I didn’t even notice you for a few months.
I came to class early and sat in the same seat each time, exchanging few words with anyone. Then I started to push the limits of my fast-walking abilities, leaving my room for class later and later, until I started to come late enough that someone would find my unassigned seat before me.
And, eventually, the norm shifted so that every class I was next to you.
You were a terrible person to sit next to. You slurped coffee instead of sipping it, teetered on the back legs of your chair so often that most of the time I glanced over at you it was to make sure you hadn’t fallen over, and barely strung together sentences when you inevitably became my partner by proximity for discussions.
I didn’t dislike you. I just didn’t notice you.
A month before class was supposed to end, we watched a full-length film and at the end of it, instead of clapping you hollered out some ridiculous noise as applause. When questioned, you were genuinely confused that we all didn’t know what the sound was.
That was when I noticed you.
I fell for the ridiculousness of you — how you yelled applause, how eventually your chair did fall over, how it turned out that your coffee was really just hot water. And, for a while, I think you noticed me, too. We started inching too close together to be entirely comfortable when talking and let our skin linger whenever it touched.
We gravitated towards each other in class and eventually began talking outside of it.
And this is where I scared you off. Not consciously, because you still smile a genuine smile at me when you see me, but that little thing where I thought you noticed me too was extinguished. I expected too much from you, too fast. Instead of finding a way to deal with my mental health issues, I pinned my happiness on you. I hid the fact well enough, but once I noticed the way I would brighten a little too much when I talked to you, it felt like an undercurrent to the tenuous friendship between us.
I heaped too much of myself onto you — trying to fill up the briefest of silences about everything I thought you should know about me; never once considering pacing myself or asking the same things of you. I only saw that you noticed me, and once I noticed you too, I didn’t think to pace myself. Now, I burn when I think of all that you know about me, and that I barely have half of the same facts, stories, and complaints stowed away. I was becoming more of a strange sort of weight than the girl who kicked you under the table during class for making fun of the professor or the girl who tried to learn your version of applause.
I wish we could’ve met now, with the version of myself that can look at last year and think that I was a child who didn’t understand anything about healthy relationships. I think if we had met now, we would’ve gotten further than we did.
A bigger part of me still waits to see your eyes brighten with your smile whenever we run into each other. Mostly, I know that you are probably lost to me, but next time will be better with someone new. Maybe sometime I’ll ask you to lunch again, and this time, I'll start by asking why you drink hot water instead of coffee.