Mopy Dick

Lavender Heights Community College 
@"Minerva Heartgrove"

It was snowing.

He had thought, after getting off work at 2PM, that he would do something brave and make himself walk back to the campus on Lavender Heights, which might sound like some sort of progress toward healing except he veered regularly between vengeful foolhardiness and the kind of fear that made him feel small and naked and trapped. He had thought he might get something out of walking around under the trees where he had emerged after losing an evening, or maybe find some note staked there that would explain everything.

It had been a stupid idea. And now it was snowing.

Devin huddled under a balding tree, shivering in an undersized jacket and swinging through a revolving door of feelings. Snowflakes kept landing behind his ears. He sighed, hugging his arms to his chest, and kept himself busy feeling moody while lowkey marveling at the fact that he could see his breath.



 Minerva loved warm, sunshiny days in which she could wear shorts and flip flops, but snow was just magical, and she had been prepared for it in the early morning when she checked the weather. It meant dragging out scarves and boots and pulling together an outfit that was both cute and functional because the magic of snow could quickly be lost to the painful chill of it.

 It did make schoolwork a little difficult to pay attention to, though, so she was grateful to find out her last class of the day had been cancelled. She all but burst out of the building in which her last class had been, and as much as she wanted to squeal loudly for the joy that built inside of her like a balloon, that kind of thing might be disruptive to others in the vicinity. So instead, she grinned like an idiot as she stomped across the cold grounds towards her car, having every intention of grabbing a hot cup of coffee before embarking on a snowy afternoon adventure.

 She was easily distracted by a familiar sight - tall boy Devin! It felt like it had been some time since she'd met him in that record store, and she was pretty sure he had said he wasn't in school right now. She wondered what he was doing here, but was mostly just intent on greeting him as he stood shivering beneath a tree.

 "Hey! Devin!" she called to him from some distance away, one hand waving eagerly at him in big, enthusiastic swings. The rush of air made her fingertips pink. Her steps were peppy as she moved closer to him. He didn't really seem appropriately dressed for the snow. "Gosh, aren't you cold?"

Unexpectedly, he heard his name. He looked for the source with a sense of unease, but look there: record store Minerva, looking exactly as perfect and put-together as he remembered, waving as she ran to meet him.

It was a relief to see her, like Minerva being around would make everything safe and normal again; he even managed a smile. It was hard to focus on how much you hated everything when the person next to you was that happy. He uncrossed his arms, which was kind of like waving if you were a lump all the time. "Hey." Not excited, but an appreciative hey. "I forgot you went here."

Also, yes, he was cold. "This is my warmest coat...I forgot snow was a thing."

 Minerva distinctly remembered Devin as a seemingly kind but pretty darn awkward person. But! He had not given her any signs that she was a bother, so she would barrel onward in her pursuit of friendship. Her perpetual grin was wide as ever, laughing a little as he remarked that he had forgotten her status as a Lavender Heights student, head bobbing affirmatively.

 "Oh, man," she responded with some knee-jerk pity, feeling like she was deeply empathetic to his freezing plight. Cool weather was nice, but being cold was not fun. Quickly, she unraveled the chunky, too-big scarf from around her neck and held it out to him insistently. Cold air sucked the warmth from her neck where the heavy material had just been, but she trusted her hair to take care of it to some degree. He didn't have enough hair to do that. "Here, you can borrow this. It's kinda girly but it's warm." She would not take no for an answer, Devin.

She was so happy about nothing — how did that work?

She immediately offered her scarf, which of course she did, and he made a slight poopy-face but allowed it to be placed in his hands. He was too cold and the scarf was too toasty to resist. He wound it slowly around his neck with another awkward smile. "Thanks." The warmth at the back of his neck made goosebumps run down his back and shoulders in protest.

He tucked his hands back under his arms, but only to conserve warmth, still smiling at Minerva. "What class did you get out of?"

