Just a Friend


I. A Winter Walk

“Love is what happens to men and women who don't know each other.”

-W. Somerset Maugham

I shook hands, exchanged friendly smiles, and waved goodbye. I moved through the small crowd inside the bar and pushed through the door, with a please-come-again echoing in my ears from the hostess at the entrance. It was cold outside, but not as cold as it had been in recent days. There was a slight wind, delivering the chilled air into your lungs whether you wanted it there or not. I didn’t mind a bit. I walked down the street to the corner and crossed at the crosswalk. A short block later I was inside a pizza shop, my stomach growling in appreciation. I ate two tasty, albeit greasy, slices and went back into the night.

It was about a fifteen minute walk to the train station, but I was in no hurry. The combination of a full belly, a cool winter night, and alcohol coursing through my veins gave me a pleasurable buzz of anticipation and wonder. I strolled from block to block, occasionally crossing streets towards my destination whenever a WALK light smiled at me. Sometimes I thought of nothing, and rather enjoyed it so. The smell of fresh air was refreshing, particularly being as late in winter as it was (I was rather tired of being inside due to inhospitable weather). I could not wait for spring, but that night I felt warm enough in my skin not to care that it was still winter.

I jumped over a large icy puddle and hopped onto the sidewalk. I started to hum a tune to myself. I sang senseless lyrics. I threw lines to poems that did not exist and would more than likely fade from memory. I laughed to myself because it seemed like the thing to do. I did not think of anyone or anything concrete and real; I went through various feelings and thoughts, but those things are not real. They’re all in your head.

I arrived at the train station in good time despite the fact that I didn’t intend to. I walked up the steps and went outside to the platform. I was at the wrong end, so I began to walk towards the other. It was one of the larger train stations in the area, so the platform was probably a couple hundred yards long. I made my way down the tracks, alone but for a scattering of people along the way. Inside, a few more waited, sheltered from the elements with uncomfortable seats to rest themselves upon. I came towards the other end of the platform and happened to glance inside the window. I saw long dark curly hair and the top of crossed legs. I took a few more steps and stopped.

I decided this was far enough. Something struck me as familiar with what I had seen, but I shrugged it off. Sort of. I glanced in the window again. Nice legs. But I couldn’t see a face. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. It always seems like it’s a disappointment after a build up like that. So rather than kill the buzz, I let my imagination run free.

A few minutes later the train arrived. She didn’t get on. In fact, only myself and one other person boarded the car. It turned out it was only going one more stop before retiring for the night. That was fine by me as I was only going one more stop regardless. Unfortunately for the other guy, he was planning on going further on and would have to wait at the next station for another train. So it goes.

I got off the train at my stop and wandered up to my house. My buzz was still there, but greatly diminished. Something was bothering me but I could not place the why. I unlocked the front door and opened it. I went into the darkness and closed and locked the door behind me.

II. Those Eyes

“A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me.”

-Abraham Lincoln

I walked up the hill, at once hurrying while simultaneously dragging my feet. I’m certain it was an interesting sight. Night had fallen, and the temperature was dropping. I was going to a gathering of students and alumni, where the alumni would give talks on their careers and allow students to ask questions and whatnot. It was put on by the business and computer science departments, which was rather beneficial for me as I was a computer science major with a minor in business, and no clear post-graduate direction. However, I was uneasy because I didn’t know of anyone going and was unsure of exactly what I was getting into. Within a few minutes of walking, I came upon one of the oldest buildings on campus and stepped inside.

It was warmer than outside, which was nice. Being an older building, however, it had narrow hallways and small classrooms, so it gave off almost a claustrophobic feel. I felt a little uncomfortable and out of my element as I had never had a class in the building.

