It started simply.
I saw you walk through the doors and stared. You probably thought I didn’t see you. At first, I didn’t. It took me a couple looks to figure out it was you. We didn’t say hi. I saw you a couple of times, but we ignored each other. The semester ended, and that was it. You were a person I saw. You were someone I didn’t care to know.
Then, it happened. I was sitting in class on the first day of the following semester. You walked in, and I didn’t notice. You saw me, and I think you panicked. You sat on the opposite side of the room. You kept looking at me. You probably think I didn’t care. When the teacher mispronounced my last name, you jerked your head in my direction. You were waiting for me to look back at you.
I did look at you. I panicked and was afraid you knew it. All the embarrassing moments came to my mind. In my mind, and probably yours, I was thinking about the past. All of the things I said, and every possible interaction we had.
I had a crush on you. Did you know?
We ignored each other. I debated back and forth with myself for a couple of weeks. Should I say something? I didn’t want to be rude, but I didn’t want to see the old me. She was dead. Never coming back. I wanted to show you the new me. I made a decision. I came up with a snarky comment and walked up to you. You laughed and were kind.
We talked a couple times. That was all we did. Nothing more needed to happen. I decided I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t introduce you to the new me. I’d leave the pristine version of myself in your mind. The secrets and darkness would hide. You didn’t have to know about them. We were people in the same class, not besties.
It’s not like we were ever friends. I would stay the same in your mind. The girl who had tons of friends, smiled all the time and shoved her nose in a book. Not the one who thought about dying. The one who was broken so many times. The one that gave up. The one who was going through life alone.
Let’s get one thing straight. I never claimed to be your friend, or to know you that well.
We were in the same first-grade class. You and I rarely talked. We went to middle school together. We knew the same people. You were always there, but you never got to know me. In high school, we were both ghosts. Both pretending to fit into our circles, knowing that we didn't quite fit in.
Then something happened.
Something changed that day. I went to get food and there you were eating alone. You don’t know how many times I did the same. This time, I wasn’t alone. My sister was with me. It was crowded, so you offered us a seat.
I never liked you more than a friend. Even though I had a crush on you a long time ago. I never would have dated you. Yeah, we clicked together. Anytime we talked, we enjoyed it. This day was no different.
It was strange.
You let go of your shyness. I swear it was the most you said to me the entire time I’ve known you. You talked about your car, mentioned some friends, then said you had to go study. You left. I didn’t think much of it. We had lunch together, and we may not ever speak again.
Then I ran into you again. I was walking back from lunch alone. You were walking the other way. Cue the second time we talked that day. You said something weird. I don’t know why that was the topic of conversation, or if you were being sarcastic. I would ask, but I might scare you away. I don’t want that. Please stay. I like getting to talk to you.
That was when it became stranger.
I left you and went somewhere else to wait for class. I thought about it. During class, I got lost in thought. I didn’t pay attention to anything else. I forgot to thank you for the company. I thanked you after class. You told me a couple stories that would make anyone silent. I’m glad you told me. I told you one of my scary stories. I laughed it off. There would be no darkness, yet.
We didn’t talk until the last day. I said I would see you around, and you said the same. That was it. No exchanging of numbers. There were no plans made. We would never see each other again. I was happy with that.
The brief exposure of new me to someone different was good. Getting someone else to talk to was fun. The expectation of never seeing you again made it better. I wasn’t worried about it. We could say hi, and that was it.
Then the strangest thing happened.
I was out shopping around and wore no makeup with a giant purple t-shirt with cats on it. It was my normal, lazy apparel. Bookstores are my favorite. I love smelling the paper. I’ll read them but never buy new books. This particular day, I was looking for something new. It was my favorite book series, but I wanted physical copies. I hadn’t been able to find them. I searched the entire store.
I searched up and down the aisles. I scrunched my face at every A author that wasn’t the one I was looking for. I walked up to the wall of the last section. I casually looked at the people around me, and there you were.
I never thought you were the bookish type. You were pulling out books. You’d read the first two sentences, then put the book back. I didn’t know if it was you at first. I called your name, praying I didn’t embarrass myself. Either way, I felt embarrassed. I still needed to find that book.
You were blocking the authors that had A last names. I really wanted that book, so saying hi was inevitable. We said our formalities. Then you did something that you hadn’t done before. You kept the conversation going.
You would pull out a book, ask me if I’d read it. I hadn’t, and you’d explain it. I think you loved telling me about the books you liked. I admitted the truth. I only ever read the same things over and over. I rarely found something new, and I usually buy used books.
Then you questioned me more.
You asked my opinion on used stores, and the books I read. I mentioned poetry and Steven King. You had only read "It." I told you a funny story. Well, not funny to someone afraid of clowns.
I settled for reading some Austen. I didn’t find the book I was looking for, so I stayed on our aisle. You asked me what I was reading. I told you. I also told you why I liked her. Everyone tells me I’m like Lizzie. You laughed.
Then you moved down the aisle, and eventually to another. I stayed in place trying to read my book. I was trying to find one I liked to smell. I sat with my legs curled, and my back against the shelves. I felt like you were watching me. Even when you went aisles away, I felt your presence.
I hated it. I felt like you were judging every move I made. Every book I touched. Every sudden movement. There I stayed. You came to say goodbye, and that you were nervous about your presentation. I told you not to be. You said you’d tell me how it would go. I’m not sure how. We still didn’t exchange numbers. I didn’t think to ask, but you never asked either.
Were you nervous? It’s kind of funny. I didn’t think you were ever nervous. At least, not around me. I’ve never seen you like that. Flustered about being around someone, or blushing behind your glasses. It’s refreshing. We won’t ever speak again.
Until another strange thing happens.
I honestly don’t care. It was nice though. Good to see someone who liked to be around me and not in a romantic way. Though I like to romanticized things. It is my nature. I’m not sure about you. It was all these things that made me think.
Strange how we can know someone for so long, but not know anything about them.
I can’t claim to know you. I know a good book to read. But, still, I don’t know you. You don’t know me either. I can’t say it. That I hope we run into each other again. That we become friends. I don’t know if I want to. I don’t know anything when it comes to you.
Nothing is concrete. Noth