First day of the last year! Finally a college senior. Two easy semesters and then I’m out of here. Time to enjoy the ride. Only three classes this semester, plus a full time job. No reason not to get good grades. What’s first on the schedule? Sociology of the Family. Ah yes, easy class. Took it two years ago then quit on Drop Day for some silly reason. Not my finest hour, that semester. I should cruise through it this time.
Get to class early, grab a good seat, check out the honeys. There’s my spot: second row, middle seat. Not too aggressive, not too passive. In the heart of the action. Sit down, open the paper, act like you’re reading. Let them come to you. Wow, someone saw a plastic surgeon over the summer! Whoa, girls didn’t look like that when I was a freshman. Hello there, it’s that cool chick from Spanish last spring.
“Hey, what’s happening?”
“Hi! You’re still around?”
“Yeah, I’m an X year senior.”
“X year?”
“Sure, X protects me from the embarrassment of revealing how long I’ve actually been here!”
“I see, you’re probably just hanging around for basketball tickets anyway. How was your summer?”
“Flew by. Took two classes, worked full time, took a trip to California for a wedding. Not the plan I had in mind for my last summer of freedom. How was yours?”
“Went way fast too. Had an internship back home in Chicago and took a night class. Wasn’t exactly the most thrilling summer either. I only think I made it to the pool five times.”
Hmmm, looks to me like she made it to the pool plenty. I really should have gone to more of the study groups she hosted last year.
“So, what did you get in Spanish last semester?” she asks with a knowing smile. Like she doesn’t know already.
“Well, I got an A but it was a lucky A.” Chicks dig humility.
“Whatever, you and Sandra had your own little conversations the rest of the class never understood.”
Nice smile, nice laugh.
She leans in and whispers. “Who is that? I should probably know but have no idea.” She points towards the door.
Holy shit! Marshall Phelps! The highest rated basketball recruit to arrive on campus in over a decade! There in the flesh, looking like your average lost freshman. Except he’s 6’7” and weighs more than me and the cutie together.
He’s walking this way. OK, OK, act cool. Act cooooool. What was the line in Pulp Fiction? How did Fonzi act? Something like that.
“That’s Marshall Phelps,” I whisper back. “He’s a freshman. Best high school player in the country last year. He’s the guy that’s taking us back to the Final Four.”
“Well, I figured he was a basketball player, but I don’t know them as well as you do.”
“My other hobby, on top of private conversations with Spanish teachers, is memorizing meaningless details about high school athletes.” Another laugh, excellent.
Good God, he’s sitting down next to me. Don’t stare, be friendly, DON’T STARE!
“Hey, ummm, what’s up?” Softer voice than I expected, but he’s probably scared out of his mind. I know I was the morning of my first college class five years ago.
“Hey. Errrr, welcome to campus.” Idiot.
“Thanks, man.”
Awkward silence. Don’t say anything stupid. More awkward silence. Blink.
“Umm, where’d you get that paper dude?”
“This? Oh, you can get them all over campus. I think there’s a bin out in the building entrance. You want mine? I’ve pretty much read the whole thing.”
“Yeah, sure, that’s cool, thanks.”
“No problem.”
“Hello everyone, welcome to Sociology of the Family. I’m excited about the semester ahead and hope you are too. Let’s get started…”
Marshall Phelps is going to be my man!

Damn, running late for class. Gotta get there quick so I can claim my seat. Can’t believe I didn’t say anything else to Marshall on Monday. Pop through the door, still plenty of open seats. Same row as Monday, slightly to the right side of the room this time. Shit, there’s Spanish cutie, one row away, staring right at me. How did I miss her?
“Hey, sorry, I’m out of it today, didn’t see you.”
A weak smile back, no words. Probably blew that, not that I had a chance anyway. Oh well, Marshall’s going to roll in any second and sit next to me. I’m going to find a way to casually mention how impressed I was with his performance in the McDonald’s All America game last year. Then he’s going to ask if he can study with me this semester. Next thing, we’ll be hanging together on weekends. He’ll leave me tickets for road games. I’ll offer to bring him home for Easter.
Two minutes to class.
One minute, grad assistant is setting up at her desk.
Thirty seconds, no Marshall, one seat left next to me.
Class starts, seat taken.
Marshall walks in, takes a seat in the back corner, doesn’t even look at me.

This is based on a couple unrelated events, the first of which I’ve been struggling to write some kind of fictional account for at least two years. I even had a 15 page early draft of a short story based on the incident, but hated where it was going and it’s now tucked safely away on a disk somewhere. I needed to write something about it, though, so you, my loyal and dear readers, are subject to the experiment. I don’t claim it to be good, just something other than my regular observations.
Inspiration? The guts of this come from the day Paul Pierce walked into my sociology class when he was a freshman and I was a, well, X year senior. I damn near jumped out of my chair. I looked around and no one else seemed to be paying attention. I had been following Pierce’s high school career for almost two years. The day he committed to attend Kansas, I ran through my parents’ house screaming. And now he was looking for a seat in my class! Nine years later, he’s my favorite NBA player and I missed the chance to latch onto him before he made it. All because he chose seats poorly. The girl angle is based on a real event as well; also a missed opportunity from my college years. A certain symmetry I found ironic.