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She was not beautiful. She was not pretty by his standards; she was barely even attractive. Her appearance bordered on stunning and bizarre, giving the boy a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach. The feeling was foreign and swollen, black and bruised. It was as if she had punched his gut, leaving him speechless, sore, and in awe.
Her music wafting over to his ears like an inviting aroma was the band he had just discovered in the record store on Wednesday. The band had been an accidental discovery—like so much else in his life—a tape he had found when looking for a CD of his favorite band. The tape had been plainly labeled, the white sticker yellowed with either age or use. The simplicity of the music had intrigued him, and now the CD had been searching for had long ago been erased from his thoughts, replaced by new melodies and harmonies that enchanted his basic mind.
The boy who was staring at this enthralling girl was neither special nor bland. He was as insignificant to our universe as the blowing of a leaf in the wind—he was pleasant to look at when walking by, in a unique way, but never worth stopping completely to gaze at. He was the boy who wore dark denim jeans, scruffy at the ends from continuous wear, the standard pair of black high-tops, and a white button-down shirt with an army jacket over it.
She was the eclectic, vibrant girl who radiated blue strands of electricity from every nerve in her body. She was cool, calm, and collected, but had energy and life in her as well. She wore a mass of black curls with a hunter’s orange knit cap strategically placed on top. Her eyebrows were full and her lips a natural coral color that made her fair skin look like ripe peaches and fresh strawberries. Black, glossy crow’s wings replaced her eyelashes and her irises were vivid turquoise that screamed. Her clothes were crazy and zany, full of polka dots and sweet florals and woodsy plaids that confused the boy.
The rolled-up newspaper in his hand was a reminder. A reminder that he had been staring at this same girl, every day, for the last two weeks. The newspaper was gripped so tightly in his sweaty palm that the ink had smeared onto his hand, and an article about a three-legged dog was now printed backwards on the inner side of this thumb.
He wanted this girl. This girl was meant to be his; in his gut, he knew it was destiny. The glass behind her curls reflected his blank expression as the gears inside his mind worked feverishly. He wanted a witty saying, a clever comment, something that would impress this girl who looked like she would be so difficult to impress. Her eyes told him that she had heard it all before. Perhaps heard it by men more handsome than he, men who were broader, more muscular, more memorable.
The muscles in the boy’s stomach clenched with unease. This girl was not going to determine his fate, he decided. She was a lovely fixture in his life, but was not necessary. The swollen feeling in his gut that remained told him otherwise.
For the remainder of his ride on the subway, the boy’s mind continued to race, grasping desperately at words to say, clawing at the corners of his mind to produce something worth telling this girl. The boy had always been comfortable with himself, but every morning, he wished he was a man who was charming and could sweep this girl off her feet.
At his stop, he looked at his watch and realized he was half an hour late. How had that happened? He breezed by the girl without another glance, forgetting her face, his mind already focused on creating a new excuse, an excuse for his boss.
Once he arrived at his cubicle, he set his messenger bag down and headed to the men’s room. On the way to the restroom, he threw the newspaper in the nearest trash can.
He washed his hands methodically, pumping a new squirt of soap onto his calloused, tortured hands every thirty seconds until his hands were properly cleansed. The man standing next to him stared for a moment.
“Pick up something disgusting?” he asked, half-curious, half-amused and mocking.
“No,” the boy said, rinsing his hands, washing away the last of the ink. “I don’t believe I touched anything.” Exactly three papers taken from the dispenser to dry his hands. “I just needed to remember something. Washing my hands usually helps me remember.” He tilted his head to the side. “Funny, I don’t recall anything at all anymore.”