 It seemed a bit like Devin was made uncomfortable by the offered scarf, and she briefly considered maybe taking no for an answer after all. But he looped the big warm thing around his neck and thanked her, and her heart was warmed by the knowledge that he might be more comfortable for it.

 "Math," she informed him with a playfully disdainful wrinkle of her nose. "My next class was American History, but it got cancelled for the day, so I was gonna go get some coffee and find something to do. You wanna come?" She grinned, before her expression became one of realization. "I mean, unless you're busy." Maybe he had class after all, or was meeting someone here. She didn't want to impose!

God, they made you take math in college? He thought the whole point was you just got to focus on the shit you were interested in. Gross.

He was already formulating a way to say yes when she backtracked, and he struggled for just a weirdly long time with how to respond to everything at once. "It's my day off," he settled on at last, looking carefully blank. "I'd freeze out here anyway." He did another weird smile, both trying his hardest and roasting privately with horror at his own inability to just be normal. Please just point him toward coffee.

 There was a stretch of silence after her wish-washy offer, and for a moment Minnie was self-conscious. Had she said something dumb? Maybe he didn’t want to hang out with her. The spiral didn’t get far, as Devin informed her it was his day off and, in a roundabout way, that he would hang out with her. He didn’t say it directly but it was good enough for her, and her face broke into that broad grin that took up most of her face out of pure joy.

 "Okay!" She piped, tangibly eager. "Wanna ride with me? I have heated seats!" The last statement came in a sing-songy voice as she began to step backwards towards the parking lot, beckoning him with the power of sheer enthusiasm.

Devin, being young, was a person easily pulled into other people's momentum, and Minnie had a lot of momentum to go around. It was impossible not to smile at her capering, and he allowed himself to be taken in. For the moment, anyway. "Sure," he said, following on long, dumb gawky legs. "What kind of car you got?"

 For all that Devin was a little awkward and maybe just kind of shy, Minerva decided that he was not terrible at all. She was determined to befriend him, to see what sort of person lay within that tall, thorny shell, besides an enjoyment for Atmosphere. "It is a Subaru Outback," she informed him as they walked, with some degree of loving pride in her voice. She fished the key fob out of her bag and raised it into the air, clicking a button until she could hear it beeping at them from the middle of the parking lot. "I wanted a Mustang but my parents decided it was too risky." This was said with more understanding than remorse, because in the end they were probably right, and she had fallen in love with the Subaru pretty quickly anyway.

It was hard to process two kinds of information at once: the kind that required him to appear friendly and normal (why was this never an issue with his old friends?) with a person he didn't know well, but also the kind that bleeped in his head like a low-battery alert, wait, this girl's parents bought her an SUV.. If he'd had the option, he would have sat down in place and stewed on all of this.

Luckily he didn't! Instead he legged after Minnie with the uncertain "nice girl?" smile he was getting so much use out of lately. "Nice," he said simply as he opened the passenger side door, looking down with anticipation at all the leg room. "I don't actually know shit about cars."

 Minerva all but skipped to her vehicle, plopping down into the driver's set and grinning at Devin in her scarf as he spoke, waiting patiently for him to get settled and buckle his seat belt. "Yeahhhh. I don't really know anything about cars either except whether they look pretty or not," she confessed sheepishly, starting the engine and moving quickly to turn on the heaters and the seat warmers both. "Which is kind of sad, or funny I guess depending on how you look at it, considering my dad sells cars for a living." A little tinkling of laughter as she put the car in gear and began to get them toward the coffee shop she had in mind. "So, what are you doing on your day off? Just... chillin'?" She laughed again at herself and that gloriously awful pun she had just made.

He smiled as he began to pack himself into the car, thinking, same. Though of course 'pretty' was not a word in his vocabulary. He buckled himself down as she continued to say small, sparkly Minerva things, each of which he could think about for a solid five minutes, only he was never going to have the chance. When she finally tossed the ball back to him, he got all tripped up at why she was laughing, taking too long to realize it was a joke about his dumb ass being out in the cold. He grimaced slightly, an understated expression of the resentful appreciation all humans feel at being exposed to puns. "Yeah. I work pretty close to here. I like to walk on the campus sometimes."

