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It’s two ‘o’ clock on a sunny June afternoon when it happens.
I spot him, standing just a hundred yards or so across the street from me. He’s paused by a newsstand, flipping through a copy of the “New York Times”. I feel my breath catch in my throat. My heart speeds up as I watch him, watch the sunlight shine off his dark chocolate hair like liquid amber. It’s the pain that I can’t stand… that exquisite pain that I can neither live with nor live without.
Sensing my gaze, he glances up, and catches me watching him. I blush and avert my eyes, struck breathless by the beauty of those big emerald eyes. I see him smile, bemused, out of the corner of my eye, and he returns to his paper. He doesn’t know me. He probably never will. We’ve attended the same school for two years, shared several classes, and he hasn’t even given a sign that I’m not invisible. My existence has no impact on his life. It’s the mother of all ironies that he’s the focal point of mine.
He glances up again. I can see his head turn towards my side of the street. I’m sure he’s wondering why I’m standing here, motionless as a statue. Or maybe he isn’t wondering about me at all. Maybe he’s just looking for a taxi to come and pick him up.
Wait. Oh god, he’s crossing the street. An ugly brown car nearly hits him and I swear my heart stops, but I still don’t move. I can’t. I’m petrified, paralyzed, rooted to the concrete like a tree. I close my eyes when I hear his footsteps hit the sidewalk just feet away from me. I’m not sure if I can control these instinctual impulses if I see him standing this close to me.
He stops three feet away. I can smell the slightest hint of cologne coming off his skin… something spicy and delicious, not too strong and not too mild. It’s exactly the way he should smell. I imagine the way he looks in my mind: that flawlessly smooth, pale skin; eyes twinkling like faceted gems; hair in that wonderfully messy-but-not-messy style that so many rockers nurture nowadays. He’s probably smiling that little half smile that I see him offer so often on campus. No doubt his hands, long and strong and elegant, are still gripping the newspaper he was reading. My imagination travels up to his equally strong forearms that have held my attention more effectively than the most intense action movies ever written. Further up, I see his shoulders in my mind’s eye… the shoulders of one of Michelangelo’s perfect marble sculptures, perhaps David. And his face… those high cheekbones, the captivating catlike eyes, the soft lips that make me melt like candle wax every time they part…
I have to look. I can’t the suspense anymore. I immediately regret it when I do. He’s looking down at me, smiling that little half smile, head cocked to one side. I turn my head abruptly towards the street and know that it’s too sudden a movement, too obvious. I hear him clear his throat slightly, and know that he’s going to speak.
“You’re Key, right?” he asks, and my cheeks flush so hotly that I’m sure my entire face is glowing.
“Yeah,” I say, trying to sound nonchalant. “Yeah, that’s right.”
My voice had cracked like an idiot. I can’t bear to imagine what he makes of that.
“You’re in my next class, aren’t you?” he continues in a friendly tone. I refuse to meet his eyes, choosing instead to stare doggedly at the cars passing by.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“You and I are in theatre class together, aren’t we? Isn’t that why you’re standing here at the bus stop? To catch a ride to class?”
“Uhhh…” Come on, Akeyla, think of something to say, anything. “Yeah, that’ s right. Theatre. Uh-huh.”
Gee, that was articulate.
He nodded, and fell silent for a moment. I try to will myself to say something, ANYTHING, just to make conversation, but it’s like my mouth and throat have been deprived of all moisture, and I can’t make a sound.
“You know,” he said, speaking again in that lovely deep voice that sends thrills through my body, “I have a car. It’s parked not far from here. I can give you a ride, if you like.” He laughs. “It’s probably more pleasant than a city bus, anyway.”
I can’t believe it. Did he just offer to drive me, the girl that he never so much as blinked at, to class? I turn to stare at him, stunned into silence.
“I mean, if you don’t want to, that’s cool,” he continues, misinterpreting my lack of speech.
“NO!” I say a little too loudly. I clear my throat and begin again. “I mean, no. I’d love to get a ride, if that’s okay.” I’m staring at the ground, talking to my feet. He surprises me by taking me gently by the chin and lifting my face upwards. My heart stutters in a way that would be embarrassing if it were heard.
I smile for the first time, realizing it isn’t so hard to look him in the eyes as I thought. “A