Things I knew about Sean: He has dated an acquaintance in my homeroom since middle school. She is a very talented singer. I’ve always thought that she shined brighter than him, as mean as the thought is. Still, I also knew that next year in the yearbook their faces would be under the category “Cutest Couple.”
In AP Biology class, the tables are black and fitted for two. When I entered the room on the second day of school, I instantly noticed someone, him, sitting at the table that I had all to myself the day before. A quick glance around confirmed that the seat beside him was the only one available. I mentally groaned and made my way towards the center of the room. I took the chair next to him, and we said nothing.
Shared silence, I think, is one of the greatest treasures of this world. I find small talk exhausting and honestly a little annoying. It seemed like Sean thought the same thing, which I appreciated. Or maybe he took my silence as hostility. This certainly wasn’t the case, of course. I couldn’t feel more neutral about Sean if I tried. By the third day we had not said a single word to each other. When the teacher requested the class to work on chi-square problems with our partners, I asked Sean if he wanted a piece of scrap paper. He said no thanks. I turned back to the assignment quietly. After a while, I noticed that Sean took his black pen to his paper and started drawing some lines. The delicacy in which he performed this act surprised me. He hunched his back a little more, half-covered his actions with his pale arm. But I still caught the careful movements of his wrist and pen in the corner of my eye, and I quickly looked away to avoid embarrassing him.
A few minutes later, my gaze wandered back to his paper. A single curtain was hung there; a dramatic lighting emphasized the shadows in its elegant folds. I was so impressed that it was hard to keep my facial expressions under control.
Things like this. Glimpses. A peek into someone’s inner thoughts, their private lives. An open apartment window with personal trinkets lining the sill. The snippet of a phone call as someone rushes past you. A small photo someone keeps in a locket. Two addresses listed next to a name in the school directory. Reminders that people have eternally complex lives separate to the facade they present in public never fail to leave me in awe. Things I learned from seeing Sean’s doodle
- AP Bio bored the hell out of him
- He is good at drawing
- He likes it
- He doesn’t want people (or maybe just me) to see that he likes drawing
- Something going on in his mind made him want to draw drapes
Aren’t people fascinating?
The next day, I mustered a greater effort to actually be a decent lab partner. I read the question we were supposed to work on aloud; I circled the section of the data table that the directions told us to graph. “So…we’re just graphing that part? A bar graph?” he asked incredulously.
It was admittedly a lot simpler than I expected from an AP Biology course, but I was annoyed by his doubt in my assertion. “Well, I’m just guessing,” I said.
We finished graphing quickly and puzzled over the second question, eventually giving up on it. Looking bored, Sean held his pen with that same deliberation from the day before. He colored in the bars in his graph, putting my sloppy cross-hatching to shame, then wandered over to the top of the paper and started drawing blocky shapes. Secretly observing, I was slightly disappointed in realizing that he was just spelling out his name, but the detailed shading he added later once again demonstrated his skill. And with only a cheap school pen, too! The teacher summoned the class’s attention and drew a graph nearly identical to ours. He then explained the second question with a response a second-grader could grasp. Sean and I shared a surprised look. Is this how an acquaintanceship, even a friendship, begins? I dare to hope so.