This was a lie, but a necessary one as he pondered uneasily about vampires. He wanted to play at the world being safe, not talk about mind control and blood sucking.

 "Oh, nice!" Minerva said simply, but genuinely. He had mentioned he wasn't in school - maybe he just really wanted to be? Was it insensitive to comment on that? She felt like it might be. Bringing up work also seemed like maybe not such a great idea. Who liked work? Not that she would know, but, maybe he didn't want to talk about work on his day off. Still, though the drive would be short, she was determined to fill it with conversation, and determined to make a friend of tall boy Devin.

 "So, have you made any good new music discoveries lately?" she tried tentatively, considering reaching for her phone to turn on some music but quickly deciding against it. She tried not to make a habit of handling her phone while driving in the first place, but she especially didn't want to endanger a passenger.

"Uhh." He sniffled and then scowled thoughtfully, sifting through the endless jazz that always played at Meat Cute, the B-list rappers from Dayton and St. Louis that he liked to follow. Minerva probably wouldn't know what to do with YelloPain. "I actually looked up Florence and the Machine."

He'd liked it, actually. Not his style of music, but the way she belted was hard not to be taken in by. It was easy to picture Minerva listening to it and feeling stuff, if he thought about it, which of course he hadn't because he would never like a person or think about them. Or wear their scarves. Or get his buns warmed by their car's heated seats.

 What! That was an unexpected but pleasant surprise! She grinned brightly, sparing him a quick glance and a laugh. "Isn’t she awesome?" Minnie gushed. Of course she was awesome - belatedly she realized that maybe a guy who liked rap might not actually be into Florence. Or maybe she had revealed to Devin a whole unearthed part of himself that included a deep love for her own favorite musician.

In response to her enthusiasm, he smiled down at his hands, feeling warm. "Yeah, she's pretty cool. Really, like. Artsy." He didn't get most of what she was singing about, which was an aesthetic he wasn't used to; the music he favored stuck mostly to rapid-fire storytelling without going so much into the surreal. Or nonsensical. But. It was a new thing to try, being nice to a nice person about a band they liked. He at least didn't have to be too stressed out about embarrassing himself in front of Finger Guns over there.

He looked up from his hands and out the window, feeling shyness push down on him as he wondered, not for the first or last time, how exactly you talked to someone who wasn't garbage. Only the fact that he had already come out to the Heights to push himself made him bold enough to talk again, even though the words coming out of his dumb mouth made him sound feeble-minded. "You have friends from high school who go to your school?"

 She was artsy. Minerva beamed at the description, nodding agreeably. A short silence lulled between them, and the girl was comfortable in it, but also not sad for it to end as Devin spoke up again. "Um, yeah, a few," she said with a slight shake of her head that might denote some half-heartedness. She was pulling over to park on the curb in front of aforementioned coffee shop. "A lot of my friends went to Denver or just went to work." Which was not exactly a bad idea.

 Minnie turned off the engine and pushed her door open, waiting for her companion to get out and close his door before she locked the car with a little beep. "What about you? Oh, well-" he wasn't in school hurry change the subject "Where did you go to school? High school, I mean?" He couldn't be too much older than her, right?

His eyebrows shot up as she asked the question, an all-purpose look that, as far as he thought, conveyed confusion and general harmlessness. "In Orlando." He unfolded himself from the car and blinked sort of worriedly from Minerva to the shopfront. "A lot of my friends went to UF and live in dorms and shit." Where the fuck was he going with this. He couldn't exactly ask her if it was just like being in high school but with no rules.

Shyness was giving way to a low-grade panic as he realized once again that he had no idea how to talk to people in a language that wasn't grunts and insults. Poor, feral Devin shuffled to hold the door open for her as if that would save him. Just keep trying he guessed??? "So what are you going to school for?"

