I met Terrance Verbly at the bus stop one afternoon in late August. Neither of us could afford cars, although one of our favourite topics of conversation revolved around what we’d do when we finally bought them. My dreams always ended up with the impromptu road trip of a lifetime down south to Mexico. Terrance was much more practical; he wanted a car to drive to school and back.
We were headed to watch Ashlee Simpson’s big screen debut, Undiscovered. Terrance wasn’t my first choice to watch the movie with, but my best friends Chloe Severino and Olivia Pagliacci were otherwise occupied. Chloe was off experimenting with her new friends from her own high school while Olivia was working at Premium Purchase, the local electronics store. I was becoming more and more concerned that the three of us were growing apart. I worried this constant flux in friendships was just a part of life now. The three of us had barely hung out all summer.
In their absence, I had spent a lot of time talking to Terrance on MSN. Terrance and I were similar in that our parents had both invested in new housing developments, lived in the houses for a short time and then flipped them. Both Terrance and I were currently living outside of our high school’s district. We’d both opted to stay at our high school because we had started there before our parents decided to move us to newer houses in different neighborhoods. Terrance and I bonded over being displaced kids in Bridgewood.
He claimed to like the Ashlee Simpson songs I’d sent him over several days. He probably wasn’t as obsessed with her as I was, but he was my last resort to watch this movie. I hadn’t even asked him outright, I’d just been complaining that I had no one to go watch it with, and he’d offered. This was our first time hanging out outside of the high school hallways. Hanging out with new people always made me a little anxious, but with my senior year approaching, I had made the decision to force myself to make new friends and experience new things. Going to the movies with Terrance was my first step. How different could it be than having lunch together in the caf with a big group of friends?
Terrance and I sat in the very back row of the empty theatre, with large bags of popcorn in our laps. To me, everything seemed totally normal. Two friends hanging out, watching a movie, an activity I’d partaken in many times before. I was actually quite engaged in the plot until suddenly, I felt Terrance’s clammy cold hand envelope my own. My eyes widened as I felt my entire body tense up. What on earth. I felt frightened and slightly violated. My hand was my personal space, and it was being overtaken on the shared armrest. It was not okay. But maybe I was jumping to conclusions. Maybe Terrance was just holding my hand in a friendly way.
Friends don’t hold hands during movies! My inner voice shouted at me. It was true. I’d never held hands with Olivia or Chloe in a theatre. Not once. But Terrance was holding my hand. If any unsuspecting person were to accidentally wander into this room, it would look like we were dating. If I allowed this to happen for a second longer, I very well could be dating Terrance Verbly! This could be the beginning of my very first relationship. With Terrance Verbly. The thought made me grimace.
I slowly pulled my hand away and snuck it into my popcorn, leaving it in there awkwardly, safely surrounded by the heat of the bag. I felt Terrance’s energy change instantly, and he sat up straighter in his seat. I was too scared to talk to him, too uncertain of what to say to him. We remained silent for the rest of the movie, which I wished would never end. But it ended, and I had no idea what happened to Ashlee because the whole time I was worried about Terrance. I knew it was going to be awkward. We were going to have to discuss it.
The walk out of the theatre was quiet, neither of us dared to say a word. Finally, when we sat down in the bus shelter I asked, “what did you think about the movie…?”
“Don’t ask me about the movie,” Terrance snapped. The evening sun shone through the plastic surrounding us, highlighting the uneven stubble beneath his cracked lips.
“You’re mad at me?” I asked meekly, avoiding eye contact. I knew it would be awkward. I thought we would both be mortified, but I certainly hadn’t expected him to be angry about it. If anything, I should have been angry that he ruined the movie for me!
“You couldn’t even hold my hand!” He spoke with disgust. Accusingly. Like I had owed it to him. Like I had broken some clause we’d established without my knowledge. His tone frightened me, and suddenly, I didn’t feel comfortable being alone with him anymore.
I brought my legs up to my chest, leaned back against the hot wall of the bus shelter, and shifted to look in the opposite direction down the road. I kept a low voice as I tried to explain it nicely, “I’m not really interested in you in that way.”
“Yeah, I get it!” He exclaimed, standing up abruptly. I shut my eyes tightly, bracing myself for I don’t know what. But nothing happened. When I opened them again he was boarding his bus. He left without even saying goodbye.
I missed Chloe and Olivia more than ever.