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The best and worst moments of my life have been when cute boys have smiled at me.

I was sitting in my beige SUV with the engine on, getting ready to leave school and head home for the day. Music from my iPod was already flowing through my speakers as I pulled the seatbelt around me and clicked it in.

Looking up and through the windshield, I made eye contact with a student passing by. A boy. A blonde boy. He wore a blue stocking cap over his shoulder-length hair. He smiled at me.

I looked away. Then, back. He was already past the front of my vehicle. Gone.

I shifted into reverse and backed out from my parking spot, wondering. Who was he? Where was he? I couldn’t see him anymore.

I shifted into drive, heading in the direction he had been walking: away. Away from the school, away from the parking lot, away from me. I slowly drove past one car, and another… searching for him with my eyes. Then,  there he was. Walking to his car. Our eyes met, again, and I quickly looked away. Again. Again, again, again.

Who was he? Why did I look away? What would have happened if I hadn’t? What if I had smiled back? What if I had stopped my car and jumped out?

Driving away, doing none of those things, I wondered.

I thought about the potential in that moment: sitting there, watching the boy smile. I thought about all of the small moments of potential that have passed me by. I thought of that boy who had passed me by, and I him.

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So there I was, wandering around in a slightly unfamiliar building on campus, searching for a lady I was supposed to be meeting. (Spoiler Alert: She had forgotten about the meeting and was already at home with her children as I circled the first floor, searching for her – someone I had never met or seen before.)

She was late. Or, was I in the wrong spot? I thought we said we were meeting at the chairs in the front lobby. But, maybe to her, the front lobby is what to me is the back lobby.

I wandered around. I went to the back of the building. There was a lady sitting there, who looked like she could be who I was looking for. I still had my doubts, though. We said the front lobby, right by those squishy chairs! She must be talking about the same place as I am. Maybe she’s just late.

I walk past the lady sitting in the chair. No, that can’t be her. My eyes search among the other people sitting around the high tables and chairs of the school’s cafe. I make eye contact with a black-haired boy sitting against the windowed-wall.

I don’t look away. He doesn’t look away. It feels like I know him, though I don’t know him. He looks at me like he understands. It doesn’t feel like I am looking at a stranger, though I am. I could walk over to him and it wouldn’t be weird. Instead, I walk away.

I go back to the front of the building. No one new there, only a few high school students still waiting for their parents to come and pick them up. (Yes, there is a high school inside of my University. It’s where I graduated from.)

I check the clock on my phone. She’s almost 15 minutes late now. How long should I wait? Maybe she actually forgot.

I check my email. Nothing. Where is she? I wonder how much longer I should wait for her. I’ve been waiting for what feels like forever – 25 minutes. How much time does she need?

I wait. My mind wanders to that boy. I should have went up to him. I should have said hello. I should have asked him if he felt the same way – if he felt like I wasn’t a stranger, though I was.

I wander around the front lobby, as if changing the location of my body, and my line of sight, will make the woman I’m waiting for suddenly appear. It doesn’t work.

I decide that I need to double check that that woman sitting in the back lobby isn’t actually the lady I’ve been searching for all along – I’m trying to be professional, here. I don’t want to leave without making sure. I don’t want to leave her sitting there, waiting for me.

I walk back around to the area where she’s sitting. I walk in the same direction around as I did before, intentionally avoiding the place where the black-haired boy was sitting.

The woman is still there, sitting, reading something in a folder. This could be her, I think.

I walk up to her, a stranger. She looks up at me as I approach.

Are you M.?, I ask. No, she says. Sorry, I say. No problem, she says, and smiles.

I walk back to the front, passing the boy again. We look at each other. I do nothing. I walk away.

Back in the front lobby, I’m about ready to leave, though I still have some hope that the lady I’m looking for will appear.

She doesn’t.

I leave.

I exit the building out of the back door. The boy is still there, watching me. I ignore him. I can’t do anything else.

As the door closes behind me, I think of him. Who is he? Why is it so easy to look him in the eye? That doesn’t happen very often. Why didn’t I say anything? Of course I didn’t say anything.

Later, I wonder. Our eyes keep meeting in my mind. I remember only his black hair, and his eyes, and how he looked at me, and how I felt. I remember how he was sitting alone in the cafe near the window. I wonder who he is, where he is now. I wonder what would have happened if I had been brave enough, or curious enough, to walk up to him. A stranger. A stranger who didn’t feel like a stranger. A stranger with the eyes of a friend.

