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The Watch List: Preview of a Senior Project

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From November to March I was filling the minimal free time I had with writing a novel. I chose to do this as my senior project because I wanted the motivation to finish. That book is now published. If you are interested in purchasing The Watch List, it is available on thebookpatch.com for a $13.99 physical copy or a $6 digital copy. I’ve decided to put the first three chapters up here on Osprey so people can see the style of the book and know whether or not they’d like to purchase it or to see a sample of what I spent five months working on.

Chapter 1

It’s Halloween.

It’s Halloween and I’m walking down Main Street with a person who I don’t know if I hate or just don’t care for. She’s speaking a mile a minute—that’s not true, it’s more like ten miles per second—and I’m hearing maybe one out of every five words. It’s mostly about something trivial, I think. I doubt she’s going into great depth on some political issue that has serious implications regarding the well-being of the general public. There’s still a chance she is, it’s just not likely.

I do suppose it would help if I tried, or made some semblance of an effort to listen and have fun. However, it’s Halloween and I’m miserable. I’m going house to house not collecting candy, just listening to her talk about problems that will be over by the time her mouth stops moving. I like the house we’re passing right now, it’s a classic New England style with a uniquely modest flamboyancy. I like that kind of oxymoronic architecture. I don’t like this girl.

I’m sorry if I’m starting out with too much negativity, it’s just that I now know that yes, I do hate this girl and I’m definitely losing brain cells due to the incessant buzzing that is whatever gossip she is spewing. But, she’s pretty. That’s really the only reason I’m suffering through tonight. What I’m hoping will happen probably won’t happen, but you know what they say, “You don’t make out with 100% of the girls you don’t suffer through first.” We’ve passed that house I like about four times. She’s too interested in what she has to say to realize that we’ve been going in circles. To be fair to her, I haven’t said anything to change course.

Oh, crap, she just said my name. And her voice went up at the end of whatever it was that came barreling out of the word nest that is her mouth, so she probably asked a question, which probably means I need to answer it.

“Sorry, could you repeat that? There was this ringing in my ears.”

That’s not a complete lie, sometimes my ears do ring, also this means I’ll actually be able to get a word in so I do want her to repeat what she said.

“I wanted to know why you were named ‘Aldous’ it’s kinda weird.”

Jesus, I’m tempted to walk into the street and get hit by a car right now. Not to die, but so that I can have an excuse to not be here. “Why is your name that” is objectively the worst question to ask. It’s because my parents named me Aldous, that’s it.

“My parents had a feeling I’d be a writer, so they named me after their favorite author.”

“Ooh that’s actually cool. Is he, like, your favorite too?”

“I’ve never read him, but my favorite writer is Sylvia Plath

“I think I’ve heard of her, what’s she known for?”

“Committing suicide when she was 30.”

Double crap. That’s not going to get me very far. I have a habit of speaking without thinking—which, now that I think about it, is kind of redundant, I think that’s the word. If I spoke without thinking all I would say is nonsense. What I should say is I speak without thinking about the consequences of my word choices and how that affects whether or not I’ll be able to make out with a self-absorbed valley girl who doesn’t know she lives in a small east-coast town. But she is pretty, so…

After a brief silence she’s returned to going on about how Susan told Becky something about Susie that made Glenda really mad and she took it out on Alexandra which is why Susan and Becky aren’t talking this week. I hate myself so much for saying that.

I should mention that I stopped writing an English essay due in two days to aimlessly meander the same three streets. As much as I complain, it was my choice to be here. But it’s almost over now. We’re back at our cars and she’s desperately trying to figure out how to end this story in the next thirty seconds, so I guess I’ll help her.

I lean in and kiss her. I spent all night with her, I’m getting a kiss. In a moment it’s done and now we’re just looking into each other’s eyes. This is the moment; I can say what I’ve been holding onto all night. I let the words flow freely into the cold Halloween night.

