my entry for the Valentine's Day short story contest by Lauricula
by Nancy Konkar
About four years ago, I was faced with the most difficult decision in my life; I was asked to decide what I was going to do for the rest of my life. Four years ago, I registered at Bethlehem University. Ever since I was a kid, I had no idea what I wanted to study, and people always told me not to worry, and that I still had a lot of time. Yet time slipped right off of my hands. So there I was, looking at my Bethlehem university application on the day of the dead line, close to tears, and not even close to being ready to start the rest of my life.
After hours and hours of thinking, and even though I knew exactly what I did NOT want to do; study English literature, I found myself choosing English Literature as a major. I closed my eyes, chose it, and clicked on submit. I knew something pushed me to it, but exactly what it was, I had no idea.
If you'd ask me to talk about myself, you'd be surprised that I wouldn't be able to. First of all, I really have no idea who I am or who I want to be. I never knew, and I doubted that I ever would. Secondly, I hate people knowing me. It's such a strange thing to say, don't you think? But through experience I found out that people won't believe what you say and decide for themselves either way. I could tell you that I'm shy, that I'm not self-confident in any way possible, and that most of the time, I am completely lost. But that I'm also smart when I want to be, and that I'm really happy, but would you believe me?
My whole life, I was surrounded with people, but all of my so-called friends chose different directions. A lot left town, some even left the country, and others were right in front of me, but we couldn't even recognize each other. We didn't have anything in common to gather us anymore. Everyone changed, but I refused to. I was happy the way things were, and I wasn't ready for change. The first day of school, and for the first time in my life, I was on my own. I spent the first few months alone; eating alone, studying alone, walking alone and even sitting alone. Moreover, I was ok with being alone. However, for some strange reason that I couldn't understand, people found that weird; being alone was not acceptable. I would be sitting alone, reading a book, and I would look up and find people staring at me as if I was an alien. I would be walking alone, and I would hear people spreading rumors around me, looking at me and laughing. Sometimes, I found myself ashamed of being alone. At others, I wished I was like other people, hanging around people and having fun. I wished I wasn't shy and that I had the ability to simply walk up to someone and make them my friend, but then I would laugh at myself, remembering that I really don't care about what they thought. I was happy the way I was, and it was nobody's business.
Days passed, the first semester was over. I was proud of myself for surviving it even though I pretty much hated most of it. I never wanted that major but there I was, one of the best students in my class. Teachers loved me, students saw me as a weird nerd. Some people tried talking to me over the semester, thinking maybe they can cheat off of me on the exam. I didn't mind helping them, I just hated that they never came out straight and tried to fake my friendship instead. And so, I walked into the second semester with amazing grades, and no friends yet again. It took me another month to cope with the new semester's teachers. It was hard, but then I was the best student again.
We reached February, and February got us to Valentine's Day, the day I feared the most. So I took that simply as another excuse for me to hide away from people. I went to my favorite classroom to sit and read my favorite book, thinking this would help me forget. Halfway through the first chapter, when I reach the part where the perfect character meets her perfect lover, I stopped. For the first time in years, I don't continue reading the book that has been with me in all rough times. Maybe I just didn't want to be reminded that this was indeed Valentine's Day and everyone was in love, even my favorite character. I started walking out of the room when a guy enters. Our eyes met for a split second, and I forgot to breathe. He said hey, and apologized. He didn't think anyone would be here on this lovely day. I wasn't sure if he was being sarcastic about the lovely part. I told him that I was leaving, and no more came out of my mouth. He said I didn't have to, he'll find another class to hide away in, but I insisted and walked away as quickly as I could.
I spent days, no, even months thinking about those eyes. Suddenly, going to classes every morning didn't seem pointless anymore. I would always look around me and maybe I'd find him. I would intentionally walk into places full of people, and force myself to be around people, hoping I'd find him, and I did. I saw him a couple of times, he didn't look at me. I convinced myself he didn't see me. I created a love story in my head, and it was perfect. Once a month, he would glance at me for a second and look away. I don't know who started it or when, but I was in it. I was in love with a dream, in love with a guy I'm not sure existed outside of my head. I decided not to let go of him, because I have let go of too much in the past, and now I knew that there was a reason. He was my reason, and he was going to be forever still.
