Rewind: December, 2010.
Me and my mom went to the Lowes (Think: As Target is to Wal-Mart, Lowes is to Home-Depot) down the street to look for a plant or two and see how much the Christmas lights cost. I put on my mom’s black trench coat and twisted my hair into a messy bun, my hands stuffed into the pockets for warmth. It had been a month since my first big panic attack, and I was still a bit shaken from it, tense.
We stepped inside the garden center (I suppose the word ‘inside’ is inaccurate, speaking as the only thing separating the area from the elements were some green bars for walls and the occasional blue tarp-like covering above us. As we walked we passed a young man standing at the outdoor cash-register. I looked him in the eye and felt a sudden jolt of energy before quickly looking away. He had very light-brown hair and dark circles under his eyes, as though he hadn’t slept in a while. This appealed to me. Whenever I see someone with signs of fatigue I tend to admire them. He greeted us and my mom asked him something, as he gave her directions to where the plant was his eyes flicked over to me for a moment and I felt another jolt of energy that left as soon as it appeared when he looked away. As we started walking away I glanced back and he was watching me (you can probably predict by now) I felt the sudden energy again until I looked away. This was bizarre and exciting to me, this had never happened before. And goodness, didn’t he look charming! I looked back again and he was still watching me. I was suddenly giddy. I looked over at my mom and realized I couldn’t talk to him without visions of my brothers’ previous activities running through her mind. She knew I was the straight-and-narrow child, but not enough. When we went inside the store itself I caught glimpses of him several times before it was time to leave. A million schemes ran through my mind, but that’s all they remained, schemes. I watched him as we drove away, and wrote a post about it about a week later, “You never know,” Mandii Madame told me in a comment, “You just might cross paths again.”
“You know something?” I said, staring out of my window and watching as Heather Madame drove us into the downtown for our morning cup of coffee at The Cafe.
“I think I want to date someone for fun. For fun, for perhaps a month, and then forget about them.”
She glanced over at me for a moment, “That…doesn’t sound like you. Why?”
I looked over at her, “Because Mat, Zach, Steven…I never felt the thrill.”
“The thrill.” I thought for a moment about MysteryLowesFellow. “The thing everyone on planet earth who has ever dated anyone has felt. The anticipation of seeing them, talking to them. The feeling of missing them when they aren’t there and never wanting them to leave. I never felt the thrill, Heather. I only felt like it was a chore, a duty. Being with someone shouldn’t mean I need to remind myself about how much loyalty means to me every time I think about them.”
She was silent as she turned the corner. “I don’t think you would be happy in a casual relationship. I think if you did feel it you would get attached, and just like the others they would use you until you’re run dry.” We pulled up to The Cafe, “But you are right about it in a way. It shouldn’t be a chore, you deserve to be happy.”
“His name’s Matthew.” I said as Heather Madame drove us to my house
“Him. From Lowes in December. I think he’s in my anatomy and physiology class.”
“Oh! Right! You mentioned that on the phone. Are you sure it’s him?”
“He has the same eyes, hair and height. If it isn’t him it’s his twin.”
“Have you talked to him?
“No.” I said, “I have so much emotional baggage right now, I want to fix myself first before I start anything.”
“Maybe you could just stay friends for a while until you feel ready?”
I chuckled without humor, “Madame, we can predict how that would turn out already. My mind would always read too much into everything, I won’t be able to handle it.”
She was silent for a while, then she glanced over at me. “Do what you need to do.” She said, “But just don’t make yourself miss out on a good thing.”
Fast–Forward to September 28th – 6:00AM
It’s the day after I typed the post deciding to be happy, and I am awake two and a half hours earlier than I need to be, because I’m going to spend an extra amount of time getting ready to look as good as I can before class. The blow dryer is probably driving my family crazy. I open the bathroom door to let in cool air (it’s a very small bathroom and, as you might imagine, gets very stuffy very quickly on the occasions I whip out hair styling tools) the cat escapes and I can only pray she doesn’t soil the couch again while she’s downstairs.
Thing to be happy about – I’m going to class. I think as I start working on my make-up. This has become a habit – thinking of something every day to be happy about. It’s part of my unofficial happiness experiment.
As it is now habit on my blog to create code names for people I know so as to lessen the risk of them discovering my blog, I will refer to Matthew as…hm, I suppose I’ll call him Chase. It seems to suit him better than anything I can think of at this hour.
There are several things that have become normal during class.
1. When he passes by my chair he always pauses for a moment before continuing to one of the seats by the other males
2. He always sits directly across from me (typically the tables are in a U pattern) and watches me frequently during class
3. After class, he waits until I’ve stuffed all of my books and notes into my bag and meets me at the door. Then when we go to The Center’s cafe after class, he stands or sits nearby until I leave, at which point he rises to go as well. (This all occurs without a word spoken)
That first Wednesday after the experiment started was one where I was rather frustrated with myself. After the usual routine, as we were walking to the school cafe I tried getting a small-talk question out of my mouth but my vocal chords seemed to not feel like working that day.
Ask him something, you loon! But the words wouldn’t come. I ended up talking to Claire (the barista at the coffee bar and an old acquaintance of mine) while she made me my usual earl grey tea (I always get a cup directly before and directly after class) and I left once my mother pulled up. Next week, there’s always next week. I told myself as I headed for the door. I glanced back at him as I opened it, he looked away as I did so. The door shut silently behind me.
