JH and I are standing alone outside in the cold. I'm wearing a ruffled-back chiffon blouse tucked into an A-line skirt that pleats down to just above the knee, and Ukki snap-button ankle boots. He is wearing a dark suit that fits him like a seal's coat on a seal. He observes me quietly momentarily, and I glean an expression on his face that seems to be saying, "Damn, this girl looks cute." I am trying to hide the expression on my face that is saying, "Damn, this guy look handsome."
I turn to him and smile and he smiles back. I say, "I told my brother the other night that you should go through life with your eyes closed. Literally." - I motion for him to do so by sweeping a hand across his eyes. - "Like this." His eyelashes tickle the edges of palm. My heart races.
"What? Why?" he says, opening them up again.
I cover his eyes again and say, "Just keep them closed, for like, a minute."
"Okay..." he says.
"So you know how all these girls are tripping over themselves to get your attention, and it's because of your gorgeous green eyes? That's probably not the only reason, but it's, like, the one thing they mention over and over again. You should just do yourself a favor and keep them closed all the time. I'll get you a walking stick and a seeing eye dog to help you out."
"What if it's a girl I like?" he says. "What am I supposed to do then?"
"In that case, if she doesn't get creeped out and still sticks around, you'll know she likes you for you and not just for your gorgeous eyes."
He scratches the side of his cheek.
"What about you?" he says.
I'm taken aback by that, but his eyes are closed like a safety net, like a veil. I still feel safe.
"What about me?"
LD trudges out through the door at that moment, looking smokin' hot in her tiny, red mini-dress and fire-truck red lipstick. LD and I are friends and I know she looks smokin' hot and am not afraid to admit it. I also know that she is wearing that smokin' hot outfit for him. I also know that he knows that she's crushing on him. He is looking at her with an expression that seems to be saying,"Damn, that girl is sexy." I'm sure that if he had food in his mouth at the time, he would have choked and I'd have to put my rusty training in the Heimlich Manuever to work.
Why won't this guy just let me get over him? I know he can’t possibly like me because everyone says he only likes pretty girls. I know he can’t possibly like me because there’s this other gorgeous girl with a very peppy personality who is after him, and he doesn’t seem hostile toward her attention at all. Besides, I’m always misreading a guy’s signals, and it would be super-duper embarrassing to confess my feelings only to be shot down.
Why did he have to be chums with my younger brother? Why did he have to come with us on my family camping trip? Why did he have to ask me on the first night, “Do you want to go hiking with us?” And when we did, why did he have to turn back to look at me or slow down to walk beside me whenever I trailed behind? When I was trying to have a private moment with my best friend, why did he have to drag his chair to sit in front of me, so that we could “talk”? Why did my niece have to give him smores which he gave to me? Why did he have to touch my palm with his fingertips when he was handing me the smores? Why did his fingertips have to trail across my palm? Why did I have to question whether I was imagining that they were? Why did his fingertips have to scalding to the touch? Why did his eyes have to linger over mine while he was doing it? Why did we have to look at each other without saying anything? Why did he have to tease me by singing in broken Thai, “I love you! I love you!” Why did he have to grow that stupid beard overnight which made my knees weak because I’m a sucker for rugged-looking men? But then why did he have to be four years younger? Why did he have to attack me with a water balloon while I was reading alone, and then run off and pretend like he didn’t do it? Why did he have to ask everyone, “Hey, where’s Hats?” after I had snuck away from the group to take a nap. Why did he have to look at me and smile when my niece handed us both Hershey’s Kisses? Why did he have to sit next to me when we were at the picnic and press against me after he found out that I’m adverse to touch? Why did he have to get all butt-hurt when I made a comment that suggested I was calling him dumb, and then why did he have to look so happy when I genuinely apologized because I didn’t mean it and told him that I never thought that about him at all? Why, why, why?
Is it just me, or are these guys seriously avoiding me on purpose? Seriously, what did I ever do to deserve this kind of public exile? One day they're talking and laughing with me, and the next few days they just breeze past without even a word. They’ll talk to my friends and everyone else around me but give me the cold shoulder, like I’m a leper or something. If I squint hard enough, I bet I could see icicles forming in the space between us.
