254-255 in the 1989 Peguin edition. Without reprinting the entire scene here, it evoked a sense of being ignored or reduced by someone you trust and love.  It reminded me of an event in my childhood, the first time I had decided to ask a girl out on a date. This scene is heavily fictionalized, but does have a thread of truth.

Day One – Right of Passage
by Brian Wethington

Roger had told Julie, who had told Danny, who had mentioned something in passing to Karen, that Tiffany had written my name on the inside of her composition book. “I swear, she wrote Ken in the middle of a heart,” Karen had whispered to me in third period, pointing at Tiffany in the back corner of Mrs. Berryman’s room.

After fourth period, it would be time for lunch, time to take another tentative step out of childhood, time to put the fear aside and embrace the right-of-passage that all young men must endure; I had to talk to the girl, to ask her out on a date, to figure out what one did on a date. I was terrified.

“Hey, have you seen Tiffany?” I asked, sitting down at the stark white cafeteria table where Roger was eagerly attacking a cheeseburger.

“Nope, not since Lit yesterday.” He took another bite, then added through his slack-jawed chewing what should have been a simple question, a question that had run thought my head over and over for the past hour, a question that was now screaming silently inside of my head; “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you looking for her? I heard she wrote your name in her comp book; you going to ask her out or something?” He had stopped chewing, mouth slightly open, eyes wide, hand with fork hovering over the fruit salad, waiting for me to say it out loud; to admit that I had made that frightening, fateful decision.

“Um, I think so. Yes,” I said quietly, then with more determination, “Yes. If she comes to lunch today I think I will.”

I sat with Rodger for a few minutes, nibbling at the corner of my ham and cheese sandwich, sipping the Capri Sun my mom had packed as a treat for my first day of eighth grade, mulling over a dozen ways I could work up the nerve to talk with her. One of the alternatives included the sun exploding before I saw her, but of course no such luck existed. She walked into the cafeteria with Karen before I finished my Capri Sun.

Clutching a small pile of textbooks to her chest, she walked into the cafeteria, her dark hair straight on top, curled slightly at the bottom and stopping just above her shoulders, framing her face; a face bright with two perfect blue eyes and a smile that had grown more amazing over the summer. There were only fifteen minutes left in the lunch period. I knew I could stall that long.

“Hey Roger, didn’t you need some help on your Geometry homework for this afternoon?” I asked, desperate for the distraction.

“Yeah, I’m having some trouble…” he stopped, looking over my shoulder. “Oh. There’s Tiffany.”

Rodger and I had been friends as long as I could remember and he had never missed the opportunity to needle me. I waited patiently for a snide comment, or a gruesome series of sounds, but he just stared at me, his eyes wide, more wide than they had been only a few moments ago. The only explanation was that he was more scared than I was.

Resigned, I set my palms on the table, flat, rigid, finger splayed for support, hoping that the stability would stop me from sliding under the table and hiding until the bell rang. “Yeah. Guess I’d better…go…talk to her.”

“Yeah. Good luck.”

I stood and walked, passing three tables, my breathing easy, my mind calm, my hands sweating profusely, to where Tiffany and Karen sat as they took out their lunches. In a small stroke of luck I had decided, at the last moment, to stand and not sit.

“Hey, what’s going on?” I said, mostly to Karen.  “Hey Tiffany.”

“Just eating.  You?” asked Tiffany, her eyes down, hands peeling back the plastic wrap on her sandwich.

“Just got done.  I was…uh…heading to Geometry with Rodger,” I added pointing back toward him with my thumb. “So…I was wondering.”

I had read somewhere that the man should look the woman in the eyes when he asked her out on a date, so I waited for her to look up; probably longer than I should have.  She looked up from the sandwich, an egg salad affair with lettuce and tomato, the crusts cut off, and stared at me for a moment, eyes unblinking.

Before I could say anything, she said, “Wondering what?”

“Wondering if you’d, uh, like to go to the movies with me..on, Saturday?”

“Ummmm, no,” she said, barely missing a beat. “Not really.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, maybe another time?” I asked in a small voice, not sure if I wanted to hear the answer.

“Probably not.”

Nonplussed, I looked at Karen, a thin smile spreading across her face, her eyes narrowing, her right hand held to her side where I could barely see it, a middle finger raised triumphantly in the air.  “Yeah, probably not.  Ken.”


Note: For the month of September, 21 Writing Moments and The 505 will share the same prompts.  They are very similar in goal, and while the time spent writing is certainly worth it, I just don’t have the time to do both.

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