Phillip Kim was forced to go to Boston University. He studies English Education because he wants to be a drill sergeant but he doesn’t want to join the military. He is a preschool teacher and mocks his students regularly. He writes videogame plots, slam poetry, short stories and likes cheese.
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Their names were Harry, James, Will, Ryan, Colin and George. Harry had a bony, frail, elongated body. His elbows stuck out at weird angles. But I found out he was a writer. He liked to write mostly short fiction. He told me some of his favorite authors, and he had good taste. I made him promise me to show me his stories. It took a while, but he eventually agreed. James was tiny and had a baby face. I found out he was my age, but he had a growth hormone deficiency. I told him that must be hard. He said no way, I get kid prices on everything and clothes and shoes are so much cheaper. Always look on the bright side of life. James loved fantasy football. He loved the mathematics behind the athletics. He showed me his statistical analyses and they were thorough to say the least. Will built things. His dad was a carpenter so he knew his way around a wood shop. I asked him what things he made. He listed things like handmade pens, benches, bird houses, a porch. I asked him what he was working on now, and he said he was making a wood sculpture of himself. I learned how many different kinds of saws there are. Lots. Ryan was quiet, he didn’t say a word to me. But I found out from the others that his mom was really sick and that he’d been up late every night for the past month taking care of her. He was the first person I played a real game with, and I borrowed Emily’s cards but he crushed me mercilessly. Colin was the first one to talk to me of the six. He had the worst jokes ever and talked a ridiculous amount of trash. He was loud, and his voice cracked a lot. But I couldn’t stop laughing hearing the wild things he said. And I will always respect someone who can quote Monty Python on command. George had a nervous twitch. He said it was from his Tourette syndrome. I asked if it was like the guy who can’t stop cursing. He sighed and said that was only one kind of Tourettes called coprolalia. I said copro as in the root for shit? He said wow how did you know that. Emily and I used to do a ton of pretend spelling bees. I think I’m up 21-20. Emily said you’re dreaming, it’s the reverse. I said let’s decide it here and now.
George and Harry pulled up a word bank from past national spelling bees and we breezed through them. When we hit the words from the final rounds, we both struggled, me more than her. At this point, Harry, James, Will, Colin, George and even Ryan were cheering and doing fist pumps. Colin was the one reading off the words. He looked at the screen and a devilish grin crossed his face. He said the word slowly, enunciating each deceitful syllable. Emily looked at me and I hadn’t seen her that frustrated since I beat her in Connect Four back in middle school. My mind was blank. All six saw our confusion and heckled us. I heard a rap at the door. Tim popped his head in and said what the hell is going on here. I said a battle for the ages is happening. Tim shook his head and said he had to kick us out. We didn’t notice the sun had set. I declared the battle shall continue another day. Emily punched me in the ribs. We packed up our stuff, and I put Emily’s cards in my bag. We left the building. Ryan walked next to me and said I never knew you were this smart. You’ve never shown it before. I thought you were just another dumb jock. I told him dumb is easier. Emily and I split off from the group toward our homes. I realized I had been holding her hand.
I felt her soft hand mold to fit mine, as if it always belonged there. I could feel my palm pulsate. My breaths were short and labored. My stomach churned but I wasn’t hungry. My ears burned. My cheeks hurt and I thought I must have the goofiest smile. I could hear her breathe and I could tell she was out of breath. I had to resist the urge to look at her because I thought if I looked down I wouldn’t be able to look away. I gave in and glanced down. She looked straight ahead. Her cheeks were flushed. I never noticed she had a tiny dimple. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile so wide. Our hands trembled. We took the long way home.
I was lost. I forgot how to get to her house, she lived on a hidden dead end off the main road. She guided me through the darkness. We got to her house and I realized I hadn’t been there in over a year. Dandelions covered the yard. I thought they were pretty as a kid, but I learned they are weeds and look bad to adults. Her dad’s old muscle car sat on cinderblocks. Last time I was here, he said he would rebuild his baby, make her brand new. Rust dotted the frame. The grass driveway was overgrown, and the plants wrapped around the bricks. A vine crept up the side of her house. I remember when I helped her mother install the siding and I didn’t know what I was doing but she let me help anyways. Looked crooked and a few nails jutted out. Her house had two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom jammed into one story. The front door was closed. The screen door was slightly off its hinges and the screen was ripped. The lights were off and I could see Emily’s pained face in the moonlight.
Emily said thank god the lights are off. That means either my parents aren’t home or dad’s passed out. Let’s sit over by the old tree. I remembered the tire swing but it wasn’t there anymore. I asked what happened and she said dad and shook her head. The biggest root split in two, and made a perfect seat. I sat down and Emily nestled in my lap. I held her tight. She leaned back. I brushed her hair. It was as smooth as I imagined. I wrapped my hands around her waist. She turned her head upwards and looked at me and no one had ever looked at me that way before. She closed her eyes and leaned in. I said no. I said what are we doing I have a girlfriend. Emily sat up and clenched her jaw. She said you are an idiot. I said I know. She said no you don’t know. I asked why. She put her hand on my chest and asked what are you feeling right now. I said I feel like my heart is dancing. I feel lost. I don’t know how I feel. She put my hand on her neck. I felt her pulse race. She asked are you still confused what love is? I said nothing. Emily said she lied earlier when she said she didn’t know how to feel. Do you remember this morning when you asked me if I knew what love was and I said yes. I’ve always known. Too bad I’m in love with an idiot. I pulled her in closer. She wrapped her hands around my back. We touched foreheads and rubbed noses. She giggled. Eskimo kisses. I put my thumb on her chin and pushed her up toward my lips.
The patio light turned on. Emily said shit why now. My dad’s awake. You need to get out of here now before my dad sees you. I heard her father yell EM GET IN HERE NOW. She said go, and I said but and she said go now. Now. I said see you tomorrow dumpling. She blushed and said I told you not to call me that. See ya tomorrow. EM I’M COMING OUT THERE I HEAR YOU. Emily said weakly, I’m coming dad sorry sorry sorry.
When I got home, I called out for mom and dad. They must have gotten the night shift again. I went to the fridge. My stomach was in knots. I brought a few boxes of leftovers up to my room. I shoveled them in, taking the occasional breath. I thought should have left mom a message saying I got home ok. She must have gotten a call from school about my sick day. I looked at my phone and saw I missed thirteen calls and my inbox was full. I forgot I turned my phone on silent. I hit the first speed dial and took a deep breath.
I heard a three rings and then she picked up. Hello Lauren. I heard heavy breathing. Then my phone exploded. She screamed why haven’t you been picking up the phone or answering my texts, you have a lot of answering to do. I told her I forgot and she said bullshit.
Sam told me he saw you and that whore holding hands.