I'm in Creative Writing this year, in high school. Like the last time I was in the class, two years ago, the first grading period has you writing a multiple-assignment story about one character. Five assignments: one character biography and four stories. Think of each assignment as a chapter.
That's all done now. I threw together my assignments and edited them some. I think this is pretty alright. Please enjoy.
If one has ever been in a Starbucks, or has at least been vicariously, through a film or tv show, then one has certainly seen one guy in particular. One has certainly seen that guy with the pair of skinny jeans, big, jet-black, horn-rimmed glasses, a striped skullcap, two pierced ears, and a pair of Vans. That pale, thin guy with a cup of coffee that he takes a sip from only every now and then, as he's more preoccupied with what he's doing on his MacBook.
That guy is Steve Pop. Or, at least, Steve Pop fits the description.
Steve is a 20-something, fourth-year college student, majoring in photography. He's been snapping pictures ever since he was old enough to hold a Polaroid. He is into capturing all sorts of things, whether it be of people or landscapes, whether it be formal or artistic, and so on and so forth. Along with taking the pictures, he also loves the editing process, which is usually what he's doing on his MacBook.
Steve is very passionate about his photography, and he is quite good at it. It couldn't quite be considered a hobby, considering how seriously he takes it. What would be properly called hobbies are his interests in entertainment and pop culture. He's a big movie-buff who is especially a fan of Kubrick, as well as a music junky with a preference for Alternative and Indie Rock. If quizzed on the two mediums, he would give answers of the utmost precision and accuracy, but if asked, say, how to work a lawnmower, he'd be pretty stumped.
In many ways, Steve's life is going splendidly. He is a New Yorker living moderately comfortably in an apartment, due to a decently-paying job at a movie theater - a job that he enjoys doing. He has always done well in school, which hasn't changed now that he's a college student. His parents are hippies that couldn't be more proud of him, despite his artsy ambitions, and he has a nice little roster of meaningful friends.
Content is the best way to describe his well-being. The one aspect of life that he is missing out on should have made itself known, by now.
Steve has had only been in one relationship, but one that started in tenth grade and lasted for three years. He had been in love with her, towards the end. Her name was Stephanie. She was a writer, and a very gifted one at that. The two shared everything with each other, and supported each other's passions. They also made out a lot, and listened to a ridiculous amount of really good music, and got themselves to the movie theater frequently. He always thought of her as the most beautiful girl he had ever laid eyes on. There was not much at all for him to complain about throughout those three years. It was bliss. But, dear reader, the past tense is being used for a reason.
He has only recently convinced himself that he has gotten over all of that, and hasn't had much luck since. He can be a bit of a flirt, but he has a hard time getting somewhere truly worthwhile from there.
Steve has a lot of good on his plate, and is happy, despite what's missing. His passion for photography and his hard work for school, along with his hobbies and fun movie theater job all keep him busy. His friends fill in the gaps, even though they can't fill them all.
Steve Pop also has a fiendish love for ramen noodles.
Chapter 1: Her Name is Ramona
Steve Pop doesn’t have obsessive compulsive disorder.
He does, however, follow a bit of a loose schedule in his life. He wakes up, showers, and gets dressed. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, he has school in the morning into noon. On each day, Monday through Friday, he has a six hour shift at the movie theater after noon. This means that on Tuesday and Thursday he has time to go to Starbucks before he goes to work. After work, he usually heads home. On Saturday and Sunday, it’s all about taking pictures, and watching movies, listening to music, and hanging out with friends in between.
It’s not a strict schedule. He may head straight to the coffee shop right after he gets dressed in the morning, or he may wait longer. He may casually sip on his coffee and fiddle with his Macbook for an hour, or a half hour, or whatever. But it is a schedule. It’s his story and he sticks to it, dammit.
On this particular Tuesday night, however, he happens to be sitting in Starbucks after work. Contrary to what many believe, Steve realizes how goofy it is that he goes here so much just to barely drink a hot beverage as he clacks and clicks away at his over-priced hunk of white metal. He does it because it relaxes him, but also because, sure, it’s amusing.
He has some pictures pulled up on his computer. He’s currently flipping through pictures of a girl around his age who he met at a park last Sunday.
At the park, on Sunday, Steve is slowly trying to figure out the best way to capture a certain tire-swing on a tree when he feels a tap on the back, and hears a pleasant “Excuse me, sir!”.
He turns around to see a smiling old man, holding hands with what could reasonably be deducted as his wife. “Just curious about what you’re doing. You a professional?”