 Orlando! He was a long way from home! Minerva made a little face that was half surprise and half acknowledgment, listening to him as she made her way towards the cafe’s door. UF? University of Florida, maybe? "Ohhh," she said simply. She considered asking him deeper questions like why did he leave Florida and why wasn’t he in school, but the part of her that was dying to be liked urged her not to pry. Besides, he was putting the spotlight on her again. Maybe he didn’t like to talk about himself, but she wanted to know more :(

 "Thank you," she beamed as he held the door and scooted past him. "Social sciences and art! I’d really like to make it big as a painter, but I’m not sure if that’s realistic? I’d also like to help people but I don’t have to stomach to be a doctor or anything like that, so. Yeah." She shrugged and laughed a little, opening up her coat in the warmth of the cafe as she turned her face up to the menu that hung behind the counter. She already knew what she wanted.

Okay. Social sciences (social studies?) was another thing he thought stopped existing after grade school, but he was apparently fucking stupid. He could immediately picture her as a painter, though, in the same squirrelly-uncomfortable way he could picture her listening to Florence and having Meaningful Girl Feelings.

This was how he found out he was gay, wasn't it. Being Devin was so hard.

"You can do lots of things that help people," he replied sort of easily, so concerned by his own feelings that a normal answer managed to pop out unmolested. "Social worker, or you could work at a food bank and stuff." Devin himself was more suited to hard labor, or maybe a factory line thing where he scooped gruel onto an orphan's plate and glowered. He looked up over Minnie's head at the chalkboard menu.

 She smiled a little for his response. He was right! There was a lot that could be done to make the world a better place. She loved to know all the opportunities for goodness. "Yeah," she agreed, and though the answer was short it was no less genuine. Minnie wanted to talk more about this - but first, coffee.

 "I'd like a caramel latte, please - sixteen ounce." She paused, gesturing towards Devin. "And whatever my friend would like." The girl shuffled aside as if to give him the stage, reaching into her bag to pull out her debit card in preparation.

Devin was completely prepared for her to sweep up his purchase as well — no just kidding, he wasn't. He blinked once, shyly, scarfedly. Pulling the thing down. "Uh. Same thing," an answer which was good at being decisive but less good at being independent-minded. He scratched at his eyebrow and tried to suppress the panic-sweats.

 Same thing! He must have good taste. Minerva beamed at him for a moment before turning back to the cashier to hand over the card. She signed the receipt and moved aside; it was a happy thing that their drinks would be ready pretty quickly, and Minerva would turn to lead him away with a beckoning sort of look. There was a little lounge spot with two empty, cushy leather armchairs with a coffee table nestled between them. She sort of shuffled over to the spot, very quickly, giving him a grin as she nestled down into one and waited for him to sit down, too.

 "So, Devin," she began, leaning her weight against one arm of the chair and turning her body towards him. "What problems do you want to solve?" It was kind of like "what do you want to do when you grow up," but deeper.

Minerva's stupid smile was making his stupid grinch heart try to grow. She was so nice it didn't seem real, and now she was back looking at the cashier and he was pushing the dippy smile that had sprung up on his own face back down. He took his coffee and huffed on the nice caramel fumes coming up from it, trailing Minerva and settling himself into the adjoining chair. How much did one of these things cost, anyway? Why did coffee shops have the kind of money to afford enormous leather chairs?

Anyway. He not-smiled at Minerva the Interviewer for a second before her question gave him gut cramps; then an answer occurred to him and he broke into a sheepish grin. "Pretty focused on rent and bill problems right now. I don't think I'd make a great doctor." He would make a great gruel-doler, as introduced previously. He had never aimed high.

 His answer wasn’t the one she had really been looking for, but she smiled a little for it all the same. It was a realistic answer at any rate, and very clearly a problem that she did not have. The reality of her privilege settled in for a moment, and there was a blink of sadness that people had such struggles. Why did people have to work their lives away to survive?

 No. She was determined to stay positive. "I mean. If you had plenty of money and you could have whatever you wanted. What kind of impact would you want to make on the world?" Everyone wanted to leave their footprint, right? Privately, Minerva hoped this was a question that was deep enough to reveal something about tall boy Devin without being too personal.

