I'm Short and I'm Fat and No One Loves Me
Jason had been sitting around in the coffee place for over an hour before the two girls came in. He walked up to the counter for a refill just to walk by them. Returning to his chair, he gave a big smile and a little nod to their table in general. They ignored him.
The Stone Cup Roasting Co sat on the bluff above the Tennessee River. From the patio/balcony there was a good view of the river. Of course, no one was out on the balcony on this November night. It was raining off and on, and about 35 degrees.
Jason sneaked a look at the two girls again, but he quickly looked away when he saw one of them look his way. Did she smile at him? Of course not, don't be stupid. Just forget they are there. Study your Trig.
Jason had a history of making a fool out of himself with good looking females. At five foot eight and almost 200 pounds, not too many attractive women had ever shown an interest in him. He was smart, and he was funny. But that hadn't been enough, despite all the assurances his mom had given him his whole life.
He looked up at the counter, and two of the guys working there were talking, pointing around, he thought, at him. He looked away quickly, embarrassed. Just like that girl in his class sitting next to him, Raquel, always talking with the girl in front of her and then looking over at him. He was sure they were talking about him. He looked down at his book. Now he felt a headache building in the back of his neck. He wanted to put his head down on his book to rest it, to keep things from swirling. He closed his eyes trying to make the movement stop. Now he could see nothing, but he imagined everyone was looking at him. Everyone was talking about him, making fun of him, they didn't even know him.
He looked out the window, at the lights reflecting across the river. He sighed, thinking of his mother. She loved that river, she constantly took Jason and his sister kayaking on it. A few months ago he and Ashlee had scattered her ashes on it, from kayaks. He missed her.
He wiped his eyes and opened his Dynamic Trigonometry book. There was going to be a quiz tomorrow and he wanted to review the elements they had been working on the past week. Actually he knew it all really well, he could teach the class. He chuckled to himself, he probably should. His professor was awful, how had he gotten that job, Jason wondered? He started thinking how differently he'd handle the class when one of the girls he'd been watching appeared at his table.
"Hi", she said, softly, with a sweet smile.
"Ehhh", is all that Jason could muster. He was completely absorbed in how pretty she was, and that she was talking to him!
"You're in my trig class, right?"
Was he? He couldn't believe he'd never noticed her. Those gorgeous red curls, that pale milky complexion, and those absolutely stunning green eyes, currently staring at him. No way he wouldn't have noticed her after 3 months of classes, none of which he'd missed.
"Am I? Professor Hoffman, 9am Tuesday/Thursday?"
"Oh, no", she frowned. "Monday night. Sorrry, I saw your book . . ."
"Ugh, you start your week with Hoffman? I need at least a day to get my stomach prepared".
She laughed. Genuinely. He laughed along with her. She put her hand on the back of the chair next to him, "do you mind?"
Of course I mind. You can't keep acting like a friend of mine, I might have a cardiac arrest; I might go jump into the river, this is scary! "Oh no, go ahead".
She pulled the chair out easily, gracefully sitting in it. She smiled at him AGAIN, then looked down at his book. The whole time all he's thinking is, "damn, why didn't I pull that chair out for her!"
"So, tomorrow is Thursday, you're studying for the quiz, right?", she asked.
"Yes. Are you having it Monday?"
She hesitated, a little embarrassed, "That's the problem. I'm stumped. My girlfriend", she looked back at her table, "she's more clueless than me."
So that was it, he thought, she didn't really want to talk to him, she wanted his help. But crap, look at her, who cares.
"Oh, yea, this a really hard chapter", he lied. "Have you worked on the practice quizes?"
"A little, let me get my notebook." she got up and headed towards her table. Then she turned back, stuck out her hand and said, "I'm Stacy".
"Oh," he stuttered, "I'm-I'm Jason."
Jason turned his head towards the window and smiled, really big. Then he watched Stacy walking back to her table. He pounded his fist hard into his thigh.
"Just talk, idiot! You can do that. You give speeches at your Mensa meeting every month. You teach 10 year olds at Sunday School. She's just a woman, not even as pretty as your own sister, and you talk to her all the time."
When he turned his head back, Stacy was back with her friend.
“Jason, this is my just as clueless friend, Jen.”
“Hi Jason”, Jen said as she shook his hand, then, “Please tell me you are a God of mathematics and can instantly make me smarter?”
“Sure”, replied Jason. “Let me have your hand”, he said, holding out his own hand.
Jen put her hand in Jason’s and he closed his eyes. He squeezed on Jen’s hand, then opened his eyes. “Its done, you’re now damn smart.”
Jen iImmediately liked him and the three of them started yakking at each other about all kinds of subjects. But finally Stacy said,"Okay guys, this is lots of fun, but we've got to get back to the math! Otherwise, I know of two people who will be completely lost Monday night.”