Steve smiles. “Heh, not really. I’m just a college student. I’m not too shabby, though, if I do say so myself.”
The old man’s wife chimes in next. “Oh, how long have you been interested in this?”
“Uh, well, forever, really. Do you want to see some of my work?”
The two nod their heads. “Oh sure, Chief!” the old man says.
“My name is Steve, buddy.”
“Nice to meet you, Steve. My name is Carl.”
He grabs his smartphone from his pocket, which he always has a folder of samples in to show people.
Steve loves to get others to bloat his ego, so he always tries to choose examples that will work specifically for certain people. He pulls up some portraits he did of his lovely mother and handed the man the phone.
“Man, look at this, dear! You’re quite good, son.”
“You’re too kind, sir. Would you like me to take some quick pictures of you and your wife? It’s on the house, and I’ll email them to you later.
“That would be lovely!” the woman says. “Let’s go sit on that bench, Carl.”
Carl chuckles. “Alright, Dear.”
The two sit down on the bench, Carl on Steve’s right and Carl’s wife on his left, looking at him, awaiting orders. Steve complies, and says “How about, Carl, you grab her left hand with your right hand.” Carl does as he’s told. “Good. Now, ma’am? Put your other hand on top, and then sir, put your other hand on top of that.” They continue to follow orders. “Aright, excellent. Now get comfortable.”
Carl turns, and looks his wife in the eyes. They sit there, looking at each other, their smiles growing as they look. Eventually, the man looks back at Steve, and she lays her head on his shoulder.
“Cheese.” He snaps a picture. “Keep the pose, I’ll do a few. Cheese.” A pause. “Alriiight, Cheese! Good. Is there another pose you’d like to do? I’ll only do one more, because these turned out great.”
Carl turns to his wife, inquisitively. She puts her hand on one of his cheeks, and plants her lips on his other. Steve says “Alright Romeo, look at the ground, over that way,” he points to the right “and give a small smile.” He does as he’s told and she keeps her pose. Three tongue-in-cheek Cheese!’s later, he says “Okay!” and the elderly couple begin to get up and walk over to him. “Ah-ah-ah, you only get to see them when I email them to you. Makes it more exciting.”
“Oh, I see, you’re a good business man, Steve.” Carl says.
“I’m not taking any of your money, though, sir.” Steve replies.
“Oh, bologna. Here ya go, Chief.” The old man hands him a ten dollar bill.
“You’re too kind, Carl.”
“Do you name your pictures?” the woman asks.
“Sometimes, sure. How many years have you two got racked up together?”
“Forty-two.” she says.
“Gesundheit! Now, how many years?” Steve says.
“Real funny, chief. But why do you ask?” Carl replies.
“’Forty-Two Years.’ That’s what I’d call these pictures.”
The old folks give Steve their email address, thank him, and are about to walk away when Steve stops them. “I never got your name, ma’am!”
She turns and smiles. “My name is Stephanie.”
Steve’s genuine smile changes to an awkward, forced one, rather quickly.
“I got a name change when I was younger,” she continues, “which is why it isn’t something old like Mildred or Eleanor.”
“You got a special someone, Chief?” Carl asks.
“Uh, no, not at the uh, not at the moment.”
“That will change, boy. Don’t worry about it.” Old Stephanie tells Steve. With that, the couple walks away, holding hands as they do.
Steve is left alone to stare at his shoes, made uncomfortable by the coincidence of Old Stephanie’s name. A coincidence that brings back bad thoughts.
And then, a girl walks up to him, and says, “What, man, is Stephanie the name of your ex or something?” This surprises Steve. He jumps a bit. She giggles.
He struggles to swallow before he speaks. “Uh, did I have an audience?”
“You could say so.”
He is paralyzed by her beauty. “I guess you want me to take pictures of you, ma’am?”
“Would you like that, dude?” She smirks.
He pauses, looking past her head. Eventually, he says “Uh, yeah, I would like that, actually. You read me, ma’am.”
“Oh, aren’t you something. Call me Ramona.”
Chapter 2: Her Plan is Confrontation
Steve Pop does not have narcissistic personality disorder.
He does, however, enjoy feeling good about himself on a regular basis. And there is nothing wrong with that. One thing that makes him feel good about himself is his photography work.
He begins work on one of the pictures of Ramona that he has pulled up on his computer. He admires her smile, but decides that the retake looks better, so he pulls that up instead. Her smile is even better in that one. It still manages to make him feel nervous when he sees it.
