- Ash Srinivas
“I’m not asking for a lot here.” Perth hopes it doesn’t look like what he thinks it does. A whole lot of desperation. He’s stepping on his pride here, stomping on his ego to suck it up and ask for advice.
At the back of Millennium High School, Jay exits the field to change after football practice. With exams and his parent’s expectations imminent, it looks exactly like Perth fears, desperation to be met halfway. His pleading tone is bitter on the tongue, but he’s desperate for a tutor that knows his material and fits his rhythm, one with ample time the same way Jay has.
Jay nudges his head to the side in acknowledgment, yet he doesn’t stop walking. He pulls out the bandana/headband fabric that he was wearing and shakes out his brown, corkscrew coiled hair, bouncing with each step. He lifts his shirt to towel off the sweat.
Perth is a little jealous of the dark sepia of Jay's skin, knowing his own is pink and flushed from running.
For a moment, Perth lets his eyes wander before clicking open his locker and doing the same.
Jay sighs again, “This school’s program is packed with young talent. I'm way too far from your only option. We’re not even friends. I’m telling you, tons of dudes out there looking to built a college app of some sort,”
Perth is all of a master procrastinator, and now he feels the nervous jitters of the future blowing at the back of his neck whenever he turns the other way.
He remembers Jay looking through the window of the empty classroom that Perth sat in, when Percy was being scolded by the teacher for his more than disappointing Environmental Science test grade. Through that tiny piece of glass in the door, Jay had smirked at him and continued down the hallway.
“Not enough time,” Perth says. “And we share classes. You’re familiar with the material,” he tries to explain in his own, messy, embarrassed way. Perth is far from short, but Jay is farther, and being looked down on never feels nice.
“I don’t owe you, though.”
“I could owe you.” His heart feels like it’s beating the way it does when he blows by two defenders, the ball close to his feet.
Perth doesn’t need to be told that he should work harder. He knows. His math grades are falling, his English grades are average at best, his term paper needs serious revision, and his French grades are drippy and inconsistent, sticky like molasses, yes, all right, he gets it.
His coffee has too much creamer and the history paper deadline was last night, but he submitted it late anyway, leading to the coach nearly benching him from the team.
Being a starter is most of what he has at this point. All of his former aloofness that he plays off in front of his friends is all to hide that he's scared of the future.
Jay laughs, having finished changing, slinging the packed bag and cleats over his shoulder.
Perth can only glare. “You’re kind of a jerk, you know?”
“That’s just how I am?”
“What? City boy from the rich districts? Chic? You probably hang out with bikers.”
“It’s just the way I am.” Jay says it again.
“You make it sound like you can’t help it. Not an excuse, my guy.”
“Well, damn,” Jay slings an arm around Perth’s shoulder as they walk out of the room and Perth feels his heart kick up against his chest. “You make me sound so dry when you say it like that. Are you that different though?”
“Shut up--you don’t know me well enough for that,”
“You don’t know me well enough either.” Jay pulls him closer mockingly, and they both laugh.
Perth spots his elder sister’s car pulled into the lot as they walk out of the front of the school, mostly empty due to the lateness of practice running and the setting of the sun.
“So do you agree?”
Jay doesn’t say anything for a moment.
“Bring your bio textbooks and sheets to classroom I-108. We can try it out.”
Perth smiles, and Jay quickly scratches the back of his neck, walking the other way. Perth skips all the way to his car.