There Was Something In The Way You Looked At Me

Gianni Cumbo
Gianni Cumbo

I saw you, across the room, sitting alone with your glass of wine. I’m not sure how or why I noticed you the way I did, as the bar was typically busy, the faces typically blurred and my mind typically wandering. But I did; I noticed you — like the first crack of morning light breaking through my bedroom blinds. You demanded to be seen.

Perhaps it was the way you sat so surely, so contently, in your own company. The way you weren’t looking from left to right, anxiously awaiting a friends arrival — the way you never once glanced to your phone. Perhaps it was the way you were simply there; and the way you seemed so happy to be.

I know you saw me, too, from across the room. Our eyes met, somehow, through the sea of bodies. They met, and I held your focus, as you did mine. We sat, for the shortest kind of forever, smiling at one another, as though our very being there was the oldest inside joke; as though we’d met before. Looking back, now, I know what I should’ve done. I should’ve pushed through the crowd, I should’ve navigated the mess of drunken patrons and moved in your direction; placed you in my path. I should’ve said hello.

But I didn’t. I broke your focus, I shifted my gaze. I stood, laughing in the company of friends, and I disappeared into the night. And even though I didn’t say hello, even though I don’t know your name, you still made me feel everything and nothing and something all in that one moment. It was all wrapped up together in one complicated feeling. Because when you made me feel everything — all of that potential, that void of what could be — I guess that I really mean nothing. But “nothing” in a good way, “nothing” in a beautiful way — “nothing” in a way that holds more weight, more value than any old “something.”

You see, so many people have made me feel “something.”

I’ve felt giddy, overcome with schoolyard carnality, as I sat, knees pressed against my chest, on a kitchen bench that did not belong to me. As I sat and watched the way someone else cooked me breakfast, the way they’d occasionally glance my way and — frightened and hopeful and unsure of what it meant that I was there, on the kitchen bench, with my knees pressed up against my chest. Unsure of what it meant that I’d stayed ’til morning.

I’ve felt optimistic in the arms of someone; the dangerous kind of optimistic, the kind that erodes all personal defenses. The kind that opens the door and welcomes in a Trojan Horse — entranced by its grandeur, blinded by its beauty, oblivious to its threat. I trusted them; the way they led me so surely up a flight of stairs and onto that old, wooden balcony. The way they leant in and whispered secrets through red-wine lips — and the way I treasured them, held them as sacred. It was the way we sat, entangled; overlooking the salt-sprayed coast, invincible in our own kind of foolishness.

I’ve felt my heels clipped, my trust broken down, my ego humbled — I’ve learned what it means to find compassion within the cruel offering of pain. I felt the low tides, the damp sand, and the erased footprints — it was the hot baths and it was the cold showers, the coarse scratch of my towel against my skin. I’ve felt the empty bottles of champagne and the dizziness of moving in circles; the maddening senselessness of it all. It was the way that 2 + 2 always seemed to make 5 — and the way I didn’t mind.

And I’ve felt a reclaimed sort of joy. I found it slowly, in the nooks and crannies of emotional averageness. I let it in; let it seep into the cracks and dents and all the spaces in between all my little broken bits. I allowed myself to walk, one step after the other, in what felt like the right direction — the right direction at the time. It was the calm after a storm, as the waves chopped and changed and fought to once more find their flow.

So I guess that brings us to now; to you. And honestly, all I wanted from you was for you to make me feel nothing. I just wanted to look at you, from across the room, and smile in the way I smile at so many — in a way that bares as much poignancy as it does indifference. I didn’t want to say “hello” — because I know what saying “hello” means.

Saying “hello” would mean letting you in, just a little, at least — letting you hear my voice, letting you hold my gaze, letting you know the way I’m weak — to the process of it all, to the promise of possibility. Not saying hello was my way of preserving you; laminating your image and placing it on my wall: protected, safe from the oily mark of a fingerprint, safe from the burning sun of afternoon and the howling winds of morning.

Safe from the way things tend to happen, whether we like them or not.

I don’t want to know whether you take your coffee with milk, or whether you prefer it with sugar. I don’t want to know whether your mind runs smoothest under the rising sun, or whether you come alive at night; become electric as the world falls asleep. I don’t want to know about the small town you grew up in, I don’t want to know about your older brother and I don’t want to know about your younger sister — I don’t want to know about the way you love them so unconditionally, how they drive you to be the best possible version of yourself.

I don’t want to know, because I understand what it means to know these things. And I’m not ready — not yet, at least — for all that comes with it.

Now that I think about it, I guess that’s why I didn’t say hello – to erase the possibility, the inevitability of ever having to say goodbye. And I could tell, just by looking at you, from all the way over there in the corner — that saying goodbye to you wasn’t something I’d want to do. Not now, not all over again, not with you. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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