“So how do these little photo-shoots work? Your name is Steve, right? Steve-o?!”
“What’s your deal?” Steve says, half-jokingly, half-nervously.
She loves this, and she laughs, and she decides to ignore the question beyond that. “We just doing whatever I want, or what, Steve-o?”
“Uh, yeah, whatever you want, Ramona. Do you know what you want?”
“I always know what I want, bub. How about by that tree?”
“You wish is my demand. Pose how you like.”
She takes her right hand and wraps her fingers around her chin, and her smile fades to a faux-serious expression. “This is my impression of you,” she says.
“How long were you watching me?” Steve asks.
“Oh God, don’t worry, dude. I just saw you acting all cute and charming with those old folks, and I caught your name, and I waited my turn. Nothing creepy.”
“But you are…” he snaps a picture, with her still keeping the faux-serious face, though toned down a bit, “… but you are flirting with me, aren’t you?”
“It wouldn’t be crazy to make that assumption, Steve-o. I guess I’m just attracted to nerdy little photographers that have a way with the soon to be deceased.”
“Oh, you’re...” he snaps another picture “… just too much. You’d be cute if you weren’t so forward.”
“Do we got a dominant male here? You gotta be in control of how this rodeo is run, huh?”
“Yeah I don’t exactly think that ‘professional photographer’ really screams of breadwinner, just as a bit of an example,” he says, “so I wouldn’t worry about that, my dear lady. Now do a new pose, you’re hurting my feelings with this brilliant satire piece you’re doing, criticizing a misrepresentation of my demeanor.”
“You don’t write too, do you? Oh boy.” she replies.
“What, as in, like, in addition to my photography, or are you, do you write and you’re asking if I also write?” he manages to spit out. He laughs at how oddly awful that came out.
She pauses for a bit, and then laughs herself. “Yeah, after that one I think I can say that you’re not a writer. I won’t answer that poorly phrased interrogative, but I will say that yeah, I write. That’s my deal. I do that. I keep an online journal expressing all of my oh-so-very important political views and music taste, but I mostly write poetry and fiction. I’m one of those.”
He pauses, again. Some more discomfort hits him, just the same as when he learned that elderly lady’s name.
“Oh, she was a writer, too? Stephanie?” Ramona says.
“Dammit, Ms. Writer, stop reading me like you wrote me. How can you figure me out so easily?”
“Well, actually, I was just joking about Stephanie being the name of your old ex. And I was continuing the joke by guessing that she was a writer. But your demeanor tells me that I maye be strangely quite accurate. Am I properly representing said demeanor?” she says.
“Uh, check mate?” Steve sheepishly utters. “How about you do another pose? Something that represents you, not your ‘Steve-o’ impression.”
She listens, and decides to stretch out her arms at the top of the bench where her back is resting. She opens her eyes wide and forms her lips into a partial smile.
A feminine giggle.
“Cheese number two.”
A feminine giggle.
Followed by a masculine giggle.
“I think these look pretty nice, Ramona.” Steve says.
Ramona replies “Am I pretty, Steve-o?” and then goofily winks her eyes like a Looney Toons character.
“Oh sure, Ramona. I can say that.”
“How about you abandon your photo-shoot for now? It’s getting mildly dark. We could go do a thing.”
“Am I allowed to ask you out, or would that be too patriarchal for you?” he jokes.
“Oh, I’ll let you. We better be going somewhere good, though.”
Starbucks is where Steve has his personal, solo happy-time. So that’s out of the question. Movie Theater is too much for a first date, he figures. He gets an idea.
“Would it be cute if I asked you to someplace stupid like Subway?” Steve asks.
“That is probably the worst idea I have ever heard in my entire life.”
“Oh come on don’t you…” but then Steve is cut off.
“We’ll do Wendy’s.” Ramona interjects. “It’s so much better. Unhealthy fast food is one of my favorite things.”
“How do you maintain that totally rocking physique with such a love of unhealthy fast food?”
“Enough flattery, Steve-o. Off to Wendy’s we go for our first official romantic outing.”
Chapter 3: Her Order is Nuggets
Steve Pop does not have an eating disorder.
He does, however, not eat a whole lot. Additionally, when he does eat, it’s usually something that is rather healthy. He’s on the low end of healthy, tipping towards underweight. This is why, as he sits in Starbucks, editing the pictures of Ramona, he only slightly nibbles away on the muffin that he’s calling his lunch.
He wonders when she’ll arrive.
