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Careful “hellos” were exchanged at first. There were others around who would be confused if we acted familiarly towards one another. Surreptitious glances were exchanged behind backs, our eyes darting back and forth anxiously, but it was okay, no one was really watching.
My laughter was loud, filling the room, reaching out to her as she sat, pensive and silent. Her discussions weren’t ever in words, not even in expressions; it was more in her presence. This was how we communicated for now; my words unspoken but said, hers not even voiced. I miss you, my laugh would mock me. Her arms would cross and she would watch those who had conversations without her. Me too, this would say.
It had been a while since we last saw each other. She had gone away to school. I had stayed home. Our relationship had been young; hesitant and half-formed by the time she had to go. Was it her I had missed? Or was the anxiety I felt due to a fear of what didn’t happen, but still could.
The people around her cleared, moving off into another world. I looked over, watching. She was already looking at me. We smiled and that was our conversation. Someone next to me requested my attention. What do you think, they had asked me. I was forced to turn, trying to ignore a lingering sense of loneliness.
I shifted to look back a few minutes later to see her engaged in a conversation with an old friend. She was watching him carefully like she always did when she had a heart to heart with someone. I excused myself, walked over and smiled at both before falling into the conversation.
Eventually, it was just me and her. We were silent, taking in this feeling of satisfaction that being near each other brought. How are you? We asked at the same time. She smiled and waited for my answer. Good. I told her, nodding. It was quiet again before we found our rhythm. I would tell a story, she would laugh and reciprocate with one of her own. How did we have so much to talk about? Ultimately, we would just trade questions: How’s school? Do you have a job? Do you miss home? Got any new friends? And of course all of this would lead to more stories. No one bothered us, but they noticed our animated conversation, our chit chat that went back and forth like the banter of friends finally reunited.
When our conversation ran out, we would sit until we saw something that prompted us with a new topic. Did you just see…? One of us would ask. Yea… the other would reply, not sure whether or not to be disgusted or amazed by whatever our friends had done.
There was a bubble around us. We were in our own little world; I didn’t want the night to end. Who knew when we would talk again?
Her phone rang. It was her mom. When do you plan on getting home? Do you have a key? Should I wait up?
Mom, she answered, I’ll be fine. She didn’t add that she was old enough to be on her own.
Our magic was broken by that phone call. We looked at each other, but now it was with confusion on our faces. How long had we sat by ourselves? What would I tell people when they asked?
The boy who had spoken with her earlier walked over. Hey, he said. We nodded. I didn’t realize you two were such good friends. His statement, more of a question really, was teasing. I smirked at him and answered, Neither did we. I looked over and she smiled as if to reassure and confirm all at once.
The boy began talking, trying to draw us both in. Our teacher is pretty nice to let us hang out here, huh? He asked. Sure, was my simple answer. He tried again, Did you see that girl over there? She is so weird! Before he could launch into a description of her weirdness I interjected with, I know.
He gave up, leaving us alone again.
I’m going for a walk, I told her. She followed me out silently.
The air outside was hot despite it being October. Sweat instantly formed on my brow. This is ridiculous! She said as we walked across the white concrete. What is? I asked, turning in the twilight to look at her. This heat. She told me, flapping her arms as if that would illustrate her sentiments better than actual words. Let’s sit down, I told her.
I avoided the grass and sat down at a picnic table where my friends and I sit at lunch. I’m glad you came down to visit, I told her, crossing my arms as I sat atop the table. She smiled; a quick parting of her lips so fleeting that I hardly noticed. The silence that fell out here was comfortable. I leaned back on my hands and looked at the clouds. That one looks like a dolphin, I told her. Which one? She asked, squinting in the fading light to see. The big fluffy one, I told her, pointing. Nah, she replied after a minute of careful scrutiny. It looks like a giraffe.
Are we looking a the same cloud? I asked laughing and tilting my head to try and see the giraffe. Probably not, she said while giggling. We laughed together for a few moments before I leaned all the way back and laid flat on the table. She turned around, eyebrows half raised. I patted the wood next to me.
We lay there for a while, just the two of us, growing closer as time went on.
Hey, you two! Someone had come to find us; We’re heading out! Their shouts echoed around the courtyard. We both sat up quickly, drawing apart as we did so.
See ya, she told me, avoiding my gaze.