He was always the cool guy, best clothes, best attitude - He didn't get the girl. The class Dork the one who watched weird stuff, wore Those T shirts did. When the chips are down who can you rely on? -- Anon Guest
Travis was the pretty boy, and the bad boy. The rebel without a clue, as some of the teachers said. He always had a skateboard and could miraculously make it vanish before a teacher saw it. He could cuss and get away with it. He always looked smooth, talked smooth, and had a glib wit ready to go at all times.
He acted like he never needed anyone, which was part of being cool. And it was a good thing the act was so believable, because he hardly got to hang around with anyone. It drove him to distraction, in the end.
Because all the girls liked Melvin. The nerdiest kid on, or off the planet.
Melvin, who was rarely seen without some kind of science fiction endorsement on his shirt. And when he dressed up, he wore dress shirts and bow ties. Button down collars and suspenders. Melvin always had practical shoes and never went anywhere without his 'emergency kit', a bulky bag of supplies that could be useful in a number of situations, but nothing that the school could confiscate owing to inherent danger.
Melvin, who could hold an impromptu TED talk at the nerdy kids' table in the cafeteria.
Melvin, who knew more about Star Trek than he knew about the latest popular band.
Melvin... who just plain did not care about his image or what people thought of him. The clumsy, stammering, stuttering, poindexter nerd with thick glasses and no co-ordination and a frikkin' day planner got the girls and Travis was left sitting on the bleachers and nursing his jealousy.
Melvin. Who actually, voluntarily, willingly, and uncringingly carried lady supplies in his emergency pack.
Travis seethed on the bleachers, done with showing off his sweet flips on his skateboard to disinterested girls. He had a rare sheet of paper out and a marker. And was trying to figure out what the hell girls even saw in him. So far, he had two columns, marked Me and Melvin.
Travis had all his good points down. Works out, shaves, never had a zit, vegan, skateboards, cool hair... that sort of thing. Melvin's side was blank, aside from three question marks. He could not think of a single thing that could make Melvin seem cool.
"What the hell do they see in him?" Travis wondered out loud.
"I could help you with that if you like."
Travis startled. He hadn't even known that Maggie was there. She was the nerd next door. Perpetually wearing her big brother's old jeans and some faded old shirt with obscure and random crap on it. He would have wondered what a steam powered giraffe was about, if he wasn't still trying to puzzle out Melvin. "Oh hey, Maggie. 'Sup?"
She finished adding a blob of wax to her braces. Her dentist had added to the headgear again. "Are you aware that you've been talking to yourself for like, half the break?"
He shrugged like he didn't care. Pretended he actually didn't care. It almost worked. "Nobody else to talk to. So what?"
Maggie scooted down to sit next to him, but not too next to him. She knew about his image, and hanging out with a nerd like her in public was poison. Unless she was helping him study, so she cracked open one of her daily huge books for his benefit. She looked at his page. "Yeah. You got that completely wrong." She took the paper and extracted her own pen. On the opposite side of the page, she drew two columns.
Labeled, Melvin and Travis. "This is how it really works."
Under Travis, she wrote, Only cares about himself. And under Melvin, Cares about everyone.
"Do you get it?" she asked.
"But I'm way cooler than him."
Maggie added, Travis is #1 & only topic under Travis. Melvin got, Can make anything interesting.
"Do you get it?" asked Maggie.
"Um. Not really."
"You're boring, self-centred, and a massive jerk. You treat girls like things you can own, if only you could get their attention." Maggie stopped to worry at one of her rubber bands. "Melvin treats everyone like they could be interesting as a default. He treats girls like people and respects boundaries. You'll forget an arrangement in five seconds. Melvin actually bothers to try and be reliable. Do. You. Get. It?"
"That's it? He gives a shit?"
"Pretty much. Yeah." She closed her book and stood up. Glared down at him as if he were not worth her time. "That... and sincerity."
Gross. "I'd loose all my street cred doing that."
Maggie rolled her eyes. "Yeah. Good luck with that. You're gonna need it."
It would take him years to learn what she meant by that. But at least he learned. Eventually.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / justmeyo]
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