Man it was weird to be back in school.
I never thought I would think that. School was pretty much my life; as an engineering student I didn't really have a lot of time for anything else. But after my stepmother was in the car crash last September and I took the semester off to help take care of her and the rest of my family, it felt really weird to be back in school. It was the second week of the semester and I was still getting used to the rush of bustling bodies and the cumbersome weight of my books over layers of winter clothes.
I stepped through the doors of the physics building, relieved to feel that the university had fixed the heaters since last January. I walked down the crowded hallway towards the elevators, loosening and removing the scarf from around my neck, when I heard someone call my name.
"Mattie! Mattie, wait up!" the voice called.
I turned around, searching through the sea of faces for something familiar. I couldn't help smiling when I saw Remy pushing his way through the bodies to me. Remy was another engineering student and I would call him my friend even though I think he considered us acquaintances. We were at similar points in the program and had shared at least two classes together over the last five or six semesters. I had a small crush of admiration on him; Remy was just so smart. Everyone in my classes was smart of course; being an engineering student meant that I was surrounded by smart people. But Remy was one of the few who were naturally smart, he just got things; what had taken me weeks to figure out in Thermodynamics had only taken Remy a day. Unlike the other guys who were gifted with natural intelligence, Remy was also incredibly humble. He didn't scoff or roll his eyes when I said I didn't understand something and he didn't talk with an air of superiority when he explained things to me. He was just nice and it was incredibly endearing.
"Mattie, where have you been?" he said when he finally reached me.
Remy adjusted the glasses on his face. We both wore them but Remy's were fashionable dark frames that suited his face and mine were a worn pair of dark grey half frames that I hadn't changed in four years. He brushed some snow off the top of his light brown hair, unwrapping the white and crimson colored scarf from around his neck.
"I told you that I wouldn't be here last fall, I had to take care of my stepmother."
"How is she?" he asked.
"She's much better now, she's almost done with her physical therapy," I said, looking at his concerned expression. "Thanks for asking."
"I'm glad," Remy said with a smile. "But that's not what I meant. It's the second week of school already, where have you been? I haven't seen you in class."
I knew that Remy meant it in a polite way, in a 'Aren't you normally in my class?' kind of way. I let myself imagine that he meant it in a 'I took notice that you weren't sitting next to me, I missed you' kind of way.
"I'm a semester behind now Remy," I reminded him. "I can't take the classes you're taking this semester."
"Oh," he said, apparently not realizing that my absence would affect my schedule. "So where are you going now?"
"With Josstresky?" he asked. I nodded and he chuckled lightly. "Good luck."
"His exams are long and brutal." I let my head roll back and groaned. All of my classes were hard but if Remy said the exams were long and brutal then that meant they truly were a pain in the ass. Remy put a hand on my shoulder and smiled at me. "Don't worry, I've already done it, I'll help you."
I barely noticed that the other bodies in the hallway had filtered away into classrooms and places beyond. Remy and I were among the last of the stragglers. I caught myself staring into the hazel eyes that hid behind his glasses, the same ones that caused me to miss whatever Remy was saying when he helped me with topics I didn't quite understand. Remy suddenly reached around into his backpack for something.
"I have something to show you, I've been carrying it around for a while," he said, rummaging through his bag. He pulled out a sheet of paper and held it with both of his hands, showing me one side that looked like an old math quiz. "Remember last spring in Calc 3 when you wrote that cute, little limerick on the back of my quiz, bragging that you were smarter than me because you scored one point higher? Well I have composed an equally adorable poem correctly stating how much smarter I am than you."
"It took you a whole year?" I teased.
"No, it only took me a few months," he said sarcastically, "but you weren't here in the fall so I couldn't show it to you then."
"Let me see," I said, reaching for the paper.
"Nope," Remy said, shaking his head. He removed the paper from my reach, holding it in his hand and stretching his arm out behind him. "I was going to show you but you've insulted my intelligence again and I don't take too kindly to that."
"Come on Remy, let me see." I stepped forward and reached across him, grasping for the paper, while Remy laughed.
And that's when Remy kissed me.
