Chapter 2: The First Lesson

I have a bad habit of waking up so early. Well, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad habit on weekdays. It’s kind of pointless to wake up so early on a Saturday or Sunday like this. But today is not like any other Saturday in my life. I’m waiting for her text. My anticipation is going to kill me if I wait any longer. I don’t know if I should just get out of bed and get ready right away so that I can meet Kayla as soon as possible, or if I should just wait until she sends her text to me so that I can know if she’s serious about hanging out with me and helping me out with my personal problems. Perhaps this could have been one big misunderstanding. Maybe it some kind of cruel joke. What if it’s just something I imagined yesterday. There’s was nobody else at that park other than Kayla and myself. Am I losing my mind? Is Kayla’s absence in my life really that bad for my mental health? Why her? Why not the dozen of girls I’d seen at school, or in college, or in my daily routines? What made her so special to me? I keep asking these questions over and over in my mind. I’ve been obsessed with many things in my life. It never lead to anything good in the end. Oh didn’t forget me did you.

Well, I better get up and get ready either way. If I am not going to met up with her today and it all turned out to be a fluke, I could just move along with my life. Perhaps I can go to the store and look for something to buy. Just to try to be around people. But wait! She gave me her number. Why don’t I just text her myself? I take out my cell phone and check my contacts and sure enough her phone number is there along with her name. Do I really want to be so desperate as to text her just to confirm that she’s serious about all this? What do I even text her? Maybe “Good Morning”. That’s so lame. But It has to be done. My heart and gut is telling me so. Here goes nothing.

“Good Morning Kayla.”

I type out the text and send. I hope I don’t end up regretting this. It might just be a friendly text but I was never good at starting anything when it comes to communication. Not in the real world nor in online communities. I was always afraid of judgment from others. I never held my character in high regard. People were always going to better at me in many ways. My notification tone goes off on my cellphone.

“Good Morning Claude! I’m so excited that you texted me first! You’ve already done well for your first test of courage! I’m so proud of you. Did you sleep well tonight?”

My heart races to see her response so soon. I was worried things might have not as gone as planned.

“First test? I slept alright Kayla. I hope you slept well too.”

There goes my second message and now it’s just a matter of seeing what she sends me next.

“Yeah. I intentionally didn’t text you first because I wanted to see if you really really really wanted my help and friendship. I wanted to see if you were capable of breaking out of your shell and sure enough, my Teddy Bear is braver than I thought. You have no idea how much that makes me happy. But you still have a long way to go. But don’t worry, I have a plan for you today!”

“A plan? What do you have in mind?”

“Oh it’s quite simple. You and I are going to have lunch together. I want to put you into a situation where you might feel some uneasiness and discomfort but it’s going to make you a better man. I promise you. Are you a bad enough dude for the task?”

I sigh in embarrassment. I can hear her enthusiasm just from her texts alone.

“Sure. I guess I’ll meet up with you for lunch. Just send me the location where you want to meet and I’ll drive there in a few minutes. I do have to get ready first.”

“Perfect! So I’m going to text you the address and all you have to do is get your little butt over here so I can help you begin your first lesson of our friendship. See you there Claude.” She followed up by a emoticon of a bear head. I shake my head and reply. “I’ll see you soon Kayla.” God what a dork. Am I talking about her or myself? Good grief, I don’t know anymore.

It’s going to be a breezy day today. Fair enough. I don’t have to wear something stupid like a t-shirt and some shorts. I can wear something to make me feel secure. A light jacket in a gray hue, a simple white undershirt, a pair of black chinos, and my black boots. I look muted, but it’s sufficient enough to be semi-casual. I don’t expect Kayla to be all dressed up for a trip to a burger joint. It’s not like I am on a date on her or something. But I don’t want to seem like a slob to her either. I do my best to groom myself and prepare myself to look somewhat decent. At the same time, I want to be comfortable for whatever lesson plan she has for me. I know for a fact, it’ll involve testing my socializing skills. I can’t make any promises to myself that I would succeed in any way today.

I don’t bother saying goodbye to my mother. She never really cared about me doing anything other than staying home all day. It’s not like she or Dad would be the ones to try to control my life anymore. Not only had they given up on each other, but they in turn gave up on me. It’s not like going out to hang out with a old friend from high school is going to ruin my already devastated relationship with them. They never done anything to help me in my life. I exit my house and take out my keys. This particular car that I drive, A Mini Cooper 3rd generation model, was one that I worked my ass off for. A surprisingly nice daily driver but only if you’re on top of your oil changes and maintenance. The previous owner who had this vehicle never did any of those things and it was a hassle at first to get it up and running. Now it drives like a dream. It’s a quirky car for a quirky man with a history of being neglected and ignored, just like me.

