I was just rereading this, and felt like it was a pretty telling piece. It’s a personal essay I wrote for my Intro to Writing course last fall. Things have changed quite a bit since then.

 

Wry

 

The strong, square wrists of a boy I hardly know fill up my head. It is strange the way new memories sidle up against the old. They are wrists that reminded me of hands that I know so well. Time should keep people separate, but sometimes life is a split screen.

 

In class one morning Aaron’s arms are crossed, sleeves rolled up so that I see the vein in his forearm, the basilic vein. He sits passively, listening to our professor speak, and I note how his arms look well used, exercised. There is something beautiful about the parts we take for granted. His hands, usually engaged in his speech and subtle displays of restlessness, sit loosely on his thighs. I wonder whether his hands are bigger than my own. Probably, I think, but maybe not.

 

Ryan’s hands are the same size as mine. I find this out in Advanced Placement Statistics in our senior year- the months of which all mass together in an ambiguous pattern. We are measuring hand size, palm to middle finger, and our heights, heel to crown, to create an equation for estimating one from the other. Ryan has stopped drawing in his notebook, his sharpie sitting in its customary place on the table, to compare hand and height with Steven. I ask Belen to compare hands with me, knowing already that my hands are larger- more square and rough. She presses her palm to mine, but my attention is on Ryan, as usual. Steven’s fingers are longer and thinner than Ryan’s, but everything about Steven is longer and thinner than the rest of the world.

“Ryan, come here,” I say, standing up. He looks confused when I put my hand out, so I tell him, “I want to see whose hand is bigger.”

He places his hand against mine, edging his palm until the points of our hands are exactly aligned. The landscapes of our hands are different, his palm more square, his fingers slimmer at the base, his nails clipped short and square, but the breadth of our hands is the same. He is taller than me, just enough so that to make eye contact I have to turn my eyes the slightest bit up, but our hands match perfectly. I take a secret satisfaction in that.

 

With proof reading an essay as pretense, I go to Aaron’s room. When he opens the door I feel I am intruding on a part of him. I want to linger in his doorway, but you do not get to know someone from staying outside, if they open their door, you have to step in.

I move slowly through the space of his room, offering commentary on the contents, on books, and things left lying around. I pick up trinkets, turning them over in my hand before returning them to their place. When I finish this process of examining and weighing, I lean against the dresser. Aaron stands at the center of his room, a soccer ball under his left foot. A large faded burnt orange jacket hangs in the closet next to me.

“Do you have a red hunting hat? Because this jacket is pretty Holden Caulfield,” I say, pulling at the fabric. Aaron rolls the ball under his foot.

“It was actually my grandfathers.” While I examine the jacket’s tweed texture he adds, “I didn’t really like that book.”

“The Catcher in the Rye?” I ask. “How could you not like that book?” Aaron shrugs. “It hits a little too close to home for the Holden Caulfields of the world,” he says in his precise, sardonic way. Externally I balk at this assertion, inside I pull the words close.

“I mean, I never went to reform school, but…”

“You’d like to think you could have, if you tried a little harder?” I ask, playing along.

I do not point out that Holden never went to a reform school, he went to prep schools. I would correct most people. Little things I let pass by.

 

Ryan and I are in the bookstore. I want to linger there for hours, browsing the shelves and reading each other passages from books while we sit on the floor, but Borders is closing. Earlier we spent an hour sitting in the cafe looking at discounted books. Ryan read to me about dinosaurs with names I could not pronounce, and I tried to explain to him the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright. He didn’t see the beauty of Falling Water, the sharp lines of steel contrasting with the softness of the natural world.

“You’re in Engineering and Design- how can you not love Frank Lloyd Wright?” I asked. He did not have an answer. He thought the wilderness was beautiful, but the building did not excite him.

I think about the Frank Lloyd Wright book while standing at the counter, making small talk with the girl behind the register, searching for exact change. She says something to another girl behind the counter, and I turn to the front door where Ryan stands.

“Does anyone call you Ry?” I ask.

“Yeah. Annie does.” There is not anything about this that is strictly funny, but the fact that she calls him that amuses me. I laugh as I walk towards him.

“Does she call you Ry-ry?” I ask teasingly. He does not respond, which is my indication that she does. I am still laughing when we walk out the front door.

“I am going to start calling you that,” I say decisively. He looks equal parts pained and amused at the enjoyment this brings me.

“Please don’t.”

“But I’m going to call you Rye, like the Catcher in the Rye, R-Y-E.”

“Or the bread,” He says flatly. I am full of energy, almost skipping.

“That too.” I pull my phone from my pocket and change his contact name to Rye, as if this solidifies the change. I am still full of laughter when we reach his truck in the parking lot and all I want is to stay here.

 

In class one day we talk about writing style, about what works and what does not. Our professor talks about how some writing can feel clique-ish, seclusive. I noticed how Aaron leans towards my professor, as if he might pat him on the back in a show of camaraderie.

“I like smart-ass writers, but not everybody does,” My professor says. Aaron smiles at that. The two of them are like minds, full of informality and witty words. I am not jealous of this interaction, but wonder what it is like to have that sort of fraternity- you can fraternize, but you can not sororize.

 

Ryan and I are in my English teacher’s room after school. He and my teacher talk, trading quips. Listening to them, to Ryan’s dry humor that others hate, to my English teacher’s quick-fire responses, I experience outstanding moments of appreciation and jealousy. I admire the ease with which they speak, their jabbing remarks. I participate, but somehow my words feel off base.

 

I call Ryan on October 11th just after three o’clock. He is across the country, and the time differences probably means he is at lunch. I am walking back from the farm, avoiding large puddles of water created by the rain. Alex holds my umbrella so that I can dial. I wonder if she can hear the endless ring.

“Hey, it’s Ryan, leave a message,” his voicemail tells me. His voice hasn’t told me anything but this in four months.

“Hi, it’s me. I didn’t expect you to answer, it’s just raining here, a lot, and it made me think of the time that we stood outside in the rain and talked on the phone. You don’t have to call me back. Okay. Bye.”

Alex makes small talk with me as we walk, asking about my sister and my parents. I answer minimally, thinking about what I am going to do with the rest of the day. I was going to ask Aaron to play pool after dinner, but I want to go by his room now. Right now I have no feasible reason to show up at his door. My friends would tell me to show up at his door anyway, even if he might not answer, to go for it. I wonder sometimes if that is the right advice.

 

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