We were not lovers.
I didn’t know what we were or what we would become. We were in fuzzy territory, the topography a natural blend, unmarked by conceptual boundaries. There were boundaries, yes, but only the kind of boundaries that a river makes as it cuts through stone. There was no sign that said “KEEP OFF” and no assumption that we would be following societal customs about grass. There were no intellectually imposed markings of any kind, really. It was more organic than a hippie convention at the local farmer’s market.
We did not talk again until a day had passed. I was, quite frankly, distracted by my vibrant social life. You see, after spending the summer heartsick and pining, I had gotten back into the swing of things. No longer isolated from scholastic pursuits, I found myself surrounded by people. There were fickle people, people who started to shun me because they happened to catch me in the company of those with whom they were no longer friends. There were people who were with me for just half a season, and only then because of my roommate, with whom I got along quite well. But there were also a few that I am still friends with today. The night after I went on an accidental “date” with C, one of those friends was going through a personal crisis, and so I invited him out bowling with me, my roommate, and a very lively group of foreign exchange students she referred to as the “Chinese Mafia.”
The next day, when I invited C to come out to “the fair” with us (because that’s what my friends told me that it was, but as it turns out it was just a lame corn maze), I thought it might be awkward because of what was going on between my friend and one of his friends who would be there also. I wasn’t really thinking about C that much, aside from the thought that she might provide a convenient excuse to duck out of the way if the feathers started flying. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I thought it would be nice to see her and all, but I worried that perhaps she was a little more eager to meet again than I was. As ever, I was being cautious.
When she showed up around 2 p.m., my immediate impression was of how nervous and awkward she looked–she was mid-transition but had not gone full time yet, and her male clothing did not suit her face. She does have a girlish face, all big pouty lips and pretty green eyes–eyes which were covered up by glasses with those lenses that change into sunglasses when exposed to harsh light, except that they seemed to be broken, remaining permanently a translucent light brown. Her body, too, was covered up. But there was no mistaking her femininity; it pervaded every shy line of her body–the way she held her arms, the way her lips turned up in a cute grin at the sight of me. “What? No hug?” she pouted, a little put off by the way I had, in my continued rush to get ready, just ushered her in. So I hugged her then, and it was not the same as the one from the other night–shorter, more stilted–because now I was much more nervous about it. But it was still nice.
There were a bunch of people from the QSA going, and so we met up with a bunch of them at the maze, and went through it all together. Truth be told, we trailed after them. Neither one of us was particularly interested in navigating the maze, so we held back and walked next to each other, talking about various things. Tentatively, she bumped her hand against mine–a sign that she wanted me to take it. I was not so sure I wanted it to go in this direction–at least not so soon!–but I decided to just go with it to see where it would lead. We walked and walked, hand in sweaty hand, until the others, still ahead of us, found our way out.
It was clear, at this point, that she was beginning to become somewhat infatuated with me. How much so, I did not know. I felt rather distanced from her at the time, and uncomfortable showing affection like that in public. The others were giving us looks of surprise every now and then, and though I do not remember whether they said anything in front of us then or only later on, when I was explaining how we met, one of them said, “Wow, look at those two! They are totally canoodling!”
Once we were done at the maze, we made our way back to the dorms with a number of tiny pumpkins that they had given away there. While C and I had been walking around on our own, it seems that tension had been building between three of my friends over some issue or another, I can’t remember anymore. We were hanging out, waiting to see if they wanted to go out to dinner with us or not. At some point, C sat down on a comfy zebra-striped chair that R had salvaged from the newly redecorated art building, and then pulled me onto her lap. I was surprised that she would go that far after only the second time that we had met in person, and while I was a little uncomfortable with it, I wasn’t uncomfortable enough to say anything about it. After I got used to it, it was kind of nice.
Then T and W showed up, irritable at each other and both angry at R. At some point, C and I relocated to my bed, curled up next to each other and held hands, watching the three of them duke it out. “You know, I felt bad for them,” C said of it later, “But at the moment, I was really too happy to care.” Ultimately, T and W stalked off to go do something else, leaving R in tears at my dorm. So the three of us went out to eat together, to cheer her up. This involved a lot of impractically one-handed eating, since C sat next to me and had my hand under the table, and refused to let go for as long as she could help it.
I don’t remember doing anything after that, so we must have each gone home. I returned to my relative solitude wondering what I might have gotten myself into, and whether it would be something that would be good for me to pursue. It bothered me a little that C seemed to be pouring herself into our potential relationship so fast, while I was still processing what had gone on in my previous not-relationship. I do tend to let significant relationships (in a broad sense, including friendships) linger on my mind far longer, perhaps, than other people do–long after the feeling is gone, I still keep trying to work out a system of interaction that might have worked out better than what had actually happened. At that point, I was not sure I was ready to get into a new relationship like that yet. I had not expected to find myself faced with that possibility so soon, nor for C to enter my intimate space so quickly. I understood that she was very affectionate with her friends, as she had warned me about it a little, but still, it took me by surprise. I would like to say it took me pleasantly by surprise, but at the time, I really was fairly neutral. It wasn’t something I had expected, and I wasn’t sure it was where I wanted to go, but it wasn’t so bad either. For a while, I just couldn’t make up my mind.