As it approaches midnight, the events of my recent life play back in my head. A sense of deep melancholy and regret keeps periodically washing over me like a night’s tide. If I had to sum up the problem in a few words, I might use “love problems” or “loneliness.” These wouldn’t be accurate to what plagues me, however, so I’ll explain what I mean.
If you’ve read my writings for a few years already, you know that even while in high school, I felt hopelessly helpless against time’s ravenous drain. Every day I feel like I have missed out on some experience that I am supposed to have. These feelings of unknown lost life experiences pile up fast, like my calculus homework; and, also like calculus homework, once a person gets too far behind, it is impossible to catch up, even if one were to use every free second they have at maximum efficiency. One area of life that I feel I’ve not experienced enough is love, or even one of its cheaper imitations.
Everyone knows by now that I like to joke how my real college major is “picking up chicks.” It may be hard to believe, but even a hero of the proletariat such as myself can find this subject difficult. Read any of my crush stories, and you’ll see just how much of a train wreck I can be if I put my mind to it. This isn’t the part that saddens me, however. If I try at something and fail, I see that as something in life that’s out of my control, and I count the experience as having been had. In other words, even if my maximum capacity is low, as long as I’m at that maximum capacity, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything that I should have had.
Now for how this relates to love (or simple attraction if you prefer)… When it comes to girls, I don’t consider myself a picky person. Sure I have my favorite types of people and styles, but I’d actually be very happy with any of about 85% of the girls in my age group. It’s not the girls I can and can’t get by personally trying that depresses me, but the ones who try to get me, whom I accidentally snub. These are girls with whom I wouldn’t have to deal with ambiguity, it’d already be a grantee that they want a date, or at the very least a friendship. If I could just watch myself in the third person and order myself around like a video game character, I’d be friends with the whole world by now. I’m friendly as fuck. I consider myself to be an extremely shy extrovert, if that makes sense. I want to talk to people, I love to talk to people, I just somehow can’t; especially not at normal human speeds.
If you know me, you know I am a big animal person. I especially like cats. Some people say that cats are cold, solitary creatures, but that’s never been my experience. In my experience, cats just like to find a nice person and smash their face into him or her. They love to be touched and just to be close to people. There are no formalities with a cat. You don’t need to introduce yourself, make a good impression, or even have any excuse whatsoever to interact. It’s just “I see you, you see me, you look fuzzy, now we’re embracing.” Can you imagine what life would be like if all the social etiquette and pressure were taken out of human interaction? As fate would have it, I’m actually very allergic to cats, so there’s a wrench right in the middle of my life… I’m getting off topic.
So as a cat lover, I have this shirt with a big kitten face on it. I find that whenever I wear it, it always seems to attract the attention of the fellow animal lovers in my community, and we tend to get along well. I was walking home from school one day when a car pulled up next to me. It was a real nice lady I used to know from church, asking if I wanted a ride. It didn’t really matter to me, but I accepted politely. I opened the back passenger door, tossed my backpack inside, and stuck one foot in. That’s when I heard the voice of a young female calling, “Heey, heeey!”
I looked up and saw these two cute girls around my age sitting at a bus stop bench maybe 20 meters ahead. They were waving and yelling “we like your shirt!”
I didn’t know what to do; what could I do? I wanted nothing more in the world than to go over, sit with them, and chat a while. They wanted to compliment me, saw I was about to leave, and took it upon themselves to call out just so I’d know their praise before I left. These were quirky, friendly people that I’d quite obviously get along with very well. I was already halfway in the car, and my backpack was resting on the back seat, I couldn’t just take it out and say “actually no thanks, I want to go over here and meet these girls instead.” I didn’t think I even had the voice to call back to them, so I just ended up giving them a distant thumbs-up and climbing in the car. I could only try to get a fast glimpse of their faces as we drove past. I beat myself up over that incident for weeks, thinking about what I could have done differently.
This is where it gets a tad pathetic. Once I got home, I thought about walking halfway back to school to see if they’d still be there. I decided not to, but I checked the time, and subtracted a few minutes to estimate the time that I had seen them. In the following weeks, I tried to leave school at precisely the time it would take for me to pass that bus stop at the same time that I saw the girls that one day, even trying to wear the same shirt as often as possible on the off chance that I’d see them again.
During the first month or two of each semester, my college requires students trying to use the computer lab to get a code from the front desk, and get assigned to a specific computer. This is so they can track how many students are using the computers, and they can get funding. So just yesterday I was assigned to a computer that a guy was already at. I asked him if he was using it, and he said something was wrong with it. This girl next to him turned around and asked me “what computer did you get?”
I showed her the number on my card, and she said that this was a strange situation. The guy on my assigned computer got up to go get a different computer/code, and I just shut down and powered back on the malfunctioning computer to get it working again. I sat down next to this girl and started some homework. After an hour or two she got up to leave, but she turned to face me first.
“What does your wristband say?” I heard from next to me. I panicked at the question because usually I don’t expect any interaction, especially in the lab, so it caught me off guard. It took me a second or two to even decipher the words she said, as I looked back and forth. She lightly grabbed the wristband on my left hand and rotated it so she could read the words.
“Waffles? You love Waffles?”
“For sure, every single day!” I was now in interaction mode. My definite answer may have even startled her a little.
She smiled at my response. “So you’re one of the people who actually follows what’s on their wristbands.”
“I guess so.”
“What was your name again?” She held out her hand.
“Again…?” I thought, “I don’t remember telling her my name in the first place… do I know her from somewhere? Is she in one of my classes? I can’t think too long or it will delay my response and make for an awkward silence, best to just say it.”
“Robert.” I answered, shaking her hand.
“Annalise,” I repeated, to make sure I got it right.
She nodded. “Your hair looks very good in that color!”
I had colored my hair black about a week prior, but I had no idea how she knew that. Maybe she saw a bit of hair a different color than the rest, and came to the conclusion that it was dyed, or maybe she really was from some class of mine. I tried to search my memory to find out where I knew her from, but another awkward silence was approaching, and I couldn’t let that happen, so I said the first stalling phrase I could think of.
“Alright, well, I’ll see you around.”
“Yeah, see you.”
I analyzed that one interaction for the rest of the day and night. I still couldn’t figure out if I really did know her from somewhere, but I came to one definite conclusion: my short and concise answers probably made me come across as uninterested, the exact opposite of what I wanted to portray. This girl was trying to get to know me, and I may have acted vain or antisocial, and I know exactly how it feels to be on the other side of that interaction.
Just hours ago, I was walking home from school, when I crossed a group or teens sitting on the grass in front of McDonalds. There were two males and two females. It was about a half hour after the nearby high school normally ended, so they were most likely from there. As I was passing, I heard one of the girls exclaim “you’re really cute!”
These girls could have easily been ones that I would ask for a phone number if I wasn’t so afraid of being rejected, but this was an open invitation, rejection wasn’t even a possibility in this case, interest was already a given, so I had nothing to fear. Once again I wasn’t expecting interaction, however, so it took me a few seconds to get into interaction mode, and while I was transitioning, I was still in mindless walk mode, so I just kept going as if I hadn’t heard anything. By the time I was conscious enough to turn around, I was ten meters away, and the group was already talking about something else.
I realize that it must have looked like I was ignoring the girl when I didn’t say anything or even look. Maybe she assumed that I was one of those popular people who was already used to being constantly praised. It’s almost time for bed and I’m still feeling down about this. It does make me feel a little better to write about it though, with the knowledge that my experience will be shared.