The Window Seat

March 20, 2011
Smooth, dark, hard covers. Creamy white paper. Black letters etched on some pages, faded pictures embossed on others.

I take the book in my hands and flip it open to a random page. Barely a fifth of it is filled. The rest will imprint in throughout the years.

I stop on a page and trace the edges of a picture. It is of you. I remember, but only slightly. My memory is dull. Unreliable. But that is what the book is for.

Putting my hand on the page, palm down, I close my eyes and remember.

It was a Thursday morning, gray and dreary and slick with rain. We were on the bus, trundling along at an excruciatingly slow pace. I sat on the right, two rows behind you. You were staring at me.

I remember wondering if there was something on my face. I checked, too, in the compact mirror the girl next to me let me borrow. There was nothing wrong with my face.

Later I started thinking you were just weird. But it felt like something more. The look in your eyes told me you were saying something, silently begging to be heard. You didn’t look away until I finally locked eyes with you and you turned, embarrassed.

My eyes fly open as I emerge from the memory. This was the first, the first time I took any notice of you. I skim through more pages, searching.

There it is. The second encounter. A week after the first. You walked up to me after third period and said, “You forgot this.” Only, you stuttered and fumbled and almost dropped the paper you were holding out to me. My graded math paper, a perfect one hundred, with my neat penmanship.

I thumb through the rest of the filled pages, lingering on a few. Sitting behind you in English, ruffling your hair and commenting on how messy it was, the way I liked it. Holding hands as we walked down the hallway. Bus rides, now side by side. You let me have the window seat because I liked to watch the other cars, small and trifling, go by. Long conversations in the tree house in your backyard. Nights where you just held me in your arms.

I find the page of the time you walked me home. It was raining. You held an umbrella for me. I don’t need the book to recall this memory. The feel of your lips pressed against mine, sweet and warm. The heat of your body overriding the freezing rain. The forgotten umbrella, slipping from your hand onto the wet cement.

Yesterday your book came in the mail.

The black covers, the smooth white pages, are the same. Only a fifth of it is filled, like mine. But this book will not be imprinted in any longer. It saddens me to know that I still have a ways to go, while your story already has an ending. I am almost afraid to open it, but I do. As ridiculous as it seems now, I still want to know.

Slowly, with a loving caress, I open the covers. I flip to the page that I know has your recollection of that first time. It feels strange, remembering another person's memories. Beyond that foreign feeling, I notice something odd, but decide to put it off until after I satisfy my curiosity. Ah. Here we are.

I close my eyes and prepare to see through yours.

The bus arrived at your stop. You got on, sat down and waited, anticipating something. Me. There I am – was – wearing jeans and a striped cardigan. Yes, I remember that. Things seem normal enough. Only, my face – it’s not the ordinary, plain face I see in the mirror every day. I looked glorious, radiant. No wonder you were staring at me.

It still doesn’t make sense, though. My endeavor has done the opposite and increased my curiosity, so I give in and decide to backtrack. Something off about the memories – but what?

I skim through a few pages absentmindedly. It’s strange, but it seems like everything is faded. I see myself several times, and on every page I appear in, I am the only thing with normal vibrant color. I see myself smile, and each time my face shines like the sun.

Then I realize. These memories are from before the first time, before that gray Thursday morning. I first saw you because you were staring at me. But you have always seen me.

I close your book and put it on my bed. Then I tuck my knees toward my chest and finally let myself cry.

I wonder how are you doing. If you are looking after me like you said you’d be. I’m not doing so great. Without you, the hallways feel empty, even though they are streaming with loud, talkative students. The nights feel empty. My hands feel empty.

These days I sit alone on the bus, numb and only half aware of the conversations going on around me. I only sit on the aisle seat, even though the window seat next to me is vacant.

I can’t bear to look at cars anymore.

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