He looked at you. You feel your heart slow to a
dilapidated pace with deep, resounding beats shuddering in
your ears. Your breath stops.
Across the classroom, twenty feet away and two levels
higher on the bullpit style seating, sits a pale-brown, young
man, his short, straight, black hair hidden by a black
baseball cap and his blazing, hazel eyes staring back into
your own, diminished, blue ones.
Wrenching your neck, you look away. You look anywhere.
The professor is midway through a lesson about Nathaniel
Hawthorne, not realizing that he already gave the lesson to
the class last week. The green chalkboard is covered by a
projection screen that has resisted any attempt to be raised
by faculty or student alike. The sound of your own heart
fades; your breath returns.
To your right is the door. A corkboard sits next to it,
advocating women's rights in film, capturing your attention
for a moment. Looking down at the long, curved desk you sit
at, which spans six seats, you fiddle with a mechanical pencil
and stare, blankly, at your open textbook.
Last week had been different. Paul, the man who sat
twenty feet away from you, had been on a tirade about a
comment the professor, Mr. Tillinger, had made about the fate
of the history of music. Paul had been focused on his
argument, and barely looked at anyone that week but the
It made your heart quiver whenever Paul responded with an
indignant quip and that wry smile simmered onto his face. But
the smile would go away, and Paul, lost in thought, would
ignore the world around him. Sometimes, as you watched, he
would stretch and yawn. This always made you sigh, to see his
natural strength mold through whichever Beetles shirt he was
wearing that day. His insight made you sigh too.
"What do you think?" Mr. Tillinger's question brings you
back. You find that your eyes, your entire head, even, had
shifted so you could clearly see the object of your content in
the corner of your eye. The professor looks over his glasses
at Paul and asks, "What about you, Mr. Childs?"
Paul's eyes dance with fire and he boldly states, "Well,
I think he wrote it that way intentionally." His tone is slow
and monotone, something you would be happy to sleep to. You
"Interesting. Mr. Mason? What do you think about this?"
You turn to find the professor's eyes upon yourself.
Taking a deep breath to hesitate, you try to figure out where
the lecture is at the moment. Finally, you squeak out, "I
don't think there's any other reason for him to have written
it this way." You hold your breath.
Mr. Tillinger casts a sidelong glance at the whole
classroom and says, "Yeah, I think so too."
Exhaling long and quietly, you shift your gaze back at
Paul. He's looking at the instructor, who is wrapping up the
class. His notebook is closed, but still out on the desk.
His eyes look down at it. Then they skit over and up, and
you're staring into his blazing hazels again.
You stop. Not just your breath but all of you. You will
to turn away is gone. Your fingers stop in mid drum. For
five long, slow, tender beats of your heavy heart, you stare
into his eyes that stare into yours.
Your brain fires up, thinking every thought it can. Why
is he looking at you? Why doesn't he just look away? Your
thoughts race forward, trying to figure out how it all plays
out. When he first touches you. When he whispers in your
ear. When the last thing you see are his eyes, so close, as
he leans in and brushes your lips with him. He feels like
that familiar warmth. He smells like wheat or baby's breath.
He tastes like sweat, dust and honey. It's too long. You
feel yourself tearing yourself away from his gaze. Your neck
barely moves, jerking hard as you pull him away from your
eyes. You don't want to scare him away.
The class ends, and you shove everything into your bag:
book, mechanical pencil, binder. You wait, ready to spring up
and walk out the door, just as Paul passes you. He holds the
door open for you, and gives you a smile.
The cement walkway is wide, for campus traffic, and
covered by the building in a long tunnel. The restrooms are
on the left, first the women's, then the men's. After the
men's room, the building cuts away, a grassy lot rushing up to
the cement. On the other side of the walkway, the building
continues, and then ends, where the rest of the campus begins.
The walkway stops and splits after a few feet more, where
another building stands in its way.
As the two of you step out into the sunlight, the grassy
field next to you, Paul cocks his head to the side. "So," he
says, and points with his eyes at your head, "I see you got a
You grin, wide, and fall into a matching stride along the
grass-lined sidewalk. "Yeah. It was starting to get
annoying." Your short, blond hair falls into your vision and
you quickly bash it out of the way.
Paul lifts his cap up off his head and adjusts it before
letting it fall back down. "I used to have long hair. Not as
long as yours was, but it was down to my shoulders." The two
of you approach the T-split in the sidewalk. "I like it
better short like this."
"Yeah, it's nicer," you say. Then a silence falls
between you two. You want to say something, anything.
"So," you say after the pause, "I noticed you looking at
me in class today."
"Yeah," he replies and slows to a stop, turning to face
you. His eyebrows rise and his burning, hazel eyes narrow in
their deep sockets. "What was that all about?"
Still seeing his wry smile, you say, "Well, when people
notice each other across a room, maybe they want to get to
know each other better."
Paul's eyebrow's lower a little. "Yeah, I've thought
you'd make a good friend."
You take a deep breath. "You'd make a good friend. Butó
"But what?" The corners of Paul's mouth droop.
Your voice is quiet, and it struggles to get out. "But,
maybe you'd like to be something more thanó"
"What?" Paul's eyebrows come down and you can see a new
kind of fire deep within his eyes. "What are you talking
about? I've got a girlfriend!"
"I'm sorry," you eek out, as you look away, to the
"Just don't talk to me, man. You can forget about being
friends. You faggot!" And he turns and walks away.
That's how it would have happened, you think, as you
watch him walking the other direction. How it would have
happened if you'd said anything at all. You're sure of it,
and you can smile, knowing that in his head he only remembers
talking to you about your hair. After the silence, it was all
just a story, you told to yourself.
You sigh as he walks out into a nearby parking lot. You
watch, because that's all you ever do. You watch and make up