Once every member of Lily’s family has been hugged and kissed, I load my things into my car and start my drive back home. I look over at my phone on the passenger’s seat and consider calling Langston to let him know I’m on my way back.
Staring at my phone right there on the passenger seat takes me right back to being nineteen years old, waiting for the phone to ring or buzz or whatever when I was waiting to hear from Langston, way back then. He never quite pulled through.
There was that day after class when we spoke to each other underneath the blue gum trees on the campus of UC Berkeley. I remember wishing I’d worn a better bra as he waved me down outside the building of our lecture hall.
“Hey,” he said to me, smiling.
“Hey,” I responded, sort of shyly.
I was hoping, with every fiber of my being, that he had waved me down that day to invite me to hang out that upcoming weekend.
No such luck.
“Professor Louis was so bland today, wasn’t he?”
“Oh… yeah,” I responded, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, “I guess I wasn’t really paying much attention.”
“Well, of course you weren’t! None of us were.”
I remember quietly laughing and nodding.
Wondering if this conversation was going to lead up to the point of him asking me on a date.
“Do you have somewhere to be right now?” he asked me.
“No, but my next class is in thirty minutes.”
“Cool, I’ll walk you there.”
He began walking with me over to the next building I was supposed to go to and we began to talk.
We discussed the hidden meanings and intricacies within our favorite show Bojack Horseman and how a show like that forced viewers like us to do unintended self-evaluations of ourselves because of the way it touched on the heavy subjects of depression and self-disdain.
We discussed the beauty behind a movie like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in terms of the idea that when you truly love someone, you want them and you accept them exactly as they are without trying to change a single hair on their head. How even if you attempt to erase the thoughts of someone out of the cerebral matter in your brain, it would be simply impossible-- if that person is in fact meant to be there, within the cerebral matter of your brain.
We argued about who knew more vocabulary words than the other...
And we enjoyed it. Like horribly nerdy and completely pretentious college English majors would, we enjoyed it.
“’Denouement’,” I said, assuredly, arms crossed. “It means closure… bringing a resolution to a narrative. Writing the ending of a story.”
Something I’ve failed at repetitively, with all of the opening chapters to new books I would start that waver off into nothingness. I kept that part to myself though that day.
“’Sonder’,” he spouted back at me. “It’s that feeling you get when you realize that each and every person who passes you by in the world has a life as vivid and complex as your own.”
“’Sonorous’,” I quickly responded, “An imposingly deep and full sound. Sort of like a bellowing wind instrument.”
“Well if we’re going to talk about sounds than what about a word like ‘mellifluous’? It means ‘a sound that is sweet, smooth, pleasing to hear’. A sound that glides through your ears the way warm water glides down your back in the shower.”
“’Ethereal’. Something, or someone, that is so extremely delicate and perfect that it, or they, couldn’t even possibly exist in this soiled world.”
I stared at him that day silently.
I was trying to read him… trying to gage him. But he interrupted my thought process by asking if I knew the word:
“’Limerence’. It’s the state of being infatuated with another person. Completely and utterly obsessed. Enraptured by adoration.”
When he defined the word to me, he stared at me in a way that felt completely mystifying. Every inch of me was jittering and buzzing, and begging for him to reach out and grab me. To kiss me.
But he didn’t.
Not that day and not any day. It never happened.
He didn’t ask me out that weekend either. My thirty minutes of free time ended and I headed inside the building for my next class.
And then a few weekends later he met Regina. Showed up to our lecture hall gushing about her.
I always think about that day because I think about different things could have turned out if I had been the one to make the move. Swallowed my fear and showed him where my heart was.
Instead, we walked away from each other that day and didn’t reconvene until the next lecture hall we shared together.
Maybe I always sort of resented him for not trying…
But then again, I guess I never gave him a reason to think that if he tried with me, it would end in anything other than a rejection. I acted awkward and rigid with him and it probably made him feel like asking me out would just lead to an embarrassing rejection. As well as the end of our “academically inclined” friendship.
I stare at my phone on the passenger’s seat and recall the time that it did actually vibrate… the time it did ring. And it was Langston. He was calling to check on me and see if I was okay.
The subject matter discussed during our lecture hall on the final week of that semester was really triggering for me. It was really harrowing and I had to walk out of the room early.
He called me and he met me right where I was.
He sat across from me while I told him everything.
Words I’d never once said out loud before in my life to anyone were just frenziedly and hysterically spilling out of me. Details about that day in the church. About my pastor. About my sister. About my parents. About everything.
And he listened. To everything. He wrapped his arms around me as I sobbed into his chest.
And he respected my trust enough to never bring it up again. He never told Regina and he never told Tom. He respected the sanctity of my trust.