Pen to Paper: Variability

It’s simply fact that, when given two variables, they mix, group, add, subtract, and sometimes even multiply. This is why, when given the opportunity to tutor the heavenly Lena Geller in algebra, Scotty volunteers. Logically, he reasons, when there are two variables such as a Scotty and a Lena in an equation, they must interact. Somehow. Scotty picks a table nestled in the back of the library, a table notorious for clandestine activities between classes, which the new classmate Lena Geller wouldn’t know. Not yet, anyway, and Scotty smiles. He’d smiled earlier too, when the balding math teacher suggested exchanging cell phone numbers to facilitate logistical planning for the sessions. She is number fifteen in his phone. He is number three hundred and seventy eight in hers.

Scotty rushes from his final class to claim the back table in the library when the final bell rings, and shoots off a quick I’m here, back table in the library 🙂 text to Lena. She doesn’t reply and Scotty waits, three minutes, seven minutes, Maybe the text didn’t send? Eleven minutes, Maybe she just didn’t see it, seventeen minutes, Maybe she’s not coming, and then all of a sudden she’s there. She looks around the corner and sees him, casting an appraising eye around the plastic covered books in rows and the bright fluorescent light that flickers. She swings her bag onto the chair and sits down, edging a tiny bit away from Scotty, and she looks at him when he brightly says, Hi! And she says hi, unenthused, looking at the face of her phone that has just lit up and Scotty doesn’t see his name so she did see the text and she just didn’t reply. Scotty ignores this, thinking, she’s new, she doesn’t know me that well yet and opens his notebook, taking out the clean sheaf of paper emblazoned with dark equations, neatly marked with Xs and Ys and As and Bs. No Ss or Ls, Scotty thinks, but that’s fine, he doesn’t need subliminal messaging because the variables are going to work their magic anyway. Lena puts her phone on the table next to the notebook and it lights up and vibrates every few seconds, the list of texts getting longer and longer and sliding off the face of the phone into a place Scotty assumes is popularity, but he doesn’t say anything, doesn’t want Lena to dislike him anymore than she already seems to, because she keeps giving him snide looks and blank faces with wide eyebrows and that’s when she’s even making eye contact with him. Scott tells her to look at the problem one more time, (3x + 5) x (2x + 7), and she looks at him and he puts his pencil tip on the FOIL formula next to the problem and says See, first, outer, inner, last, get it? And she looks at him, no she doesn’t understand, she sighs dramatically that she’ll never get it and she should just give up and Scotty says No! almost violently and foils the problem for her, See, do you get it? And he looks at her and she looks back like he’s crazy, No, sorry… I’m still confused.

He’s getting stressed, drumming his pencil against the table and her phone lights up again and vibrates and she says Oh, sorry, looking at it quickly and laughing. He sits while she texts, looks at his hands and her thumbs move quickly across the keyboard, and he starts on the next problem and solves it himself, looks at her and hopes she’ll look too and understand that logically, these things make sense and should happen. Lena picks up her bag and swings it over her shoulder, still staring at her phone, and she’s already halfway out of her chair when she looks at Scotty and her smile falters for a second, Sorry, do you mind? I’m meeting this kid Jake. Can you tell Mr. Callaway that we met? Thanks.

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