So, here’s the sitch. (I’ve always wanted to say that in real life but the proper moment just never comes up.)

Recently (about six minutes ago), I was walking down the hall. Well, OK, the hall was actually a sky-walk (one of those tube-y things on college campuses that connect buildings so no one actually has to set foot outside). Anyway, there I was, walking down the hall/sky-walk.

I’ll admit that at that moment I was being one of those people who walk and text on their cell phones at the same time. I was trying to, anyway. I don’t really text that much, let alone walk and text at the same time. We are talking high-level functioning human stuff, here.

Even better that I was texting this guy from Saudi Arabia who doesn’t really speak English. He’s in the English language program at my University. Basically, we hang out sometimes and, er, talk. (We are “conversation partners”. It’s all rather fancy.) So, when I text him, I can’t be all: “lets meet 2morrow 4 food-age, bro!”, or, “wassup homie?!” — you know, my typical text language. Yeah. I can just imagine the confused stares that would bring about.

OK, so there I was, doing all this multitasking, when suddenly, a wild college student appeared! AKA, a thirty year old lady in fancy pants (dress pants, you might call them). I was gaping (I’m sure looking all intelligent) down at my phone when I heard,

“Do you have a pen? – I could have?”

Me: uhhh… wait what just happened? “Um, I don’t know….”

So then I dig immediately into my (rather tiny) purse and spot the four pens that are hanging out in the bottom underneath my keys and my magic gum (I’ll tell you about that another time).

I have a brief mental moment of consideration. These are like good pens. Not those little BIC ones that are found on every floor of every room in every building on campus. These are my Pilot G2 babies. I have a red and a black and a green and a blue (for every occasion!). Should I give one of these to this random person – fully knowing that not only have I never seen her before, but I will certainly never see her again, AKA, this is me giving away my pen. I mean, she didn’t even say that lame thing that people say when they’re all like, ‘hey, can I borrow a piece of paper?!’ You are not going to be giving it back, though, and both parties know this.

So, I did my little purse-digging, briefly (hopefully not too long) stared at my little pens, and looked back up at her with a sad face, saying, “No. I’m sorry!” And then she walked away and I clutched my pen-containing-purse to my chest and ran quickly away in the opposite direction. The End.

 
Does this make me a horrible person? I don’t think so. The only reason I ask this is because just before I was walking down that sky-walk/hallway I had been in a Philosophy class. Dang you, Philosophy.

I feel like this is sort of similar to those situations when homeless people/others ask you for change while you’re walking down the street, and you don’t want to give them any – for whatever reason – so you go and pat your back pocket, shake your head like you’re surprised to find nothing there and go, “Sorry, I don’t have anything. Must have left my two rolls of quarters at home today. Sorry!” (I’ve even done the back-pocket maneuver. You think I’ve ever kept a wallet back there? Nope.)

What really gets me is that I messed up my text message because of it! I’m supposed to be helping this guy with his language skills, and I go and send him the following: “So how about we meet tomorrow after your class tomorrow and then maybe go to the farmer’s market?” Tomorrow. Did you get that? Well, then again, maybe that helped him.

Maybe this a life lesson: Don’t attempt to walk and text at the same time, Jenni. It’s just not going to work out for you.

Whatever. You still can’t have my pen.

 

 

1. Where’s Monaco? I think it’s by France. Or maybe it’s in France. Or maybe they just speak French there.

2. The next time you see someone you don’t know, go up to them, introduce yourself, and ask them how old they are. Let’s get over this whole my-age-is-my-secret crap!

3. Girls! Why are so many of you so pitifully needy? That’s not attractive, and it makes me hate you a little bit. Stop.

4. Has anyone else ever thought about how weird wisdom teeth are?

5. Why do we name hurricanes? Isn’t that sort of the same as giving a serial killer lots of media attention?

6. When people die, newspapers usually give them a one-liner obituary. A lot of the time it’s something like, “Betty enjoyed knitting.” What will your obituary sentence be?

7.  Are “hipsters” even a thing anymore?

8. Can we all just be honest with each other and talk about how ugly TOMS shoes are?!

9. In novels, there are flat characters and round characters. The same goes for real life. Are you a flat character or a round one?

10.  If someone tells you that they don’t like an idea that you have – even if you think it’s really great – accept it. Move on. They don’t like it! End of story. What are you, an only child?