I’ve commented before that in high school, I typically often lunch alone. It was a combination of back luck (always seeming to have a different lunch period from all of my friends) and an inability to “put myself out there” and find people to eat with. There were some respites from this isolation, however.

I can’t remember how Clint and I ended up eating with Sonja and Grace. I think it was the semester that we had previously been eating with Myron – a lunch companion we felt a strong need to get away from. Yet even that doesn’t make sense. I have multiple memories of the same thing. But somehow, we ended up just eating by ourselves within proximity to Sonja and Grace, who were also eating by themselves. And eventually our pairs merged and the four of us ate and chatted together for a time.

This was a-okay by us because both Clint and I had independently noticed – and discussed – Grace. She was rather cute, if you noticed her, but she had the sort of face that almost seemed designed to be inconspicuous. She wasn’t overweight, but didn’t have much of a chest. A little tall, pale-skinned, but not a thing objectionable about her. She dressed in a peculiar manner partially designed to get attention, but we never got the impression that she really succeeded. You had to be looking for girls like her to notice her. Clint and I did look for such girls. In lieu of girls like Sonja, who I will get to in a second, Grace was the sort of girl we felt we had a shot with and would have been really happy to couple up with. She was shy, however, and so were we, and so it was one of those things that each of us would notice, ask the other if they had noticed her, and then talk about how she was the sort of girl we would notice, be glad to couple up with, and might even have a shot with.

So it seemed fortuitous when we ended up lunching with her. The only problem was, we were also lunching with Sonja. I’d had a couple of classes with Sonja, but hadn’t thought all that much of her. Except that her matter-of-fact, earth-shattering beauty was not coupled with any sort of self-elevation, snobbery, or, for that matter, popularity. She was, after all, eating alone with the invisible Grace. But she was Hollywood star beautiful. If you’d asked me to name the 20 most beautiful girls at our huge high school, she would have probably made the list before we started lunching with her. To put a fine point on it: she wore nail polish. I didn’t care.

And this created a problem. Because as awesome as Grace was – with her unassuming looks combined with outstanding style of dress – she was standing next to a girl that was virtually a model. A gregarious, personally pleasant, intelligent, single model. We both agreed that Grace was much more up our alley (and that, in addition to being quite cute, was also pleasant once you got her talking). Whenever Clint and I had a group of two-and-two, we had the tendency to want to partner up. Not that we had delusions of romantic stuff, but just a pairing. This itself created problems because we’d always hone in on the same person. The Grace, typically. But the Grace was usually next to a girl that was fat, or unpleasant, or pretty but with a bad personality. Here, she was sitting next to Grace.

And so the Invisible Girl that Clint and I had noticed was, in a near-perfect situation, invisible to us again. She made it easy, because she so rarely talked. But it’s one of the things I look back on with a certain perplexity. It’s also one of the things I look back on as evidence that no, I am not too terribly different from most guys. I fall under the spell of the conventionally beautiful – under at least some circumstances – just like the rest.

It’s also one of those things that outlines the positional nature of the relationship market. Partially because Grace’s presence was amplified or muted by who she was sitting next to. Partially, though, because even though Clint and I never denied that Grace was as cool as she was by our own typical standards, we both wanted to be associated with the more desirable person. Even if we had no chance of romance with her, we’d forgo what might have been a legitimate chance with Grace just for the chance to be more publicly associated* with the likes of Sonja.

Just as I don’t remember how the situation came to be, I don’t remember how it broke up, either. It was, for its time, a wonderful pocket of existence. I’d lament that I never got more opportunities like that, except for the fact that we sort of blew it.

Category: Ghostland, School

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