“You got that right”, Jen complained. "Its frustrating. I really like math. In high school, it was one of my favorite subjects, I got an A in it. I took Advanced Algebra first semester here at UT. It was hard, certainly harder than Algebra in high school, but I got an A."
"Don't blame yourself. Its Dr. Hoffman. He is so . . ."
"Boring?" Jen interjected. "Really F-ing boring?"
"Exactly", Jason replied, laughing. "I don't think I've ever had a teacher or Professor quite like him. He seems to have no interest in communicating with us. He should just stay home and let us spend the hour talking with each other with our books open, we could learn WAY more. And, you know, Professor could spend more time at home boring his children, and pets, and plants.
The girls seemed to like that concept and they all had a good laugh. “And don’t forget about the wifie”, Stacy added.
“Oh, no! Do you really think that guy could have a wife. Poor woman”, Jen rejoined.
"Look", Jason said, turning to a page in the book, "I know what has you stumbling. The whole key to the concepts introduced in this chapter is on the second page, and Hoffman barely spent a second on it. Read this paragraph I hightlighted in Orange, right here." He moved his finger and let the two girls read.
A half hour later he could tell both girls were figuring the whole problem out. Even though it was Jen who announced at one point, "Yea, I see", Jason felt it was actually Stacy that had the better hold on the work. But it was clear they were both further along than when they'd sat down at his table.
Then Jen shrieked, "CRAP. I've got to go. Damn."
Stacy looked at her friend, disappointed, "Can't we stay just a little longer? I feel like I'm finally getting somewhere. Where do you have to go?"
"Its Carl, I was supposed to meet him at 9:30. I'm gonna be late, come on".
They both stood up, and then Jason acted quicker and smarter than he was used to.
"Eh, well," he said looking at Stacy, "I can give you a ride. This place is open until Midnight, we can probably have it all figured out by then. I don't mind."
Of course he didn't mind. Beautiful Stacy staying here by herself, the two of them at the table together, what would people think when they passed by their table? He wanted to know, how intriguing.
Stacy looked at him, then a Jen, and then back to Jason. "You really don't mind," she asked? "I live on the other side of the River, on campus. That's not too far?"
"I feel confident my truck can get us the, what, 5 or 6 miles to campus. And if not, we can go by my house and get the kayaks."
More laughs while Jen moved over to Jason, giving him a little kiss on his cheek, “Thank You, I feel like I know something about Trig for the first time this whole damn semester!”
Stacy and Jen hugged goodbye. Jen said as she was leaving, "I won't be that late, I am NOT spending the night with him tonight.” As Jen went through the exit, Stacy sat back down and said quietly, mostly to herself, "I certainly hope not."
She looked up at Jason and saw his inquiring face. "Her boyfriend is an ass. Maybe worse than that. I think he deals drugs, and who knows what else. Jen needs to dump his butt and find a somewhat less psycotic male to spend time with."
Jason laughed and said, "I'm thinking that's probably a subject I don't want to go any deeper into. Back to Trig?"
Hours later Stacey and Jason closed their books. Stacey stuffed the piles of notes she’d made into her book and turned to Jason.
“What’s your future? You are one smart dude, what job will you have in 10 years?”
“Honestly? I have no clue. Several things come to mind, NASA, Professor at Cal Tech or MIT, maybe Apple. I just don’t know. I love College. I’ve taken all kinds of classes I’d have never dreamed I would. Like Japanese Poetry!”
“Really? And, did you enjoy it?”
"Yeah, I really did. The professor lives near me, I've known him since I was a kid. Now more than the adult I always looked up to, we're friends. When I originally signed up for it, I was doing it, oh, how do I explain this. It was punishment, for something I did I thought was crappy. And yet, it was one of my favorite classes that semester."
“Well, I still don’t know the reason you don't want to be at my party a week from Saturday? Is it me, or do you just not like people? You know, people our age?"
She was quiet, again staring at him. He had no clue what to say, things had certainly changed quickly. He'd almost forgotten when she asked him about the party, and he’d meekly said he didn’t think he could come. How could he admit how much he'd love to be with her, but he didn't want her to be around while others made fun of him. He was used to it, but thinking of her hearing it, NO, he couldn't stand that.
"Its my fault" she finally said. "I was rude, coming over here and interrupting you studying. I do that. I just do things without thinking about other people. I'm really sorry, and for sure, I wont bother you again, I promise. I'm really sorry", she said standing up.
He looked up at her again, ready to cry, his standard response to stress ("like a 2nd grader", he'd always say to himself), and blurted out, "PLEASE bother me. All you want." He paused. "Its definietly not you. We've spent what, like 3 - 4 hours together? And I already like you more than just about anyone I know. You sitting down here is about the best thing that's ever happened to me in this place."
He was quiet, they both were. Then he had to add: "Except for the last time I was here with my mother."
That comment sunk into Stacy. She and her mom were really close, and enjoyed doing things together, like going to a coffee place.
