Once and Again
I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down

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Eli's no poet. He doesn't know it.

As all the students file out of the room, Eli remains seated, staring dumbfounded at the test. He looks up to see Jennifer, his ex-girlfriend, gazing at him as she gathers things into a knapsack. She grins feebly and shakes her head before leaving the room. Eli smiles. He's having an SAT of his own -- a Sexual-Appetite Twinge. His number-two pencil twitches.

Two random girls in the school hallway complain about the test. "If I don't break 1500 this time, there's no way I'm getting into Brown," one of them whines. When asked about her backup school, she spits venomously, "Wesleyan," as though the comparison equates with that fateful day when parents promised her a Lexus, then showed up with a rusted brown Chevette with love-bead décor and a dead alligator air freshener. I'm sure Wesleyan appreciates her remarks. Eli, too, groans at her conceit. As he gulps water from the fountain, Jennifer sidles up to him and proffers a spare can of Coca-Cola. Lots of awkward "how've you been" banter ensues. Eli calls the SAT "soporific," admitting that it is that one pesky SAT word that he never forgets, yet it's never on the test. Jennifer says that her parents pressured her to retake the SAT, even though Eli recalls that she did beautifully on it the first time. Jennifer looks cute: her hair is in a chin-length, blunt-cut bob angled inward toward her chin. The problem is her outfit. What I thought was a desperately unfortunate faux-denim overall dress is, in fact, a hideously regrettable faux-denim overall-style apron top -- layered over pants and a shirt -- that comes down just past hip-level. Jennifer is a tiny girl, and yet in this she looks like a giant Coke-drinking pear who was in the middle of making French toast and homemade sausage when she remembered about the SAT. As they walk and talk, Eli's pal Coop swings past and breezily says that he's blowing off the rest of the test, accepting that he'll be going to community college anyway. He and Eli make a rehearsal plan. "We're putting a band together," Eli informs Jennifer. She nods. Eli explains that they're trying to figure out their sound without tying themselves down to one thing, kind of like his search for nooky last season. He wanted a woman, but more than one kind of woman. I swear, this is how Eli defined the "sound" to Jennifer: "Emo-tinged pop chaos -- sort of early Knapsack and Promise Ring." I'm more of a Salt-Free classicalterna-blasted Mesquite BBQ blues bedlam fan, myself -- early Facts of Life meets The Dead Milkmen meets German rock opera -- but hey, different strokes for different folks. Eli tells Jennifer that the band is called "Anti-Inflammatory." She giggles. "I should go, uh, sharpen my pencil," Eli says, getting up to head back to the classroom. Jennifer stares wistfully at him, longing to suggest that her genital sharpener could amply care for his pencil. Instead, she remains silent as Eli thanks her for the Coke and enters the SAT room. She gives him one last lingering look, wishes him well and dashes off for a cold shower before finishing her SATs.

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Once and Again

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