I walked up to the spot where I usually sat at lunch, on the grass just outside of the Plumdale High School building, on the side of the building closest to my English classroom. That was the class I had after lunch. That day, Melissa and Jason and Kevin and Renee and the others were already there at the usual spot.
“Hi, Greg,” Melissa said. “How are you?”
“Good,” I replied. “How are you?”
“I’m doing well. I’ve been working on an essay I have to write for a scholarship I’m applying to.”
“Which one?” Renee asked.
“It’s for future women doctors.”
“That reminds me,” I said. “I got accepted to Bidwell State!”
“That’s great!” Melissa said.
“Congratulations!” Jason added.
“Is that your top choice?” Kevin asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “I have relatives in Bidwell, remember, so I know the area. But I don’t know if I’d fit in at Bidwell. You know… it’s kind of a party school.”
“Yeah it is.”
“I didn’t expect to hear from anyone so soon. But at least I know I have a spot somewhere if I want it. I don’t have to make a decision until spring.”
“Some of the state universities have early acceptance for highly qualified students,” Melissa explained. “That’s why you heard from them so soon.”
“I’m still waiting to hear from Central Tech and Jeromeville. Those are probably my top choices.”
“You applied to Walton too, didn’t you?”
“Yeah. But I won’t get in. And even if I do, I won’t be able to afford it. I only applied because Mrs. Martinez told me I should.”
“Why don’t you think you’ll get in? You have straight As, and great SAT scores.”
“I don’t quite have straight As. I got four Bs. And I don’t have anything else to put on my application. I don’t play any sports, I don’t do any activities, I don’t have any community service–”
“Sure you do. You’re in Video Production Club with me and Jason and Renee.”
“Just for this year.”
“It’s a new club this year! None of us has been in it for more than this year!”
“The admissions people at Walton don’t know that. It looks like a desperate attempt to find something to put on a college application.”
“Give yourself more credit,” Melissa said. “You’re going to have no trouble getting into college. Maybe not Walton, because exclusive private schools are really competitive, but I’m sure you’ll have no trouble getting into Jeromeville or Central Tech.”
“I hope so,” I said. Melissa must never know the real reason I joined Video Production Club, I thought. Too embarrassing and too pathetic.
The bell rang, and I walked with the others back into the building, since we all had the same English class. I sat through English class, and then through economics afterward, feeling dejected and worthless. I may have good grades, but I wasn’t the highest ranked student in my class. And so many other students had so many more useful things to put on their applications. It wasn’t the end of the world, of course. I got into Bidwell State. If I didn’t get in anywhere else, I still had that. I had a family of second cousins in Bidwell who were always fun to hang out with. And I had grandparents, and my uncle. But the thought of not getting into Walton or Jeromeville or Central Tech still made me feel like I just wasn’t good enough.
I was in a better mood by the time I got home, but it lasted until about five seconds after I walked in the door. As I walked across the living room, I saw a recent issue of Rolling Stone on the top of the stack of magazines that Dad kept on the end table next to the couch. A one-hit wonder band called Blind Melon, whose career would be cut short a few years later by the vocalist dying of a drug overdose, was on the cover, in the nude with their private parts covered.
Stupid Blind Melon, I thought. Dark and angry thoughts overwhelmed my mind.
“How was school?” Mom asked.
“Fine, I said. “I’m going to go upstairs.”
“Are you going to take a nap?”
“Maybe.” I walked up the stairs and closed the bedroom door behind me. I lay on the bed, staring out the window at the gray skies, trying to distract the fact that that weird and catchy Blind Melon song was stuck in my head now. Stupid Jason Lambert ruined that song for me. Jason asked Melissa on a date to a Blind Melon concert a few months ago, back at the beginning of the school year. She went out with him, but she doesn’t appear to like me, I thought. Why? Jason is my friend, but he’s kind of an annoying asshole too. I’m not annoying, at least not like Jason. Of course, Melissa has no way of knowing how I feel about her, because I don’t know how to tell a girl I like her, but still… really? Jason Lambert?
Despite this, I took a small bit of solace in the fact that Melissa didn’t seem interested in Jason that way. Other than the Blind Melon concert, they didn’t seem too chummy or couple-like or anything, and there was one day when even I could tell that Melissa was visibly annoyed at Jason. I saw both of them a lot that school year, which was good because I wanted to know if there was anything going on between them.
I made sure that I would see them often, by joining the Video Production Club.
I continued staring sadly out the window, daydreaming of next year when I wouldn’t be in Plumdale anymore. Maybe Melissa and I would end up at the same school. We both applied to Jeromeville, after all. Maybe she would come visit me in my dorm room and discover that I was a really great guy. That would be perfect. And as I drifted off to sleep, the song that Jason ruined for me started running through my head again…