popcorn

I sat there for too long, with aching fingers that earnestly tried to make something beautiful out of the mess before me. The grease made the kernels slippery and shiny, the dim light from the lamp in the corner illuminating our craft. We worked side by side, our small frames demanding hardly any space. Carefully we poked holes in the soft white, marring the perfection with perforations. These ruined the surface and integrity of the piece as a whole, but we justified it by saying the end result would make the process worth it. Her fingers were even tinier than mine, resulting in an advantage as she skillfully strung piece after piece onto her thread. I tried to hide my jealousy as her string became fuller and somehow more robust than mine.

“You’re not doing it right,” I accused, hoping to slow down her progress. She tried to please me by working harder, which only served to make her faster and better than beforehand. I huffed as frustration began to seep out quickly. We grew tired of our task after some time, opting to eat the snack instead of wear it. This way we could move on to a more fun task, like searching for gold in the backyard. I wondered why in the world people would want to make a necklace out of food in the first place.

The sweetness was so shocking that I almost spit it out of my mouth. “People actually eat this stuff?” I asked, disgusted, wiping the residue from my lips.

Melissa laughed and shook her head. “You are the only person in the entire world that does not like kettle corn.”

“That cannot be true. It’s like sweet potatoes, which is an oxymoron. Salty things should not be sweet, end of story.” I crossed my arms and leaned back in my chair, resting it against the wall. I checked my phone- another two hours to go. Mandated concession hours almost made me want to quit the softball team. Almost.

“Well, you’re wrong, so, you know,” she said while sorting the candy, which she had already done ten minutes ago.

Once she finished, she began drumming her fingers against the table, the navy blue of her sweatshirt contrasting the ivory of her skin. The name of the local high school was emblazoned on the front, with a bejeweled “Cheer” dazzling underneath the logo. It was a little much, but I left my comments to myself. I wondered about high school, what it would be like next year. Public school terrified me. I was itching to know if girls actually did... you know… in the bathrooms, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask.

The chewing was incessant and irrationally loud- so loud that I could barely hear myself think above the noise that was emanating from his mouth. He was seated across the room, our tables directly facing one another, as if in a cruel joke that transpired from my lateness to class. I tried to direct my attention elsewhere, the ticking of the clock, the tree branch scraping against the window, but to no avail.

Our instructor was talking about some matter of importance pertaining to the relation of the paranoia and Freud. I took a deep breath and looked down at my notebook, attempting to jot down the key ideas- something about interpreting a dream?- but every time my pen touched the paper, he would ever so carefully pick up another kernel from the bag on the table and pop it into his mouth, ruining all of my chances at coherent thought.

Chomp.

The bag rustled as his hand greedily sought more.

Chomp. Chomp.

How did anyone else not hear this? How were they left in such ignorant bliss?

I glanced around the room, vaguely listening to my peers’ commentaries on Freud’s utilization of literary device and scientific method in the piece we read. They brought up issues of freedom versus autonomy, as well as the constant tension between reason/rationality and the unconscious, and how these form the basis for psychoanalysis theory. Someone stated that we grasp for sanity by relating the conversation to a short story by Poe we finished reading the previous week. Something about not realizing our desires, or being unable to control them. Or something.

If you ever wanted to observe the limitless bounds of the entitled and pretentious, look no further than a college literature class full of freshmen.

He shoved three pieces of the snack in his mouth and it took every ounce of self-control in my being to not rip off my head and storm out of the room.

Even though there was an arm rest between us, his presence had such a magnetic pull that I could practically feel his body against mine. I stole quick glances every so often, more than I should’ve, but I couldn’t help it.

He balanced the bag on his knee, so that it was easily in my reach. I wondered why other foods never became popular cinema snacks. Why not almonds? Or orange slices? Both were tasty, and held nutritional value to boot.

There was a fight on the screen that became somewhat gruesome. I turned my face away from the gore, wincing at the sound of the character in pain, although I knew it was scripted and fake. He noticed my discomfort and mouthed, “Are you okay?”

I nodded in response and returned my attention to the front of the theater, settling more comfortably into my seat when the fighting subsided. My left hand found its way into the bag at the same time his right hand did. Our fingers brushed, sliding without resistance due to the butter. We were frictionless. I pulled back immediately, cheeks flustered with heat.

He responded subtly, a graze of the shoulder at first, then the length of his entire arm rested against mine. This plastic barrier that separated us became the circuit board. A current of electricity coursed through every vein, pounding, sparking, caring little for the burn caused in the crossfire. Voltages were unforgiving.

I did not dare move an inch of my body. The spilled pieces of popcorn pleaded silently from underneath my legs, but they were swiftly ignored.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.