Fumbling Love

“Cortex, epidermis,” he flipped through the textbook pages, mumbling vocab words under his breath, “xylem, phloem.” It sounded like an old prayer in a foreign language, meant to conjure up spirits. His eyes were closed, his voice repeating the words to in grain them into his memory. Then a flash of brown hair distracted him, strangled his thoughts, and wrapped tendrils around his brain. “Beauty, sun, warm,” were now the only words he could think of.

A vision of a red jeep stained with mud and brown hair dripping out the window, inside on leather seats warmed by the sun, hands stroking points of bone, grabbing skin…was lost as he remembered again the purpose of an epidermis.

“To, to…” but it was no use. The brown hair had felt so soft. The ponytail brushed his cheek that afternoon, painted goose bumps and blush colored spots. His friends had called it a mistaken flip of the hair, a whip. They called him a romantic with fantastical ideas.

But he could be her knight, saving her hair braided with bits of lavender and vine. Away this time on a white horse, the rhythm of hooves beating rock, undulating back muscles, carrying their bodies together through forgotten pastures of baby’s breath.

His phone vibrated on the wooden floor, scuttling closer to his bent legs. The brown hair was still wrapping around and around, starting to skew his vision until he thought he saw her name flash across the phone screen.

“Hullo.” His voice was thick and high on imagined ecstasies. The breathing on the other end faltered, and he pictured the girl hesitant, nervous of dejection. He smiled, and continued to talk, “It’s ok, I like you too.” His voice still contained an element of unconsciousness.

“Dude?” The breathing was no longer hesitant, and the voice that emerged was confused, rough, masculine, “Dude.” Now it sounded disapproving.

“S-sorry,” the feeling of being high dissipated, and left residue of a low self esteem and failure behind, “Thought it was someone else.” The brown hair was pulling away, his eyes now clear, and the vocab words returning. He remembered the afternoon again, how the hair had brushed across his cheek. He realized now that it was more of a whip.

“Cortex.” He went back to studying.





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