He asked me to meet him for dinner. That was something people did—met friends after class, for lunch, dinner, whatever. But this, this felt different.
Because he wasn’t one of the girls from my English courses or my frosh group or my dance club. Because he was from the same hometown as me. Because he had nice blonde hair and he seemed smart. Because he had called me smart in class.
From the moment he asked, my brain couldn’t stop playing with the idea. What did it mean? Why was he asking? Was he aware that he was a boy and I was girl? Did that matter? What was going on here? Why, just why? And why was I so freaked out by it? It probably meant nothing. Less than nothing. A friendly meal. Maybe his friends were all busy that night. Maybe he didn’t have any friends. At best, all I could be was a nice person to chat with. At worst, I was someone to sit with so he didn’t look like a loser for eating alone.
Don’t overreact, I kept telling myself. He’s just being friendly. He wants to be your friend. Who are you kidding, thinking it could be anything more than that, anything at all? He was just a guy, asking a question. Don’t blow it out of proportion, I thought. Don’t get your hopes up, I repeated again and again and again.
I kept moving through my day. Finished a reading, emailed a few friends back home. Thought about him. Went to my next class, pulled out my binder, waved at my friend. Thought about him. Listened to a student presentation. Drew a picture of a flower in my notebook. Thought about him.
I had thought about him so much, and had tried so hard not to think about him, that I knew I would be nervous to actually talk to him. I knew I would check the mirror before I headed out, brush my hair twice just to make sure.
He wasn’t there, when I got there. Figures. All this thinking, and ridiculous fantasizing, and he doesn’t even show up. This wasn’t the best; it wasn’t even the worst. It was less than those things. Less. Than. Nothing. What was I thinking? Stuff like that doesn’t happen to girls like me. Guys don’t talk to girls like me. Unless they need help with their homework.
This is okay, I thought. Good. I don’t have to be nervous. I’m fine eating alone. I’ve done it before, and I’ll certainly do it again. Just a typical night. Get over it.
I grabbed pasta, I grabbed pizza, I grabbed salad. Whatever I could find. Fork. Knife. I filled my glass with lemonade—my special treat for nights when I have to eat by myself. I balanced my plate, my cutlery, and my drink, and turned around to look for a seat.
And he was there.
And he smiled.
I smiled back.
He motioned to a table.
I was no longer capable of complex thought. Simple actions were my limit now.
I don’t remember who spoke first or what they spoke about. I was too busy trying to get myself together. Stop myself from falling apart.
But I do remember something he said later on. He must’ve said a bunch of words around it. Context. Meaning. But my crazy, crazy brain captured one snippet, instantly crystallizing it.
Me. Girl. Cute. Me. Cute. Girl.
He said a bunch of other stuff. I said some stuff too. My friends showed up. We left.
“See you in class on Wednesday,” I said, trying to be nice. Careful.
I don’t know what just happened, I thought, trying to make sense of everything. Anything.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. Once again, my mind was playing with moments. Turning them over and over in my head. Remembering the cute comment. Remembering how he had said I looked good, that I was skinny. Not in an offensive way. But in a way that told me he had been looking at me. In that way. In that different way.
Maybe it was different. I still don’t know. Maybe I’ll find out when I see him in class tomorrow.
But I do know one thing. Now I’m different. I’m a girl who guys actually notice. I’m a girl worth noticing.