I had a thirty-minute period in between my two classes for the day, and my first class had finished. When he and James walked out of the building, James and I caught up over what we did in the short two-week break we had in between summer classes and the fall quarter. That's when I saw him for the first time. After a few minutes, they continued on, and I carried on my conversation with my friend.
When I first saw him, I didn't think much of anything, except for the fact that he somehow knew my friend, James. He caught my attention though, but I could never put my finger on the reason why. Something about him stood out to me, and it wasn't the way he was dressed, it wasn't even because we shared a mutual friend. He didn't even really stand out in general. He was attractive enough, but there was something rather goofy and awkward about him. Maybe it was the fact that he wore glasses that weren't exactly trendy; maybe it was his eyes that seemed a bit bigger than the average person's; he wasn't really tall, but he was taller than me; or perhaps even though he looked his age, he still looked youthful. Either way, he stood out to me and I felt some sort of connection. As I was waiting in the classroom for my next class, I was surprised to see that he walked in as well. I had no reason to talk to him, and it was the first day.
Our class was loud and boisterous. I walked into it only really knowing two other girls, but within a week everyone seemed to know each other already. People were outgoing enough, and it was encouraging to talk to each other. I had even managed to talk to him a bit, just because he seemed interesting and I enjoyed meeting and getting to know new people. He wasn't exactly shy, but he wasn't really loud either. He seemed to embody a quiet, grumpy old man at times, and I found it humorous and we got along well enough. His friends invited me to dinner with them after class one evening, and I said sure. I had nothing else to do-most of my homework was done. I had a drink, and they all learned about my low tolerance for alcohol and enjoyed the effect it had on me. Biking home afterwards, I felt happy, knowing I was gaining more friends, more than I had expected to when the class had started a month ago. Sometimes I would see him skating by, and feeling brave, I would wave and he'd smile and wave back. A few times, I would sit outside awaiting our class and he would come up and sit with me on his skateboard and discuss trivial topics, but I enjoyed it.
My professor had put us together in a group for our final project. It was he with four girls, including me. I had a strange feeling that he would be in my group, but I wasn't really excited or upset. I took it for what it was, until the other girls teased me, pointing out that he would take the time to talk to me more than them. I only figured it was because we were all doing this together. He would text me and messaged me, and sometimes it wouldn't be about the project. He would complain about one of the girls, and most of the complaints I agreed with. I was curious as to what he was thinking sometimes, but I didn't linger on it too much. One night, after we both had margaritas of our own, he skated behind me and put leaves in my hair. His best friend laughed, and I jokingly got angry as our other friends stumbled back to the building around us.
The final week of our class came up, and I didn't see or talk to him for six and a half weeks for our winter holiday. I had remembered him mentioning how he didn't want to go home; he found it boring and cold and sometimes too long. I was going home to a part-time job waitressing, but there was a comfort settled in me, knowing that I'd see him when we would come back for classes, and this time we shared one again.
He didn't really say hi when I saw him outside of the building and I was busying myself talking to my friend, Charlotte. It was going to be an interesting class, and before he left, he made a joking comment about me to another friend of mine, which caught my attention. I retaliated and watched him smile and laugh as he left to go home. I didn't get a "Hi, how was your break?" but instead got teased.
Our friendship developed, as he would ask me for ideas for our projects and we would end up talking until late into the morning. His friends would invite me over to their house and he would be there as well. We would all play video games and enjoy some drinks and make fun of Stephen when he would try to rap. His roommate was friendly enough, and when we left Zach and Stephen's, they invited me back to their apartment to hang out a bit more. They thought I was a cool girl, who didn't seem too concerned with everything and was pretty friendly.
In class we would tease each other and play pranks. I would fill his hat with tiny balls of paper, or sit next to him in the computer lab and push the button that would have his seat sink down. In return he would hide items that belonged to me, and when our professor ordered pizza for us, he stole my ID when I was in the lab and put the olives that no one wanted on it for my eyes and sent a picture of it. Whenever I was outside and he would see me, he'd come up and pretend to hit me with his skateboard. He enjoyed beating me at virtual games and liked the idea of making me mad when I would start out winning and then make one move and he'd crush me.
