He stared at me across the table without blinking. Dark brown drowned in pools of white. He opened his mouth to speak, but he quickly shut his lips, covering the pearly whites that shined so brilliantly in the Springs’s Sun.
“What?” I asked him impatiently. “You’ve done that five times already.” He stared at me with sad eyes and bowed his head. He did it again. “You look like a damn fish.”
“Happiness… is like an ocean,” he said quietly, weakly. Faint.
“What do you mean happiness is like an ocean?”
“It comes and goes as quickly as the tides.”
Dumbfounded by such a ridicule comment, I laughed to myself. “You’re so strange,” I said to him bitterly, as I crossed my arms tightly around my chest and looked back down into my math textbook. I could feel his powerful stare scrutinizing me—from my pores, to the small white hairs that covers cheeks and chins and eye lids. “Can you stop looking at me? I can’t focus.”
“What makes you happy?” he asked me.
“Are you being serious?”
“Yes, yes I am.” I shifted my gaze away from the textbook and out the window. My little sister and brother were playing catch in the front yard, the swings were shifting side-to-side hand-in-hand with the wind.
“My friends, I guess. My family—”
“No, I mean, what really makes you happy?”
“Spring,” I whispered with a joyous tone. “Spring because everything gets re-born. The grass turns green again, flowers bloom.”
“I guess that’s better.”
“Fine, big shot, what makes you happy?”
“The smell of fire. I’m not a pyro or anything, but it’s soothing. It reminds me of my childhood, when I’d go up to my cottage and just sit and watch the flames touch the stars of the Night Sky. I like Sunday mornings in Spring when you wake up at eleven-thirty and it’s raining. You can hear the soft trickle of water drops falling gracefully onto the leaves. The smell of freshness and new-ness. Of life. Of fulfillment. I like walking, and getting to places when I want, and how fast I want. Christmas—”
“God I don’t need your whole life story.”
“Well, you asked.”
“Love makes me happy,” I said. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
“But that’s love, that’s not happiness—there’s a difference.”
“No, that’s not true,” I stated defensively. “Love can make people feel very happy.”
“No, love is more than happiness. You can’t explain love like you can explain happiness.”
“Who says you can’t define happiness?”
“Who says you can?”
My cell phone vibrated in my pocket; startled, I jumped. “One second,” I said politely. I opened my phone and smiled softly.
“What is it?” he asked.
“My boyfriend, he texted me." I paused momentarily as a smirk stretched my thin lips into a slice of moon. "He makes me happy.”
“No,” he declared, “you’re not smiling because you’re happy, you’re smiling because you love him.”
“What if I don’t love him?”
“So, you don’t love him?”
“No I do! But—”
“Exactly,” he said conceitedly while grabbing the pen out of my hands and started writing some long equation in his notebook. “When strangers smile at me.”
“That makes you happy?”
“It makes me feel noticed. Like I’m someone other than the random guy who likes to wear two different shoes.”
“Individuality,” I said proudly. “Marching to your own beat. Wet sand squelching between your toes.”
“The Summer Sun.”
I smiled at him for a moment and went back to work. “I still think you’re weird,” I mentioned nonchalantly. I looked up and saw the smallest sliver of a smile brighten his face in the Spring Sun. It was the first time I ever saw him smile.