On December eighth, I was invited to my friend, Cait's Christmas party. I bought one of those turtlenecks with festive clipart and wore it under a black dress my mother had given me in high school. I paired the ensemble with white tights, and black Mary Janes. I was going for a classy-but-still-tacky-looking '90s kid. I tried to pin a ridiculous red bow up in my bun, but decided against it, as it made me look even younger than I already did.
She said he would be there, the boy I had had a massive crush on from day one of the semester. I remember the first time he introduced himself to the class. I knew his name from the beginning, and maybe that was creepy, but it was true. And he would never have to know that, so what did it matter, anyway?
I told her I would bake cupcakes or cookies or some other domestic thing girls bring to a holiday party, but eventually, the "real me" took over, and I shamefully gave into those sugary, thousand-calorie, frosted cookies from the grocery store, which is a thing the "real me" had a tendency of doing. I remember kicking the door open with my foot, making somewhat of a noisy entrance, and almost dropping the plate in my hands. As I brushed off the embarrassment, I was greeted warmly.
"So glad you're here!" my curly-haired, adorable red head friend, Cait, dressed in her annual Christmas party gold-trimmed sweater, welcomed me into the living room with open arms. We'd been friends since the summer before our Freshman year, when I cyber-stalked her and found out we were basically the same person. As I came in the door, I noticed a tall, well dressed boy sitting on the couch. His Christmas sweater was a grey cardigan, and immediately, I was filled with the regret of taking my own party attire so literally. The white tights I wore were absurd, but I was grateful for the judgement call that left the red bow on my bathroom counter.
There were a plethora of people whom I didn't know, though I'd been around them at previous events hosted by Cait. They were all cohorts of our university's music department and most of the time, I had no idea what any of them were talking about, as conversation usually revolved around decrescendos and atonal chord value. Cait and her friends were musical geniuses, studying tonal patterns in their vocal performance emphases. The only thing I had to contribute was the fact that I'd been in piano lessons, basically since the day I was born and onward until high school, but hated them so much that I've since blocked out all of the musical knowledge that I must have obtained. I crossed the room, this time, quietly, and set my dishonest store-bought goods on the kitchen table. When I returned, my roommate, Cassandra, whom I'd brought along with me, sat on the floor. She often went by Sam, a nickname we made up early in our friendship as we were harping on the fact that Cassandra was way too long of a name. I sat next to her.
"Do you see that boy?" I motioned with my eyes, to the couch where he sat.
"The one with the wide-rimmed glasses?" she whispered, mid celery bite. It was interesting, the way she'd identified him. Didn't I always seem to be referring to "the one with the wide-rimmed glasses"?
"Yeah," I answered, "that's the one I've told you about," her eyes widened.
"He's wearing a plaid shirt," she smiled. I was starting to think I was becoming predictable.
"Don't they all, though?" we laughed.
"He is super-cute fashion." For some reason, instead of just saying, 'He dresses nicely', Sam always insisted on using this tagline to describe the boys I was interested in. I never understood why. It was absolutely against every rule of grammar I'd ever known, but she wouldn't have realized. She was in her fourth year of school, about to graduate in the accounting program. "Why on Earth are you over here, then?" she asked, "Go on. Talk to him!"
"I can't! I don't know him!"
"Court," she began, "you know his name." It was true, I did. I knew his name, and a few basic things about him, though we'd never spoken a word. I was nosy that way. "Go." I stood up, and inched closer to the couch, every step further encouraging a shake in my legs. I tried not to make direct eye contact, but was interrupted in so doing.
"I know you. You look familiar. Who are you?" he looked up, motioning for me to sit beside him. Immediately, I was intimidated.
"No," I started, "I don't think so." I avoided eye contact again, though I did sit down.
"Yeah. I see you all over campus. I know you, I just don't know how."
"Hm..." I breathed, strategically, figuring out my next move, "Well, I don't know who you are." Oh, that's great, Courtney. Lie.
"Darrin's class. I do know you!" Now, I just felt like a jerk.
"Oh, you're in that class?" Pathetic.
"Yeah! How do you not know that?"
"I sit in the back. I never pay attention to anyone," it was a bold-faced lie, but knowing him now, hearing it must have stung. He was the star. He shouted obscure answers that no one in a class of over fifty knew. Every exam, he was top of the class. One would have had to skip every day to miss that he was in it. Of course I knew who he was. "Also, I'm late. Pretty much every single day," I said, looking down, slightly embarrassed.
"Yeah, I know," my eyes raised to meet his, "I sit in the front. You walk past me. I remember you. Red lipstick. You always look ridiculously put together. I've noticed that about you." No one had ever said anything like that to me before. I wasn't the kind of girl who walked into a room inciting a firework show in the minds of my male counterparts. I was just perpetually late, and no one had ever cared about that before.
"Oh, I don't know about that. I'm sort of a mess. All of the time."
"Well, you certainly don't look like one." I smiled a small, dumb smile, and probably blushed. I do that a lot, and sometimes people comment on it. That is something I'll never understand.
The rest of the night, we talked about a lot of different things: how he wants to be an Art History teacher, how he lived in New York for a while, his obsession with horses and his dog. I watched his interaction with Cassie and Cait, comparing it with the way he treated me. (Girls do this, you know. Even though they probably won't admit to doing it, they do.) Occasionally, he'd put his hand on my knee, or interrupted someone else to ask me a question. He was clean cut, Jude-Law-good-looking, and his hair had a way about it that made me think of Humphrey Bogart in Casa Blanca, which upsets me more now than it ever did before. Mostly because I am increasingly aware with every viewing of the movie that Rick and Ilsa will never run away together at the end, and that speaks volumes with stinging resonance in my own story.
(More to come. I've still got a lot in my brain.) (Sorry if you hate me for this,) (but this is still my blog.)