Things that have only a little to do with this story:
Things that have much more to do with this story:
- Other stuff. (You’ll see)
Johnny liked making lists, and made his first one when he was three years old. It said:
- Get up.
- Go downstairs.
- Eat cereal.
- Pick up bowl.
- Put in sink.
And as soon as he made the list he scratched off the first two entries:
- Get up
- Go downstairs.
Because he had already done those.
As life went on, Johnny started making more accurate lists, like:
- Get pen
- Get paper
- Make list
- Grab backpack.
- Get bike from garage.
- Open garage door.
- Get on bike.
- Ride to school.
And so on. He kept these lists in notebooks, scratching off each item as he finished it, keeping the notebooks on a shelf in his room. When that shelf was full, one Saturday he and his dad put up a second shelf.
Some lists were longer-term:
- Graduate high school.
- Get into Yale, or at least the University of Illinois at Chicago (Safety).
- Get degree in biology.
- Get advanced degree in chemistry.
- Get job in lab in San Diego.
- Look up Hester.
- Show her her list.
- Show her my lists.
- Show her THIS list.
- Marry her.
He made that list when he was 14. It was in a yellow notebook he’d bought the same day he made the list. Hester had been in front of him in line, buying some comic books and things. Johnny had stood behind her as another girl, Ellen, had come up and started talking to Hester. The girls paid him no attention; he was younger, and not cool like they were.
“Who are these for?” Ellen asked Hester, pointing to the comics.
“They’re for me,” Hester said. Johnny had looked at them. On the front of one a man in a leather jacket slashed his knifelike claws at aliens. On another one Spider-Man hung from the wing of an airplane. Those were all he could see. He listened while Ellen questioned how Hester could read comic books, why she wore her hair like that, why she wasn’t going to the dance that Friday. Hester had answers for all of the questions. Johnny admired that.
In one of his lists, one of the ones he’d made when he was very young, was this entry, not yet scratched out:
- Get answers to the questions.
Hester dropped a piece of paper as she put her purchases on the counter. She didn’t notice. Johnny picked it up, and written on it was:
- Get comics.
- Pick up milk.
- Go home.
Outside the store, the sun was bright.
Johnny squinted up the street, down the street. He stepped back into the shadow of the overhang, brushed his bangs out of his eyes.
Across the street Hester was waiting for the bus. Ellen was standing next to her. They were sharing a cigarette. As he watched them, Hester looked over at Johnny, met his eyes. Johnny tried to will his windbreaker into being a leather jacket. He tried to wish himself two inches taller (at least). In his mind he ran through all the things he needed, wished he could write them down:
- Leather jacket.
- Ability to drive motorcycle.
- Ability to walk across the street and talk to Hester.
- Be two years older.
His list felt disorganized. He didn’t have a pen. He felt like for sure she would need him to have those things, felt like she already must have that kind of list in her own room, somewhere, maybe a notebook with a pink cover.
His mind focused as Hester’s lips…
… blew him a kiss?
No no way no way, he thought
She brought the cigarette up to her lips and met his eyes and in her eyes he thought he saw that the whole smoking thing was a cover for “actually yeah she had smiled at him.”
“What’re you looking at him for?” he heard Ellen ask.
“He’s all right,” said Hester and the bus came and Johnny watched it drive away, not remembering until after it was gone that it was the bus he’d planned to take, too.
In 2013, Briane obsessively kept track of every book he read, movie he saw, television show he watched, comic strip he laughed at and otherwise each interaction with pop culture he had for the entire year. Then, in March 2014, he deleted the list without ever doing much about it. So what was the point? Anyway, he also blogs at “Thinking The Lions,” and has books available on Amazon.
Photo by Ivaan Kotulsky (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGirl_with_squeegee%2C_north-east_corner_of_Queen_Street_West_and_Bathurst_Street.jpg) via Wikimedia Commons.