He’s standing there, perhaps 10 feet away, oblivious to me. I know this because I asked him, years later. He doesn’t notice me but he is the only thing I am noticing.
Tall, confident stance, gentle eyes, red hair, laughing mouth.
Mingled in with dozens of other faces I don’t know, we take the bus and arrive at the bowling alley. I feel like a kid on a field trip, a school girl with a crush on a boy she has gazed at countless times but never spoken to… though I’ve only gazed once.
Strangers are grouped in sixes and sent along to lanes. Can you imagine how my heart quickens when he is placed in a group with me? I note as we are setting up the game that his name is Chris.
He’s good. He’s the only one making strikes in our hastily thrown-together group of forced acquaintances. He’s grumbling, though, to himself about doing poorly.
I – I, who had never initiated a conversation with a stranger in her life, most especially a strange boy. I, who had been known my entire social life as “the quiet one” – I spoke.
“You’re too hard on yourself.”
I think he is startled to hear from me. Most people are when I speak up. I’m not entirely certain where it came from myself. He makes some comment, dismissing my observation.
I smile. I smile?? Who is this guy going to think I am??
It’s my turn. I bowl decently – though I have since found that my un-athletic skill set is more in the area of wii bowling. I sit back down and… oh my gosh, I think I just kicked someone under the table! I look up, startled and sheepish, and he is looking at me. He playfully glares. I think I mumble “sorry” but I honestly don’t know if the words actually made it out of my mouth.
My turn again. I’m careful this time. I try to sit down without bumping anything at all, but my efforts are for naught. I must be the clumsiest person in history! My cheeks don’t normally redden. At least I do not think so. I’m pretty certain they are now. This happened nearly every time I sat down.
Back on the bus that makes me feel like a kid, I feel eyes. Those gentle ones. The ones that glared at me when I kicked him. The ones that tried to look seriously disappointed in himself. The ones I’m afraid to look into.
My roommate and I get off the bus and head for our dorm. We open the door and I’m halfway inside.
“Hey… can I have your number?” He’s behind me. I know his voice before I turn around.
I’m smiling. I wait as he punches my number into his phone.
He doesn’t have to ask for my name.