She sat back down at the table and said to Jason, "you and your mom come here together? I go to a place like this with my Mom all the time back in Brentwood".
Jason felt like he was over the crying part. He felt certain now he could talk about it, and looked up at Stacy.
"Well, I used to come here with my mom. She died of cancer two months ago." He paused for a second and then added, "I really miss her."
They talked together about their mothers, telling each other stories. Besides the Big Scary Math, they had found a common ground. Later, after a few moments of silence, Stacy said, with her hand resting on Jason's, "Two months? Has there been time for it to get better?"
He finally looked up. "I couldn't even come in here for so long. I'd pull into the parking lot and start blubbering. I'd just drive home and lay on the couch. This is my first time back here, since . ."
Just then Jason's friend Tommy stopped at the table to clear dishes.
"Hey Jason. Glad to see you here, man."
Tommy had been Jason's friend since grade school. And he'd worked here for years, then a tough break, but he’d been back a few months. He was the Assistant Manager, and it was just like him to clear dishes, even though he had staff for that. Jason really liked Tommy.
"Thanks. Good to be here. Hey, Tommy, this is Stacy. Stacy, Tommy."
Tommy wiped his hand on a towel and shook Stacys hand, then turned back to Jason.
"Hey, how's Ashlee? Haven't seen her in here lately."
"She's good. She's coming home this weekend, you should come by Tom. She'd like that."
"Yea? Hmmm, maybe I will."
As he left their table he grabbed and squeezed Jason's shoulder. That made Jason smile, and Stacy noticed.
"Good friend, huh?"
"Long time friend. We meet in second grade. He's had a tough time the last few years."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, he made the mistake of becoming a friend of the wrong guy. They got in some trouble, and Tommy actually spent time in jail. He such a great guy, cares about people, it was shitty what this guy did to him. Tommy was nervous coming back here to work after the 4 weeks in jail. But people love Tommy, he has lots of friends. I saw him in jail the last week, it was like 6 months ago. I told him, Tommy, people will forget."
"Well, is it possible this bad guy dates a gal named Jen?" Stacy said.
"No, he's still in jail", Jason laughed. Then said, "That guy is an ass, he took my best friend away and put him in jail. I hope he’s in there forever. Really!"
"Ashlee is my sister. Tommy and Ashlee went from being best friends to boyfriend and girlfriend during high school. But after all the trouble, they haven't seen each other, except at the funeral. Tommy was a godsend at the funeral, both at our house and at the service. Every time we needed something, he was there. Ashlee still loves him, and I know she'd love to see him. I hope he comes by. She’s in the first year at UT Knoxville. After mom, she wanted to get out of town."
Jason was sitting there, thinking about Tommy, and Ashlee and the funeral. Thinking back through years and getting lost in his reverie. Suddenly he remembered, he was sitting at the table with a beautiful woman. When he looked up at Stacy, she was staring at him, and she smiled.
"How long we've been sitting here? Like, four hours? I can't believe how well I think I already know you", Stacy said.
Jason smiled, and said," that's what I want you to think. That you know me. But you haven't gotten into the underbelly yet."
"Iris, Goo Goo Dolls.”
“Favorite TV show?”
“Hmmm, interesting. Your favorite movie?"
"Eh, that's tougher. Probably… Shakespeare in Love."
"Really? I've never seen it. I guess I was just never up for Shakespeare, you know?"
"It's not like that. It takes place in that time period, but that's not what you're thinking as you're watching it. I have it. Come by sometime, I'll show it to you. Bring Jen, maybe that'll keep her away from the bad boy for a night."
Jason wasn't sure he heard right. Was she actually saying, okay, I'll come to your house and watch a movie? There must be some confusion here, I must've missed something, or she did.
"How about Saturday night? Ashlee will be home, and maybe I can get Tommy to come over. It might be good for Tommy and Ashlee to be there with other people, at least for a while."
"That sounds good. I'll talk Jen into it, no matter what plans she has with dumb dumb. We'll bring popcorn.”
Just then they heard Tommy yell at them, “Gonna lock up soon, we’re almost all cleaned up”.
Jason looked at his watch, it was almost 12:30. Tommy had let them stay while they cleaned up.
They both stood up and collected their stuff. Jason walked over to the counter and shook Tommy’s hand. “Thanks for the extra time.”
“It wasn’t you”, he said with a laugh. “I wasn’t going to kick HER out!”
Jason nodded, smiling, and moved over to head out with Stacey.
They went around back to Jason's pick up truck and he even remembered to open the door for Stacy. He had to take a stack of text books off the front seat and put them in the back first. Before he had moved over to say goodbye to Tommy, he had clicked the car to start on his remote. It was already beginning to get warm inside.
“Next stop, dorm room.”
“Yep”, said Stacey, putting her arm on Jason’s shoulder.
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