“That meant absolutely nothing to me.”

Chapter 2

Except, I didn’t.

No, I didn’t say that. I also didn’t kiss her that night. I didn’t even ask her on a date—not that I wanted to do that. It’s been two days and I’m still mulling over events that never happened. I’m not sure why I’m stuck on her, though. Yes, I’ve never kissed a girl before but, as desperate as I am, the previously unnamed social vampire is not a desirable first. I’m not very good at reading social cues either, so there is a chance that I have had multiple opportunities to make a move, but I missed them. Really the whole relationship dynamic has never worked out, mostly because the who people liking me as a person dynamic has never worked out.

It’s not fun knowing that someone like me, a seventeen-year-old who isn’t exactly conventionally attractive but isn’t exactly unattractive and is known to make most smile and laugh, has spent their entire life single. I’m the perfect romantic comedy character so it’s unfortunate that I live in the real world where most of the stuff they’d do in one of those movies would be considered stalking or obsessive. I’ve been on at least two dates and neither of them ended exactly well. I say at least because, again, I can’t read social cues so there is a chance I’ve been on three. I guess that I just can’t connect to someone on a romantic level. Well, that’s not completely fair. I’m basing my conclusion off of a sample of girls from a small town that definitely isn’t representative of the real world. Still, receiving regular rejection does take a toll on your pursuit of happiness. That’s not to say I’ve stopped trying, I’ve just been less active about it. If I know I’m going to fail, I’m not going to put in my best. This isn’t a sports movie where everyone’s a winner because they tried. By the way, I relate my life to books and movies a lot. It helps people understand me.

If I had to write a book about my relationship troubles, the most commonly used phrase would be, “You’re great, but…” I hear that a lot. It’d probably be the title too. I’d definitely name any books I write about something that comes up a lot, not an element that doesn’t come into play until the story is almost over. What I was saying earlier was that almost every time I’ve stepped up and asked someone out, I hear those three words—or some variation. It’s as if everyone is using the same template to reject me. I’m not over exaggerating right now, this is every single time. The exceptions aren’t really one’s to brag about. Essentially, there are positive aspects of my life, and then there’s romance.

I guess I’m being extra melodramatic today because yesterday was my birthday. To me it was, to the rest of the school it was November 1st, college deadline day. Now, the 2nd, people seem to remember the rest of the school exists. I know this because yesterday I walked into our senior class meeting to little more than one advisor and an old friend wishing me happy birthday. This isn’t me saying I didn’t appreciate that those two remembered, because I really did. However, that same old friend’s birthday is today. When he walked into the class meeting, a lot of people started singing. He seems happy, I’m not, but he seems to be happy. Who am I to make a big deal over them not caring enough about me to realize that it was my birthday yesterday and they’re now, seemingly in my face, celebrating someone else’s?

Here I am, surrounded by peers who only seem to notice me when necessary. Necessary being when I pick something up for them, they need answers or help in a class, and if they bump into me in the hallway. Other than that I’m just the guy who fits in too much. I’m no Holden Caulfield being rejected every time I try to enter society. I’ve already found my place and I fit perfectly in it, almost to a fault. There was one girl who I sat next to in English three years in a row because our last names are right next to each other. Three years we sat next to each other, were paired on projects, and talked in book discussions. We sit together this year too. Except this year she introduced herself to me and asked if I was liking the school so far. I’ve been here longer than she has. I remember introducing myself to her when she first moved to our town. The look on her face, however, when I reminded her that we knew each other was somewhat of a reward, although still not preferable to her actually remembering who I am.

