I am sitting across the room from him. Both he and I are well-aware that we have noticed each other, but we hadn’t even made eye contact. We have been like this for awhile, distant around the edges, tiptoe-ing around the way we both left so much unsaid, or maybe I left too much said.
And then something changes within me on impulse. I sit up, and just like that, I approach him. I stand right in his vision, confident in my walk and body posture, but already completely breaking down on the inside out of sheer nervousness. And that’s when it all starts to pour out. I apologize.
“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry,
s o r r y,” I mumble,
“I’m sorry because you deserved
to be treated
And that’s when his eyes meet mine, shining with emotion. I am stunned by the way his eyes radiate with forgiveness, because it is a look I have never seen, an emotion I’m sure he hadn’t felt for a while. And all I could feel was relief. Relief from my own fear that he’d never forgive me, that these words would somehow distort themselves, that these words would not reach him. Relief that he has found some resonance with these words. And then we sit there, together, in the back of the classroom. This distance between us is just inches but seems to stretch for miles. We are in a classroom of colleagues, but everything seems to fade into the background. We have both coincidentally been sitting Indian style, and I have to muster up every ounce of concentration I have so that I can focus on the board instead of the magnetic pull between my right shoulder and his left. And then he rolls me a yellow highlighter, and I realize it’s because he had already noticed the anxiety that formed over my face when it dawned on me that I didn’t put my highlighter in my purse this morning. And he knows how neurotic I am about these sort of things. And I look at him with such surprise the way he reads me so well, the way he comes so prepared. And he’s just smiling, so lightly and nonchalantly but sizzles on all of my skin. And then I do too. So much that my cheekbones begin to burn.
Moments later in the midst of taking notes, he passes me a folded note.
“Love you. Love you. I do. I have a new primary email where we can talk more. Here it is. We can be penpals.”
Wha—This can’t be, I melt. I’m so shocked at the way an apology can fix loose ends, almost as shocked as the words “love you” are already mounting into the depths of my mind. It’s been years since I’ve heard it from him, a phrase that’s entirely overused in this society and acts as a substitute for caring, but then I reread what he says, and it’s different. There is so much meaning. Almost too much it’s unbearable, but there isn’t such a thing as overwhelming love. He shows me that. I trust his love. I like it. A lot. Like a child returning to safety. Like a reunion with a family at the airport. Like the laughter at three in the morning with a best friend. Like…like… And then before I seep into this emotion for too long, the bell rings.
We’re walking in the hallway together. He’s already told me he has practice after class, but being the girl that I am, specifically the one that I am around him, the one that always gets carried away, I stay with him as long as he lets me.
“We just couldn’t be in each other’s lives during that time.” I don’t remember who started this conversation.
“We? I’m not so sure about we…” I’m skeptic.
“Oh Lucie. I always cared. Do you think you’re not important enough? I can still read through your metaphors,” he winks.
He does. He still can. My eyes well up with tears, but just enough so that I don’t begin to shed any, but I can feel the tingle run down my nose telling me that I am just so, in love. In love with this conversation. In love with walking side by side with him. In love with the fact that we still have not touched but it feels like we’ve reached into each other’s souls and added some sparkle.
And then we reach the end of the hallway that guides to the field for practice, which I know is my last cue before I tell him a goodbye, or a see you later, I haven’t quite thought about how to bid him farewell yet. I’ve never been good with these sort of things. But I don’t do any of that, I am that girl that gets carried away, I am that girl that always wants, needs, to know the next time I’ll see him, because that’s how love works for me. An obsession. And so I shyly suggest, “Well. I will email you. We should catch up sometime when you’re —”
“Who said I have practice right after class?”
“You don’t? When is it, then?”
And then he takes one coy glance at me and quickly yells, “You’re it!” before dashing off. To say I’ve been left with a deer-in-the-headlight look is a vast understatement. It’s only when he’s far off in my distance only looking a mere 6 inches tall that it’s come to my realization we’re in a game of tag.
And i see him disappearing into the background. Running down the hallway. And I started running, chasing after him. Chasing. Chasing him. Chasing love. Chasing infinity. Catch My Breath by Kelly Clarkson is playing in my head, and in my head, we’re in a musical. And so there I was, running down the hallway, while all of our colleagues in the sidelines watched us zipped by. And he turned around, running backwards. Maybe to gauge how far away I am. Maybe to see if I’d come running at all, but mostly to taunt me, to joke about the poor runner that I am because he god damn knows how much I dislike running. But being the silly one that he is, he runs into somebody, knock over her binders and books, and that’s when I catch up and tag him.
“Aha! You’re it!”
I don’t even know where I am running, but it doesn’t matter, because my physically frail self is already out of breath, collapsed on the ground gasping for air, just waiting for the moment he’ll catch up to me and laugh at me. And he does, but it isn’t even a split moment until he says, “Come on! You’re it! We’re still playing!” And he runs out the door.
I huff a huge sigh before I inch my way to the door that leads to outside, and I see his car with the passenger door already open. I’m suspicious, because I’ve never liked his surprises, and he has tinted windows, and I never know what he has up his sleeve. And then I walk up to his car, sink into the passenger seat, and he looks at me and says, “Wasn’t that fun? What should we do next?”
And I’m short of breath. What he has just said was a jumble of mixed letters in my mind, like a box of scattered puzzle pieces that I can’t seem to place together, even with the very last bit of my brain power. And I sigh. I sigh at how unreal this is, that in this moment, I strongly feel I will never be closer to him than I am now, knowing that this is only the beginning, that I am as silly as he is to believe I thought I knew everything.