Summer break came, and not seeing much of him made me see many things more clearly. I thought he was selfish, that he thought he's every girl's prince charming, and that he never worked hard enough to win any girl's heart, because he already got it. How dare he. Yet, the truth is that he won my heart at first sight. I might deny it, but I died a little when he talked to me. The day he looked at me with those beautiful eyes, I would have jumped in happiness if I was a little different from who I was then
That was not all that I have realized, for I realized that I'm a fool. I also realized that I have a vivid imagination that was bound to kill me. You see, in my head, he was perfect, but then again so was I. He talks to me, I talk back. He loves me, I adore him, but in reality, I'm just a scared little girl. He talks, I smile. He finds me looking, I look away. He tries, and I know I can't. He gives up, and I simply cry. However, the ultimate truth is that he never looked, he never spoke to me, and he never even noticed me. So I simply let go.
Summer was over, freshman year was over. I was a sophomore now whether I chose to believe it or not. However, I was fine with being back to normal. Fine with being the girl whom everybody thought was weird, the girl that didn't want to be around people, and most importantly the girl who has been single for many years. I walk to my first class, and believe it or not, I was excited about it. It was a subject that I like, in the classroom that I loved the most. Yet, when I first walked in, I knew it wouldn't be as I expected, for in the first row, and to my surprise, sat the guy I chose to despise. Days passed and he never noticed me. He sat behind me at times, at others I didn't even look to see where he sat.
One day, I walked into class earlier than usual, and I sat down waiting for the teacher. Some other students came and sat down, some were drawing on the board, and others were singing and dancing. The guy, that I couldn't stand, walked in and sat right next to me. He was the kind of guy that thinks he knew everything about everything, the kind that would break every girl's heart without her even realizing, and the kind that you think you know without knowing him. I never realized any of this before because I was too busy making him what I wanted him to be, but he was a tall guy, and he was thin, but not too thin. His hair was a light brown, and he had very silky and soft curls, the kind you would envy him for having. From time to time, a curl would fall down his wide dark blue eyes. He had freckles around his small nose. I always hated freckles. He had a smile that would always make you feel like you are wrong but it's ok because you can never be as perfect as him. Whenever I looked at him, I saw everything that I hated. And even though I hate to admit, but he was a guy I hated without even knowing. He looked at me and said good morning, I politely replied with a "hey" and immediately looked away, trying to look busy in any way. He tried to make a conversation, but I thought he was selfish and decided to be mean. Finally, the teacher came saving me from the most intolerable moments of my life.
When the class was over, I rushed out of the door, and to my surprise, he followed me, tried to talk to me. Yet again, I couldn't help but be rude. Throughout the week, I have been trying to avoid him. I hated being rude. I hated that I hated that. My parents have always raised me to be polite and respectful of everyone around me even if they were stealing away my rights. Moreover, by being rude, I felt that I was fighting everything that I have ever believed in. He asked me why I was running away from him, why I wasn't giving him a chance to talk to me. I was surprised, I must say. I said I wasn't, and that we hardly knew each other so I had no idea he was trying to talk to me. I lied obviously. He apologized, I think he knew. He said that something about me pulled him towards me and that scared him, and that he's sorry he missed all those chances to talk to me. I couldn't talk, but I knew he wasn't any different from what I now knew. He was still selfish and... Perfect. So I walked away.
He was selfish, maybe. I didn't know anymore. He always stared at me, I think. Sometimes, he even smiled at me with that charming smile of his. Not all girls fall for him, but I surely did.
Then, I found myself walking to class early again, and there he was, alone. We sat alone for five minutes waiting for the teacher, or any other student to come. I tried to leave, but I thought it would be rude again. He started talking to me. He tried to come out with a hello, but it sounded more as a mumble. I had no… answer. He then asked me why I stayed alone the whole time. I hated him for interfering; I hated him because I thought he was judging me. I wanted to yell at him, but instead I said that I'm ok with being alone. And nothing more was said for a very long second.