I turn on my engine and connect my phone to my car via Bluetooth. I set up a variety of differently playlists on my music collection to help me drive for certain situations. One to get me energized for going to work, the other for chill driving, and one for out running the police (which never happened by the way). As I pull out from the driveway and head into the public roads, I take note of the location Kayla has given me for our meeting and make my way through to get there. Thank goodness it’s the weekend as there are no cars around. Even if I didn’t have anywhere to go today, it’s not a bad day for some mindless driving. The music playing in my car is so soothing and chill. I had learned to appreciate little moments like this after my college years. Everything tends to be so fast paced now. I always feel like I am being left behind.

At last, I’ve arrived at the burger joint. I check the time and it’s barely before lunch time. I might have got here a little to early. I don’t see Kayla anywhere. I lean my chair back and just look around as I wait for Kayla. There’s not a lot of people this time around. I know these sort of places are always packed during the weekdays. Still, I manage to see a couple of cars pull up onto the parking lot and see all sorts of people. Families with kids running around while their parents try to keep them under control, some couples that don’t even look like they should be together. The occasional old people. Why do I feel like they are so insignificant in the grand scheme of things and yet they are living life as it was intended to be lived: around others. It pains me to watch them in their normalcy. If that’s supposed to be the status quo, the bare minimal, why wasn’t I capable of achieving the same thing? It’s not like I ever had grand dreams to begin with. I just wanted a college degree, a decent job, and maybe a loving family. Why couldn’t I get any of those things. What did I do to deserve this? I feel like the bugs and critters that live in the dirt live a more fulfilling life than I do. I wouldn’t mind re-incarnating as one of them if I could. It would certainly give me more purpose in life to be scavenging for food, and potentially reproduce than it is to be living as a failed human being.

I see a small crossover pull up onto the parking lot and a familiar girl hops out from it. Kayla. She’s so cute. She’s wearing a jean jacket, a white tank top and a knee length skirt in a red color. He hair is loose and frilly. She definitely wanted to put more effort in her look but still retain her casual look, in the same manner I did. I don’t want to stare at her from my car for too long. I have to let her know I am here. I get out of my car and wave to her. “Kayla. I’m here.” I call out to her. She smiles back at me and approaches me. “Thank you for showing up Claude. You look handsome today.” I can feel my checks warm up from her compliment. “Thanks Kayla. It wouldn’t be the first time you called me that.” She nods her head. “Oh right true true.” “And besides, you look great too Kayla.” She gives off a nervous laugh as she nudges me on the shoulder with hers. “Oh now you’re giving me compliments. You’ve grown up so much! How do you not have any friends?” “I asked the same thing Kayla.” I replied back. “So what are we doing here?”

“We’re having lunch smarty pants!” Kayla smirked at me as she stood in front of me as she directly talked to face to face. “But I have something I want to you do first or you don’t get to eat with me. Think of this as your baptism of fire. The first step towards become socially confident.” She points towards the entrance of the burger joint. “I want you to go up the cashier and order food for the both of us.” “Is that all Kayla?” I interjected. “I don’t have any problems making orders unless It’s something really drawn out.” Kayla shakes her head. “I don’t want you to just order. I want you to make small talk with whoever the cashier is.” I nod as I hear her out. “Oh okay...we’ll that’s going to make things difficult. I’m no good at small talk.” Kayla makes an attempt at being encouraging. “You don’t have to good at small talk to succeed. All you have to do is open that little mouth that you have and say something. Anything. Like the weather or what your plans are for the day. The point is, you don’t want to hold back. Worst case, they’ll just ignore you. Best case, you don’t die when you talk to the cashier.” She makes it sound easy on paper. Just say anything about the weather or my plans to the cashier. I already start thinking of the sort of judgment I could get from messing this up in my mind. I’ve seen so many videos on the internet of small talk going totally wrong and the last thing I want is to be on some viral video. But on the other hand, there’s not too many people around this time. If I do mess up, I can just never show up here again and there won’t be too many witnesses here to make it a big deal I hope.

“I can already sense you’re having doubts and fear Claude. There’s no need to. You’re a good guy. You’re not some abomination like you think you are. I believe you to pull this off. Nobody is going to push you down for trying. I certainly won’t. And if they did, well….they’re jerks.” Kayla pats me on the head to re-assure me. This is kind of embarrassing and it’s making my checks blush. “I promise you, you’ll come out just fine if you do it. I’m right here for you.” She releases her hand from my head and motions me to come inside with her to the burger joint. There’s a few people dining in here but there isn’t a line to wait for. I have no choice but to approach the cashiers’ and do what Kayla as instructed me. The cashier in question is a college age girl, tall and lean, wearing her work uniform in a white, red, and blue color scheme and an apron around her uniform. She wears those sort of hippie glasses which are round and have a thin frame around them. Her hair is partially covered by her cap but it’s sort of a dirty blonde tone from the looks of it. She’s not doing much since there’s nobody in line, so she has this bored look on her face. I look to Kayla before proceeding to the cashier counter. “I’m going to do it.” I whisper to Kayla as I approach the cashier counter. “Good day. I would like to place and order please.”

