The late afternoon sun beamed out from the distance, struggling to work through two large white clouds. I arrived at the cafe a few minutes early, and the pleasant smell of coffee grounds reached me even from outside of the shop. Two pigeons squawked a couple tables in front of me, quarreling over crumbs on the ground. The air was light and a slight wind breezed softly through the air which made sitting outside manageable. I was beginning to regret showing up early though, a ball of anxiousness and doubt snowballed slowly in my stomach forcing me to check my phone incessantly for an update or just to look at the time. I hadn’t been on a date, apart from sporadic hookups, in a long time, and a distant fear kept my eyes locked to the distance, half hoping for Violet never to arrive so that everything could simply stay the same.
I pulled out my phone again and unlocked it. 4:30. We said we’d meet up here at 4:30 and I checked back through our message thread to confirm this. Our conversation had moved from Tinder Thursday night and we’d been exchanging messages through simple text since. I found there was a lot more to her than her slightly long nose, specifically that we share similar literary and musical taste and that she was going to Brown in the fall. I grew to like her and scenes of a rose-colored future, a beautiful summer spent with an understanding companion, started to fly into my mind as scenes of a lavish meal comes to the famished. The scenes gave me momentary bliss then dispirited me, not because we could only be together for the summer, but because with the daydreams of the future came the longing of the present and, with that longing, another small hole was sure to appear in me. I felt crazy for worrying about a future that wasn’t even solidified and tried to think of the amazing person I would (hopefully) soon be with, but the anxiety hung over me like a dark cloud on an otherwise bright day.
I opened Instagram and scrolled through photos absentmindedly, trying to put my mind on something else. I scrolled through a myriad of superficial smiles of ostensibly happy teens and eventually stopped on someone I knew. It was Donald and Camila, who must’ve spent their Friday night alone together, were standing in front of some fountain in the city. There was a casual happiness in their eyes which made the picture feel natural. I closed my phone after that to find Violet walking towards me and, spotting my eyes, waved at me with a conciliatory smile. I waved back and I could feel my face open up and a smile pulling harder and harder at the corners of my mouth as she approached.
“Hey, Violet,” I called once she was in earshot.
“Hey, Michael,” she replied.
We exchanged a quick hug, and it felt good to have someone to hold even for a moment.
“Do you want anything to drink?”
“Oh,” she paused and looked inside to find that there were only a few people in line, “yeah that sounds good.”
We walked into the coffee shop and as she perused the menu I looked on at her. She looked very similar to how she looked online and, in fact, even more, attractive in person. Some light in the room hit her eyes perfectly and they looked almost chestnut instead of the dull brown we were both cursed with. Her face was rounded which made her look inviting and caring and her skin as a whole seemed incredibly soft. I could feel myself slowly falling for the girl staring at the menu and the feeling was new and exciting and I didn’t feel the biting undercurrent of anxiety that came with what that meant. Violet turned to me suddenly and I was caught red-handed,
“What are you looking at?”
My mouth worked faster than my mind and was opened waiting for words to filter through it. When those words didn’t come, I was left with a gaping mouth dumbly staring at Violet. She giggled quietly and I closed my mouth into a soft smile while the knot of anxiety within me began to loosen. She ordered a caramel macchiato and we took it outside to talk more. We sat down back at the table I was at and her back was to the sun, the rays gently catching in her hair.
“So how was your week?” she asked after a sip of her drink.
I thought back on it, and couldn’t really think of anything. The week had been filled with large periods of ennui, a hearty amount of self-hatred, desperate yearning for someone I’ll never have, a thousand dreams of successful futures, a million cynical observations, and a pervasive feeling of general dissatisfaction with fatuous school work sprinkled in intermittently. A thoroughly regular week.
“Pretty good,” I replied, “how about your’s?”
