By: Amanda Smiley
Major: English & Spanish
Hometown: Denver, CO
He will tell you that you look beautiful in your blue dress. Maybe because he’s supposed to, maybe because he really thinks so. You’ll be wearing silver earrings and black heels, and he’ll wear a pink and blue tie because you told him your dress is blue and “he can match if he wants to.” He’ll wrap his arm around your waist like he always does when he sees you. He does it so much you’ve come to expect it. Feel his fingers peel around you and let the chill roll down your spine. It’s true, he’ll stand close to you when you’re reading, waiting, talking with friends, drink in hand—he always does. It’s true, he’ll test how you react to his touch, if you flinch, test how much your fingers reach in the darkness to find his, how warm you feel inside when your eyes find his across a crowded backyard—piercing as fresh snow. When you look back at him in the flicker of the yellow porch light, you’ll see him glancing towards you and not looking away. Why isn’t he looking away? Why are you not looking away? Now you’re looking at each other and you can’t see anyone else.
When he comes up to you—like he always does—you’ll try and hide your smile beneath the shadow of your dipped head. In that backyard, in the car, on the steps, he’ll make you laugh about nothing, make you laugh and wonder why am I laughing, and he’ll tell you about the Beatles, why he loves them and how he thinks they’re the most talented band in the last century. “They can play dozens of instruments and they experiment with all sorts of sounds on every album.” He’ll play “Lovely Rita” for you and tell you how funny it is that they wrote a song about a parking meter, how “if he has kids” he will have to convince them of the Beatles’ genius too. And when you ask him about his favorite movie he will tell you the names of so many producers you’ve never heard of and so many movies you’ve never seen. “No one has the same favorite movie as me,” you’ll say. He’ll ask you what it is, and he’ll still hear your every word when you almost whisper, “The Sound of Music.” And just as your confidence begins to waver and as shame builds in your throat, he’ll turn to face you and tell you with a half-grin, “I like the Sound of Music, too.”
Yes. And he’ll hug you so long you’ll forget everything and understand everything, and then his shoulders have moved away, and then his arms, and now all you’re holding are his fingertips.
He won’t look you in the eyes. His chin won’t stop pointing at the muddy ground to see, for just one second, your asking and longing eyes. When he looks up, it’s not at you—he’s scanning the crowd of drunk college students, looking for someone, something. (You’re right here.) Out of the massive crowd of people at this spring concert, he happened to find you, and he will approach you with a wide grin. But when you stand next to him, chins bowed, he’ll hide his bright blue eyes. The stage music will pound sound waves through your body, but all you’ll hear is the sound of his voice, low and calm. Does he hear you? He won’t look at you, goddam it. Why won’t he look at you? What you say makes him laugh, even though it wasn’t meant to be all that funny. But he won’t come closer, won’t breathe and see and feel alongside you. He’s looking for a friend, he’ll tell you. You look around the crowd too, not sure who you should be looking for but half hoping they’re gone, not coming back, and he’ll just have to stay there with you. You’ll not exchange more than a few words of “hi” and “how are you?” and the kind of undefined questions that flitting eyes ask without words. But soon he’ll tell you he has to say hi to someone, and before you can get two sentences out, he’s walking away and not looking back.
At the dance, he’ll say, “wanna dance?” and you’ll calmly say “yeah” but your heart will fight to jump out of your chest. You’ll follow him to the dance floor, trying not to get too close to his square shoulders but wanting so badly to hold onto his arm, to be a part of his shadow on the ground. On the dance floor in the purple light, the guitarist will start to play John Mayer’s “Gravity” and you’ll look each other in the eyes because you both love this song. You’ll walk to the middle of the dance floor, your black heels long ago kicked to the side, your floor-length blue dress just barely covering the tops of your toes. He’s taken his coat off already and his white button down is coming uncuffed, but you don’t mind. He looks happy that way. Now you’ll stand just shorter than him, and he’s tall, he’s strong. Before you know it he’s taking your hand in his and pulling you in, to his chest, to his shirt—and it feels right. His hand rests at the small of your back and you feel like surrendering right then and there to his hold, like jumping out of a plane and hoping your parachute will catch you.
You’re moving your feet next to his. And suddenly you’re aware of his hand in between your fingers.
