Written By: Jen Klein
Itch thinks I’m insane for taking two sciences during my senior year, when I should be slacking off, but this is the only one that feels like work. Environmental science, which I had right before the break, is super interesting. Plus, because of our school’s partnership with the University of Michigan, it qualifies for dual enrollment, so I’m getting college credit for it.
Physics is another story. Today, for example, I’m having a tough time paying attention to whatever Mrs. Nelson is saying about the subdisciplines of mechanics, because I keep replaying things I should have said to Oliver. I sneak a furtive glance toward the back of the room, where he’s sitting with Ainsley. They’re holding hands and Oliver is looking straight at me.
I whirl back around and start scribbling notes about translational motion and oscillatory motion and rotational motion until I make the ironic realization that I am—quite literally—going through the motions.
Why did I look at him, anyway?
The next morning, I’m on a mission when I get into Oliver’s car. “I have an idea,” I inform him, tossing an empty water bottle from the passenger seat into the back as he pulls us out onto the street. “A way to make this drive much more tolerable.”
“The license plate game?”
“That’s for little kids.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” says Oliver, “but you’re not very big.”
I sit up a little straighter, even though I’m 100 percent normal size. It’s Oliver who has a skewed perspective, because he’s so tall. Just like his girlfriend.
“We’ve been going about this all wrong,” I tell him. I flip my backpack around on my lap so I can unzip the front pocket. “We obviously both have deep-held convictions that support our individual life philosophies.”
“Huh?” says Oliver.
“What I mean—” I start, but he interrupts.
“I’m kidding. I know what you mean.” He shakes his head and I can’t tell if he’s amused or annoyed.
“I don’t think these morning drives have to be…like this.”
“All fighty and crabby.”
Oliver’s head tilts. “I thought we were making conversation.”
“I think…” I pause, formulating exactly what I want to say. “I think we are very different from each other, and we don’t see the world the same way, and that’s okay. But it’s also no reason for us to start every day miserably.” Oliver keeps his eyes on the road ahead of us. “I have a solution.” I pull my phone from the backpack. “After a brief exchange of pleasantries in my driveway, we can stick to music.”
Oliver considers before nodding. “If that’s what you want.”
Satisfied, I scroll through the playlist I made last night after coming up with this stroke of peacemaking genius. I think I’m in the mood for something classic—the Clash or maybe a little Ramones—but then I see Alesana and know that’s it. I hunt around on the console for a speaker wire like in my mom’s car, but I don’t see one. I flip open the middle compartment lid only to find it empty. “Hey, where’s your—”
Unfortunately, the rest of my sentence is drowned out by a rush of piano chords. My hands drop the phone and fly up to cover my ears.
“Where is that coming from? How are you—” I stop as a man’s voice throbs through the behemoth’s speakers. It’s earnest and it’s passionate and it’s loud and…“What is this, Bon Jovi?”
“Survivor!” Oliver yells over the lyrics.
“It’s terrible!” I scream at him, frantically searching the dashboard for a way to turn it off.
Oliver brandishes his phone. “Wireless connection!” he shouts.
“It’s killing me! Turn it down! Turn it off! Make it”—the song abruptly cuts off—“stop!” I clear my throat. “Thank you. No offense, but that was the worst.”
Oliver grins like it’s a giant joke. “You clearly have no appreciation of fine music.”
“What are you, a twelve-year-old girl?”
“It’s a power ballad, June. They were wildly popular.”
My eyes widen. “Are you a twelve-year-old girl in the eighties?”
He laughs out loud and I can’t find the humor, because I’m so shocked that Oliver Flagg likes awful hair-band power ballads.
He reaches over to pat my bare knee. “It’s okay. Not everything fits into one of your neat little boxes.”
My mouth drops open. “What is that supposed to mean?”
But Oliver isn’t bothered. “What do you listen to? Share.”
“I don’t know how to jack into your system,” I say, still offended.
“Just play it from your phone.”
“Fine,” I say, and touch my screen. It’s not as loud, since it’s not connected to the speakers, but my phone packs a punch. The opening drumbeats reverberate fast in my ears, scrubbing away the pulsing banality of Oliver’s terrible music.