“What the hell am I doing? Am I high?”
He wasn’t sure how long the light had been green. The salt-crusted drive train of the bicycle shrieked painfully as his legs pumped the pedals into oblivion. Energy coursed through his body as he breathed in the cold, wintry air. Pedestrians gazed in confusion at the goofy grin pasted on his face. It had been an excellent day so far. The nagging pain in his lower back had subsided, his exam had been returned with a perfect score, he scheduled a job interview, and he had just had an engaging conversation with a young woman.
He had decided to check out the student lounge on a whim, and noticed her reading a book he was quite fond of, a tragedy that had experienced a recent explosion in popularity. Through menial talk he learned she was re-reading the book, and they discussed it at length. The time seemed to pass in an instant. They spoke of the moral implications of squandered potential, the sin of apathy, and the value of life. It was the most meaningful conversation he had experienced in several years, perhaps ever.
He had allowed himself to become somewhat socially inept over the past decade. A long swim in the sea of substances had robbed him of his 20’s and the return to the real world had left him somewhat isolated. To have any meaningful interaction was a victory for him. To approach a woman and have a meaningful interaction was unthinkable. She was not a particularly attractive girl- at least not by society’s standards. By his estimation she seemed a bit awkward, but quite cheery. The linchpin of their common interest kept them both in a zone of comfort when speaking to each other. Pretenses were dispensed with almost instantly. There was no underlying question of motive as to why he would want to speak with her. The moment had just been; nature, for once, was taking its course.
He spent much of the remainder of the day thinking about her and their conversation. Particularly mind-blowing was the idea that such chemistry was stumbled across, when he was under the impression that such things needed to be carefully constructed. It was altogether refreshing, and gave him new faith in life. He felt he had grown immensely in a period of hours. It was as if he was riding a cloud of confidence. Everything came to him more easily.
He remained in the same state the next morning. The girl was in the back of his mind as he took another exam. He decided to return to the student lounge after class. When he arrived he instantly saw her. He slowly started making his way over to the corner where she was sitting, bristling with confidence. He was not sure if she had noticed him enter. She was reading the book. Their book, he thought.
“Hey, Clark Kent!” An obnoxiously cute girl from his previous class was waving at him.
When their eyes met, she motioned for him to come over. He had convinced himself in an instant that he was justified in making as many social connections as he could. After all, it had made him feel so good yesterday.
It did not take long before he realized he had made a mistake. The conversation was so devoid of meaning he had to consciously force himself to appear attentive. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that the girl from yesterday had disappeared. He noticed his back had started to ache. He excused himself as amicably as he could as soon as he could.
At first, he found it regrettable that he did not get the chance to talk to the girl from yesterday, but rationalized that it would have been rude to snub the girl from today. Besides, she was way more attractive. As the day wore on, however, he felt a growing emptiness and a longing for the warmth of the connection he felt yesterday. His confidence dissolved and was replaced with anxiety. He could not wait to talk to her at the student lounge the next day.
When he walked in he was a bit distraught. She was not sitting in the corner where she had been sitting the last two days. He looked around, attempting to be discreet. She was nowhere to be found. He felt the judgmental eyes of existence itself staring him down. He sat down in the corner and decided to wait for her. Perhaps she was late. She didn’t come. The days and weeks passed. He had given up going to the student lounge after a month. The ship had sailed. Anything that might have been, everything that was, squandered. Inexplicably. What could he have done differently? He sat at the green light, staring blankly. Pedestrians passed as if he were invisible.
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