i first wrote this story almost two years ago. i decided to revise it and publish it in one post rather than the three parts.
“God, I’d wish he’d stop shadowing me,” I breathed when I found out Clark won our section’s Senate seat. “I ran for Law Student Association President so I could distance myself from him!”
Instead, I now get to sit behind him in Torts and before him at Senate meetings. Day and night, Clark all up in my proverbial grill. Wonderful.
What’s wrong, you ask? Well, nothing’s wrong, per se, but I have several issues with him.
Like how he’s never floundered when cold-called. Not once!
He’s cool as a cucumber – I bet his books make that crunchy sound when — I mean, if — he cracks ‘em open. I play clammy Nixon to his calm Kennedy, even though I’m the only one who outlines nightly. I consider my undereye circles as badges of distinction; I hope the professor sees them that way, too.
But, you’re right; I can’t really hate Clark ‘cause he’s not the guy who machine-guns his hand in the air in every class. He’s that guy, the effortlessly brilliant one. What’s worse is that he’s so down-to-earth about it, generous, even.
Clark finds me two hours into my nightly study sessions, right when coffee’s worn off, also when I’m stuck in the umpteenth revision of my case brief. With chai latte or jasmine tea – either being the exact beverage I’m hankering for, oddly enough – in one hand, he drops a final draft on the dark cherry desk with the other.
He plops down across from me and sets out his Apple accoutrements. Nary a source of caffeine.
I pause to skim his brief. Restraining myself from breaking the library’s tense quiet with choice expletives is difficult.
“How long did this take?” I whisper.
My brows furrow at him.
My brows relax.
“Two hours: one to read the case, one to write the brief.”
Before being reincarnated as a 1L, I was an editor so it doesn’t take me long to see that it’s grammatically impeccable. Legal analysis-wise, it’s solid. Worst of all, the brief is… brief.
“You’ve got room to spare,” I say.
“Why not explore other lines of argument?”
“Meh. I don’t need to,” he sighs casually, as he flips his MacBook open.
“’’Kay,” I heave, as I burrow my face back into my casebook for the rest of the night.
I’m armed with my rainbow of highlighters and sticky tabs. Every half-hour I hear a guffaw from his direction; I see the reflection of the viral video du jour off his thick, black-rimmed glasses that I dote on but can’t bring myself to like publicly because they’re decidedly hipster. Why do things I like end up mainstream; why, God?!
While we’re at it, Lord, why can’t I attract men I find attractive?
Is Clark attractive? I suppose he is, objectively speaking. He’s tall and has beautiful, piercing eyes.
He’s most affable; yes, much like Mr. Bingley, but a little chunkier.
I almost pity him. All his intellect, talent, and charisma without the ambition to do them justice. He doesn’t pursue opportunity because privilege is his birthright. He’ll inherit his family’s law firm, so he doesn’t need to hustle to make partner somewhere.
Never mind. I don’t pity him anymore.
My disdain of Clark is no secret to the section and surely he’s too smart not to notice. It’s bad enough our section sings “Clark and Louisa sitting in a tree…”
I chew him out like bubble gum as much as he digs into my side like Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Poor guy ought to be nominated for sainthood. Or diagnosed as a masochist.
He seems to show up right when I’m at my worst: at wits’ end, sleep-deprived, clad in my hoodie and scrubs (I once wanted to be a surgeon). Yet puts up with me with a Chick-fil-A cashier’s smile.
Why can’t he be around when I’m showered, dressed in the dark-rinse jeans that make my ass look good, and well-rested?
No, no, no. Clark would be my pesky brother if I were to have a twin and you don’t date your brother. Didn’t you read the Oedipus cycle? Just thinking about it makes me shudder.
No, I don’t want to be the crazy cat lady. I can’t stand cats.
God and I have an agreement; I’m on the “selective celibacy” life-plan. I have a list of qualities I’m looking for in a prospective mate as well as a pool of prospective candidates. I am open to being paired with those who pass muster but if there are no suitors from said pool, then I do without.
Like how Meg Ryan orders her pie à la mode in When Harry Met Sally. I know what I want and if I can’t have it, I’d rather fly solo than face turbulence with a guy who makes me wanna pull my eyelashes out.
I think it’s a great plan. If I’m not married, then the Lord Almighty gets to keep all of me to himself. A great compromise for all parties.
It is for these reasons I am of the dissenting opinion that Clark would be suitable for me.
“Hey, Louisa,” a voice whispered.
“nabmdslkgjbgasdjk,” I mumbled, trying to wave off the finger prodding my shoulder.
“Louisa May,” the voice repeated.
“Nnghguh,” I groaned.
“Wake up, little woman,” said the voice.
Clark. Of course.
My head shot up, which I immediately regretted. My left cheek was soaked with drool. I’m not sure what was worse: that the man I love to hate saw me at an all-time fashion low or that the drool blurred all the highlighting and notes in my book.
Preparing the speech I was to present before the Graduate Student Council took longer than I anticipated. Now I could barely remember the facts of this case. Jesus, please can I have the gift of learning by osmosis, please?
“Can we talk?” he asked.
“Okay. What about?”
“Could we walk and talk?”
“I guess.” It better be The West Wing multitasking kind of walk.
“By the way, I drew up some talking points for your GSC speech tomorrow.”
“But I already wrote it. What I need is to outline this case.”
“The points are for rebuttal. I also made a copy of my notes.”
Still sleepy, we walk to the little pond outside the library and sit on a bench. Wait, why are we sitting?
“So, Louisa…” he starts.
It was all a delightfully awkward blur, which is sad, because this might’ve been the first time I’ve seen him…human. Vulnerable. Real.
All I remember was how breathless his words left me; they were a cross between Jack Nicholson’s “You make me wanna be a better man,” (As Good As It Gets) and Mr. Darcy’s “I love, I love, I love you, most ardently,” (Pride and Prejudice, 2005).
He said something Jerry Maguire like about completing him and turning his family’s law firm into a legal aid clinic and needing my help to pull it off.
I never felt so asinine yet loved in my life.
“I’m sorry for being a jerk,” I blurted.
“How ‘bout I take you out on a real date, and we’ll call it even?”
“Define ‘out’, and ‘real’,” I asked, making those stupid air quotes characteristic of Dwight, our section’s chief of gunners.
I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to win this final repartee–especially before things between us turned the corner.
“By ‘out’ I mean, not the library,” he said.
“Good,” I said.
“By ‘real’, I mean that I need you not to wear scrubs, unless by ‘scrubs’ you mean those dark indigo jeans you wore during orientation when I first saw you.”
Gahhhh… God, that’s so not fair! Smooth like butter per usual. I hate that! But really, I love it, I do.
“I am amenable to said stipulation,” I said as coolly as I could.
Then we stood up and as we took our first steps, Clark fell. Like, he just bit it. Hard.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. “Just, uh, watch out for that pebble there.”
“That was… bizarre,” I said, as I tried to help him up.
“I blame you,” said Clark, while dusting himself off. “You, Louisa, in all your splendor… rendered me… ‘weak in the knees’ is a gross understatement.”
He grasped my hands, pulled himself up, and said, “You melted my insides.”
“Well, I, uh–”
Then he kissed me.
And I did not object. Not even a little bit.