Once I admitted to Zach and Stephen that I wasn't sure if I had a crush on him. Zach told me I could do better and Stephen told me to go for it. I settled on not saying anything about it unless it came up. Graduation was in several months, and it was coming to a year since I had broken up with my ex-boyfriend and left me feeling like I needed time and space from any sort of intimate relationship. I was happy being friends with him; I was content. I was sad when I learned I wouldn't have another class with him in our final quarter, but thought maybe we could still hang out.
Near the end of that quarter, he learned I liked him and I was mortified. I continued on as if we were just friends and never touched the subject with him. He still talked to me like it was normal, and I was glad. I was outside the building once, on the phone with a potential employer and he skated past. When he noticed me, he came up to talk to me, but I was busy on the phone and felt bad when he politely said he had to get home to do some work. Because he had taken the time to stop and talk, I texted him an apology about how I would have stopped the conversation, but since it was with someone who had just hired me, I really couldn't. I didn't expect a response, typically because he wasn't the greatest with texting sometimes, but he was excited that I was hired and he knew I was stressed about it. I was happily settled and comfortable that I had a good friend in him.
Stephen tried to talk to him about me a few times and I hated Stephen for doing so. He finally called him over our spring break telling him how he and I should hook up, but he said he didn't really want to, as much as he did like me, especially with graduation nearing us. I was happy with that, and felt like we were on the same page, not wanting to get into anything too sticky. Stephen was convinced that he liked me and said that somehow I was an exception. Typically when he didn't reciprocate feelings for a girl, he would ignore them and sometimes be a jerk so they wouldn't continue liking him, but with me he made an effort to stay good friends, something he had never done before. I was confused and I wanted to know why, but I appreciated the fact that he thought of me well enough to treat me well.
I saw him the first day we were back for our final classes. He was coming out of his class for the day and although he was tired, he was happy to talk to me for a while. He was tanner and jetlagged, having gone on a family vacation over break. Nothing about me had changed much only because I had stayed in town.
Over the course of the following weeks, I would never admit it to anyone, but I would purposefully meet my friends before their class or go to my other class early to run into him. It wasn't because of the lingering feelings I had for him; I could confidently say I was over him. In reality, it was because I really enjoyed talking to him, and when I would get the chance, we would talk for a while. He would ask me why I would be at the building so early, and I would lie and say I had work to get done before class.
He had helped me calm down once, when I worked for a week straight on a huge project that could help me potentially get a job in New York. I was nervous and anxious and he reminded me that I did more than they had asked for and that it was great, and to just mail it and breathe. He was encouraging and told me that if they couldn't see the effort I put in it, that they were stupid and ridiculous and to not worry. No one knew how much I spiraled down from being burnt out from the energy I put into it the following week and a half. The friends I usually did homework with had found boyfriends in the past month and were preoccupied and in a weird way, I felt alone. I had locked myself in my room, listening to music and watching foreign dramas, not wanting to deal with homework but get lost in my imagination. In a weird way, he found out I was struggling to get my work done and offered his hand and told me to work with him.
I don't think he realized how much that helped me. We spent time together, having movies and shows on in the background as we both did work, sometimes taking breaks and sitting outside on his third-story balcony. Sometimes we would really only work for an hour and the rest of it just talk about anything, learning more about each other and lose track of time. We discovered ways of making S'MORES in the toaster oven and using different phone applications to learn about some of the constellations that we could see. I could feel myself getting drawn to him more and admitted to myself that I possibly liked him again, but dismissed doing anything about it. I would be at his house until late at night, and finally leave, not wanting to out due my welcome. And it was ironic that I was with him when I received the email that the company wanted to fly me to New York to interview with them for a weekend.
He learned of my distaste and how uncomfortable I would get when guys honked or hit on me. He offered that if it ever happened, that I could give them his number, and if they texted him, he would mess with them.
I got him into a show that I really enjoyed, and he was hooked after the first ten minutes of the pilot episode. As it was getting late, we watched the following two episodes in his bed, and I began to slowly fall asleep when he put his arm around me. I froze. I was nervous and for the several months of my knowing him, I thought we had always just been good friends.
