I was not popular in high school.
The first thing I did when I saw that today’s flash fiction prompt was “legend” was to jot down a list of things that came to mind with that word. Here’s what I wrote at about 3:30 this morning:
- Legends of the Fall
- Legend of Sir Galahad (America the band)
- Ghost sighting/haunting (urban legend)
There’s a little glimpse into the inner workings of my brain (sorry or you’re welcome, not sure which.) Also, I really shouldn’t have any caffeine after about 2PM, because then I don’t sleep. But I digress.
As I continued to mull, I thought of my brother. He is a younger Millennial (he turned 30 about a month ago) and the bro-y-est dude-bro I know (but still love). I imagined him talking about someone he admires and calling them “a fucking legend,” which he has done, and that set the scene for a high school hallway between classes.
This took me forever to write, and it’s long, around 600 words, but I needed this story to be something specific: representation. It’s admittedly a bit forced, but it’s a rough draft, and I feel like I’m doing the writing equivalent of exfoliating—sloughing off the half-realized ideas to get at the smooth, fresh meat of what I really want to write. Until I can get to that, here’s a moment with Matt and Greg.
“Bro, are you going to Jessica’s tonight, or do you want to play Red Dead?” Greg paused with a book halfway between his backpack and his locker and glanced up as his friend Matt settled against the wall next to him.
“I dunno, she said she had a group project due on Friday, but she didn’t say if that meant I shouldn’t come over.” Greg quickly appraised his distorted reflection in the plastic mirror stuck inside his locker door. “I’ll ask her at lunch.”
Matt nodded as the two merged into the torrent of teenagers flooding the hallway. “Just let me know in sixth period. If you can’t make it I’ll join Kyle in Minecraft instead.” Together, they turned left at the end of the corridor and began descending the stairs.
As they turned the next flight, Matt leaned over the railing to glance down the stairwell. He elbowed Greg in the side. “Dude! Look!” Greg craned his neck to see.
One and a half floors below them, leaning casually against one side of the doorway to the cafeteria, his dusty blond hair sweeping across a smooth tanned forehead, eyes twinkling and teeth glistening, was the one and only Jeremy Slater. A legend. He was a senior, the student body president, the top football and basketball star, a straight-A favorite of all the teachers, and a god in the eyes of the two freshmen boys.
“I heard he broke up with Erin last weekend,” Matt said in a low voice. At Greg’s blank look, he added impatiently, “the cheerleader with the red hair.” Greg nodded. It had been widely rumored around school that Jeremy and Erin, who started going out in seventh grade, were going to split. Pretty much everyone had witnessed their fight after the Homecoming pep rally the Friday before. They were King and Queen, of course, but they spent the entire dance on Saturday on opposite sides of the room, and no one had seen them together since.
“I wonder why—” the words to muse at the cause of the relationship’s demise weren’t quite out of Matt’s mouth when a shock of bright blue hair made a beeline for Jeremy. Greg’s eyes widened as the figures below locked lips in greeting, then walked away arm in arm.
“Was that….Owen Garrison?” Matt asked slowly as they pulled back from the railing and rejoined the traffic headed downstairs. Greg nodded. The two trudged in silence for a moment.
At the base of the stairs, they both glanced at the doorway where they’d just seen the king of the jocks kiss the king of the theater kids, then looked at each other.
“So is Jeremy…..gay then?” Matt finally ventured to ask.
Greg shrugged. “I mean, you can, like….like both guys and girls.” He paused. “Or, like, people who aren’t guys or girls.” Suddenly feeling panicked, he looked to his friend for reassurance. “Right?”
Matt considered this. He waved away a thought and said confidently, “yeah, I mean, remember that singer from Bohemian Rhapsody? He was, like, married to a woman, and then had a relationship with another man.” He thought again. “I bet you could have a boyfriend and a girlfriend at the same time, even.” The boys let this revelation hang between them for a beat.
Greg broke the silence. “Okay, well. See you in Geometry.” He strode away, leaving Matt to walk to his next class with his reeling thoughts.