The Following Wednesday
I woke up early again and got ready for class, the usual routine played out. But just as I was getting ready to leave, Teacher Madame decided to have me stay after and complete a portion of the exam that I had missed. I sent Heather a text-message after class.
I had to stay after class. Have I mentioned how I so loathe protein synthesis?
This Past Wednesday
My alarm didn’t go off and I woke up four minutes before it was time to leave. Being part of the female species, it takes me a minimum of 45 minutes to feel like I’m ready to face the outside world. I messaged Teacher Madame and let her know I would go to Friday’s class to make up for it. I told Heather Madame and she helped me be angry at my alarm. This means I wouldn’t see Chase for another week.
I arrived at the classroom and, seeing no other seats available, walked to the very back and sat at a table facing the wall.
“Someone move that table so Hannah isn’t facing green paint?” Teacher Madame called out.
“Dude, you’re facing a wall?” Said Tim (one of the funniest, most flirtatious people I’ve ever met – he’s also someone of notable character that I’ve come to respect).
The table was moved and several class handouts were placed on a table to my right.
“Was Wednesday’s class canceled?” Julie said as she scanned the room. I noticed the guys from Wednesday were all there except for Chase.
“Nope, just nobody was able to make it.” Said Marshall
“So Chase was there by himself?” I asked as I stood.
He shrugged, “I guess so.”
Who walked into the room that very moment except for Chase himself. I realized with reasonable happiness that the only seat left was the chair next to mine. He started getting out his text- and notebooks so I grabbed his handouts for him and put them on the table next to his items.
During class he would turn his head to watch me as I scribbled notes in my book, perhaps thinking I couldn’t see him. I would look back up at the teacher and see him do the same until I started writing again. Tim was sitting directly in front of me and, since we’re also in Senior Session together, felt comfortable turning around frequently to talk to me. A note about Friday’s class – it’s a lot more lively and the students are a lot more vocal. Tim made jokes the entire time and at one point when he heard me mumble “I can’t believe cryogenics are still legal…” he turned and started talking about the creative things he would want done after he was dead. Marshall, who sat to the left of him and directly in front of Chase made a contorted expression and said “I’d do it if they let me freeze my face like this.” Tim turned to me and said something absurd like he would want to be shot out of a cannon or flown over Jamaica. I forget what he said, but one line finally had me laughing out loud, along with the rest of the class. I suddenly loved talking to Tim, because I hadn’t felt that carefree in a long time.
Once everyone had been quieted down Teacher Madame went back to the PowerPoint. A few minutes later, someone who I hadn’t laid eyes on in two years walked through the door.
Newer readers of my blog probably don’t know about Rye – I’ll attempt to keep it brief:
The first year me and Heather moved to Texas (our families moved here at the same time about five years ago) we starred in a play at the Center and met Rye. We were like sisters instantly and stayed that way for two years. And then Heather was set up with her current fiance, Carlisle, by Rye. Ryleigh was gleeful at first that she had gotten Heather her first boyfriend, and happier when they got engaged only a month later. Suddenly Rye didn’t want to be friends with Heather, so she broke it off, and told me that I had to choose between the two of them. So I explained that it would be her choice, not mine, so she left my life as well. That was two years ago.
Her hair was back to being bleach-blonde. She wore a black and white pattern on her babydoll-style blouse with darkwash pants. She was smiling when she came into the room, and then she saw me and the smile vanished. She handed some papers to Teacher Madame and then left the room. I had known that my teacher was Rye’s private tutor for some time, but I never expected to see her there. When she left the room I had a small panic attack but let it run its course until it faded. Chase had been mimicking my body language up until that point, and I realized I had become tense, my frame curving inward protectively with my arms crossed and shoulders slouched. I changed my posture and a few minutes later, I had forgotten about Ryleigh.
After class ended I waited until he had everything packed and we got up at the same time. As we left the building I looked over at him and asked how he thought he did on the test. He shrugged and said something ordinary. I replied something ordinary. To which he said something else, to which I replied. His ride pulled up and he started walking away before saying “See you next week.”
I waved and continued the walk to the cafe. I thought of how ordinary the conversation was. Was it supposed to be that comfortable? I ordered my earl grey tea and tried to avoid thinking about it too much. It would be only too classic of me, being a female, to over think simple things. I wondered where an explanation lied of how on earth the brain decides to make emotions jolt and when. He had looked me in the eye at least half a dozen times that day and I felt nothing but curiosity. I’m looking forward to seeing him again, but I hope this simply isn’t due to a wondering of what will happen next. Perhaps because it gives me nothing to think about except what I usually do. An ordinary conversation about something ordinary. I realize now that I might enjoy things this way. Me, sitting around the boys, joking in class and having dull conversations after.
Maybe you’ll have learned something for me in all of this, or maybe nothing at all. Perhaps you’ve just ended a good book and were hoping for some sort of promising nonfiction teenage love story. Maybe I lost you at the 3000th word, or perhaps you like knowing these things.
P.S. Last week I finally got my learner permit! It’s the type of thing that makes me wish I were the sort of person that happy danced.