“You have just swallowed your pride and done something you didn’t want to do. Your friend wants to know why. The two of you are driving around an almost-full parking garage looking for a space for the friend’s oversized pickup. Write the scene.”
Lucas kept glancing over at me as he was driving us around in that massive pickup of his father’s, disapproval emanating from him like a dull, repelling heat.
He was right to disapprove, of course he was right. I wasn’t too happy with myself either at this point. If I’m honest, I knew I could have said no. I knew deep down that I didn’t really have to join Casey and Clara in spray-painting Mr. Teeger’s house last night, I had gone against everything I thought I stood for in doing that. But I really, really wanted to fit in.
All through the first two years of highschool I had been invisible. The only people who knew my name were the teachers and, well, Lucas. Of course Lucas. We had been friends since kindergarten and he knew me better than anyone. That’s why he knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I stopped to admit it to myself. I had already done that…but I wasn’t ready to admit it to him yet.
This year, or at least in the past couple of weeks, things had changed. Clara had noticed some of the designs I’d worked on in art class and had asked me if I could draw up a logo for her and her friends to use. She conveniently forgot to mention, however, that this logo would be used when they covered the front walls of teachers’ houses with graffiti.
I so desperately wanted to be noticed by her crowd that I said yes. Before I knew it, I had designed something they linked and I was sneaking through hedges in black clothing and spray cans in my bag. Last night I replicated my design on Mr. Treeger’s front door…
I shook my head in disbelief and leaned back into the car seat. Lucas took that as a sign that I was finally ready to talk.
As he kept driving and turned into the parking garage for the movie theatre, he finally asked the question that had been filling up the space of the massive pickup.
“Why did you do it, Mia?”
He paused, trying to find the next words. “It’s just so not you.”
“Well, maybe it is,” I retorted, entirely unconvincingly. Even I didn’t buy it.
“Oh, come on. You’re just telling yourself that so you can let yourself off the hook.”
I hated how much he knew me.
I took advantage to think about what I could say while Lucas was distracted trying to find an open spot to park in – a particularly difficult task when the lot was this full and his car was this big. Lucas had started cursing under his breath. A car had cut him off just as he’d spotted the perfect parking space.
“I think I did it because for once I wanted people at our school to know the name Mia Rogers. I wanted to stop being invisible for just a second. I couldn’t stand going day in and day out being an outcast just because I hadn’t joined the right crowd early enough in the game. I just wanted a taste of something else.”I blurted this all out in a breath or two, not looking at Lucas as I said it.
When I did finally look up at him, he had an expression on his face that I hadn’t seen before. On the one hand, he looked confused, as if he was looking at something from a new perspective and trying to absorb its meaning. On the other, his eyes looked hurt, and I couldn’t quite yet fathom why.
He turned back to his driving and was silent for a while. Finally, he found a spot that could accommodate his pickup and he carefully pulled into it. Once we’d stopped and he’d turned off the motor, he sat staring at his hands on the steering wheel for a while before turning and facing me, his eyes still locked int hat same hurt expression.
“You know what, Mia? In all our years of friendship, I never once thought of you as invisible. In fact, I’ve always thought you are the most vibrant and unique person I know. I guess I didn’t realize that you needed more than just my opinion, or the right crowd, to make that true for you.” And with that, he got out of the pickup.
I watched him start to walk away and scrambled out after him. What could I say to that? He was right, of course he was right. Why should what Clara and Casey, or anyone else for that matter, thought of me?
I looked at Lucas’ back walking towards the theatre. I knew words wouldn’t really do justice to how grateful and sorry I felt towards him right them, so I just grabbed his arm, gave it a squeeze, and we walked like that into the movie theatre where we would share a tub of popcorn and laugh at the cheesy lines of whatever romantic comedy was playing that day.