March 18, 2011
[Don't make fun of me, that's why this is called "practice."]
"I go to a school out in New Jersey," he said, staring in to the bonfire, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his jeans.
"New Jersey, huh? Is it just any school, or are we talking Princeton or ..."
"Yeah, I go to Princeton."
"Oh ..." I hadn't expected that, and my weak response made that fact obvious.
"Wow, you really do? And you weren't going to say it until I asked. How very humble of you." My added response seemed to smooth over the strange pause I'd caused by slathering a dose of sarcasm and genuine interest onto the faltering conversation. (I flatter myself, really, but it still seemed to do the trick.)
"It always comes out in the end, " he admitted, glancing out of the corner of his eye at me before examining a stick on the ground with his foot, pushing the blackened twig back and forth with the white rubber sole of his worn-out blue Vans.
"You act ashamed of your accomplishment," I noted out loud.
"More just tired of people being impressed by the name."
"Ah, so you go there, but you got in because of your family and stay in by cheating off your classmates, but you don't actually feel worthy of bearing its name across an over-priced sweatshirt?"
A wad of laughter fell out of his mouth, loosening his clenched jaw. He shook his head. But rather than out of denial, it was a symbol of relieved admittance to unspoken truths. Or at least, some truths.
"I'm not a good cheater. It's easier to study, at least for me."
His attempt at humor was lacking.
"What about the sweatshirts?" I couldn't help but throw him a bone of opportunity for another try at wit.
"Oh, I'm worthy of the name. But I'm allergic to the polyester they mix in with the cotton ..."
"That didn't —"
"— make sense. I know." His failure at wit was saved by an admission of ineptitude, which ultimately made his comment a success.
"Princeton would never use polyester."
And with that he bid me a goodnight and went back to New Jersey.
[Based on a real conversation with a real Princeton boy.]