Sorry Officer; Im In Love
I finished homework at my favorite nook in the school's main library and walked toward the steps to head home, taking my time, browsing at books on the shelves as I went. But the fourth floor I was on had a balcony overlooking the library's entrance lobby, where I spotted Rachel checking out books. From the moment I saw her I sprinted toward the steps. Once there, I ran down them three at a time, as fast as I could possibly go.
I had to catch her before she left the library. I couldn't lose her. It was already six weeks into the semester, and I had been dreaming every day what I would say to her if I saw her. On the last day of classes the previous spring, she had dumped me.
"I don't think we should see each other any more; with summer and all," she had said.
"I, I don't understand. I'll be less than an hour away."
"I know, and I know you don't want me to say you're a nice guy, Shawn, but you are. I like you. You know that. It's just that, well, I have a life at home. And an hour apart, that's still a long-distance relationship. It just won't work. Please be understanding. Don't make this any more painful than it is."
"And we both know I'm not the type to make things painful," I said.
"Of course you're not. Thank you. Don't be bitter." And she gave me a kiss on the cheek and went running off. That was the last time I saw her until now.
Many times over the summer I considered calling her, but I never did. I tried to keep my pride. And in my head I often thought of what I'd do if I saw her on campus. In one scenario, I would very pointedly ignore her. In another, I would speak to her but be cold and distant.
But now, as I watched her pick up the books she had checked out and move toward the door, my only thoughts were that I didn't want her to see me breathing hard. I smoothed out my hair with my fingers. I made sure my shirt was properly tucked into my pants. I tried to breath normally. And I walked over to her.
"Rachel," was all I could say.
She turned to face me, with a smile. "Oh, hi Shawn. I didn't notice you. How are you? How have you been?"
I had a feeling of deja vu. She was exactly as I remembered, but even more special: the joy in her eyes, the way she tilted her head, the upward curve of her lips, and, most enchanting, her voice. She had personality in each word, every sentence with a unique inflection. She was more adorable than the most angelic four-year-old, with the wisdom of a brilliant college girl. But there were no other college girls like her; the kindness that came through in everything she said; the shine and bounce in her short black hair, the graceful way she stood, the perfection of her slim, white hands; it all was unique and it made her far, far more attractive than any other woman I had ever seen. I thought that all guys must find her as alluring as I did. I wondered how girls saw her. Most women liked Audrey Hepburn, but what Audrey Hepburn had, Rachel had a thousand times better. No other girl was as appealing, from top to bottom, as she was. No one else possibly could be. My insides were flittering, as if I were filled with butterflies.
She wasn't drop-dead gorgeous, but the first thing friends who met her said to me about her was that she was pretty. We had met through a computer dating system that the entire campus had participated in. I had been given a list of fifteen names and phone numbers and Rachel's name had been number one. Among twenty-nine thousand students, she was the one girl that best matched the responses I had put into the computer. I had spoken with her on the phone but hadn't seen her before. We had arranged to meet outside Talliaferro Hall, where she would be leaving a class. Other girls came out before she did. With each one, I thought to myself, "Ooh, I hope it's not that girl; I think she's ugly," or "that girl's pretty but dresses as if she's from the Flintstones." But when she came out, the words in my head were, "I hope it's her; she's very cute." She was slightly above average in height, with a round face and a perfect nose, and nice, kind-looking eyes; a good looking girl, far better than average. And she was dressed in a nice, blue and green sweater and designer jeans. I was glad when she came over to me, my computer date.
We sat together talking on a bench outside Talliaferro for what seemed like minutes but was really hours. The computer was right: we enjoyed the same movies, we had similar tastes in food; we laughed at the same jokes, and we both loved kids and dogs. We were perfect for each other. From that warm late-fall day until the last day of classes in the spring, I dreamed of her every night but couldn't wait to get up and be with her during the day. It was the happiest time of my life.
Now, in the library, I responded to her question with, "I've been Okay. I was looking forward to us running into each other. I thought it would be long before this." I hoped I didn't sound too eager.
"Well, here I am."
She said it with enthusiasm. It gave me hope.
We chatted just outside the library for about ten minutes. I asked about her summer and she told me how her parents treated her to Lasik surgery for her birthday.
I joked, "So no more fishing your contacts out of the drain."
"No, I guess not. You were brilliant figuring out how to do that. I was so grateful."
"I remember how grateful. That turned out to be a wonderful day."
"It did," she said, with a shy smile. Her cheeks reddened. At the thrill of seeing her blush, the butterflies inside of me stopped beating for a moment, and then started again more fluttery than ever.
And we talked about movies we'd seen over the summer. She said, "But of course it wasn't as much fun as seeing the Gene Wilder - Richard Pryor film in a black neighborhood. That was amazing how we laughed at one set of jokes and they laughed at another. That was a great date."
"Yeah, that was fun."
Our few minutes by the library was just as wonderful as our conversations from the previous spring. Just seeing her and being with her made me feel as if I were floating on cotton candy.
But then she said, "Oh no. I forgot the time. I'm going to be late for my class."
She hesitated for just a second, enough time for me to ask, "Can we see each other again?"
"I'd like that."
In the midst of pure elation, it occurred to me that it was Thursday and I had a date with Liz-Anne on Friday night. I would split up with her then, something I'd been considering for several weeks.
I said, "How about Saturday night. I'll make sure it's something special."
As she walked off, she said, "Sounds great. Call me tonight and tell me about it. Same phone number as last year. Thanks."
"I'll call you. It's great seeing you again."
"Bye." It was the world's most adorable Bye. She started jogging to her class, and I enjoyed watching her; she was very sexy.
I found myself on the Beltway driving. I had no idea how I had gotten there. All my thoughts were on Rachel, replaying every second of our meeting at the library. I decided I would get up very early the next day and stand in line at the Kennedy Center for special reserved student tickets. They had a play going to Broadway that was based on a comic strip. It would be magical. Every second being with Rachel was magical. And I would be with her again. I started to cry, thinking what a joy it would be talk to her on the phone that night, to see her, and to touch her on Saturday. I began to sob. I could no longer drive. I pulled over to the side of the Beltway and just let myself sob with pure joy.
But then I thought what I would do if a policeman stopped and knocked on my car window. I would say, "Sorry, Officer, I'm in love."