At times like that I feel like extending my foot to trip them when they attempt to bail on me. But then I'd look totally ridiculous for getting baited into unleashing my fury by a couple of pranksters. And, really, they must be pranksters because they weren’t acting like that when PF was around.
Why can't it just be simple? I mean, I just turned twenty-six less than two and a half months ago, and for some reason I’m tired of playing these silly games with people who may or not may not be interested in me. Look at what became of AY and me: We got nowhere. Obi puts it best. She chirps, “Nothing can come between us,” and I have to nod in agreement every time I hear that line because, yes, she is absolutely right. Nothing can come between something that doesn’t exist.
So tell me what is up with this hot-and-cold/hard-to-get/flirty-one-moment-then-ignoring-me-the-next game that these guys are playing, huh? I'm human; I have feelings too, you know? If you don't like me, fine; if you just want to be friends, fine. No problem. I get the picture.
It’s just, we were having so much fun together, and I got my hopes up thinking I was finally going to make some friends who won’t diss me at every opportunity they get, and then when I finally get the nerve to approach them – Whoosh! – There they go, circling away from me like I’m a vicious python about to swallow them whole, and they’re the ones who have to ward me off with the forked stick.
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is I just want to meet that 100% perfect guy for me in the simplest of simple ways: No need for “birds [to] suddenly appear”, or for stars to fall down from the sky. He'd just stop me by the exit before I leave and be like, "Hey, um, my name's..." and struggle a bit before finally getting it out, and I'd laugh and say, "You have to think about your own name?" And he'd say, "No, it's just, I'm a little nervous." And there would be this beautifully awkward silence as the thought mutually registers in our minds, and then I’d slowly smile and extend my hand for him to shake.
No, simpler than that: Every time he sees me, he will come up to say, “Hi.” And every time I see him, I will do the same.
JH looked gawky and awkward in his regular clothes. His joints were all over the place. I am so used to him in a suit that this other vision of him, hawkish and birdlike and hopping around the edges of my peripheral, left me shell-shocked.
We were standing around the barbecue grill, so I took advantage of the smoke and rubbed my eyes, hoping to smudge away whatever it was that had momentarily clouded my vision, but when I looked up again, there it was, unchanged!
My sister thinks this is good news. She squeezed my hand in hers and said, "In order to forget a guy who likes your friend, you have to keep finding things that annoy you about him."
My mother is worried.
"You twenty-five already," she said.
"Nobody you like?"
"Don't tell me you gay?"
"Oh, my god!"
"Well, then what?"
"Okay, okay, look, let's just say nobody wants to marry me, and leave it at that, okay? Nobody wants me, okay? I'm never getting married, okay?"
I left her wringing her hands, muttering, "Leftover woman, leftover woman," under her breath.
My friends (who are all in love with him) are satisfied. Being the older female, I am designated "safe". They don't worry when he hovers around me because I'm older and therefore undesirable.
I guess I should just accept my fate: Become an old woman who has to nitpick at younger guys just so she won't fall in love with them.
So J.H. and I are back to square one because P.F. will be leaving for Seattle in July, and I think he still loves her. She is seventeen and long-limbed and doe-eyed, and her lashes are as thick as fern leaves, while I'm this 25-year-old half-moth, half-woman...thing. She's got confidence and glitz and glamour, and I've got - what? - my crappy writing?
When we were all together last night just snapping photos and having a good time, I was pulled away by an old friend for a chat. He didn't come looking for me. When I returned to the front room, I found him hovering around the stage with his guy friend where P.F. was having her photo taken. They were all grinning from to ear-to-ear.
All week, there had been a quaking fear in me that things would go awry, and I would have to confront him about it, but it never happened because before he could turn back to see me, I motioned for my sister, who was watching them with a look of disdain, and mouthed, "Can we go home now?"
And we slipped out together, turning up our collars against the wind. My sister put her hand in one of my coat-pockets, and we huddled closer, trying to not feel sorry for my crappy life and even crappier relationships.
Separate names with a comma.