I knew I existed. This confirmed it.
You would turn off the lights at something like 12:30 in the morning, and you would crawl your little body under a patterned quilt, a quilt with dark red colors arranged in diamond shapes, and as the rest of the darkness came you thought of me once or twice. Once or twice, sometimes.
And before that you would walk to supper. You would go down the spiral into Subway or you would brave crossing the street on chilly November nights and get bad fried chicken or neglected Chinese. You might have instinctively called a friend, a mother, a sibling and met them over the late meal. And somewhere between eight at night and twelve at night you would dutifully glance over your syllabi and quietly read in your bedroom, and your bedroom was either on the other side of campus or the other side of the state and I could never tell which.
I, being me, being the moderately gigantic husk of solipsism, sat at the table in the beating sun until you called me over to the bench in the shade. “Give me an adjectival.” I ran through the twelve sentence patterns and the test went well. I got an 82. What did you get? Do you remember what a modal is? I don’t!
And the letters here get smushed together and sound meaner than they should, but as much as you let me notice you you let me notice me. When I know no one I sit back and say nothing. I twiddle my thumbs in the row closest to the back row, I play with the pencil that rubs between my index and middle finger frequently enough to build a callus. No one minds disheveled old me playing with my hands. By the end of the year I have quipped just frequently enough, about insects or underwear or the duality of man, to build comfort but not admiration. Little girls climb onto top bunks and see strong arms and sugar plums and wake up at 8:45 and don’t look forward to anything in mathematics and sociology and grammar.
You, though, you would turn your head over your left shoulder every time the professor went to write something else on the whiteboard. For two months five foot nine looked above five foot or five foot one and paid attention to the gerunds and infinitives and a turned head was more brown hair in a sea of brown hair. But I was behind your left shoulder. Your tricks were among the least sly I’d ever seen, and your eyes were too large to keep passing them over. Milky white surrounded pretty brown. The orbs were directly on me; I merely looked out the corner. Perhaps there was something stuck on my face. Perhaps a tarantula had taken nest on my shoulder. Perhaps I had forgotten a key article of clothing, but there was no way, no conceivable realm of existence, no plane of spiritual enlightenment where I was attractive. Where you looked at me and kept looking at me, at first a few times a week and at last a few times a minute, because I was cute.
And when my own 12:30 nights ended with these suppositions, I tested the theory, I calculated the formula, I presented my thesis before an audience of two, because I stared at the back of your head for five minutes waiting for the peek around the left shoulder. It came.
But by then we were in December. And by the time my core had trembled I was following through with old promises to myself. My track’s momentum propelled me backward, just like I had promised, and big brown eyes to my forward-right and invitations to house parties and older self-employed women patting me below the thigh but above the knee had vanished from my sight. And we stood up from the bench in the shade and went back to our homes. Perhaps only four or five lines in the psychological drama were spoken. A Frenchman could make an experimental movie about us. Different actors would be used for the husk twiddling the thumbs and for whomever you saw in that.
This is one big apology. It’s not that I didn’t care.