Her, Him, and the Receptionist | Teen Ink

Her, Him, and the Receptionist MAG

January 13, 2009
By SamanthaS BRONZE, Encino, California
SamanthaS BRONZE, Encino, California
1 article 0 photos 370 comments

Our daily jog together. At least I like to think of it as our jog. It’s not like we actually run together, but in close proximity in separate universes.

It is hard to remember the days when we did not run together. My elliptical jogs right behind his treadmill and always keeps up. It would have been so easy to say hi the first time. But with each passing day, it has gotten harder and harder, and now impossible. We have had occasional looks back and forth, but those were probably coincidences. Of course I ­always look at him. As for the times his glance met mine, perhaps something else called his gaze. And I’m way too shy to budge from my routine to approach confirmed rejection. Why can’t he just make the move? I know, that’s a funny one. Look at him and then look at me – especially without makeup!

I don’t turn red from exercising, but I do blush when I’m nervous or embarrassed. So my cover story would be that my redness is from my heavy-duty workouts. After all, I am at the gym. I’m struggling to keep up with myself. My mind is going faster than the elliptical. My fervent fears, my neurotic nerves, my taxing trepidations, my angry anxieties whirling through my brain. Now I’m really dizzy.

Even he has flaws. It’s not like I think he’s perfect or anything. How could he be perfect with shoes that smell like that? He comes close to perfection. And his feet come close to me as he lifts them on the treadmill upwind of my elliptical. Just as my iPod advances to the next song, a wave of toxic air per­meates my nostrils. “Tell me how I’m supposed to breathe with no air? Can’t live, can’t breathe with no air … If you ain’t here I just can’t breathe. There’s no air, no air,” sings Jordin Sparks. Whew, how can I breathe in this air? Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Ahh. How can toxic air be refreshing? But amid these toxins, there is some sweetness. I can just sense it; I have that tingling feeling in my nostrils.

It’s hard for me to hold back a little smile. I can’t get away from it this time. It draws me closer. The occasional silent connection I have with him is worth the foul air I endure. I must be high on either the stench or endorphins, because I don’t believe in drugs. I am exercising longer than usual. I am pumped. I am not getting tired. Exercise is a healthy form of procrastination for what I might do next.

The elliptical bars are sandwiched ­between my palms and my fingers. I am pushing on them with all my strength. Just as I alternately push and pull on the levers – left, right, left, right – my strength to contact him alternates with my fear of rejection. Our closeness has been on a meta­phorical treadmill – no matter how hard I try, no ­matter how fast I run, we don’t get any closer. The counteracting forces of acceptance and rejection are pulling on me equally. I am in equilibrium. I am moving at a constant velocity on the elliptical, but I can’t get myself to move toward him. Physics. Echhh!

I try to look cute in my gym clothes, but it’s hard. The mirror tells me I look fat and ugly. Those are the only things the mirror ever tells me, besides red hair, freckles, Raggedy Anne.

My pink good-luck sweatband hasn’t brought me any luck. I’m going to go buy some new colored ones. I’m getting kind of sick of pink. People must think I wear the same sweaty headband every day, but I have dozens of them from that sale at Costco. I know that’s what he’s thinking when he turns around: freak, loser.

Droplets of sweat drip down my face, ravaging my pores and burning the roots of my confidence. But he gives me a feeling all over my body just by looking at him. So I know it’s worth it.

The odor burns my nostrils, but I can’t resist. I tiptoe into the hallway outside the men’s locker room; one hand holding the heart-shaped Post-It, the other plugging my nose. I see them resting on the wooden bench, right where he left them after “our” jog, laces untied and tongues forming obtuse angles. Why are they here? My hands are shaking and my legs are trembling, but I bite the corner of my lip and stick the note face up in the heel of his right shoe.

I am leaving the gym and I can’t stop thinking about him. Still. I hope he feels the same. But he won’t. I hope he will call. But he won’t. It’s been seven minutes since I put my note in his shoe and put my heart on the waiting list for rejection.