I’m not feeling too bad about placing a simple order, but I have the strange suspicion that this girl might not be as approachable as someone like Kayla. But as expected, she replies back normally. “Of course, what do you plan on buying today? Will you ordering to go or to dine in?” I look at the menu and insist on getting the standard. Just a burger meal with a medium drink. I look to Kayla and ask what she wants and she tells me she’ll get the same. As she starts taking down our orders and preparing to give us our price charge, Kayla nudges my shoulder as if to tell me that I should speak up now. “That’ll be $15.99.” The girl behind the counter tells me. I am about to hand her my debit card when Kayla steps in and pitches in for the both of us. She looks at me and smiles but doesn’t say much. I wanted to stop her as I felt I wanted to pay out of courtesy but now I think she’s doing it because it would make me feel bad if I didn’t do the one thing I was hesitant to do. Engage in small talk with the cashier. “My friend here is an old friend from my high school days. We both used to be in marching band.” I said unassumingly. Deep down, I felt a twitch in my throat that almost made me stutter what I had just said. I am trying my hardest not to show it, but I really want to hurry up and get a table for Kayla and myself. I don’t want to seem like I am wasting this cashier’s time. I’m starting to regret speaking at all. I want to look away in shame.

“Oh wow. It’s about time I met some other former band nerds around here. I could had sworn they all disappeared. Which high school band were you two in?” No way. She didn’t back down from my small talk. She’s even a former marching band student herself! “We went to Eastland High. Buccaneers.” I spoke in a more comfortable tone. The cashier seemed excited to tell us about her time in band. “I went to your rival school. Stanley’s Memorial.” I think we might have seen each other’s shows at some point. You guys were one of the better bands around here. I’m quite jealous myself. I used to play French Horn back then. What about you two.” “Alto Saxophone.” I replied back. “My friend was the one upperclassman that looked after me. I guess you can say, she still does.” I say as I look at Kayla who’s smiling at my remark. “Sounds like you two are quite close. It’s not often high school friendships last into adulthood. But you two should invite me into your little group sometime. I’m Bernadette by the way.” She tells us as she offers the two of us a handshake. “I’m Claude. Nice to you meet you Bernadette.” “And I’m Kayla. It’s a pleasure to meet another band nerd. Is it alright if I call you Bernie?” Bernadette smiles and nods her head. “Oh, absolutely. My band mates used to call me Bernie back then. I think it’ll be a pleasure to be called that again.” I swear, Kayla and her nicknames have a certain way when it comes to charming people. It’s like a natural ability of hers. “Well I work here on weekends when I’m not in my lectures. I’d be more than glad to hangout with you two.” She hands over our receipt but not before writing her phone number on it. “Just give me a call or text and I’ll be right over. Oh and you’re order will be out shortly.” “Thank you Bernie. We’ll keep that in mind. See your around then.” I say as Kayla and I find a table for the two of us to dine together. Kayla has the biggest smile on her face that I’d ever seen. I can hear in almost squealing in excitement behind her mouth.

“My little Teddy Bear did it!” She blurted out with joy in her voice. She couldn’t help but pat my head repeatedly. “See. I told you it wouldn’t be so bad. You even made a new friend. You’re moving up quickly Claude. I’m so proud.” “Yeah but that was extremely terrifying for me. I was so worried what to even say and well, just talking about you was the first thing that came to mind. I hope you didn’t mind bringing you along for the conversation.” “Oh don’t sweat it Claude. I’m happy to be part of your new friendship group. Soon we’ll be one of the most popular ones around town!” “God, that sounds terrible.” I said jokingly. “It is terrible...terribly exciting!” Kayla cheerful said as she calmed herself down. “You should be proud of yourself Claude. But don’t consider the meal we are going to have as the reward for doing what you did. The real reward is the friends we’re going to make along the way. “Of course Kayla.” I reply back. “Still,I was a little concerned about you paying for the meal. You didn’t have to do that for me.” “No problemo Claudo.” Kayla said playfully. “I wanted to cover the meal because you are my friend and I want to help you out, even in the little ways. You don’t have to feel indebted to me. Seeing you overcome your fear was worth the price of admission.” I smirk and chuckle softly. “Oh and your laughter is so cute. You should always smile and laugh more Claude. It makes you an even sweeter Teddy Bear.” Our meal finally arrives at the table and right as we’re about to eat, Kayla offers me one more thing to note about. “Still, this is only one of many trials you’ll have to overcome. But it won’t be long until you are finally the social butterfly you’ve always strived to be. Here’s to a successful first step in your journey! Cheers!”

“Cheers.” I tell Kayla before we finally have our meal together.

End of Chapter 2