I walked along the hallway and up a small set of stairs. There I stumbled upon a small collection of people, a mix of some old people (in retrospect probably in their mid-thirties) and students. They were using two classrooms and said we’d be able to check out both speakers, so I ducked into the one on the right. Within a few minutes, the speaker began. He was a former computer science major (although I believe they called it MIS or something like that when he was there) and he had stayed in the field. A few minutes into his monologue, a figure slid into the room and sat in the first available seat, which just so happened to be near me. (This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since, as I said before, it was a small classroom and only a few people were in attendance. But I digress).

She had extremely long, dark curly hair that almost reached the ground as she reclined in her chair. Her form was that of perfect angles that should have been actively being captured in an artist’s studio, not wasted away in an obscure old classroom. Her legs reached out of her skirt, and I privately thanked no one in particular that they did so. My heart was already pumping excitedly when she turned her head and looked around the room ever so briefly. It skipped a beat. Her eyes. Those eyes. Picture all of the writings that have ever been written and all of the saying that have ever been said concerning certain eyes that seem to be deep pools that suck you in and take your soul away. After you’ve pictured all of those amazing and wonderful things that have been said and written, you can now apply them to her eyes. My heart skipped twice. Then three times.

The speaker kept on speaking and a few people asked questions, but I was lost in wonder at who she was and whether she would ever talk to me. The main reason I wondered was because I knew the odds of me talking to her first were pretty slim. However, I also realized the odds of her talking to me first were all but zero. So I twisted myself in agony and wonder and confusion. Eventually I tired of this internal debate and tried to focus my concentration on the speaker.

After he was done, I went up to ask him a few questions about programming. We hit it off and talked about various languages, techniques, and so on. We wandered out to the hallway and continued our discussion, invariably including a few other random people that were strewn about. Then I saw her. She was dressed up, more so than any of the other students by far. She looked amazing. The eyes, of course, and the legs; both were amazing, for sure. But when taken at a whole was when she physically excelled; there was no flaw that I could detect. There was still almost no way I could make my lips speak to her, even if my feet did not first fail to bring me within speaking distance. But then the speaker unknowingly helped me out. He asked her how much time we had before the next session, which brought her into our little circle. He assumed we knew each other, but when he realized we didn’t he quickly introduced us. I was at once a little embarrassed and relieved.

We talked for a bit, first about why we were there (she as a hostess, me as an attendee) and then general college stuff (e.g. major, classes, housing). I don’t remember her major, but it’s possible at that time she had none. We had no classes in common. She lived in a dorm that I had never visited. All in all, we had nothing in common other than this appearance. But she was nice and pleasant, and I was hopeful.

The next session started and I went into the other classroom. It was rather dull and boring, and lacked a certain something; namely, a beautiful hostess. Eventually it ended and I scrambled out of the room. Unfortunately the other session ended first and she was nowhere to be seen. All I knew of her was her first name and her dorm; hardly enough to do anything with. I wandered back to my dorm. The temperature was definitely dropping.

III. Chance Encounter

“But in my opinion, you should stop sort of seeing girls and get yourself a maid with Siamese eyes, a great body and make sure she's a nympho. That always helps.”

-David L. Mathias

Snow dumped from the heavens and covered the entire campus under a white blanket. As the snow fell, students repeatedly tested the depth and the snowball making potential of the white heavenly substance. Once a year during the first “real” snowstorm, the two sides of campus had a North vs. South snowball fight. The South was typically made up of freshmen and some sophomores, while the North was made up of whatever upperclassmen didn’t retreat to off-campus housing, as well as a few underclassmen. I was one of the relatively few freshmen Northsiders.

A group of us formed an elite attack platoon. Under protective covering fire, we stole across the road that separated North from South. We climbed a small tree-covered hill and attacked the enemy’s flank. At first, we were highly successful as they were completely taken by surprise. However, within moments they turned a great force of numbers against us and we were forced to retreat. It was not an orderly retreat and we were soon split up from one another.

I went back across the road to the friendly side, ducking incoming not-so-friendly snowballs from my own forces. I jumped over the drainage ditch and was pelted by a snowball. I yelled that I was a Northsider, and the sentry came over to apologize. It was none other than her.

