If I was 17, I could find it in between the cushions of somebody’s couch. I could find it, I could find it. If I was 17, I could find it in a dream, a dime a dozen kind of love. I could find it, I could find it. But I’m not 17, and I lost it in between the birthday cakes and past mistakes that roll by.
“Locked Up,” Ingrid Michaelson
Make That 7:09
She tried not to stare at the clock. It ticked loudly, steadily, in the background. She tried to drown out the ticks with the clicks of her keyboard. Yet when her fingers stopped, the ticks didn’t.
She tried not to press the button on her phone. She didn’t need to see the stupid tulip, the big 7:08. Make that 7:09.
She sat in the ticking silence, the movie frozen in pause. She couldn’t concentrate on it anyway.
A fat kid stared at her from the plasma screen.
Her heart was beating fast in her chest, though she couldn’t say why. He hadn’t called in the last three hours—why should she expect him to now? Perhaps her heart had reasoned that he had to call eventually, and the later it got, the more likely it was to happen. Thus, the excitement. Clearly her heart had not conferred with her head.
Though lately they had been working together so well. Past experience had proven her heart very much had a mind of its own, and it rarely took the advice of the more logical organ upstairs. Yet this time around, it had kept things together. Remarkably well, in fact. A caution borne of experience, no doubt. (She seemed to be using that phrase uncomfortably often of late).
Though not quite sure how she had achieved it, she had managed to maintain a considerable distance in matters of the heart. She was the picture of cool. Smooth. Totally.
OK, maybe not so smooth. But she had definitely played it cool, uncharacteristically cool. This concerned her only a little. At least, she didn’t let herself think about it long enough for it to concern her. That was characteristic. “Bury it deep down in there, and never bring it up again.” It was fitting that was literally the only movie quote in her repertoire.
She watched the 7:41 turn to 7:42. Why was her heart still racing? Did it really matter if he called at this point? She was pretty sure she wasn’t going to answer anyway.
That’s when it happened. The beep.
Well, it was more like a ping. Less obnoxious than a beep. Definitely a ping.
She didn’t look at it. Not right away. Though no one was around to see her, she took her time selecting the next song.
It’s been a really really messed up week. Seven days of torture. Seven days of bitter… La la la. Whatever. La la la. Doesn’t matter. La la la. Oh well. La la la.
She finally glanced at her phone. The wait was wasted. It wasn’t even him.
Text from Emily.
Hey… are you coming down to Chippers tonight?
She frowned. Random. It was a Tuesday.
She waited for the ping.
Oh. I thought maybe you were meeting that guy I saw you with last weekend…
Her heart picked up its pace, but not in a good way. She could imagine where this was going.
No. We didn’t have any plans. You there?
Of course she was.
Yah, with Matt. Do you want to meet us?
I have to get some planning done for class. Thanks though!
So. That’s nice.
She felt a weird mix of anger and disillusionment. An angry kind of not caring. Clearly distance hadn’t been a bad idea.
Oh, but there it was again. That distance. Had she known? Maybe she was psychic. OK, not likely. But really, had she known?
Looking back, she could definitely say she had some doubts. But were the doubts legitimate? Or were they issues borne of past experience? Ugh. That phrase. But seriously, was it intuition (or whatever) or was it… baggage?
She kind of felt like a grown up at the thought. She totally knew what they meant now, all the TV shows, the jokes. Baggage. She definitely had some of her own. Those knee-jerk reactions to certain stimuli. (It sounded so scientific when she said it that way, but then she remembered it was all just psychology. Ha. Says the history major. And again: Ha.) Perhaps this whole thing was one of those reactions. Maybe she was just being melodramatic.
She decided to go with it.
Her heart had stopped beating so fast. That was a bit of a relief.
She clicked the button on her phone. 8:11.
She curbed the impulse to post something cryptic and moody and completely directed at him on Facebook. She wasn’t in college anymore.
And really, would he care? Clearly not.
Though she didn’t completely regret that she did. She was mildly relieved to feel some disappointment—it meant she must have cared, right?
She knew that the fact that she even had to ask that question probably wasn’t a good sign. But she did care. She had had fun with him. She liked talking to him and kissing him. She looked forward to seeing him, and she didn’t want to leave when she was with him. She really liked him.
But was she falling in love? It was early, she knew that, and that’s why she hadn’t worried about it. She figured eventually those feelings would come, or they wouldn’t. Either way, she would know.
But what if those feelings never came? Not just with him (or more accurately, not just not with him), but what if they never came with anyone?
She had once been in love. Her first love. She had fallen in love again. At least, she thought it was love. But those feelings faded. She stayed, though, because she thought, maybe that’s what love is? Maybe it’s not all excitement. Maybe eventually, it’s just there. Or maybe, maybe she loved him but wasn’t in love with him. Maybe that had been the problem.
It didn’t make her feel better. Because that was exactly her problem. She had loved someone, she had wanted to be in love with that someone, she had really tried to be. But she couldn’t.
She wasn’t even sure what love felt like anymore.
What if she never felt it again? What if she couldn’t? What if this distance was not just distance-keeping but rather a permanent canyon that no one could ever cross?
She thought of Shrek, and the princess and the dragon. Of course, she just needed a knight. They could do anything. Slay any dragon, right?
But what if her heart was the dragon? Her heart itself, the guard?