I enter my apartment and begin pacing. It’s been an hour and three minutes. I shouldn’t have done it. He doesn’t like me. It’s ­going to be awkward. No way. I’m not giving in. I’m not going to change my workout routine. But it will be hard to look at him tomorrow. I hope he saw the note before he put his shoes on. If not, I hope the ink doesn’t smear.

***

There she is. I could set my watch by her if I had one. Same gym. Same time. Same workout. Same as me. She never misses a day. I don’t think I ever will either. My mom and dad are both kind of, I don’t want to say chubby, but yeah, they are. I can’t let that happen to me. But I have another reason too.

Crack. Crack. My neck always cracks when I turn my head swiftly to check the clock behind me. At first this was a pain, but then I saw her. When I realized I got to look at her every time I turned to check the time, my neck strain didn’t bother me. I must be discreet. I love looking at her, but I don’t want her to know that her beauty keeps me staring. At least not quite yet. I’m not a stalker, just shy. I want to talk to her. I want to go up to her. But what if she thinks I’m just hitting on her? I’m really interested in knowing her. How is she supposed to tell the difference?

What a cutie. She’s just my type: tall, slender, and I can tell her skin is smooth. The cutest freckles. Milk chocolate eyes. Her gorgeous, wavy red hair is tied is back in a ponytail and she wears a pink headband. She must love pink. She should, it’s her color. Her hair sways with every step. Thank you, pink headband – not a hair is blocking my view of her face.

What I like most is that she doesn’t act like she is beautiful. She doesn’t know how nervous she makes me. She doesn’t know the grace she exudes. She has a story to tell. I want to hear it. But I’m afraid to ask her. Wimpy, maybe. Intimidated, definitely. I feel like I’ve watched the same Candid Camera episode 5,500 times. My failed attempt keeps replaying in my head. With every day that I say nothing, she’s more and more likely to think I’m either gay or I need a watch.

I want to know her name. Seeing her every day for weeks, I refer to her as Pink Headband. How pathetic. I have to know her name. At least for now, it would be easier to ask the receptionist for Pink Headband’s name than to ask her. At least if she refuses, it won’t be as humiliating as a no from Pink Headband.

So I make my way to the desk. I say excuse me to the nerdy girl behind the counter. I have caught her staring at me in the past, but the one time I actually want her attention, she’s preoccupied. I’m the only person here. The phone is resting comfortably on its hook. But she is talking to someone or something nonetheless. I sigh. I’m getting impatient. I feel like I’m hailing a taxi. Waving and waving, and they just drive by. Same with her. I’m waving and that freak seems to be talking to her stapler. Finally I get her ­attention. I ask. She answers. I write “Molly” on the envelope containing my note to the woman I used to know as Pink Headband. I ask the ­receptionist to please give it to her.

As I sit on the bench outside the men’s locker room, I fight my urge to chicken out and retrieve the envelope. I bolt into the locker room to take a shower. The hot water is soothing. Shoot! I left my shoes on the bench. Not to worry. Who would want to steal those smelly old things?

Realizing I must have left my cell phone in my car, I get dressed quickly, jump into my shoes, and leave. I don’t want to miss her call.

***

I hate working at this place. Why do I work here? I need out. I need a work out. I’m so funny. I always laugh at my own jokes. Ha ha ha, snort, snort.

All day I inhale air tainted with the smell of sweat. And no, it’s not me doing the sweating. Oh, here comes Mr. “I’m so much better than you that I won’t respond when you greet me.” I scrunch my nose to push up my glasses, the way I always do when my hands are busy. He’s headed right toward me. It seems like he needs to ask me something. This will be a first. How will he do this and still keep his perfect record of never saying a word to me? Of course, it must be so hard to say “good evening” to someone who has just said it to you.

I can feel my nervous twitch starting up again. My top lip is moving diagonally; my invisible enemy has strung a thread through my lip with his needle. I try to yank it in the other direction, back into place, but it won’t budge.

The name of the girl in the pink headband? Uhhh. The girl in the pink headband! If she’s wearing her pink one today, it must be either Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. Gross. But apparently he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. How sweet. For once he is nice and it is hard to hate him. He writes “Molly” on the envelope and hands it to me. Sure I’ll give it to Molly, all right.

