It happened all of a sudden, but for the past week, I can’t stop thinking about you.
We’ve been in class together since the fall quarter, taking the series together all of the way through. Never once did we talk, but I would always see you, talking with a friend you made in class.
You’re new. You just came this year. From I don’t know where. But you have came, and that made all the difference to me.
Truthfully, though, you didn’t struck me back then as you do now. Cheesy as it sounds, the candle of my affection burned slowly for you, ignited just this spring: it was the first day of lecture, and I walked in late enough that most of the seats were taken, but class hadn’t started yet. The room was crowded with rejuvenated students, ready for a new term to begin, and I had to steady my head from the chaos that hit me. My first gaze was on you, looking at me with an expression that…confused me. Still does to this day. I don’t know what you had intended with that gaze, but I saw it as a mixture of scrutiny, criticism, yet also recognition and familiarity. I think you had your arms crossed, too. You were sitting with your friend, so I didn’t end up sitting with you. I don’t think I had wanted to, anyway, because I turned around and saw someone else that I knew. Someone more receptive.
That initial encounter of recognition did not cross my mind until just last week, when without warning, every memory that I recalled of you just flooded over me. I don’t know what triggered it. But memories, my god, memories, filled my thoughts at night, and I gave myself to them. The first ever being your conversation to your friend about coming to the university, being a new student. Your presence in discussion section every Friday, one of the first being during the first week when you suggested to the TA that you didn’t want pop quizzes or anything, and when I found out your favorite book (and the sentiments behind why you liked it- how it inspired you to keep reading). The second or three week when you had to read aloud and I heard your voice tremble, nervous as hell, and you stumbled through some passages. The fourth or fifth week when we had a paper due and we ran into each other at the writing center. I half-heard your conversation with the facilitator that you were assigned to as I worked with mine. He was giving you a hard time, wasn’t he? I’m sure he was just messing with you. We didn’t talk, but that was the closest that I had ever gotten to you so far of knowing you.
No, that was a lie: the closest that I had ever gotten to you was around that time, can’t remember when, but it was during lecture, when you somehow had to move seats. Instead of sitting right behind me (as you typically do), you got up and settled on my right. When my other acquaintance came in and took the seat to my left, I spent the next fifty minutes of lecture trying to keep my cool, because I was sandwiched in between such attractive individuals. My mind was blown. I was so close that I could make out your featured details: consistently immaculate hair, the fact that you wore T-shirts almost all of the time, and other little things that usually would go unnoticed, but I had noticed and took them to mean something special.
I had planned to smile this week, at you, to show that I acknowledge your presence in my life. One proverb mentions something along the lines of: “One smile can warm many winters,” but since it has been blazing hot in these past two, three weeks, I’ll modify and say that a smile can make the heart burn hotter.
The smile, though: it never materialized, because of the circumstances: Monday, I walked in and you were reading a book, staring down at the text, so of course I couldn’t make eye contact with you and do it. Wednesday and Friday, I showed up before you did to class, so I couldn’t walk in and give it to you. I’ll try again next week.
But one thing that I did notice was your smile, the genuine one. I point out the “genuine” one, because I’m sure that you have smiled before in other contexts, but they had always been for small reasons, like a half-funny joke or light commentary on life or something. Or maybe it was because I never turned around to actually look when you laughed out loud. This time, though, I did look, as I was passing by. It was a wonderful smile, the lines on the side of your face deep, but your face so youthful and full of life and adorable. In that moment, I was charmed. I could have loved you, then and there.
I made eye contact with you this morning at the end of discussion, when I addressed you and a classmate sitting next to you if you wanted more of the cookies that I had brought in to share with the class. The boxes had been in front of where you and the classmate were sitting, and I needed to pack them up. But out of courtesy, I asked if you wanted more. You said nothing, but the other classmate politely said, “No, I’m good. Thank you so much for bringing them!” Your non-response left me stumped.
Is it the way that I walk in to lecture every time you’re there? Do I not look friendly enough to you? I suppose that’s what people have noticed and told me about: that my face is always in this neutral gaze. Deep in thoughts, but never the one to articulate them explicitly. I’m choosing to change, if you change as well. Maybe after this quarter ends, you won’t see me, and you’ll be relieved: no more seeing of that weird individual you gives you neutral glances in class. Or maybe you will see me in future classes, and maybe that’ll force us to actually talk. I don’t know. I think I might be crazy. But I’m not letting this quarter go to waste without at least smiling at you. I will smile at you, I will succeed. And hopefully, you will smile back.
-The Finicky Cynic