Blue Dragon

In the world of high school, the summer between junior and senior year is a three-month interval of massive, massive change. Also, it’s the first time I’ve ever suspected that I might sort of be flailing my way toward adulthood.

The first major change is the fact that I’ve been hanging out with my school-friends almost every day. Which has never happened before. Before, my School Life and my Real Life have always been distinctly separate—these two independent worlds that rumbled along next to each other, but rarely ever touched.

Now, Wit calls me all the time. We send each other long, rambling emails about society and relationships and God. We talk for hours, and on the weekends, I spend the night at Catherine’s, or go to the midnight cult-classic showing at the college movie theater.

Another thing that’s different is, I have a summer job—not the erratic, free-form job of helping my dad on remodels and construction sites, or a standing appointment to babysit my cousins, but a job like normal people have, where I have a work schedule and a pay-stub and sometimes have to actually talk to strangers.

The way the real job came about is another one of those reflections of how my general personality is becoming different or more proactive or less antisocial or something.

There is a terrible little bar up near my parents’ house, right above the reservoir. I mean, on an objective level, it is just pretty awful, but working there is sort of a local rite of passage. All the neighborhood boys have been dishwashers or prep cooks at one point or another, due to the bar’s convenient location and also the fact it pays above minimum wage. (Barely.)

For the last year, JD has been my acquaintance-friend—one of those people where you nod to each other in the halls and maybe talk on the bus sometimes or pick each other for partners in class, but you never really hang out. Also, I spent the first few months of junior year being scared of him, because even though he’s a grade younger than me, he’s self-assured and outspoken in a dark, gleeful way that lets everyone know right out of the gate that he is pure trouble.

He’s incredibly tall, with bony hands and electric-blue eyes and dark hair and a black T-shirt that says Bad M*****f***** on the back. Because this violates the dress-code to its fullest extent, he’s put a strip of electrical tape through the last part. The tape is three quarters of an inch wide. The word is still completely legible.

The first time I actually talked to JD was in Intro to Art because he sat at the same table as TS and me. Even though we saw him every day, we didn’t really pay much attention to him until the middle of the still-life unit. Our particular assignment involved a giant cardboard canister, a checkered tablecloth, and a wide selection of kitchen implements.

“That teapot is really a pain in the ass,” TS said one morning, poking at it with her paint brush. “Goddamn that spout.”

JD didn’t say anything, just unfolded himself from his chair and yanked teapot out of the still-life.

Then he lifted the edge of the checkered cloth, dropped the teapot down inside the canister, and turned to me. “Is there anything you don’t like?”

“The grater,” I told him. “It has too many openings. It’s fussy.”

He put the grater in the canister on top of the teapot and after that, we weren’t really friends, but we weren’t strangers anymore either.

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