He heads for the locker room; he is out of sight, but he sure isn’t out of my mind. Neither is the favor he asked of me. He wants me to give the envelope to Molly. Sure I will. I’ll be as good at giving this to Molly as he is at responding when I say hello. Actually, better because now my paper shredder’s name is Molly. Molly loves envelopes. She’ll fall bin over wheels!

***

Is there something in my shoe?



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JOIN THE DISCUSSION

This article has 1774 comments.


on Jun. 25 2012 at 7:23 am
kate12345me GOLD, Sydney, Other
11 articles 0 photos 69 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." - Thoreau
"Sometimes you're flush and sometimes you're bust, and when you're up, it's never as good as it seems, and when you're down, you never think you'll be up again, but life goes on."

Literally read this story about...one, two, TEN times!! This is actually so amazing! YOU WRITE SO WELL! I AM JEALOUS. IT WASN'T A CLICHE, EITHER. I loved the sense of humour you brought to it!!! Please keep on writing!!!!!!

Daesha SILVER said...
on Jun. 20 2012 at 4:51 am
Daesha SILVER, Dalby, Other
9 articles 1 photo 28 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everything happens for a reason

Wow! This story is amazing! There should be a Part 2!
Very Creative, it definitely deserves to be in the magazine. :)

buffy said...
on Jun. 16 2012 at 10:56 am
I should have said that promoting a story here is like getting a FREE ad on the suoer bowl.

on Jun. 14 2012 at 9:01 pm
ChelleLynn SILVER, Cold Spring, New York
8 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life does not come with a remote. If I want to change something, I have to get up out of the chair and I have to change it myself.

This story is the best! You use the different perspectives skillfully, and I love how you end it! So awesome :D

on Jun. 8 2012 at 7:49 am
Miss_Brightside GOLD, Defiance, Ohio
16 articles 1 photo 74 comments

Favorite Quote:
It's like she sees the diamond underneath And she's polishin' you 'til you shine. -Brad Paisley. (this goes to my step mom she keeps me going)
If you want a rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.-Albert Einstein

i just hav to say i love these hearts its so kool!!!!!

on May. 31 2012 at 12:36 pm
Wow, I really really love how you put this into three perspectives! Fantastic job! How about writing Part Two? :)

on May. 29 2012 at 3:45 pm
freeflow23 GOLD, Durham, North Carolina
15 articles 0 photos 96 comments

Favorite Quote:
Saul saw Goliath as too big to kill. David saw he was too big to miss.
W.W.J.D.

I kinda like it better. Romance isn't really my favorite genre so my opinion is quite biased.

Layla Green said...
on May. 29 2012 at 2:25 pm
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
do not understand unless it was supposed to say 2 years straight?

Layla Green said...
on May. 29 2012 at 2:23 pm
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
ya. me too 

Layla Green said...
on May. 29 2012 at 2:22 pm
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
was this ever answered?

Layla Green said...
on May. 29 2012 at 2:20 pm
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
I could not find it either

Layla Green said...
on May. 29 2012 at 2:19 pm
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
I enjoyed it more each time I read it

smirk3r said...
on May. 24 2012 at 11:41 pm
smirk3r, Festus, Missouri
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Stand for something, or you'll fall for anything.

This is such a cool story!

I_am_Him said...
on May. 19 2012 at 1:48 am
Chapter 8  (Lots of deep thought)

I_am_Him said...
on May. 19 2012 at 1:46 am
Chapter 7  Molly loved when I said that i named her Pink Headband

Layla Green said...
on May. 18 2012 at 3:03 pm
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
If I get cast for the role I will give the million to charity lol

Layla Green said...
on May. 18 2012 at 3:01 pm
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
At least this is a nice escape while we are waiting.

Layla Green said...
on May. 18 2012 at 2:54 pm
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
I_am_Him is very funny

Layla Green said...
on May. 18 2012 at 2:51 pm
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
This is a wonderful story. The best romantic story and proably the best overall story that I have read on Teen ink.  Please write more

Steffi Rose said...
on May. 16 2012 at 8:49 am
Steffi Rose, Deerfield, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 115 comments
summary most  likely does not mean conclusion because the beauty of jis story is that it only has a conclusion if the reader's mind keeps going.