For the most part I stay focused... Except when she is nearby. I do not speak to her, but I see her around. The wind only blows her hair back from her face, always giving her the appearance of struggle. Though, even in strife she is beautiful. Today, I walk behind her and watch the key-chains on her backpack swing back and forth with each step she takes.
We have a literature class together and I daydream until she is called upon to read. And then I am shaken into focus, and I listen to her balanced tone as she works the words of Whitman with her own tongue. She sings the body electric and I imagine her singing other things, or maybe just sighing. I spin my ink-pen between my fingers and let my eyes fall on the faded unicorn that decorates the front of her sweater.
The students are paired and I think why wouldn't I be put with her? I blame nothing on fate. I suspect the professor can sense my infatuation; I suspect that the professor is telepathic and has heard the innumerable thoughts I have entertained in my own brain. My cheeks turn pink.
"I read Huckleberry Finn in high school," she tells me. That lets me know we can focus on other things. I learn her real name- not the one that the professor says when she reads the class roster. "I know where they are giving out free pizza after class," she reveals. And so I follow her with my hands shaking. It is January and so I know I can blame my nerves on the cold. This brings relief. I eat two slices, though I don't like either. The grease stain on the thin paper plate fascinates me. The people in charge of the get-together give us free coffee cups just for coming. Three each. I keep one and give the other two to friends that I later lose.
A year later we sit side by side and stare across my new room at that same cup. I don't remember the last time I drank out of it. There is a box of saltines sitting beside the cup, unopened.
"Tell me a story about the last time you ate crackers." She says because maybe she is nervous. Still, she is the most unique person I have ever known and her request makes me smile. She laughs and it is enough to make my heart pound.
I stumble over my words and don't pay attention to anything I'm saying. It may not even be sentences. I just see our text conversation in my head, though I cannot decide whether or not she meant it.
-I broke up with her.. She makes me so mad!
-How do you want to get back at her?
-Probably make out with a hot girl.
-You can make out with me if you want.
I am exceptionally brave, which is out of character for me. I mention our discussion and ask if she wants to know what it's like to kiss a girl.
Our tongues press together like we are mirrored images of the same body. Her hands travel over me with a curious hunger that I did not expect. I practice self-control. She denies it. And though I revel in the kiss, I think that maybe I prefer the hugs in between. I worry that this is an omen.
She believes she is doing me a favor, and maybe she is. I can't appreciate it though, because I do not understand it. It must mean more to me, at least, because afterward she says, "Keep it on the DL," not even presenting me with full words.
We remain friends. I enjoy the way she laughs as she tells me a long story over the phone. She incorporates her own personal courageous travels into the fantasy of taking adventures on the backs of unicorns. There are two unicorns- one named Majesty, and one who she just refers to as "The Mysterious One". I think they are both her. I think they both represent her.
I listen to the way she pronounces her words, like she's carefully forming each one just for me. She tells me how the four of us can fly, explore the continents, see Westminster Abbey, Mars and Niagara Falls. I don't want the story to end... But I know that it will. I realize that I've been waiting for it to end since the moment it began.
We say goodbye. My hands are shaking, but it's January and I can blame it on the cold. I say I'm sorry, and she frowns this deep frown that I do not know how to flip. We hug. There is no grand closure that is formed, or any particular denouement- just a tight embrace, with my hands on her shoulder blades. I am still shaking when I get back to my dorm room.
I see that stupid coffee cup.. That box of Saltines, still unopened. I look down at my hands, play with my phone until I get a text from her.
I'm going to miss you too.