Authors: Michelle Knudsen
Italian class. The shining highlight of my Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Not because I am any good at Italian (I’m not), or because I like the teacher (I don’t). It’s because Ryan Halsey sits one row over and two rows up from where I sit, which is absolutely perfect for forty-five minutes of semi-shameless staring.
He’s one of those boys that you just can’t quite believe is actually real. I know how that sounds, and I don’t mean to be all pathetic and ridiculous, but — he’s
At least to me. Maybe not, like, French underwear-model beautiful (although I would certainly enjoy seeing him in said underwear — or, you know, without), but definitely worthy of serious visual appreciation. Of course, he has no romantic interest in me whatsoever; he barely knows I exist at all, in fact. I don’t even think he knows my name. I have no illusions this will ever change. I just like to look at him. And think about him. And dream impossible dreams of our future life together as boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, romantic roommates at the old-age home. But I can’t speak to him. I can’t even be in the same room with him without turning into a mindless drone of longing. I think if I ever touched him I’d just dissolve into a little pool of liquid bliss on the floor, and someone would call the janitor to come and mop me up and I wouldn’t even care, because I’d be too happy. Yeah, it’s dumb. I
okay? But my brain just sort of vacates the premises when I’m around him.
Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with a little pleasant distraction. A girl needs something to get her through Italian (not to mention junior year) without going crazy.
Annie reaches over and slips a piece of paper onto my desk. It’s one of her little drawings: me, in all my stick-figure glory (I can tell because of the wavy shape of the hair bunched into a stick-figure ponytail and because there is a little arrow pointing to it labeled
), arms out zombie-style, walking toward a stick figure of Ryan, drool streaming from my mouth. (I can tell the drool is drool because there is an arrow labeled
.) Ryan isn’t labeled, but he doesn’t have to be — even as a stick figure, he’s too beautiful to mistake for anyone else. I have a fluffy thought balloon over my head filled with little hearts.
I tuck the paper into my book before Signor De Luca can catch me with it. Then I glance over at Annie, who is looking innocently forward as if today’s vocabulary list is the most interesting thing she’s seen in months.
“The drool was a nice touch,” I whisper at her. “Very classy.”
She doesn’t look at me but she can’t stop herself from grinning. She loves giving me a hard time about Ryan. It’s okay. Someday she will be the one with the hopeless crush, and I will mock her mercilessly. I look forward to this with great anticipation.
When the bell rings, I swing around to punch her in the arm and accidentally knock my notebook onto the floor. Before I can get it, four beautiful yet manly fingers and a perfect thumb reach into view and pick it up for me.
“Yours?” Ryan asks.
I take it mutely. Manage to nod.
I love you. Let’s get married and have a million babies together, right after we both graduate from Ivy League schools on full scholarship and have fulfilling and exciting careers. You are the most perfect creature ever on God’s green earth. Love me. Love me right now. Please.
He walks away.
Annie explodes in peals of laughter. I’d be mad, except she has the best laugh ever, and it’s impossible to be mad at someone who can laugh like that.
“Oh, Cyn,” she says, when she can speak again. “It’s like you’re possessed! Seriously. You couldn’t even say anything, you just sat there staring and drooling.”
“I was not drooling.” Oh, God, tell me I wasn’t drooling. I can’t help it; I rub the back of my hand against my chin. Perfectly dry and respectable. Annie’s a jerk. A sweet jerk, whom I love to death, but still.
She’s still laughing when we part ways at the second-floor landing.
I can’t wait until it’s her turn. That girl is in for a world of pain.
Or at least a whole lot of relentless good-natured teasing. She is my best friend, after all.
Later. I wait by my locker for Annie to work her way over from the other side of the building. Students pass by; slowly, quickly, alone, in groups. And in pairs.
I try not to stare wistfully. It’s clearly been way too long since my last boyfriend. And I don’t even know if my last boyfriend was technically my boyfriend at all. The whole thing with Billy at the end of the summer was more awkward than anything else. We ended up kissing that time at Sarah’s party and then suddenly we just were sort of
but it had never seemed to be a conscious choice on either of our parts. And it wasn’t what I wanted, anyway.
wasn’t what I wanted. Even while it was good, I wanted . . . more. Different.
It would be so nice to have a real boyfriend. Someone who would hold my hand walking down the hallway and not be embarrassed about it. Someone who would text me during the day just to say he was thinking about me. Someone who would be my guaranteed Friday-night date and who couldn’t wait to see me and kiss me and introduce me to his parents and do all the cheesy things I would never admit wanting out loud to anyone in a million years. I don’t want to be
girl, the girl who thinks all she needs to be happy is a boyfriend. And I’m not, not really. I have friends, I have fun, I have varied interests and above-average intelligence and am deeply invested in running the set and backstage crew for this fall’s school musical and rarely spend a weekend night at home if I don’t want to. I am far from lonely and miserable. But it sure would be nice. To have someone.
And yes, okay, especially if that someone were Ryan Halsey.
At this moment, of course, ridiculously on cue, he suddenly appears from around the corner, and I swear he’s moving in slow motion like some stupid sequence in a bad summer movie, one hand reaching up to run through his perfectly tousled brown hair, head turning to smile at something one of his buddies has just said, the sea of students parting automatically before him, the pigeons outside the windows cooing his personal theme song and the team banners on the wall gently waving in time and the sun shining down in targeted rays to illuminate him in a glorious halo of glowing enchantment.
He’s going to walk by me, and I don’t know what to do with myself. Smiling and saying hello are, of course, out of the question. I want to turn around and hide in my locker but I think it’s too late, it would be too obvious. So I peer farther down the hall, pretending to look for Annie, even though I know she will be coming from the opposite direction, and then when I can’t stand it one more second I turn my head and he’s right there, passing right in front of me, almost close enough to touch. For one second I think maybe our eyes meet but then it’s over and he’s gone, passed me by, surrounded by his posse and the swirling invisible whirlwind of my longing, lustful thoughts.
For one crazy moment I am tempted to run forward and just tackle him. My legs are perfectly willing to move at my command, I feel them ready and waiting, eager, giving me the enthusiastic all clear.
Let us go to him,
they implore me.
Release us to chase our destiny!
My legs are a bit melodramatic, but I hear what they are saying. I could throw him down and take a big juicy bite of his absolute deliciousness. Straddle him right there in the hallway and then, after a long, smoldering look deep into his eyes, lean down slowly and start kissing him in the way I have imagined (in excruciating detail) ever since the first day I saw him in the cafeteria last year. (September 18, 12:03 p.m., third table from the windows, counting from the wall closest to the lunch counter. He was wearing a faded
Glengarry Glen Ross
T-shirt and eating barbecue potato chips. Or so I vaguely recall.) And at first he would be surprised, but then after a moment I would feel his hand come up behind my head and wrap itself in my hair and pull me closer against him, crushing my mouth to his, and —
I stop before I really do start drooling.
Where the hell is Annie? Not that I really wanted her to witness a second helping of my Ryan-induced stupidity today, but she is usually here by now. I turn back to watch the corner that so recently produced the heavenly vision of my dream-boy, and finally it releases Annie into view.
Something is going on.
She’s sort of half walking, half twirling. She is often a rather bouncy girl, but this is different. This is like a
Sound of Music
the-hills-are-alive kind of thing. Her face is flushed and her eyes are shiny and kind of, well, strange. Intense. In a very non-Annie kind of way.