To Have Looked
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had looked.
Looked in the sense of not just physically seeing, but conveying some meaning, sharing an understanding. I had looked at them both many times, but was too afraid to look. (And even merely looking at them was often overwhelming.)
He was the first boy to make my stomach flutter up to my throat. He was older than me, and after I took him to the freshman dance I pined after him all year. The next summer he brought me to the mall parking lot to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in the back of his hatchback, and I thought every molecule in my buzzing body would defy physics and break free to scatter off into the night.
Later, we went to a park where kids got high and hung out. We found a spot to lay in the grass on a rolling hill under a starred sky. It was dark; we were alone. My skin vibrated. I wondered what would happen, what I was doing, what should I be doing? I was 15 and a late bloomer and probably ashamed. He turned to face me, and I kept looking up. I felt him looking at me, looking, but I would not meet his gaze. Eventually, he turned back up to the sky.
She was one of the first girls to make my stomach drop into my pelvis. I’d only come into queerness a few months before, when another beautiful girl said she thought I was cute and cracked open a door in my mind. I had never crushed on a girl (or been aware of a crush on a girl) and I felt 15 all over again. We worked together at a restaurant, where she was the coolest on staff. She had tattoos and piercings and a “fuck it” attitude, and she smoked and drank and swore a lot. The customers loved her. I felt embarrassed in her orbit.
One night, she invited me to her house. We drank too many beers in the backyard and talked until it was not okay for me to drive home. She said I could stay and she took me to CVS down the street to get contact solution. Her bedroom was dark and AC-cool, and I wondered if she would reach for me. I wondered if she knew I wanted her to. We went to sleep, each on one side of the bed, and in the morning I drove sweaty to my babysitting job with my contacts shriveled from too little time in liquid.
In my dreams, I would follow her out the back of the restaurant into the alley where she took her cigarette breaks. The heavy door would click shut; she would realize she wasn’t alone. I would push her up against the brick wall and she would be surprised, but glad. And I would look at her. Look at her.
I don’t know what I would have seen.