There was a pause and we simply stared at each other for a moment and I saw myself happy within her eyes, and I wondered vaguely what she saw in mine. We both gently let the moment go by, marking the change with a quick laugh and continued the routine small talk. Talking with her was very pleasant, there was some poetry in her voice which made all of her words flow easily like water from a pitcher. I asked her questions that she had to think about and then provide long answers to just to hear her voice sweetly muse on some topic or another; it was a voice to be experienced not simply heard.
“So how long was your last relationship?”
“Oh that’s a story,” she began taking a sip from her thick, brown drink, “My last relationship started before high school, when I was in 7th grade in fact, and because of that there was a mystical almost magical aspect surrounding it, because then I was a kid and I believed that he was undoubtedly the “one”. By the time we both got to high school we were two completely different people and I think we just held to the relationship so ardently because we viewed the other as the idealistic, rose-colored portraits that we’d painted and giving up on that relationship meant giving up on that version of ourselves.”
“Yeah, I get that.”
“But when we were Sophomores I think we both finally accepted the fact that we changed and we broke it off then. So about four or five years I guess, we’re still amicable we’re just not together like that anymore.”
“That’s really interesting. I mean it takes a lot to accept that you’ve changed and move on.”
She nodded and we shared a moment of silence again, but this time her gaze was vacant as if she was looking forward, past me. The moment passed before I could ruminate over why this was and my mind was already focused on her question,
“What about you? How long was your last relationship?”
Though I expected the question to be posed to me and expected where my mind would go, I still thought painfully over Mary, foolishly poking at a wound like a child over a scraped knee. Thankfully I was able to move past her quickly,
“It lasted a couple months. My last relationship was in 8th grade actually, nothing too serious, I mean obviously its 8th grade, but it was fun while it lasted.”
I hadn’t really considered how peculiar that statement was and thought briefly about how inexperienced I was in terms of real relationships, a missing piece to my high school experience. Then again I was probably missing many pieces.
“Oh, ok. Why did you and your middle school sweetheart part ways?” Violet asked half-sincerely, half-sarcastically.
I answered with a short laugh,
“She moved off to boarding school actually.”
She opened her mouth to reply but I continued, lost in the thought,
“You know it's crazy how important things feel while you’re inside of the moment. Like when I found out she was leaving that killed me inside and now I don’t even think about her. The whole relationship was such a big deal and now it's not only over, but, because I don’t think about it, it's not even real, like it's a thing that happened, but if I don’t even remember it does it matter if it happened?”
I was looking off now and I was also off somewhere. For a second I wondered why I hadn’t been in a relationship in high school. I knew I wasn’t a drop-dead gorgeous guy, but I wasn’t the other extreme other. I’m funny at times, I can hold a conversation, I have friends that are women, and I can talk to the other sex easily all qualities that should’ve guaranteed me something in my four-year term. I looked into Violet’s brown eyes again, still holding that illuminated quality from inside, and looked down to the soft smile she held comfortably. I could see in her eyes that there was something here. If not the bloomed sunflower of infatuation then the budding seed of intrigue, and the look made my question even more poignant: if there was something in me that could get a girl I’d known less than a week interested in me, why have I been so alone?
“What are you thinking about?”
“Oh? Me? Nothing, sorry.”
“Tell me!” she pleaded with a smile. The beauty of her voice was amplified with the request and my mind opened as I thought aloud spilling a monolog into the air while barely understanding my words until they were out,
“I don’t know, I was just thinking that not being in a relationship is so strange to say out loud for me because honestly I’m a pretty outgoing person and I don’t think anything’s wrong with me. Obviously, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with not being in one, but it's something that I feel I want. And like to my point earlier it's so strange that you don’t remember some big things and then remember some small moments like they’re even closer than yesterday like there always happening in your head and you’re always living inside of them…”
My mind threw me back into the first time I was ever at Trinity. I was so hopeful and everything was so new. I finished many teen T.V. high school dramas and was convinced that life was about to be exactly as those were portrayed; each day an amazing adventure where I would grow and change and run and sit and talk and, most especially, love. Opportunity seemed to be knocking around every corner and all of those could be mine, all of those would be mine if I simply asked for it. Every person that passed me had a wonderfully rich backstory and would, in some way, aid me along my journey to becoming widely liked and praised. I found myself sitting on a bench fidgeting with excitement to start what would easily be the greatest four years of my life.