His face darkened as he applied himself to this question, things squirming around in his chest at the realization that he never thought of how to make the world better. He stared into his drink.

In due time he looked up, having settled on something that felt honest and only mildly embarrassing. "It'd be cool to be a lawyer who, like. Got people wrongly accused out of prison." He smiled at the idea in spite of himself. "Making sure the justice system is just, you know? I got no idea what you need to be a lawyer, though." Smartness, first off. Money wouldn't fix dumb.

 Minerva watched him think, sipping at her coffee. It was still piping hot. When he looked up and started talking, Minerva listened intently, leaning in a little bit, eyes on his face. She smiled warmly for his words; making sure the justice system was just. That was an honorable wish. She wasn't really sure what was necessary to become a lawyer either - lots of school, probably. Maybe a fancy school.

 "I like that," she said quietly. She didn't understand how someone could be innocent and still get punished. "Maybe some day, yeah? I don't think I've ever met a lawyer." Not that she knew of, anyway.

She seemed like the kind of girl who would know lawyers. He bet her parents were successful and supportive and only said things like I'm so disappointed in you, Minnie. Good life if you could get it. He took a drink of his latte and tried to enjoy it, focusing on the caramel taste and not the coffee.

(This was a lot of milk for someone who couldn't digest lactose.)

He thought he'd done pretty good, really, with the talking thing. He was getting a little uncomfortable again, because if this were Cris one of them would be suggesting they throw rocks at abandoned factory windows right now, and he wasn't really sure what the non-garbage version of that was. Maybe...oh god. Roller rink?

Except actually he couldn't ask, because that would sound like a date. Devin wasn't asking her on a date. His stomach knotted up, though that was probably the milk. JUST KEEP GOING STROOP.

"Have you ever seen, um. A roller derby? My roommate does it."

 Roller derby. That sounded familiar. Her face screwed up a little in thought. What was that one movie with Ellen Page? Whip It? She smiled as the memory came to her. "That’s so cool! She must be so brave." Tough girls like that were both intimidating and highly admirable. She didn’t think she could ever be like that. "Have you ever done that? Or is that just like. A women’s sport?" It did seem a lot like football on wheels.

He couldn't help smiling a little, because brave was an understatement. Cris's personality more or less made her out of place anywhere that wasn't a roller derby ring. "I think it's just a girl thing. Like, guys have all these other sports where they can smash into each other and shit." Shit. He remembered Minnie probably didn't curse. "So roller derby is for, like. Female aggression only."

The explanation had him smiling awkwardly because he shouldn't be in charge of explaining things. That had been his best bet for friendship stuff and it was still way too coarse and awful, apparently. Time to go home.

 Devin would be correct in his assumption that Minerva wasn't much of a curse speaker, but she remained unbothered by it. It was one of the few harsh things in life she had grown accustomed to. Anyway, she was too preoccupied with the mental image of his roommate - who manifested in her mind as a short, muscular girl with red, braided pig-tails - grunting and shouting as she shoved other skate-clad women down on the waxy surface of the skate rink. Ouch.

 She grinned a little crookedly at him, wiggling one foot energetically. She could never be brave enough to do it, but surely she could brave being a spectator, right? "Is that local? I'd totally like to check it out! I mean. From the bleachers only." A laugh - as if Devin would mistake it as her trying to roll herself among those women.

Or, okay, time to not go home. He gulped at his latte and set it down with a clunk. "It's not too far. In Ravenswood, across the river. If you ever wanna go, uh." He looked up at her and shrugged, the most charming young man ever to live.

 Oh! That was so close! And it definitely seemed like an opening for another hang out session. Minerva grinned, feeling very successful in her attempt at befriending him. Breaking down walls, yeah! Or something.

 "That would be great!" Coffee, despite being something to keep them warm, was not nearly as invigorating as roller derby must be. She was already looking forward to it.

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