It’s an ordinary day. Everything is fine, she told herself, catching her reflection in the black-green screen before her. The convex edges warped her forehead and, combined with the emerald cast and sunken, sleep-starved eyes, made her look alien. She balled up her fists into two tight knots, then used them to knead at her eyeballs, hard, until bright spots appeared like fireworks in the night sky. Not Fourth of July fireworks, a choreographed display to jubilate summerphiles; no, more like the rogue, pet coronary-inducing ones they used to shoot off at Randy Klatt’s house after Friday night football games.
Randy and Jason and Ted and Dave, those guys were such d*cks. She gave Ted money for beer once, to be a sport. She didn’t even drink until college, where she was now, rubbing her eyeballs until she was blind like Tiresias, the prophet from that damn T.S. Eliot poem that she wrote her term paper on, which she was trying to print out from this blasted library terminal. I liked when poems rhymed, she thought, removing her wadded up fists from her eye sockets and blinking in the fluorescent lights.
They blinked back.
She didn’t know why she was mad at him in the first place. Years later, it would occur to her that it was because she was used to having her way all the time, and if she acted put out, it usually resulted in some grand gesture from the other party. That was probably how it started, but she lacked the emotional tools to understand this at this time.
Anger morphed into concern when he didn’t call that night. It was unusual, but not unheard of. She dipped into her confidence reserve to override the heaviness settling into her stomach, deciding his team meeting must’ve run late or he too had been absorbed into a project that was due. She knocked off into sleep, but woke up before her alarm the next day.
And now, there she was, 24 hours later at the school library. Casting impatient looks at the printer and listening for its bells and grinds, surefire sounds of a term paper generating from the little letter factory inside.
A bolt of color flashed in her peripheral, a bird of paradise streaking skyward.
It was him.
In that moment, she felt the full range of emotion it took Dawson’s Creek 6 seasons to produce—fondness, untoward anger, manipulation, anxiety, remorse; finally, relief.
Later when he called, she pretended she hadn’t seen him and confessed to nothing.
It was an ordinary day. Everything was fine.