Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Borderline Creepy: The University Union

 For my first real post, we will take an oddly long trip into my chaotic mind. It was none other than average day of the University Union at Cal Poly, where I attend school. And, sometimes, average becomes readable.

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The University Union

I originally saw her from across the University Union, the inside part. It’s where I go when I want to nap, study, or read in between classes. It’s kind of an escape. In the UU, you get to see a diverse population of Cal Poly. You get to see those out of your mundane and daily routine. There is defiantly something special about the UU, or really any populated public location, really, that makes me feel a part of something bigger. But this story is not about something bigger. It’s about something really personal, something that your share with only those closest to you. But, like that time in the UU that day, I am feeling brave, and so, today, you can all be those people closest to me.

To give you an idea of where exactly I am, I will try to describe what is roughly going on here. The time was approximately 3:30 pm on a Thursday afternoon. Since it is January, the sun is starting to move toward the ocean, just a mile or so as the crow flies from our California campus. The UU faces the southwest, and the windows are really large, so the glare is starting to set in.  Unfortunately, this was not exactly an idealistic glare, like in “Touched by an Angel” or a romantic comedy. This was a glare that made you squint to see those coming in from the outside. It’s that kind of glare that allows those cocky people to justify wearing sunglasses inside.  

Around the UU, there were all types of people. Groups form in sections of overstuffed chairs that are facing each other, allowing for power naps or mellow conversation. I was in a maroon, overstuffed chair, myself.  The tables are packed with study groups, ranging from engineering to psychology to business to biology. As I am looking around, I realized that in the UU, there are no boundary lines. Just as America claims to be “the Great Melting Pot,” we mesh together seamlessly. Seniors and freshmen, alike, can gather in the UU. It is a place where the playing field is leveled. Where there are no courses or complicated labs. There are no houses with fraternity letters on them, and everyone has something in common. All you have to do is find that common ground to spark a conversation. But that takes guts. 

Like I said, I first saw her when I was reading a book that my younger sister had recommended to me. It was a memoir, but an interesting one at that, titled “The Glass Castle.” I peered up from my book to reflect on what I had just read and to survey the landscape, if you want to call it that. It was that quick glance that caught her eye. I'm not even sure if she registered the glance, but I certainly did.

 You know how sometimes, you just get that feeling. It’s not that feeling “in the pit of your stomach” or that feeling “you get when you’re in free fall,” but something more like a big slap on the back that makes you sit up straighter and take a quick breath. My first gasp was quick, and as far as I know, went unnoticed. I felt a little adrenaline pump as I planned a smooth double-take. I softly placed the book on my lap and put a very philosophical look on my face. At this point my brows were furled and vision slightly obscured, but I stole a quick glance. Her head was down, buried in some thick book that I could not see the cover to. I wondered what she was reading. “Is that a book that I have read?” If I had known, it might have been my big break, but I couldn’t make it out. I looked back down, pretending to read for a couple minutes. I was really trying to think of some excuse to move her direction. But when I looked up, she was gone. The time on the clock was 3:57.

At about 4:30, I look and see that it is time to head off to my class that starts in ten minutes. I can’t focus on physics, though. All I’m thinking about is who she is. She is light-skinned, has long, dark, wavy hair, with dark-green eyes. She is thin, looked like slightly taller than an average height, but that is hard to tell. She was reading… And I realized that I don’t even know her major. I felt like I was living the song “Breakfast at Tiffinay’s,” except I didn’t even get the chance to talk to her. I thought that there must have been another opportunity to meet her, and I wasn’t going to give up that easy.
The next Tuesday, I sat down in the UU at around 3:25. Tuesday and Thursday schedules are usually similar, if not the same, so I had a small chance of hope. My positioning was different that time. I sat in her row, only two seats down from her last spot. I dug into my book, only getting a chance to “read,” or at least stare at it, during my breaks on Tuesday and Thursday. When I looked up at 3:32, she was sitting next to me. I almost jumped, as I had totally missed it. How had she been so quiet that I didn’t even notice she was there? I had been so entrenched in my book that I didn’t even look up.  I could’ve said something to her. Something dumb, probably, like “oh, let me move my stuff.” I might have said something funny, and if she laughed, I would be in. Not only do I love the way a girl looks when she laughs, but I heard that if a girl laughs at something that isn’t funny, she likes you. I could’ve introduced myself, and we would have hit it off for sure! I blew my only chance, and I had been defeated. I dug back into my book, blanketed with the “im totally obvious and creepy if I say something now” aura. I didn’t even have a chance to look at her without turning her blatant direction. 

Then, she dropped her pen. It bounced an off her leg and came to rest by my foot. I saw her move to pick it up, but I used the advantage of my long arms to beat her to it. I looked up and we made our first real eye contact. The funny thing was that it lasted a couple of split seconds longer than it should have. I don’t doubt that I could stare at her for more than just a couple of seconds, given the chance, but that usually doesn’t get reciprocated. We both snapped out of the quick, speechless glance as I handed her the pen. She whispered a timid “thanks.” I shook my head and smiled, but failed to get out more than a mumble of a “you’re welcome.” I was already looking her direction, so I glanced down at her book. It was the Bible. She was taking notes in one of my favorite books, Romans. At that point, I had my connection. The principle of the UU was about to be proven once more. If only I could get up the guts. But I told you that I was feeling brave today. In a split-second decision, I went for it. I felt like I was risking it all, but that was the best part. 

“What chapter are you reading?” She looked at me with a sheepish grin that was oddly attractive. “Chapter 12,” she responded. This was getting even better. I had quite a bit of that chapter memorized, and I couldn’t waste the opportunity. My confidence was growing, and I was getting warmer.

But just as I was about to ask her favorite part, one of my friends walked up and yelled my name. I turned around to see he was closing in on my location. I gave him a glance and smiled, trying to think of a way out. But it was too late. He sat down in the chair to my left. I was now committed to my left, not my right, where the girl read quietly. He started talking about his day, and how beautiful the day was. He was describing the feeling he got when he stepped outside that morning. But every time he mentioned the sun, I thought her eyes. Mentions of the wispy clouds,and  I thought her voice. The glare in his eyes was her beauty in mine, the torturous shine that makes everything black and white for a few instances. While exhaling from pure relief by the warmth of the sun, I was humbled by her smile. There was something that made my emotions distorted but my intentions so clear. She made things plain. She made things exciting. She was my engine and drive, but when I took a glance back around, to see her walking away, she sunk my ship and all of its men to the ocean floor. It was 3:57.
But I knew there was still hope. I conjured up a new crew, a new spirit. The repairs of the damages the girl who left just as fast as she came were complete. And I hadn’t screwed up with her; I had just been temporarily detoured. That Thursday I would see her and get another shot. I could make it happen, I convinced myself.

Well, she didn’t come that Thursday. But the Tuesday would be successful, for sure. I went straight to our seats and glanced up frequently to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. She didn’t show up Tuesday. Not the next Thursday either. As it turns out, I never saw her again. It was over, and there was nothing I could do about it. I didn’t even know her name.

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