“He’s gay.” I heard someone say for the sixth time since I entered the library and started reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I was at the part where everyone was gushing over Viktor Krum, and for a split second I thought the boys behind me were commenting about him.
“Jesus Christ,” I murmured to myself. All I wanted in life was to read the book quietly without a group of underdeveloped boys ruining it for me by saying the same taunt over and over again. And it wasn’t even witty. What the fuck is so creative and brilliant about calling someone gay as an insult? I swear to god bullies are nothing but airheads.
I promised myself I wouldn’t react because it wasn’t what I came here to do. I came here in the comfort of the library to enjoy the silence and my new book. Why are these sleazeballs even here? Aren’t they supposed to hang out at the basketball court or an empty classroom or somewhere else according to clichés?
“His hair is the gayest,” someone else said behind me, and the rest of them giggled. What a promising mind, this jerk has.
“Excuse me,” I said while turning around to face them. “Could you please tone it down? I’m trying to read here.” I looked at the kid at the table beside them that they were referring to as gay and did a quick check. It’s the skinny kid who transferred to our school a few days ago. He’s reading a book called Flowers for Algernon and thought to myself damn, you’re really not helping your case here reading something that has flowers in the title, kid.
“Mind your own business, Jake,” this tough-looking boy told me with a scowl on his face. He was my classmate from a couple of years ago and he was dumb as a brick but was also rich as fuck, the combination I hate the most. I also remember something distinctly embarrassing that he did back in freshman year that earned him the nickname Doody. Of course he bullied most of the students into never calling him the name ever again or his rich daddy will expel them from our top-rated, private school. But I’m not most people and I could care less about being expelled.
“Listen, Doody,” I said, looking at him directly in the eye and making sure he absorbed those two syllables with which I practically baptized him again. “Get the fuck out of the library if you’re not going to read or I might just be in the mood to retell the Tale of the Doody.”
“I’ll have my father expel you, asshole,” he hissed at me but his voice was shaking, so I was encouraged even more.
“Sure, but everyone will still know you pooped your pants during last period in freshman year,” I answered in one breath, and his minions snorted, trying to hold back laughter. “Oops.” I said as a follow-up.
Doody was about to say something I suspect was incredibly witty and off-putting and possibly could even be considered the comeback of the year, but right then the librarian hissed at us to be quiet. And instead of staying without being able to answer back, to my relief, they stormed out of the library instead. Satisfied, I returned to my book and continued reading.
Precisely three sentences later, someone tapped me on my shoulder and said, “Hey.”
“Holy shit, can’t people just let me re—,” I said as I put my book down, yet again, and turned around. I stopped when I saw that it was the kid from the other table. “Oh, hey man.”
“I just wanted to say thank you for making them leave,” he said while staring at his feet instead of me. He looked like every cliché underdog in every teen movie and YA novel.
“You’re welcome. I really just want to read,” I answered frankly, but it came out more like a plea. The thing is that the book came out a few weeks ago and I found the time to read it only today because there was too much schoolwork that had to be done first.
“Yeah, I understand. Thank you anyway,” the kid said, not taking his eyes off his feet. And then he started rummaging for something in his bag and I just waited there for a few awkward seconds not saying anything.
“Here, take this,” he said, finally, handing me a sandwich. I was a little taken aback at the gesture, but took the sandwich anyway. “I don’t really like tuna, so you can have it,” he assured me.
“So to show me how grateful you are, you’re giving me your reject?” I said jokingly. “Yeah, okay cool.”
“No! I just mean—”
“It’s okay, dude,” I assured him, smiling. Man, this kind can’t take a joke. “I’m Jake, by the way.” I said, reaching my hand out for a handshake.
“Nice to meet you, Matty.”
“No, not Matty. I hate that name. Just Matt,” he said, a little panic in his voice.
“Whatever, Matty,” I said, ignoring him. “I’ll see you around campus, dude. Now get the fuck out and let me read, okay?”
Matt just nodded and awkwardly made his way out of the library. As I got back to reading my book and sneaking a bite of the surprisingly delicious tuna sandwich, I thought, that kid was alright.