Garlic In a Dustbin

It was a brisk afternoon in winter. Ms. Lin, our history teacher, was probably talking about something extremely monumental in Chinese history because I noticed my desk mate – who would usually coax me into playing Asphalt 7 on smartphone with him during classes – was taking notes. But I didn’t know what she was saying the whole time as I was preoccupied with the dustbin placed adjacent to the podium; my eyes were fixated on a particular piece of garbage that seemed peculiar from other ordinary ones – a bulb a garlic.

Just about 20 minutes ago, that bulb of garlic with other snacks in that dustbin had been lying comfortably in my backpack, and my desk mate still in his normal state – playing smartphone games.

I saw Ms. Lin’s lips moving and her arms flailing about but I just couldn’t get myself concentrated on her lesson. For a moment, I even forgot why that bulb of garlic was more important than the class I was sitting through, then someone’s cough caught my attention. I looked over my desk mate’s shoulder and there she was, the girl on whom I was having a huge crush listening attentively to Ms. Lin while drawing a tissue out of her pocket. Oh, yes, then I remembered. Her BFF – who happened to be a friend of mine understood my situation and somehow had decided to help me by giving me an exclusive tip on her favorite vegetable, and guess what that is – suggested that I should ask her out, and I did.

Her name was Shuang, a beautiful, reserved girl who strangely enough, liked garlic more than anything else in the realm of vegetables. I rested my chin in the palm of my hand and looked haphazardly in her general direction to avoid detection. She sat three persons left of me, her charming profile was unfortunately often visually inaccessible to me given her unbraided long hair. In cases when she did braid her hair, I could see her big bright eyes behind her maroon spectacles which she adjusted gently from time to time.

Before the history class began, when I was not a hallow human shell, I had taken up all my courage to approach to her and present her with a bag of snacks I had bought that morning. In my pocket was a bulb of garlic which I had prepared earlier to amuse her, or retrospectively speaking, to confound her.

“I have brought something you might like,” I said timorously, reaching my hands into the bag. “And I was wondering if you would like to go to a movie with me this weekend?”

She looked at me as if I was doing a Greek play in front of kids from kindergarten and said, “I am not hungry, and I have homework to do this weekend.”

I knew I was rejected but I had come too far to quit on just the first attempt; before this moment I had played all possible scenarios in my head to make this chance worthy of months of secret crush. A part of me wanted to go back to my seat but the rest kept telling me to keep trying.

“You can keep them in case you get hungry later, and maybe I can take you to a movie when you have time?” I kept blabbing but my mind was blank, and that was the defining moment when I made one of my worst decisions ever – I took that bulb of garlic out of my pocket and placed it on her desk, “I know you like garlic, flu season is coming and I thought some garlic might be able to help.”

Her desk mate stared at the garlic and instantly burst into laughter. I heard classmates standing next to me whisper as they looked at me in disbelief, “What the hell, Zhaocan, bad move.” Shuang’s face blushed, she removed her glasses and buried her face in her palms. “You are so awkward,” She mumbled. There was a momentary silence, punctuated only by her sighs. After what felt like a millennium, with the entire class watching, she packed everything back into the bag and said two words that daunted me from any direct contact with her in the future, “No, thanks.”

I was so disheartened that on my way back to my seat I threw everything into the dustbin. Frustrated, I dropped on my seat thinking how stupid I was bringing a bulb of garlic to her under the pretense of flu season – ironically, she did catch a cold soon after – and regretting throwing those snacks because they were expensive.

The class bell rang; Ms. Lin walked in and said something I didn’t care to listen to. My desk mate put down his smartphone and picked up a pen when my heart and soul drifted into that dustbin and remained trapped until someone coughed in the middle of the class.


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