I’m sitting in the cafeteria, this high school cafeteria, with my head on top of my hand. My friends, my three friends, are around me, talking in static, stilted sentences. Usually we are animated, alive, eyes wide with laughter and optimism. They are not today, this is unusual. I am watching the senior slides play over the school-TV and thinking about how this all feels very highschool and young and particular to nostalgia, though at the moment I just feel tired and drained. The slides play over and over: local college after the next, the same smiles and happy pictures. The next stage of life! Success after high school! The real world! I used to think that I was ready to move on, but now, beginning my senior year too soon for comfort, I utter a prayer to slow it down, the stress and the containedness of it all, I know that it will be missed even as it is hated.
And you show up, and it’s another high school thing I want to slow down, to savor. You’re wearing these khaki pants and a neon shirt, because you met for some leadership thing or another, and you flash me a smile and I melt. I will never admit this, I will never admit this besides this page, but have a way about you that makes my heart claw into my throat and all of my senses become suddenly alert and adrenaline rush through my veins like I’m going to do something risky. And I most definitely am not, I am going to smile back in what I hope is a normal, not melt-y way and I am absolutely never going to tell you about this because I am embarrassed and sure that you would look sad and sympathetic and say “I never saw you like that” and never talk to me again, which would most definitely be more painful than watching you get with another girl. But now I am very awake and grinning like an idiot just because you smiled at me, nothing more, and my friends are taking note of you and your effect and I just want to die because no one else seems to feel these things as intensely as I do. And I feel everything so much all the time, and lord, maybe now I am in a coffee shop, alone with my book, writing about this with the same stupid grin written all over my face because even though its hours after and it was a second I am still thinking about it. And even though today was awkward and halting, at lunch you smiled at me, a kind of shared smile, and so everything was okay and I was better than ever.
And so here I am, not doing my biology homework, but instead daydreaming off into the distance about you and, even more, the space between us. Because I know enough about myself to understand what I love most about a person is the idea of them and you, with your smile and sturdy hands, give me ample material to work with, to twist into shapes in my head that either hurt or heal. But most of all, most of all, to feel, to dream, all these trivial, silly things that make up humanity, it is all so easy to do when I can look at you, even though this might be far-fetched and frivolous and shallow.
And now the future is too close, I feel like I can stretch out and touch it with the tips of my fingers, like something tangible, and you are slipping away the further I go. And I’m too ready to leave this behind, but I’m scared that you were a chance to grow, just like all the other chances to grow, and high school is speeding by and it will just be a blip in the horizon when all is done. Slow down! Wait! I haven’t experienced everything yet. I haven’t experienced anything. This is going by too fast and without enough ado. And it’s past my fingers and so is my youth and I am left with only regret and hopes for second chances! I don’t want to be left waiting for something again! I’ve waited my whole life.