In Wendy’s, there is a meal of processed meat and french fries in front of Steve, which he’s chipping away at with little to no protest. Further away from him is a ten piece chicken nugget meal, with a medium order of fries and a regular-sized vanilla frosty. This isn’t his meal.
He looks at Ramona and says “You’re not going to…” and then she goes and does it. She dips one of her french fries in the frosty, and then bites off the bit with the ice cream and begins to chew. He takes a boring bite of his boring cheeseburger. “Yeah, you did it. That’s one of the worst things a person could do.”
“Hey, Steve-o,” she says with a giggle, “Eat your lame-ass cheeseburger and fries.” With that, she picks up three fries, and takes a small bite into all three.
“I would have asked for a burger without the cheese, just because I don’t need any additional cheese in my life,” another boring burger bite, “but I feel like I have to be a little adventurous around you, Ramona.”
“What is that even supposed to mean? Am I really coming on that strong?” she replies. Her expression as she says this is mostly her normal, confrontational-yet-comical expression, but with a touch of serious concern.
“Oh, don’t worry, it’s interesting. It’s nice to get attention like this.”
“I think I’m going to continue to make things awkward for us – well, for you,” she smiles, then bites a nugget, then continues, “alright Steve-o? Since it’s already been brought up, let’s continue to discuss Stephanie.”
The uncomfortable demeanor that always manages to hit Steve like a brick to the face returns. Then he forcefully injects some calmness back into his system, and looks just as he did before she was brought up. “You know, for some reason, I’m going to indulge your completely inappropriate thrust of curiosity. She was a girlfriend I had back in high school. My only legit girlfriend. I was in love. We were together for a few years.”
“And then what happened?”
“She just said she wasn’t feeling it anymore. That’s what was screwed up about it, ya know? It’s like, what did I do?” he manages to say.
“This seems a lot more serious than I expected. I thought it was just a dumb little thing, and that you’re just kind of awkward and cute about it.” she says, her somewhat silly way approach now completely gone.
“Yeah.” he replies, simply. “Am I still cute, though?” he jokes.
Now she’s back to her comical self, just toned down nicely. “Yeah, you’re still awkward, too, just in a different way I guess.”
The two exchange glances, in a span of a few seconds. She makes this half-grin that slowly grows into a full smile. His flatly positioned lips spring into a full smile much quicker. He snorts through his nose. She begins to laugh, in response. And then he does. Soon enough, the two of them are having hearty chuckles, over their meals of fast food, in Wendy’s, over something that they’re not even surely aware of.
“Good God.” Steve is barely able to say, over his laughter.
“Yeah,” she struggles to say, “this is a pretty remarkable thing we got going right now.”
A short, fat boy, probably age ten or so, stares at them blankly as he munches away on a french fry. His tired looking mom tells him to stop.
Steve and Ramona are away of this, and they don’t care.
“So let’s talk about your writing. You write fiction?” Steve says.
“Oh yeah. I love writing. I love reading, too.”
“So what kind of writer are you? Do you plan your plots out from the start, or do you create characters and a scenario and then just go?”
“I write like I live my life, Steve-o.” she says, enjoying the question.
“So you just go with the flow when you write?”
She laughs as hard as she was laughing before. “Oh no, contrary to how things have been going, I follow a plan.”
He laughs hard enough to match her. And then he makes direct eye contact and says “So what’s the next step of this current plan?”
“Well, it’s darkish now. This day is coming to a close. We’re going to go for a walk after we finish our meals. Darkish city-walks are pretty romantic.”
Chapter 4: His Life Makes More Sense
Steve Pop does not dislike Ramona. In fact, he’s quite taken by her.
The problem with some girls he encounters, he finds, is a distinctly boring personality. The kind who just kind of sit back and let the guy make the decisions, and don’t have much of interest to say. That is certainly not Ramona. She has been making all of the decisions so far, and she’s not what he would call conventional, which pleases him This pleasure removes him from the complacency he’s been experiencing with romance.
Right now, the duo is on its walk, in the streets of New York – the walk that was agreed upon at Wendy’s. A layer of mild commitment has been added, as the two are holding hands. This is kind of a big deal, or maybe it isn’t; Steve isn’t sure. It’s around 6:00 PM, which means it’s a bit dark outside. This is kind of romantic; at least according to Ramona. Which is kind of a big deal. The two have been talking about a myriad of things. Mostly about Ramona, to combat the large amount of conversation about Steve. The conversation continues.
“… so in conclusion, I submit that Tumblr is fantastic social networking website.” Ramona says, finishing her diatribe.
