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It's An Eye Contact Thing
And so I stared at her. Most outside observers would probably say it was a solidly prolonged, uncomfortable five seconds, and I couldn’t exactly deny that. I couldn’t help it, though. I couldn’t help casually glancing around the lounge area every time there were a ton of other people in there, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. Because that glimpse would confirm we were breathing the same air, and that had to count for something.
I couldn’t help being overly expressive and noisy when talking to someone, knowing she was in earshot. And I definitely couldn’t help the ways I would make a fool of myself by subconsciously trying too hard to impress her. These things were just, unfortunately, natural.
But still, I stared at her for about five complete seconds. Her chestnut hair fell neatly from all angles off her head, and she swung it over heavily to one side in an attempt to keep it out of her face. That’s how it was clear to anyone, even if you didn’t know her in the way I did, that she was an athlete. Athletes are always clearing their faces of stray locks and distractions, brushing and flipping them out of their faces as if everything before them is their next game. What got to me the most was the way her hairline receded strictly where the hair was above the temples and nowhere else, most likely from years of ponytails and headbands.
In that five seconds, I was able to notice her eyes, too. Holy s***, her eyes. Of course, I couldn’t see them see them, considering I was all the way across the lounge, but I had focused on them enough in the past to paint the feature clearly in my mind again. They were a set of those rare blues you sometimes see that capture the Atlantic Ocean slamming into the Artic. I wish there was another way to describe it, but that’s as simple and as complex as it can get.
Freckles, too, might I mention, that emphasized her rugged facial structure.
Those five seconds paralyzed me transitorily. It was one of those moments where you want her to look back at you but, if she were to do so, you would have no idea how to look or act. Usually, I go with one of three options: A) Smile. There’s no need to be hostile, especially to her. B) Nod with a clenched-lip smirk that makes me look kind but not too kind. C) Quickly look off into the distance and pretend to be totally enthralled in something mundane the moment our eyes meet.
B rarely happens, and A even less than that, so I planned for C. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any use for it.
The five seconds had passed in what felt like an eternity and heartbeat all in one. I peeled my eyes away from her, subtly disappointed I hadn't caught her attention.
“…and so obviously the citric acid cycle is crucial to the function of the mitochondria, don’t you see?”
“What?” I mumbled.
“Don’t you see?” Anya, my friend, repeated in an attempt to bring me out of the gaze.
“Oh,” I started, “Yeah, yeah. That makes much more sense, thanks.” I flashed Anya a smile before she occupied herself with matters relating to Mel and Iris, our other friends. For the next thirty minutes, in unintentionally spaced intervals, I would distract my mind from homework with either the thought or visual of the one person that I cared about, sitting light years away on a couch across the lounge. She hadn’t left her spot and was busy socializing. I tried convincing myself a few times that she was staring back at me, but even if she had looked over, we both made sure not to let our eyes meet. There was no evidence or authenticity in that belief, but for once I was willing to let myself dream.
The four of us, Anya, Mel, Iris, and I, plowed our way through unimportant math homework and decided to head out to lunch. People had fled the lounge in an attempt to find a table in the lunchroom, yet she hadn’t gone anywhere. Her idiotic friends who self-identified as mainstream stuck around with her, scrolling through their phones ands occasionally bursting into pointless conversation. I rose to my feet and grabbed my bag, exaggerating my movements slightly.
I snuck a few glances in her direction, but she was now even more occupied with her fake friends than thirty minutes ago.
“You coming?” Mel asked, standing in the doorway leading to outside. I nodded and walked towards the three of them, taking on a slower pace than usual. Without thought, my eyes once again made their way back towards the girl, doubtful that I would even be able to see her with the people standing and sitting around her. I was inches away from exiting the lounge and entering the pathway leading towards the door.
Then, she looked back at me.
The whole sequence couldn’t have lasted more than a few ticks of a clock. Yet, we exchanged this look of mutual curiosity relating towards the other person, a look that may never be well articulated. There were no smiles, no rushed-looking-away’s, no uncomfortable clenched-lip smirks. Only curiosity. Her expression did its best to stay engaged in the conversations around her, even though her eyes and mind were on me.
“Mack!” Anya shouted to me, dragging my attention back to more important things like the grumbling in all of our stomachs.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” I caught up to them shortly after.