Not many of those things were true and high school was mostly a thing to be endured like it was for everyone else, but in one way my story was dramatic. Many people passed me while I was sitting on that bench who were now faceless and amorphous in my mind, but one I will always remember. I saw Mary approach, laughing brilliantly while flocked on the sides by two friends, and there was everything. I didn’t even know her name but I knew in that moment that I would spend all of my days chasing to the very ends of the Earth just to walk next to her. She didn’t notice me as she approached but she glanced back at me as she passed and my fate was sealed. Even now, some part of me, if not all of me, will be running after the girl who glanced back, no matter what those eyes become.
“Oh yeah? And what moments do you live inside, Michael?”
No time had really passed, but it felt like an eternity. For a moment Violet’s eyes turned into Mary’s eyes, the green orbs teasing me playfully then switching back again.
“Oh, nothing just stupid things we used to do.”
“Oh ok,” she laughed quickly, “and what was her name, Romeo?”
“Mary,” I said dreamily.
“Mary? That’s a pretty name.”
Another silence, I still wasn’t completely back to reality.
“What boarding school did Mary go to?”
I realized my mistake and looked at Violet for a second with bewilderment then straightened myself out and answered cooly,
“Rosemond Academy. It’s out in Virginia actually.”
The rest of our time together went naturally without any other patches of silence, and we asked and answered questions with my breezy temperament and her sing-song voice. The setting sun falling behind Violet made her lovelier and lovelier still until it was directly behind her head transfiguring her into an angel. She was truly a beautiful girl. Finally, though, she had to leave and I walked her out to her car, a white newer-looking Sedan, to wish her goodbye. Standing at the car I held her close to me by her waist,
“Hey, it was really great being with you today.”
“Yeah, I really enjoyed it too.”
Her voice fluttered a bit when she said “too” and my heart took its cue.
“We should really do this again,” I said pulling her slightly closer to me and wrapping my other arm nonchalantly around her waist.
“Yeah we really should,” she echoed looking into my eyes.
“Well,” I said my eyes following her gaze as her eyes slowly made their way down to my lips, “I guess this is goodbye for now.”
We both leaned in until our lips were millimeters away from each other.
“Goodbye for now,” she whispered back into my lips.
We embraced, both our bodies slowly rising up with sudden energy and then falling back down in fulfillment and satisfaction. We kissed once, twice, and on further, our lips dancing around each other backing away in hope that the last one wasn’t the end and then again into each other with renewed passion and poignancy. Kissing, usually a weapon used by men of the casual hookup (as I was) to move activities forward, was an art form that usually was overlooked en route to more intimate activity, but in this moment I cherished the act and nestled inside that moment with eyes closed and heart open.
When we did finally pull away, I tried suppressing my natural joy, but the corners of my mouth were pulled with acute strength and I was smiling like a fool. Violet saw this and laughed, carrying the smile into the car with her. I stepped back as she revved the engine and pulled out. She waved at me once as she began to drive away and I waved until she was out of the lot.
I pulled out my phone and began to walk to my car which wasn’t far away. It was now 6:07, and I marveled at how fast time went by. Absentmindedly, I checked Instagram as I came upon my car and instantly knew it was a mistake. Mary’s green eyes taunted me as she and Zack stood in each other's arms posing in front of some light display. I wanted more than anything to believe that the smile on her face was strictly superficial, but anyone could tell that it was genuine and natural. I saw that love lying behind her eyes and happiness lying in her countenance and I hated that so much and then hated myself for despising her happiness. The past hour and a half vanished instantly as I slammed my car door and sulked in my seat. The answer to my question was simple, my solitude was not produced by internal defects nor was it something I was subjected to, it was a voluntary isolation. I am simply a loyal dog, waiting patiently behind, but ultimately in vain, for recognition.