Gravity is working against me…
The bass clunks over and over. You won’t look at him, but his face will hover just above your head—your forehead will face his chest and you’ll try to fight the hunger to find his gaze. It won’t be anything like high school prom when the DJ plays a slow song so the guys have an excuse to ask the girls to slow dance. No, this will be a kind of suspension of time that happened so fast you begin to forget how to stand, what your name is, what university you go to. You can only remember two things: how to smile and the way guys kiss girls’ foreheads in movies. You think you could be that girl if he’d just kiss you—once—on the forehead.
Just keep me where the light is…ohhh ohhh…just keep me where the light is
You’re smiling like a fool and hoping the song won’t end. But it does—it always does. And your fingers begin to glide out of his in denial, in resistance.
Now the band’s playing a different song.
He won’t sit next to you on the bus because there aren’t enough seats. You’re up front and he’s in the back, but he won’t look at you when you turn around. He’ll stare at the floor and you won’t see his face through the darkness, won’t even hear his thoughts through the bus chatter. All you’ll see is his silhouette on the ground and against the windowpane, glowing in the red and yellow fog from the road’s break lights. He won’t be smiling at you like he did when he found you across the room, when he introduced you to his friends, or when you talked about Hemingway or spicy food or Big Bend National Park. It’s as if none of that ever happened, none of those conversations ever happened and they’re all loose dreams inside your head that never even passed your lips. The lips you even applied chapstick to because you’re pretty sure guys don’t want to kiss chapped lips.
And when you step off the bus and he walks you home, he won’t hug you like he did under the disco lights of aquamarine and forest green. Won’t hold you against him like he did when he tried to teach you to square dance and neither of you could stop laughing because wow, you’re so bad at it. Instead, he’ll hug you like a friend who wants to get the goodbye over with, in an anxious rush and with distracted eyes. And worst of all, he won’t find your hand by your side and kiss you under the stars like you thought he would, like you hoped he would. And when you say goodbye, he won’t turn back around when he walks the other way.
It’s true that just when you think he couldn’t possibly think of you as often as you think of him, he’ll find your sore spot and makes it sore-er. That spot of vulnerability that weakens your knees when he’s around, that spot that was just beginning to heal with distance, with space. He’ll see you again, and he’ll start the healing process all over again. Again he’ll make your legs weak and your hands tingly. Will you ever heal? As you descend the stairs outside the building, the sun will have just hidden itself beyond the horizon. The skyline will be a dark orange and the moon’s silver disc will begin to bloom above your pink sweater, his red-brown hair. You’ll be talking about something, but weeks later you won’t remember about what. The bruise will have worsened because you don’t ever stop thinking about it, reminding yourself that it’s there and it’s deep. You’ll forget the words that escaped your mouths, but you’ll remember the way his eyes never left your face, how he moved in every direction you did, around every corner and every step, like magnetic trains on a wooden toy track. You’ll remember the way his pale blue eyes and wide smile moved closer to you in the looming darkness of the day’s dusk, the way his gentle laugh pervaded your ears like falling rain and never left—it all still lives within you, the way he smelled of grass and sandalwood and how happy he seemed. Why is he so happy? Why do you feel so happy? And you’ll get so close you’re almost touching, almost giving in like clouds that float above water in a kind of tense but smooth suspension of time. And eventually you’ll have to turn back to your dorm, to break the spell. But goddammit why won’t he kiss you and run his fingers through your hair? Doesn’t he know he’s already running through your mind every moment of every day? One can only survive so long on what if’s.
He won’t respond to your texts. When he does, his answers are brief, bland, unexciting. Are you bothering him? Are you being annoying? A few times your finger will hover over the dial button, just wanting to hear his voice. But you won’t—you know you won’t. You’ll feel like you’re texting him too much, always bothering him because he won’t show any sign of interest, any desire to receive another text from you on the screen of his phone. “I’m a bad texter,” he’s told you before. “I only text people when I’m making plans.” Bullshit—if he liked you he’d text you, about everything. But how sick is it that you scroll back to the text conversation you had with him two weeks ago just to relive it. No, you haven’t texted or seen each other in two weeks, and he’s probably not thinking about texting you, not trying to think of any possible avenue of conversation to just get one response, one sign that you’re existent in the mysterious corners of his mind.
