Defying the Status Quo
Updated: Apr 14, 2021
On Valentine’s Day, a girl dresses up, steps out of her comfort zone, and defies the status quo. What will the outcome be?
February 14 is the day she chooses. It’s only fitting that she does this with February 14 being the official day of love. For her, February 14 remains uneventful. Love is a feeling she experiences vicariously, an emotion she studies in others and in novels. Love isn’t exactly the emotion she thinks she feels now. It’s a crush. It’s temporary. It’s sudden. It’s what she once felt towards a friend in basic six and later, toward a classmate in secondary school for five years.
Love-hate is how she would describe her relationship with crushes. Or crushing. It’s an unexpected feeling that finds her at unpredictable moments, an emotion that is simultaneously exhilarating and disappointing. Fickle is what she would call it. Sometimes cold. Sometimes hot. Sometimes joy. Sometimes sadness.
Joy when she thinks her crush’s eyes meet hers deliberately across the heads that separate them in the cafeteria. Joy when he’s there just as she walks in, surrounded by friends digging into the cafeteria’s offerings for the day. Her entrance is perfectly timed, as she has memorized his pattern and knows what time of day she will find him here. Sadness when her class runs a little later than scheduled, and she misses him.
He moves swiftly, so she barely has enough time to study him. Or perhaps it’s due to her shyness, she struggles to keep her eyes fixated on him for more than a few, fleeting seconds. Her eyes momentarily catching his smile, wide, bright, inviting.
Sometimes if she looks long enough, she catches his mannerisms. The way his arms shake vigorously when he tries to make a point, fingers stabbing the air. The way his laugh reaches his eyes when someone makes a joke. The manner in which he slaps a friend’s back disapprovingly when they say something she assumes is inappropriate. Sometimes, she catches herself wondering if any of his conversations center around her.
This emotion she cannot yet term love is punctuated by stark opposites, ironic juxtapositions. How can her heart vibrate with such intensity for a person whom she barely knows? How can a stranger engender such potent feelings of familiarity when she snoops around on social media and engages her mind with pictures of him, memorizing the structures of his face, his defined jaw, his confident pose?
She has been down this path before, and it amazes her how a novice like her in the matters of love possesses a heart that can shift so strongly for another. But the fickleness scares her. The disappointment that should be anticipated muddles her mind.
She knows silence to be the status quo, for girls didn’t tell boys their feelings, and for her, expressions of love—not love, crushing, but what felt like love sometimes—doesn’t come easy. Sometimes she dislikes that part of her. The part that hinders her from meeting his eyes head on when she passes her plate to him before scurrying away, headed for organic chemistry class or tutoring sessions or whatever else occupied her days as a student.
But preparation is a strength of hers and so she channels this strength toward her decision. February 14 is the day she defies the status quo. It’s the day confidence supplants fear, the day silence gives way to expression, the day she lets her emotions burst from her chest where they have been held captive, locked away from his knowledge. February 14 is the day she chooses to confess her feelings to the boy who is constantly swimming through the rivers of her mind.
Evening, 7 pm to be precise, she finds herself seated in the far right corner of the cafeteria. She watches as students thread past tables and chairs, moving her head ever so slightly to the hum of trap music, trying to quieten the uneasiness in her stomach. The contents of her plate remain uneaten. She resists the urge to walk past the kitchen where she is sure he's sorting plates in preparation for washing. She did that three times already, stalling, buying time, questioning her decision, deliberating the scenarios in her wavering mind.
Scenario one. She walks up to him, confesses, and he expresses a similar sentiment. Perhaps, he’ll ask her to watch a movie with him for Valentine’s Day, attempt to know her more. Scenario two. She walks up to him, confesses, he laughs in her face, calls her pathetic, and waves her off. Scenario three. She walks up to him, confesses, and he simply walks off, leaving her standing there, toes curling, shame swirling around her face.
Uneasiness builds even more, and she decides to just get it over with. The consequences be damned. She picks up her purse, smooths her hair, straightens her clothes, and positions her legs in purposeful strides, walking past the queue of students requesting pizza, past the chefs serving mac and cheese and toward the kitchen. She hovers at the entrance, gathering courage, squelching anxiety. She rubs her palms against her jeans, sweat seeping into them.
She hears the sounds of clanging dishware and moves even closer, knowing she’ll see him soon, that her confession is only moments away. She finds him sorting plates as expected, apron dangling from his waist, arms bulging and flexing with purpose. He isn’t in there alone. Another boy is sorting cups and cutleries.
“Excuse me,” she calls out in the strongest voice she can muster.
He turns almost immediately. A look of confusion crosses his face. It becomes even more pronounced when she asks, “Can I talk to you really quick?”
He looks at the other boy as if conveying his confusion about what’s going on. Her confidence wavers when the other boy laughs, but she gathers more courage, straightening her shoulders as he approaches.
“I won’t take much of your time,” she says when he’s standing in front of her. His brows meet in the middle of his forehead. He searches her face for clarity.
And then the words she practiced for weeks roll out, “I have a crush on you. I-I just wanted to tell you that.”
She expels the words in quick succession and waits for his response, her heart thumping. His confusion dissolves into something she can’t quite place. There’s a hint of a smile.
“Oh. Uh…I actually wasn’t expecting that,” he says, the smile shifting to his caramel-colored eyes which she thinks look even more alluring up close.
“Yeah. I just wanted to tell you that.” She waits again but isn’t sure of what she’s waiting for. Reciprocity?
“Well, I think it’s bold of you to tell me,” he continues, and she wonders if this is something she should be proud of.
He asks questions. Questions like what year she’s in and what her major is. Questions that don’t dig deep but skim the surface. When he asks what she’s doing for Valentine’s Day, something flashes before her eyes. A wish come true. A future with him.
Later that evening, 9 pm finds them in the parking lot of an almost-crowded movie drive in. Queen and Slim fades into the background as they turn to each other. His hand finds hers in the dark, and her fingers mesh with his.
By Oreoluwa Oladimeji
Oreoluwa Oladimeji is an MPH student at Drexel University. Originally from Nigeria, she enjoys penning down her thoughts in the form of stories. She has been published in African Writer and was a semifinalist in the Tulip Tree New Writers Story Contest in 2019. Her work is forthcoming in the Kalahari Review, The Meadow, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and Please See Me.