He then started talking again "I hate being alone". I was shocked; I thought the conversation was over. I didn't say another word, but he went on "can I tell you a secret?" I was shocked again. Why would he tell me a secret, he doesn't even know me. "I feel comfortable telling you this because we're like strangers, but I know you, oh how I know you" he told me, almost as if he heard my thoughts. "I'm scared of loneliness" I didn't want to hear it. "I'm scared that someday I would die alone" he continued. I had no idea why this guy, that I hardly tolerate, was talking to me about his fears. He was trying to say something, but apparently it wouldn't come out. He then said that he knows what I think of him, he seemed like he wanted to continue but chose silence instead. Finally when I wouldn't answer him, he said in a very low voice "I'm dying and I want to enjoy every minute of my life" I looked at him, and for the first time ever, I saw a different person.
For the first time ever, when his blue wide eyes met mine, I didn't just see the cute guy that once stared at me, I didn't just see the guy who sat behind me in Math. I saw Jeremy Rhodes; the guy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but the rest of his life was not an option, and when those blue eyes started to sparkle with tears, I just wanted to throw my arms around him. I wanted to show him that it will be ok. HE will be ok. I now loved every imperfection in him, I loved the fact that he makes mistakes, and I loved his every clumsy, geeky move, because just then and there, I saw that he was just a human, and I wanted him to be my human.
He was no longer the guy that breaks hearts, he was no longer the guy that is so confident, and he was no longer perfect. He was simply a human. And I hated every time I ran away from him, I hated every hi I didn't answer to him; I hated myself for judging him. I had no right to be mean to him just because he was perfect. I simply had no right. At that moment I felt how unfair life was. We paused for a few long seconds, looking at each other, but it was never awkward. It was a comfortable silence between two people who have agreed through their eyes that forever will be their forever, and the happily ever after only existed when their eyes held each other. Those eyes have argued silently for too long whenever doubt came to the mind, but doubt was no longer welcomed in that fairytale for that fairytale only had room for the perfect love that came with beautiful faith and a lot of waiting and longing. And in the end, those eyes knew, it was all worth it. Other students finally arrived, saving me from crying instead of him, and from crying because that forever didn't seem long enough, because once again, I have created the perfect fairytale from one glimpse.
I found myself interested in Jeremy, but I couldn't be his friend. I still couldn't stand him, I couldn't stand to let myself love him, but at least now I would say hi to him. When he comes talking to me, I wouldn't run away. I found out that I liked talking to him sometimes. I liked walking with him, I even liked eating with him. At times I thought that I pity him, but I simply liked the company. Moreover, I would sometimes find myself blurting out secrets of my own, fears and personal experiences, such as crushing hardly on him at one point. At other times, I would find myself crying on his shoulder. And without even realizing it, he became my best friend. I refused to admit it, but he knew it. I wasn't nice to him, but I was polite. He wasn't selfish, of that I was now sure. He loved me, and always tried his best to keep me. I couldn't help but fall for him.
I spent two short years talking, laughing, and playing with him. Then, for the first time ever, February 14th wasn't the day I hid away alone, it was the day we hid together, in OUR favorite classroom. People talked, but I didn't care, he was my only friend and he was the only one that mattered. At times when he looked at me, I felt that he understood every word coming out of my mouth. I wasn't alone anymore, I wasn't afraid of people around me, and I was really happy. Moreover, I finally knew why I'm here at Bethlehem university studying English Literature; Without that choice I made I wouldn't have met him, without meeting him, I wouldn't have been…me. You see, I've only had a few best friends in my life, but none of them made me feel happy and relaxed like he does. I haven't had a very good luck with them either, my first real best friend fell in love with me, my second real best friend fell in love with my boyfriend, and finally my third real best friend… died.
Today, I am sitting in the same class I sat in 3 years ago, the class where I met my best friend, the class where I changed without even realizing it. Today, I am sitting, writing about a memory, a beautiful memory that I would hate to lose. Today, I am sitting, thinking about a friend, an amazing friend that changed me, an incredible friend that I hated losing. Life IS unfair. Life took away someone because he was perfect; maybe life hated him just as much as I did once, but life is unfair because life has left me here, sitting in the same classroom. I look up and I see that nothing has changed from that day until today. The chairs are still the same, the walls are still as dirty, and the floor is still sticky. There is only one difference in these two pictures. Today, I am sitting… alone.
And that one difference, made it all different...