On Mondays, she strides down the hallway purposefully, usually text messaging or finishing up a conversation on her cell phone, just a few minutes before lecture begins. I don't let her see me watching her, but somehow I feel like she knows. On Wednesdays, she wanders downstairs from her recitation with her friends, chatting and smiling, contemplating the topic for today's lecture.
On Mondays, she's always put together. There's an outfit, and her hair is neatly arranged, her makeup perfectly applied. She doesn't wear too much, but just enough to make the blue of her eyes stand out on her freckled face. I know that she's tired on Wednesdays, because she's dressed down, sometimes even in sweats, and her hair is haphazardly thrown on top of her head. Sometimes she even wears her glasses. Her face is devoid of makeup and somehow, her blue eyes stand out even more when she's exhausted.
How is it that her life seems so perfectly in order, with everything and everyone always in their correct place? Even the way that she arranges what she carries in her bookbag is strangely ordered. The lecture before us files out of the room, and we all file in, taking our usual seats. She sits with her friends in the front right corner, and I sit with mine in the back left. We're the furthest apart in this arrangement, but it gives me a spectacular view of her throughout the class.
When she's frustrated and doesn't understand the material, she chews on the end of her pencil thoughtfully, scrunches her eyes up, and even shakes her head. When she's fascinated, her eyes open wide, a faint smile graces her lips, and she leans forward in her chair. When she's just obviously exhausted, she quietly takes notes and merely listens to the discussion, only adding in pertinent comments.
I feel like these are the moments when we know each other best. She always provides something insightful about her personality when she raises her hand. I know her a little more with every comment, question, or observation that she makes. My favorite days are when we debate between the instrumental realm (mine) and the vocal realm (hers.)
When we sight-read, she's almost always perfect, and when she's not, she never gets flustered, rather merely corrects herself. That lingering smile never leaves her face. I don't think that I've ever seen her emotionally distressed. I wonder how she keeps all of those things bottled up. I wonder who she finally cries to when she lets them out.
Would she cry to me if she let me know her well enough? It does no good for me to try to close the distance between us, because she's the one that dictates it. That's her way, calmly controlling the situation in a quiet and unassuming manner that makes it impossible for you to hate her for not letting you in. She doesn't aim to hurt, but I've been stung all the same.
Today is a Wednesday, and I know that something is different. Nobody will ever know when she's upset because she covers it so well on the outside, but there's something in the exhausted and unobtrusive way that she takes her usual seat today that tells a person who's been observing her for a very long time, that something is off. I have no idea what it is, but the corners of her mouth have a sort of gravity to them and the dark circles around her eyes (cleverly assuaged by concealer) are visible to me in the light. She doesn't chat with her friends other than to answer their inquiries. She takes out her notebook, dates the page, and focuses on her calendar until our professor strides in and announces that he's ready to continue our discussion of modal composition.
Maybe it's the defeated aspect of her shoulders or the lack of color in her face today that highlight what seems to be a small weight-loss that I never noticed before. It's not much, but it's just enough for my trained eye to see. What caused that? Academic stress? Emotional stress? Social stress? Or the opposite; general happiness?
There's something in the way that she keeps her eyes on her notebook and doesn't let them wander anywhere else that assures me that her tension has mounted in the last few minutes. I keep my attention split between the discussion and her body language as the minutes tick by on the clock. Finally, with class already ¾ over, our professor halts in his pedantry and hands out a score for sight reading. He crosses the room to take a seat at the poorly tuned Steinway, and only minutely hesitates before positioning his body on the piano bench.
It would be easy to miss, were I not watching her face as he sits directly in front of her and she glances up from her notebook for the first time since the class has started. They lock eyes and I see her entire ordered exterior shatter as he imperceptibly leans back. And it's in the flood of emotions that pool in her bright blue eyes that I finally understand why I can't have her and why she won't let me in. Or anyone else, for that matter.
She's already let someone in and he's sitting directly in front of her. And he's hurt her.
And I can't help wondering as we all file out of class and she lingers when he asks her to, who will she cry to when she finally lets it all out?