I wrote this journal entry as soon as I got home from an interesting near-miss at the bar after class. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
I often imagine, with a neutral eye, what it was like the night Trey kissed Corie. Was it in a bar, or was it in the parking lot? I bet it was in the lot, right alongside her driver-side door. Was she pressed up against her white RAV-4, or did she too lean forward? Was it dark, or were they under a streetlamp spotlight? Was it a thrill? How couldn't it have been?
Though that kiss sent me adrift for years afterward...still, I imagine the encounter with fascination. For all I know, it was a sloppy peck between rounds on a spinny barstool. One thing is for certain: from that moment on, their lives became a hell of a lot more interesting.
Heather is very difficult to read. Yet I find myself, again, sitting across from her, just her and I, in another murmur of a bar, wondering what is going to happen next. What tale is she periodically typing out to her boyfriend on her pink blackberry phone? There's no way in Hell he knows she's out having drinks with her attractive Biology teacher. "I'm still out with the girls", is my guess. He must have been as oblivious as I.
The first night the four of us went out, I was dressed for the occasion because I knew with certainty they were going to invite me, despite them having never said a word. Only after countless demonstrations of its unwavering truthfulness, have I learned to trust my instincts fully. If only I could learn to act on them; years of inertia have anchored me to more familiar paths. How fascinating it was, however, to sit on this other side of the table tonight, looking Heather in the eyes as Trey once looked at Corie 4 years earlier.
Though the others came out for one drink only, she matches me into my second, and then again to my third. Just like last week. Unlike last week however, the others' departure could not have been more...conspicuous, leaving the two of us alone. Only a few sips into our last round, Amanda and Michelle decide they simply have to leave, now. Can they wait a minute or two as we finish up? Evidently, they cannot. They have to leave right this minute because...well, just because. What I first thought was my imagination, I am now beginning to suspect is a conspiracy amongst friends. I remember in college when our dorm friends would gradually vanish from the room, leaving Jen and I alone. This seemed a lot like that.
There were two channels of communication tonight—the ephemeral nothingness the four of us bantered, and the dangerous subtext about which we nervously tread. What replaced that ephemeral nothingness when the two others left was a nearly arthritic tension. Despite the fact that Heather and I virtually ignored them as we delved into each other half the night, our conversation became a stilted struggle for polite topics in their absence. They were our safety net—our handrails to guide us along this perfectly legitimate outing amongst friends. Without them, this was an entirely different affair.
The crowd grew loud, and so we decided to leave. To our cars. In the parking lot. She thanked me for staying longer and "putting up with me", to which I replied, "are you kidding me? This'll be the highlight of my week." I'm glad I said that, for I too am hard to read. I'm glad too, as it may have been enough fuel to inspire what she almost said in the parking lot three minutes later.
As the melatonin washes over me and I lose coherence, I want to at least commit this last piece, before I change my mind in the morning. As I walked her to her car, she began to say something. There was clearly nervous discomfort--I swear to god there was, no matter how differently I may remember the encounter in the morning. I recognized it; my heart leaped at the tone. I am also certain of this: whatever it was she had begun to say...I think it started with an "um"...and it had the flavor of a question...whatever intriguing thought she was about to utter, it was not the uninteresting misdirection she ultimately spoke. No one gets that shakingly nervous about not finding their keys. I believe Heather was on the brink of taking a bold leap that I am too nervous to attempt alone.
Instead I played dumb and did what any hesitant adventurer would do: drove myself home, wrote an essay about it and posted the following message on "missed connections": 'Had you said what you really wanted to say--what for a moment you actually began to say, as I walked you to your car tonight...my response would have made you delirious.'