I was a year older and you were the freshman, and you were quick to make friends with everyone, a social butterfly. When I first saw you, you were the glowing center of attention, and I played the role of the older kid who kept his distance, aloof, though secretly wishing you’d notice me. When your eyes caught mine, and mine yours, I played it distant and cool. I played it cool, and I played mean, a liar. And it was you who approached me, and I feigned nonchalance—but there it was, that immediate connection.
We shared a carton of chocolate milk at a Starbucks nearby, and I tried to impress you with stories I’d made up on the spot. Your French accent seemed inviting, and you taught me some words in French. Outside, we walked and talked into the evening.
I remember Putin. That’s what we jokingly used to call the gas station clerk, because he’d sell us cigarettes despite our being underage, telling us, in a hushed tone, to “put’in pocket.” We had our secret place, too, not far from school, where we’d smoke cigarettes during lunch break or classes cut.
You taught me how to say “I love you” in French, over the phone. You asked for me to repeat it back to you: Je t’aime. Je t’aime. I felt your smile on the other end. You then asked me if I meant it, if I really meant it, and I said I wasn’t sure. “I can’t say for sure yet.”
One night, we got together with a pack of friends and a 12-pack of cheap beer, and we ventured into shaded territory. Something happened, something I said. I made you cry.
I woke up the next day, angry and hungover, and I never saw you again. But I still think about you, once in a while, about what could’ve been if I hadn’t snubbed your heart. I hardly knew you then, but what we had was real, unspoken.
If the human body is made up of sixty-percent water, and if water holds memory, then what memories—what moods and impressions—quiver in the waters of our bodies? I hardly knew you then, but you’re always an ocean inside of me.