I couldn’t believe my luck, which is a strange thing to think after being nailed by a snowball. But there she was, and damned if she did not look good. Or great, for that matter. It’s amazing how some people can be thrown into any situation and still look good.

Given the situation, we didn’t chitchat too long. Within a few minutes, the Southsiders attacked in great numbers and soon chaos ruled the night. I stayed with her and a few of her friends who happened to be about. After perhaps a half hour or so, things died down and we wandered back to her dorm.

She lived in a suite with a number of other people. We warmed up in their meeting area and talked for awhile. I met her suite-mates; they seemed all right. To my dismay, they didn’t give us any privacy. That said, we talked for a few hours. The only thing I remember talking about is that she said she liked my hair (which was long at the time).

This time I remembered to get her email address/phone number (one or the other or both). We chatted a bit here or there, and hung out every so often to catch a movie or talk. She didn’t tell me she had a boyfriend, but eventually I figured it out. He lived in her hometown. I didn’t care about him. Even with him out of the picture (since it took awhile for me to realize there was a he) I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get up the courage to expand our relationship. She was cool and funny and very peculiar, but in a good way. And of course she was hot.

We ran in different groups, so the only time I ever saw her was either by accident or if we planned something. The only time I’ve watched soap operas was when I’d bump into her going home after class. She loved one of the main soap operas, but I can’t say which one. I was pretty much hooked after a few times, but I only watched when I was at her apartment.

When I first met her she didn’t drink or anything. I did. By the time we were upperclassmen, however, she was going out to the local dance club more and more. It was rather surreal to see her there. She was probably drunk after one drink; she might have weighed a hundred pounds when she was dripping wet. I only saw her drunk a couple of times; I think she preferred dancing to drinking.

IV. Closing Arguments

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

-T.S. Eliot

I woke up with a nice hangover. I wandered into the kitchen and drank as much water as I could stomach. I staggered into the bathroom and took a shower. Much better. I threw on some clothes and brushed my teeth. I was ready.

I had graduated the semester before and was back at my old apartment to hang out with my friends for our graduation. I wasn’t going to walk or anything, which was why I was snoring away while the ceremonies were taking place. I still had a number of people to say goodbye to that were not at our party, so I wanted to go down to the post-graduation festivities.

I wandered down by myself and started to bump into random people. Some were friends, others were people I barely recalled. So it goes. It was good to see people (most of which I haven’t seen since) and to say fare-thee-wells. As chance would have it, I bumped into her.

She still looked amazing, of course. Her family was cute, too. They were all rather little, including her father and brother. They seemed nice enough. When things began to wind down, they took their leave. We wandered up towards the center of town and ducked into a bar.

There were three people inside: the bartender and two patrons. I knew one of the patrons from the ultimate frisbee club team, and the bartender lived on my floor freshman year. I said my hello’s as we took a table. It was still a little weird bumping into people I knew everywhere, and yet seeing so many faces that I didn’t.

We ordered some finger foods and a few drinks. My friend at the bar smiled and nodded towards the girl. I smiled back and nodded, but I knew what he was thinking. It’s what I would be thinking. But it wasn’t true. I still wasn’t sure why not.

We talked for an hour or so. It was good to see her again. I had missed her eyes. As time rolled past, we paid our tab and left. I walked her back to her apartment. We went in, and things were chaotic. Her roommates were cleaning up and packing, and she soon joined in. I tried to get her number, but she said she’d email it. We hugged goodbye and I took my leave.

I’m haunted by those eyes, but not as much as thoughts of what could have been. I wonder and I beat myself up, but in the end it’s hard for me to comprehend my life if things had gone differently. I haven’t heard from her since. While I do not expect to, a part of me hopes that I will. All I have is a name and a face and a general area, which is about what I started with. Now all I need is a big snowball fight in which to bump into her.

Originally written 2003.03.08