No, I take it back. Remy didn't kiss me but I almost thought he did. We were closer to each other than we usually would be, Remy's arm stretched out behind him and my arm reaching out to grasp the paper. Our bodies were so close that the zippers of Remy's puffy jacket touched the buttons of my wool coat. Remy raised his free hand to my lips, placing two fingers against them. He leaned towards me and brushed his own lips against his fingers. The first time was very light but the second time was firmer so that I could almost feel his breath mix with my own. Our lips never actually touched but my heart raced and I felt just as light headed as if they had. My knees threatened to buckle and I grabbed at Remy's puffy jacket to keep myself from falling.
"Mattie, I'm sorry," Remy stammered. He tried to step away but my grasp on his jacket kept him from going far. He lowered his arm, the paper crinkling in his hand. "I didn't mean to-" Remy's words dried up and his eyes fell to the floor. Was Remy blushing?
"Remy, it's okay."
"Are you sure?" he asked. His hazel eyes looked so nervous behind his glasses. "I mean, you look like you're going to faint."
I unclenched my hand from Remy's jacket and pat him lightly on the chest, letting my hand rest there a moment before dropping it. "It's okay Remy."
Remy sighed loudly with relief, the shake of his head not enough to hide the smile on his face or the bright flush on his cheeks. "I really didn't mean to do that. At least not until you're mine to do that to. Come on, let me walk you to class." Remy led me, with a hand on my backpack, down towards the elevators I had been originally walking to.
I didn't understand what had just happened. Remy almost kissed me. That had happened right? I wasn't hallucinating it because I was actually outside buried under a pile of snow? I looked at him when we got into the elevator and he pushed the button for the fifth floor. He glanced in my direction before blushing fiercely again and fixing his eyes on the elevator doors. I had never seen Remy blush before. And what had he said? Something about not doing anything until I was his to do it to? What did he mean? Did Remy like me?
The elevator doors opened and we walked in silence down the hall to the classroom. The door was ajar and I could hear Josstresky talking on the other side. I turned to say good bye to Remy but neither of us seemed comfortable with talking to one another. I made a small wave and reached for the door handle.
Remy stopped me by grabbing my elbow. He stepped closer to me and leaned in to whisper into my ear.
"The fifth natural force is whatever holds Josstresky's toupee on his head," he whispered. The feel of his breath against my ear caused my heart to race, making the layers I was wearing feel way too warm.
"Just trust me." Remy slid a folded piece of paper into my hand and kissed me on the cheek. I'm sure of it this time; Remy's lips pressed against my cheek. "I'll see you later Mattie."
He disappeared from my side, the last I saw of him was his backpack turning around a corner. I quietly let myself into the room, entering through the back, thank goodness, and sat down in the first empty chair I could find. I don't think my entrance went unnoticed though as Josstresky immediately called my name.
"Mattie," I reminded him.
"Oh, that's right," he said. He bent over his ledger to make a note of my preferred name on his roster. "Mattie, could you tell me what the fifth natural force is?"
I didn't understand the question. There was no fifth natural force. There were only four natural forces: gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force. I was about to admit that I didn't know when Remy's last words rang in my head and I figured I was already in enough trouble for coming in late.
"Whatever holds your toupee on your head?" I replied hesitantly.
The rest of the class collectively gasped quietly. Josstresky was a large man with obviously greying hair and an equally as obvious chestnut brown toupee on the top of his head. Pointing out a person's toupee was usually not a nice thing to do in polite society, especially if the person was in a position of power over you, like Josstresky was over me. To the class' surprise, Josstresky started to laugh so heartily that his belly shook.
"I see Mattie is the only one who followed my advice about seeking out someone with experience in the class to explain my little nuances," he laughed.
No one in the room believed that I'd gotten away with it. Heck, I even got praised for it. Josstresky finished laughing and turned his back to the class, going on with his lecture and beginning to draw a large diagram on the board. I put my elbows on the table and covered my face to hide my disbelief, the folded paper Remy had given me hitting me in the face. I unfolded it under the table, in my lap, and turned it to the side without math problems on it. I smiled at my messy handwriting, remembering how I had scribbled the limerick in haste before Remy could snatch his quiz back from me. Just below it I saw the blocky, all capital print of Remy's handwriting and the short poem he had written there.
Circuits must be complete
Or the flow of current will never start
Mattie may not be smarter than me
But I think she's stolen my heart