Teachers remember me. I’m one of the students who goes into class wanting to hear the lesson. We usually have a lot to say in class, and even more to say when referring to the less academic members of class. Unlike them, we don’t loudly complain when a teacher gives us work, in a class, in school. Being a teacher is actually something I’ve considered, but seeing everything they have to put up with, I doubt a student like me could make the job worthwhile. It really must suck for teachers when the good students are out getting some academic award and they’re stuck with the kids who don’t know why English class is any more than reading a book and watching the movie because they didn’t actually read the book. Really, it’s probably one of the most undervalued jobs in America. Think about it, would you be able to put up with kids who don’t want to be there, extra hours grading, and parents constantly on your back because they can’t accept the fact that Timmy failed his math quiz because he studied from the history textbook?

I might be a little biased with the whole “don’t take teachers for granted” rant. You see, there have been some teachers that have saved my life, so to speak. They didn’t keep me from offing myself or something like that. Teachers pushed me, not in any direction, but to do what I like. My tentative goal is to become a historian, specializing in American history. That kind of stuff just works with me. Without teachers I’d probably be going into any college with an undecided program.

I’ll get off my high horse. This purpose of this was to introduce myself, rather than listen to our class president restate the same fundraiser that only two kids will volunteer for and I’ll end up being forced to participate in the day of.

Oh, it’s over. I think they mentioned the fundraiser again. Who knows? I’ll find out when they call me at a very unreasonably reasonable hour because only two kids show up.

Chapter 3

I’m not one who frequents the usage of drugs and alcohol, but some of my friends do. Many parents would likely encourage that I get new friends, but I worked my ass off to get these guys, so, no thanks. They aren’t defined by the fact that sometimes they drink on a Friday night like tonight or smoke pot to calm down after two six hour shifts. I wouldn’t be friends with them if they were, I hope. As I said, I’ve never smoked, pot or cigarettes, and the only time I’ve ever drank anything was when one of my parents let me have a sip of some whiskey they were drinking at a new year’s party.

However, I am friends with people who, on a Friday night like this, enjoy getting together, playing music, drinking, and having fun. I do too. It’s actually pretty enjoyable. I don’t know if it would be more enjoyable while drunk or high, but I get to tell them what happened afterwards, and that’s more fun for me. If only it weren’t for the fact that I have to sit through an entire party where I’m disconnected from just about everyone else due to my sobriety, I’d go to parties like this all the time.

I’m at a party right now. That’s what I was prefacing. Usually we don’t have parties in November, but that’s just unnecessary information. As I said, it’s pretty enjoyable so far, mostly because of this girl I met. I’ve been friends with her cousin for a few years now, but I never met her. She, until recently, lived with her father two towns over. Her name’s Anna Stevens, by the way. The one I’m talking to is named Anna, the one I’ve been friends with is Allison, sorry for the vague pronoun reference. Anyways, Anna seems pretty nice so far. For some reason, she’s just easy to talk with, which is more of a me thing. More often than not I can’t just jump into conversation with someone; I usually need a few times seeing them before I can do anything really lengthy. Anna, though, Anna apparently like a lot of the same things I do. But I do have one major problem with her.

“Wait, hold on, you haven’t seen any Star Wars—”

“Nope, not one.”

Nine times out of ten, that would be a guaranteed deal breaker. Those movies are to people now what the bible was in the seventeenth century. I still get baffled when people haven’t seen them. They’d have to go out of their way to not watch three movies and them maybe three more and also the new ones and maybe all the extended universe additions that are canon. But, I think this is more of an opportunity than anything else.

“So, like, do you ever plan on seeing them?”

“I mean—I guess, I’m more of a horror movie person than anything else.”

I’m also a horror movie person.

“I’m also a horror movie person.”

“Really? What’s your favorite?”

Crap. What’s the movie with the thing? It has an alien that takes different forms and is really visually disturbing. Just go with a neutral answer.

“Well, it changes.”

Double crap. It’s The Thing. How did I forget that? I’ve said I love that movie more than I’ve said I love my parents. Don’t read into that.

“But, usually it’s The Thing.”

Nailed it. You’re probably thinking that I am incredibly high strung right now. I’m actually just trying not to mess things up. Really, I know it seems strange coming from the guy who couldn’t care less about the girl he spent all Halloween with, but I actually care about what people think of me. Some, not all.

