He kept stealing glances all day. I saw the corner of his eye glances out of the corners of mine while I was supposed to be driving. Sometimes I full looked over to see what the reaction would be, most of the time it was a spreading what are you smiling about smile. I counted the miles. Fifty. Ninety. One hundred thirty. Tried to memorize what it felt like so that there would be more for later, take it all apart and put it back together again. That is how I learn. Patient and slow observing, throwing out little bits to see what happens.

He was jealous when the clerk flirted with me. I was buying batteries and asking directions with a smooth glaze of banter on top, he must have been scrutinizing the face opposite mine more carefully than I had been. Maybe it was just a better vantage point that let him see too much or more than was really there. Gave himself away by trying to joke about it on the way to the car. Echoes in my head.

\ I'm not even yours. \

\ not even yours and you're already jealous \

Smokey packed and mixing people. Count, check, seal and shake. Bake for two hours then let cool for fifteen minutes. Packed together on the bench seat which ran along the wall talking past over and in between each other. Making stuttering shuffled breaks of conversation with half or whole strangers, extracting chunks past present and dreams from each other hoping to build something. Or nothing. Or undo what was already done. Watching people out of the corner of my eyes again, watching people watching me quietly. Watching them look away and back again.

This time you don't get away so easily stealing parts of my heart with your glances, I locked eyes with Across the Room. Got a little too close to those maybes and could have beens, got a little scared, you broke our locked electric by looking at the ground. Turned my head to next to me and he started to say but stopped short. Been watching where I was watching too, I knew better than to ask what he's holding back. I know your thoughts boy. Don't you know it echoes louder each time.

\ not yours not yours not yours \

\ stop playing like you're mine \

But I traced the angles of his face anyways, ran my fingertip along the sharp edge where it falls off into noplace. That lasting acrid that stays a while after, reminding you shared perfect kisses in a long endless night.

I knew that she had been seeing someone else. And why not. We had only just met and I don’t even know her middle name or her favorite movie. Actually it was Braveheart - her favorite movie not her middle name but that’s not the point. We’d only been out a few times and, although I had had fun, I never really felt like we’d connected. She’d been hesitant and half-ass which made me a little hesitant. Everything I do is half-ass so there was no change there. If you never really try all the way then you’re never really that disappointed.

That disappointed. I was still a little disappointed when she told me that this other guy had asked for exclusivity and she’d said yes. It’s not like I had illusions of marriage or anything but I figured that things were going pretty well. I felt like someone who just lost the job but didn’t even know that he was being interviewed. I felt the way I imagine Art Garfunkel must have felt when Paul Simon told him that he was going solo. I had fun, Art, thanks for all those years, albums and memories but I think I’m going to go off on my own now.

Not really betrayal because there had never been a contract but I still felt that sting of rejection. Maybe I wished that I’d thought to ask her first. Maybe I wished that I’d thought to give up a little earlier.

Give up. If I did it quick enough and took to some Irish whiskey my heart might not even know the difference. Denial can be a powerful tool when used with alcohol and a seasoned hand. So that’s what I did and I think it almost worked. What I didn’t count on was that annoying little feeling under my skin where she had somehow gotten. They work fast if you don’t pay attention – women.

She was beautiful and intriguing and we had pretty good conversations. She wasn’t ditzy or annoying and she never sold herself short. I think she was smarter than me but she didn’t flaunt her intellect. The weird thing is that I couldn’t get all the way into her. She was a really bad kisser. Like a passion fruit, she was exotic, delicious and rare but that was it. There’s no real passion – it’s still just a fruit. That was my first thought after I kissed her. Also, she didn’t seem comfortable around me but that could have been my fault. Maybe, I’m really intimidating or something.

But probably not.

So how come I feel like I got dumped? It must be that age old feeling of pride that gets damaged when a girl picks the other guy. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m sure he’s not super special but it still feels like I blew it. Maybe it’s because as soon as I knew about this other guy I quit giving. I quit trying with as much effort as I could have. The fear of failure made me crawl back into my safe little shell of objectivity and indifference. I hate it when I do that.

I’ve always believed that you should love like you’ve never been hurt. Kahlil Gibran said it better in his book the Prophet:

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

I’ve always believed that too but I didn’t do it and that’s what makes the sting that much sharper. Not only did I lose the girl but I also lost to myself and my own quirky dogma. Damn!

And that’s how it went. It’s too late to try and salvage my chances and it’s too early to try and upgrade from friend to boyfriend, which is already a difficult task. There’s the other guy and she chose him over me. I’m sure that I’ll continue to see her as a friend and that’s fine – really. It’s just too bad that I didn’t try harder.

Next time I will.

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