I was 21 and working at a public library that shared its parking lot with a community college. My day-to-day consisted of signing people up for the public internet terminals and reprimanding middle-aged weirdos who used them to look at porn. I also shelved books.
From time to time, students from the college would trickle over and ask if we sold scan-trons, course packs, etc. I’d tell them no, I’m sorry, we’re not affiliated with the school. Which was confusing I’m sure, since the library was literally a stone’s throw from campus. They’d say, “Oh… okay,” take a look at the lecherous clientele and depart.
Then one day, a cluster of freshmen came in, and – after I gave them my spiel – decided to stick around to use the computer lab anyway. I set them far from Kevin (a regular who wore sweatpants and liked to save pictures of Jolene Blalock to a purple floppy disk), then I returned to whatever I was working on.
It wasn’t long, though, before I noticed two pairs of eyes staring at me over the back of a computer monitor. It was a boy and a girl. When I looked up, they looked down and one of them whispered, “Busted!” Over the weeks that followed, they returned several times.
He was tall with dyed blond hair and a goofy face (he sort of resembled Baby Huey). She was short and round with glasses and cropped curly hair. Neither of them ever spoke to me, but they always sat in the same general area… and they always stared. It didn’t put me off, really. Two silent admirers in the computer area were certainly no worse than Kevin.
I became uncomfortable, however, the day I looked up and the boy held my gaze. It was only a few seconds, but in them something important was communicated. Soon, he was coming in every day – now by himself. He’d saunter up and use the pencil sharpener on the wall behind me. Then he’d go back to his computer and write nothing.
He eventually worked up the courage to use the terminal closest to my desk. As we sat, mere inches apart, I wondered if I should say something – perhaps mention that my girlfriend at the time was also a student at the college… or just be honest and tell him that I’m flattered by all the staring, but not interested.
None of this seemed appropriate. Plus, after my last debacle I was admittedly gun-shy. So in the end I just ran out the clock, took my lunch break, and when I came back he was gone. Everything had worked out. At least that’s what I thought as I approached my desk.
What had really happened was that he had handed a note to the woman covering for me while I was gone, requesting that she pass it on when I return. Not one for fun and games – she had her own unsettling stories from working in the computer lab – she opened it up and read it right in front of him. Mortified, he ran out.
I asked for the note and she gave it to me. It was simple: “I think you’re hot” followed by his first name and phone number. I folded up the paper and stuffed it in my pocket. Feeling terrible, I swore I’d call him and apologize for the way things turned out. Of course, I never did.
I came close once. I had the number punched into my phone, ready to go – all I needed to do was press ‘send.’ But cowardice won out. Instead of baring a short, undoubtedly awkward conversation, I cleared the display and convinced myself that I didn’t owe him anything.
In a final blaze of indifference, I tossed the note into my car’s backseat. There it would rot among all the other junk I was too lazy to discard. At least, that was the plan. Until the day my mom – looking for an ice scraper – stumbled upon a curious piece of paper that bore handwriting she did not recognize.
And in this way, I got my awkward conversation.