“Uh, yeah, I love Tumblr. I have two Tumblr blogs. One is an epic dump of my pictures, another is for all of the stupid reblogs.” Steve replies.
“I love stupid reblogs.”
“Yeah, stupid reblogs are pretty great.”
Steve takes a bit of a tighter grip on her hand, and gets them across the street. This puts him in charge of their direction, at least temporarily. She notices this.
“That’s awful.” she kids.
“Sorry. Ramona. Yes?”
Showing no signs of reserve, Ramona dives back into heavy subject matter. “What’s exactly been stopping you from finding a neat little girlfriend since this Stephanie girl? There’s no way you’re that attached to her. Seems to have been a good bit ago.”
“Well, it’s not like I haven’t been trying.”
“Well, what’s screwing you up?” she replies
“If I knew I probably wouldn’t keep screwing up, right?”
“Eh.” she shoots back.
“Eh?” he asks.
“You probably have at least a decent idea of what your problem is.” she says, matter-of-factly.
“I guess I might be trying too hard?”
“Oh, I know exactly what your problem is, now.”
“How?!” he asks angrily, but a produced, funny kind of anger. Before she can give a response he expects to be snooty, he adds, “I guess, also, these girls I meet aren’t like you. They don’t try to figure me out on the first date.”
She laughs. “Who said this is a date, Steve-o?” With that cheeky comment out of the way, she gets back the dominant grip and takes the two of them to the right, around a corner. “I think,” she starts, “I think, that you’re really, really concerned about getting yourself into a relationship that totally works, because you’re really afraid of repeating that old nonsense. And it just doesn’t work, and then you get sad, and then you have to take pictures of people that are about one-hundred and fifty-million times closer to death than you are, but still a billion times happier than you.”
He starts to get slightly annoyed. A genuine, slight annoyance, that is - not a funny kind. He says, “So you’re telling me that my problem is that I’m trying hard to make a relationship work?”
“Probably,” she replies, simply.
“How does that make any sense?”
“It makes total sense.”
She produces a cute, pretend-frustrated sigh. “You seem to make things stressful and serious, like, immediately. That blows. You have your eyes set far too much on the goal. You should just, like, have fun, you know?”
“I don’t really work that…” he begins to reply, but she cuts him off.
This makes her laugh. “I think you can, Steve-o. Start by letting go of my hand. We didn’t need to be holding hands. I don’t mind, it’s kind of alright, but it’s unnecessary.”
He releases his grip. He feels kind of dumb. This can be seen in his expression. She notices this.
“Steve-o, it’s fine! We’re all fine. I still think you’re quite swell. Just, I don’t know, think less? Stop worrying about things working out, and just enjoy yourself. Enjoy your life. Don't complicate things. ”
He barely manages a pathetic smile.
“Dooo ya’ know what I mean, Steve-o?” she says, while wiggling his chin with one of her fingers. He laughs. He has to. And she also has to, dammit, so she does.
“Steve, how about this. On Tuesday, at seven? Let’s go back to the park. That fit into your busy schedule, Parker?”
“It can! Meet me at Starbucks at like six fifty-five and we’ll go?”
“It’s a date,” she says.
Comfortable in his seat at Starbucks, on Tuesday evening, at 6:55 PM, Steve decides that he’s done editing the pictures of Ramona from their first encounter. They look great if he does say so himself. Almost as soon as his MacBook tells him that the time is 6:56 PM, she enters. He puts his computer in his handbag, throws his empty cup in the trash, and they make their way back to the park.
He sits on the blanket that Ramona decided to bring, as she lies. She signals him with her eyes to lay himself down like she is doing. So he does.
It’s dark enough that stars can be seen. The two have pleasant debates about which stars form which animals. One group of around seven stars looks to Steve like a frog. She disagrees, claiming it looks like a praying mantis. On that one, they agree to disagree, but once the two move on from animals and start seeing other objects, they get a little more invested in their interpretations. A group of eight looks like a truck to Steve, yet she says it looks like a notebook.
Eventually they move on from talking about the stars, and talk instead about other pointless nonsense, because that’s what this is. They want nothing more than to talk about things that don’t matter at all, like how neat Ramona thinks Steve’s shoes are, and how rad he finds her hair.
Soon enough, they lock eyes, and they kiss. She initiates this kiss, but Steve is the one to put his hand on her cheek.
Steve and Ramona do not ever work out and become an actual couple, dear reader. But this doesn’t bother Steve one bit.