“That’s a good one. Mine’s probably Amityville Horror.”

This might not seem like a big deal, but someone can be nice and funny and have other desirable traits, but if you can’t watch your favorite movie with them, none of that other personality and fluff matters. Here I have a girl who likes the same kind of movies, and is nice and funny. I’m not saying I just fell in love, I’m not stupid. I’ve never just fallen in love. That sort of feeling builds up over time. What I am saying, though, is that I think I’ll let Anna stick around in my life. She seems like an interesting change. Oh, she’s talking.

“So, you go to school with Allison, right?”

“Yeah, that’s how we met. We had about four classes together in eighth grade, so we learned to like each other really fast.”

She’s laughing. It’s a cute laugh.

“Are you going to transfer into the high school?”

“No, I’m actually going to just finish with online classes. I don’t really feel like merging into a completely new environment for less than one school of year.”

“Yeah, I’d probably not go to school here either if I wasn’t so used to going to school here.”

She laughed again. This is kind of great. It’s almost like I’m funny and sociable.

“So your name’s Aldous, right?”

Oh please no.

“Because I’ve never met anyone with that name, but it’s pretty cool.”

I don’t know if I believe in a god, but I’m thanking any that are still willing to listen to me. I mean, I don’t think they wouldn’t want to listen. Isn’t it a major part of religions that gods don’t give up on you until you’re dead?  If that’s true, then I have some time to say I’m sorry and get into the better afterlife. This is dumb and can wait; Anna’s speaking.

“Are you going to drink tonight?”

“No, I don’t really drink. I’m not against it or anything, I just don’t do it.”

“Yeah, I get that. I mean I’m not an alcoholic or anything, but I’m not exactly ‘above the influence’ like my parents think.”

“I’m not saying I wouldn’t, I just haven’t gotten around to it, yet.”

Again, not a complete lie. Actually, this is kind of completely true. I’ve always wanted to drink; I just have way too much homework. I actually hate myself right now. I have a problem letting myself have fun. Plus, my parents would probably figure out. Not that they’d beat me or anything, they’d just be disappointed in me. That’s worse than a beating when it comes to them. They trust me enough to let me out late at night without question, so I should return the favor by not ruining my kidneys and liver before I’m legal to do so.

“I’d be drinking if I didn’t have a shift tomorrow.”

“Shift?”

“I got a job at a small place in town. I have up until December to squeeze some money out of them before they close up until mid-March.”

“Wait, I think I know that store. Is it The Bay?”

“Yep.”

The little sigh at the end shows me that she doesn’t like working there. It definitely isn’t a great place so I understand where she’s coming from. The place can’t be all bad. Maybe, and this could go poorly, I could surprise her there one day. Actually, that sounds a bit stalker-like.

Anna is one of the few people I’m glad isn’t drinking. Good conversation is better than a good story. There’s nothing you can gain from telling a story, it already happened. When you talk one on one with a person, you can just explore completely. I like learning about people, and with people you can hear the same things but it’s always different. Anna right now is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. I’m not letting her just fade away.

The way I write certain letters aggravates me some times. I let my letters bleed into each other so anyone reading it would have a hard time distinguishing the two. However, occasionally the way it comes out works. This mostly happens with similar looking letters, like and E and O, or when there’s a vowel before an L. As the A and L of my first name bleed together, I’m actually not entirely upset with how it came out, and I continue writing down my number for Anna. She wants to hang out. I kind of want to hang out with her, too. She is really nice, and interesting.

Anna Stevens is kind of pretty, too.

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1 Comment

One Response to “The Watch List: Preview of a Senior Project”

  1. Ollie Marshall on April 21st, 2017 1:56 pm

    I have enjoyed beging chapters. Looking foward to completing the book

    [Reply]

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The Watch List: Preview of a Senior Project