“Is she your friend?”
“Sort of.” said Eva, waving back distractly at the girl on the opposite sidewalk. And then it was already too late, she had entered my life for good.
From that day on I would see her sometimes on the way to school, we would nod and smile, faintly. We were aware of one another, but we didn’t openly acknowledge it. I was too scared for it and I was sure she wasn’t interested in acknowledging me. I was simply her friend’s friend, nothing complicated about that. To me she was fun, cerebral amusement, the wondering, the pangs of cold ice pick stabs in the chest when she’d come into my peripheral area, the adrenaline, I guess. Or the dopamine or serotonin, or whatever rush that was. Then I started planning my route to school around her schedule and habits, and against Eva’s. I discovered that she would stop for coffee at this stinky lil’old place – I thought it was the coolest thing – and it didn’t take long before I took to stopping as well – the coffee wasn’t bad either. So our first words were around coffee – deep, dark, aromatic, hot coffee, I liked the symbolism of it. Hers, of course was black, no sugar. Mine was white, 2 spoonfuls – I was 17, and however sexy aura coffee had, I wasn’t not much into the hip coffee-’n-cigarette-in-the morning routine yet – I was almost ashamed, but decided that I just wouldn’t have a mug of scorching hot, bitter liquid plumber first thing in the morning. White, watered down and sweet was all I was able to work up to, for a feeling of closeness – anything more at that point would have been asking too much. I was chasing her, but pretending to myself I wasn’t – I would play hard to get, I would show her. I was such a total teen.
“Isn’t it awesome, this Fair Trade thing? That’s why I come here, they deserve it, I admire them” was the first complete sentence that came out of my mouth after a series of “Hot, hen?” or “Old little pleasures of life…”, that I was able to muster up once. And she would smile, amiably.
“It should be normal practice, really.”
“Yes, sure, it should be against the law any other way, actually.” Fuck.
But the next day she spoke to me first: “Looking good in the new haircut.” and I could bet it was a knowing smile she gave me that time. I had had the haircut for three weeks already, but it didn’t matter, to me it was brand new right then. And we walked the rest of the way to school together, properly, next to one another and talking – not distant 20 or so meters, keeping only the corner of an eye on the other, as we had been doing up to that copper-lit Autumn day. Or anyway, that’s how I remember it: racy, fresh and enchanted.
If that moment had been breath-taking as morning run, ever more so were the weeks and months that followed. No, we didn’t become inseparable right away, we kept tiptoeing around each other, teasing, studying too – and that was the name of the game, to keep up the race of rushing sensations, like on a slow burner, in an unsteady balance of complicity and doubt, fantasy and naked little frequent clues, as naked and direct as the touch we wouldn’t allow ourselves to share.
If to me her life seemed to go on undisturbed by the Event of the intersection of our lives, I could say that mine did too, but that would be simply keeping to appearances. And I consumed the thought of her perception being the same as mine, like a comfort blanket. I continued my uninterested attendance to classes, my Friday nights outs (an excercise of style around the burger/pizza/Chinese and movie/bowling/flea-market combination, revitalised by stupid enough loyal friends) – my search for the most worthy characteristics of my personality to showcase around my peers was in full swing. It would have helped to know of what personality that was, but back then I was still just a mash-up of hints. Anyhow, that was essentially what I was up to at that time, and her arrival in my life didn’t change it. But it did change its colour: the feeling those days were and remain infused with is much lighter, much more exciting: I was infatuated. Sometimes I ask myself if it isn’t just a lot of talk and literature for “high”.