The boy didn’t seem to take any notes or even really pay the slightest attention to the teacher. This would have seemed normal if he had been sneaking texts on his cell phone under his desk or picking zits or something, but he wasn’t. He was gazing at me. Like, chin on one hand, content to sit like this forever, might as well be gazing out the window kind of staring.
So there I was, trying to focus on Chemistry, with those glazed eyes boring into my brain. And the thing that really sucks about coming into the semester when it’s already underway is that the teacher was talking about stuff they learned yesterday and I wasn’t there yesterday.
The class was learning organic chemistry, and my class back home had been learning molarity stuff. So instead of talking about things that would have made sense to me, like stoichiometrical equations, he spoke gobbledegook about cis and trans bonds.
Then he drew a picture of a molecule on the board and ask us to name it. Someone volunteered that it was obviously named 2-methylpropan-1-ol and I was like “HOW THE ACTUAL FUCK” and it was hard to try and figure any of it out with Stare Boy giving me the heaving heebie jeebies.
Of course the teacher called on this guy a couple of times, since he was blatantly not paying attention.
“..so how many lines would we draw to indicate this bond? Anyone? Howard? Howard? HOWARD?”
Apparently Stare Boy’s name was Howard, which meant that he had problems on multiple levels of his life. A good-looking guy behind Stare Boy – I mean, Howard – kicked his seat. “Yo, wake up, Genius,” said the kicker, and the class tittered like a laugh track. The kick seemed to wake Howard.
“Hmm?” he said, tearing his eyes away from my face and turning toward the teacher.
“Howard, I realize the presence of a new student among us is a novel event in an otherwise lacklustre week, but could I trouble you to try and pay attention to me? It would make me feel so useful,” said the teacher, whose name I didn’t know because teachers don’t walk into classes that they’ve been teaching for a month and say “hello, class, my name is still Mr. Repetitive.”
Stare Boy smiled awkwardly. A minute later he had lapsed back into his bizarre reverie, and now, thanks to the teacher’s intervention, the whole class was noticing it and consequently noticing me.
“HOWARD,” said the teacher, “EYES TO THE FRONT, PLEASE, OR I WILL ASK YOU TO EXCUSE YOURSELF. Can you tell me what change I would need to make to turn this into an ester?”
Howard looked blank. Or, I should say, continued to do so.
“Well, I suggest you figure out where you have stashed your brain and dust it off, because it appears to be growing cobwebs,” said the teacher dryly. “And please face forward. You’re making the young lady self-conscious.”
There were some hoots, and the chair kicker said, “Howard’s a chubby chaser.”
“You got bad taste, man,” said another voice in the class. There was more laughter.
Have you ever felt like you were going to spontaneously combust through sheer shame? I was having violent fantasies about everyone in the room, especially Howard. And so, with that in mind, I spoke to a fellow student for the first time at my new school.
“If you don’t quit staring at me and leave me alone, I swear to God I will end you,” I snarled softly. He glanced down at his shoes, but he didn’t speak. When the bell rang, the teacher came up to me and asked me where I had been in my old chemistry class, and said he’d put together some notes for me so I could catch up.
Stare Boy didn’t file out with the rest of the students. He just stood there, holding his stuff. At least he was staring at his sneakers now, instead of my face. I cast him a dirty look and got the hell out of there. For a minute I thought he had followed me, but I blasted through the crowd and when I took a second to glance back, there was no one I recognized behind me.
(Is the word “excerpt” losing all meaning to you? No? Just me?)