Something about it seemed right though. For awhile I didn't move, not knowing what to do, and when I turned to face him, he moved closer to me. He caressed my shoulder and arm, and then my back and dropped to my waist and he slowly inched his face closer to mine, seeing if I'd kiss him first. I was too nervous, as it had been over a year since I had kissed and be intimate with anyone. I jokingly told him to stop smiling, and we argued back and forth when somehow, the kiss just happened. I was surprised, because it had been such a long time, and at first I was lost in a mix of emotions that hit me all at once.
It felt like he had been wanting to do this for so long and I was happy. The way he held me was perfect, and when his fingertips touched my back, it had me shiver. When he reached up and touched my face and held my head as kissed me, it was something I had wanted for so long. Somehow he knew without me saying a word. I was lost in the way he looked at me and I let myself be lost with him. I never thought my skin would touch his or that he would hold me as I slept. It had been so long since I felt that way with someone and I loved it when he touched me. He was gentle and we'd laugh when my long hair got in his face. I never felt like he judged me and everything happened so easily. His bed fit the two of us perfectly and we both groggily woke up in the afternoon. He kissed my bare legs when he finally got out of bed, and I continued to hide under the covers. I felt my lips, and they were swollen after kissing him so much and after not having received any affection until then. I thought about everything we did, and I blushed.
When I left, he surprised me by pulling me in for a kiss. Walking home, I couldn't believe what had happened, and would goofily smile, but would have to stop at times because of my swollen bottom lip.
I spent a lot of time with him the following week and he made me feel special. I enjoyed our pillow talk and he would kiss and hold me. Once I turned over, and he asked me why I wasn't facing him anymore, but he learned of the sensitive spot at the bottom of my neck when he surprised me by kissing it. The entire quarter, I had difficulty sleeping except for the nights I spent with him. I was addicted to the affection he gave me, and he in turn showed me in small ways how much he did like me. Everything raised my confidence and I felt like somewhat of a different person.
As finals came up, we were both busy, him more than me, and then after a few days, I didn't see him or talk to him. I understood space and him needing time for work. Once he said if I had come over, I would have been too much of a distraction.
Our last week of classes before graduation weekend, we never said a word to each other. Even in the thirty seconds I would see him each day. The first day I got a "hey", and following that, we would make eye contact and he wouldn't say a word to me. In that last week, I had already started to miss him, not as a lover, but as a friend and as someone to talk to.
I was confused, but I knew I couldn't do much. Our time was up, and I was headed to New York, and he was headed back home to save money and eventually move within the next year or so. I was upset when I realized I never got to say a proper goodbye to him, but at the same time, I had a feeling in my gut that I would see him in the future.
I once spilled my emotions to Zach, who got angry at how he treated me in the end, but he calmed down. Zach had been his friend since their freshman year of college and revealed to me that out of all of the girls he had been with, I was the only one he developed a real friendship with and the only one he ever truly liked. Though he was still upset at him, Zach went on to say that he was stupid and was scared at how attached he got to me, and that was why he suddenly dropped everything. Zach revealed that he knew what had happened before I came to him, and that he had punched him and he agreed that he deserved it. I was more upset at the situation because I never wanted a relationship; I was stressed out at making sure we would stay friends, but that energy was lost on nothing. All I really wanted was one last night and one last conversation with him.
As my father drove me up to my new city, my mind would linger back to our conversations, the time we spent together, how he kissed me goodbye every single time that week, and the look in his eyes in the last week when we would see each other but not say a word. I missed the way my heart would jump when he would randomly message me when I was online, or when I would see him skate up to the building or walk out of it or the sound of him rushing down the stairs of his apartment building whenever I called and told him I was outside waiting to be let in every time.
I missed the way his hands would travel across my skin and the look in his eyes when he would look at me when he'd make me laugh. I missed our dumb conversations over super heroes and what powers we would want and how I excited I was when we went to see a movie together. I missed the times we had pillow fights in his bed, or when I would tickle him because he was so easily ticklish. He would pin me down to stop me and then surprise me by kissing me.
I'll never know what happened. At times I wonder how he's doing and wish him nothing but the best. I wonder if he misses me the way I miss him. It's been a few months, and I couldn't help but smile when my phone lit up when I was lost in a book in my New York apartment.
I read his name in the notification and I immediately go back to the day we met. Somehow, in a twisted way, meeting him was for the best.