He probably doesn’t even remember every moment you two spent together or the day you first met. He probably doesn’t remember that he looked at you first that day, that when you walked in the room, there had been something lonely and curious in his eyes. But you’ll remember the way you walked into the meeting and sat in the back, surrounded by unfamiliar faces. His eyes will follow you the whole way. You said nothing, he said nothing, and for months he was “that guy in my club.” You said nothing to one another, and months later, after you’ve become “friends” and hung out in group settings and gone to dances together and hugged once and then again, now you want to say everything—everything that means something, like the fact that you miss him.
But now, your phone will sit quietly beside your bed, and you’ll know that the only way you two have ever really talked is through silence and different shades of blue.
All of the Above:
Eventually your heart will feel exhausted from guessing, from thinking, from not knowing. He’ll sometimes seem distant, preoccupied, unconcerned with you. But sometimes he’ll slow his footsteps and let you catch up to him. He’ll look at your eyes and challenge you to be the first to look away, and he’ll stand so close you crave the feeling of his fingers between yours. And as you try to organize your shattered, confused emotions since that night last November, you’ll realize you’ve come nowhere closer to an answer than you ever were.
And then the thing you thought would never happen will. He’ll kiss you once, then again, then again until your hold on time slips right through your fingertips into the shadows and you’re only left holding his hand. And you’ll talk as easily as you ever did and laugh for no reason, or because you catch his eye and he doesn’t look away this time. And he’ll beg you to stay with him forever, in his room with him, surrounded by the shadows of his dark walls and dark blue comforter. He’ll insist on taking you on a date—a real one—where he picks you up exactly at 6:00pm and opens the doors and pays for your meal and drives you home. And when you’ve done all that and you sit in the car with him, the springtime sunshine with scream through the windowpane in a warm waterfall of evening light and you’ll wait for him to grab and hold your hand like he did just a few nights ago.
But, he won’t. His hand will hover next to yours, just barely out of reach. He’ll lean in when you begin to climb out of the car and you won’t be able to read his eyes because of his goofy, plastic sunglasses. His shades will hide his eyes and you won’t know if he wants a goodbye hug or a goodbye kiss, a kiss just like the one you gave him when you said goodbye last time. It is so easy when his eyes are exposed, so easy to tell exactly what he’s thinking. As you struggle to peer through the shades of his sunglasses, you’ll panic and feel the beginning sparks of anger. Why are his eyes always hiding from you? They’re too bright to remain hidden behind tinted plastic. And when you decide to go for the hug, you’ll wrap your hand around his neck and brush his cheek to remind him, remind him of when that was normal between you two, when he held your chin with no shame and traced your lips with his thumb.
And the hug will happen and you’ll speak goodbye with your mouth, not your eyes, and you’ll step out of the car and walk the other direction, and for the first time you realize he’s not walking away from you.
All of the Above:
And after two days of truth, of happiness, of exposed feelings the two of you kept concealed for so long, he won’t text or call you. It’ll be two days after your date and one day after you asked him to hang out and he will remain silent behind the phone screen. The elation you once felt at the thought of him, at the memory of his affection, will begin to churn into something bitter, something sad and empty. You’ll try to remain positive, remain hopeful, but you can only swing this pendulum for so long—you’ll be tired of no answers, tired of maybe’s, tired of expectations thrown out of the window. You’ll be tired of sitting alone in your white walled room, replaying everything said, everything done. You’ll be sick of crying into your white and blue-fringed comforter as the fan hums, buzzing your mind into numbness. The madness will have to end. It will—but does it have to? Part of you is exhausted, ready to pull the curtain on that past and never open the stage again—you’re too hurt and too lost to go back. You’ll try swearing him off for good, ignoring thoughts of him as he comes to mind and fighting the desire to see him. But part of you will still bloom when you remember that time, just last week, when he told you he wanted to see you, to be with you. Because suddenly, you’re imagining yourselves walking along the riverfront, his arm around your waist and your fingers searching, seeking, looking for his again—just to hold them once more. Because now it’s spring and the pollen is happier than you are, bouncing among the clouds.
You never really saw the world in black and white. You see the world as a splatter paint canvas full of laughs and kisses and the smell of sandalwood and cold tears in the dark and the texture of a cotton shirt and his breath with a hint of beer and the color blue and more blue and the touch of sand falling through your fingers.