Everything in Between (Chapter 5)
IN BETWEEN CLASSES
It’s funny how one person enters your life and your world is changed forever. You think you’re doing just fine minding your own business but he shows up and suddenly you know what you’ve been missing all along. Then you talk with him for an hour and it feels like you’ve known him all your life.
I didn’t expect that first conversations could turn out like that. Even though we didn’t talk about personal things (we were mostly reviewing for the Math exam), I still felt close to him. I still felt a connection. It was in those pauses and inflections and facial expressions. It was in the air between us.
I didn’t even know why I told him that the distance between us was just a heartbeat. You know, I was trying to make a good impression and I already embarrassed myself by saying something that might have been lyrics from an ancient song. I blushed furiously and waited for him to snort or laugh or roll his eyes or tell me I’m corny. Or all of them. But he just looked at me with that kind of interest you only give either to famous people or to freaks of nature. Whatever that was, it seemed I blew his mind.
But that moment passed and I stopped blushing and he stopped staring and he said something like, “Oh, good answer. Since I didn’t specify that it should be spatial or physical distance, I’ll accept it. So, lunch later?” He said it like my answer was the most ordinary thing he could hear during a Math review session.
It is one of the things I like about him, the way he is flexible in conversations. He can connect two or more topics that seem unrelated. He can make farfetched statements look natural. He can even make my weirdness seem normal.
Like when we were walking to the CAL Building (College of Arts and Letters) after our Math period, I blurted out, “Who’s the first person that comes to your mind when you see ants?”
“I don’t have a specific person in mind but I guess ants make me think about the Chinese. You know, they seem to be everywhere. And the way ants gather food? It reminds me so much of how the Chinese do their work.” He said all this like he was pondering about ants all the time. Like answering questions about ants was something very usual for him.
“So, do you think of yourself as an ant, too? Because you’re Chinese, right?” I asked. His last name is Chua and he has chinky eyes so I figured he is Chinese, but maybe I was being stereotypical so I had to confirm.
“Yeah, sometimes. But, I am the ant that goes astray. The one who always gets separated from the rest. I like doing things my own way.”
“What about the color? Are you the black ant or the red one?”
“Neither. I’m the ant that changes color depending on what it eats.”
We went on like that until we arrived at the CAL Building, and he realized that he left his car in the College of Science parking lot, which was near the Math Building. We laughed at the absurdity of it. How could he forget something as important as a car? But then I realized, I also forgot something. I forgot about my ex-boyfriend. All the time we were talking, I hadn’t thought of him.
I wasn’t thinking about him like before. Not every minute anymore.
It was a nice feeling. I felt light. I felt free. We were laughing there and maybe he was thinking it was still because of his car, but really I was laughing because I also realized that I just thought of my ex-boyfriend but it didn’t hurt anymore. So, I relished that feeling and thanked my stars, destiny, karma, fate, or whoever’s up there watching me for letting this awesome guy walk with me in the rain and talk about ants and forget his car and make me laugh my real laugh.
It was our Creative Writing period and I sat with my friends while he went to the back. I would have sat with him but it would be like an overkill. We were asked to describe what the color yellow sounds like. I wrote, “It sounds like a million little chimes glorifying the droplets of sunshine falling softly on his face and mingling with his golden laugh.” Everything else about the color yellow, or about him, for that matter, was ineffable. Yes, him. I was thinking of him the entire Creative Writing period.
After class, he came to me and asked if our lunch was still on. I could almost hear my friends’ brains buzzing with interest. I didn’t know what to say or do at this point so I just stood there like a dumb person and he was standing there expectantly and my friends were eyeing him with curiosity. He saved me from that awkward situation by saying, “I guess I needed to ask for your permission to take her to lunch with me. It was sort of a bet.” So, they watched us go and I prayed he didn’t notice the intrigue painted on their faces.
We both had a three-hour break after Creative Writing, so we walked back to the CS parking lot to retrieve his car. We continued talking about random things. The rain had stopped and the first ray of sunshine was peeking through the clouds. I remembered our Creative Writing exercise.
“So, what’s the sound of the color yellow?” I asked. We were already in his car.
“It sounds like the sunflowers singing along the university avenue in summer. I was trying to think of a really sweet song when my thoughts were interrupted by the sunflower singing at the Plants vs. Zombies credits.”
As if on cue, we began singing, “There’s a zombie on your lawn…”
It became our theme song. Kind of.
Conversations with him disturbed my inertia. I had been lifeless for a long time when he came by and fueled up my system. These conversations were real, unfeigned, and without an ounce of dishonesty in them. I felt like I was learning more about life with these kinds of talk, no matter how insane they were, than with classroom discussions. Being somewhat of a nerd, I didn’t know there would come a time that I would look forward more to the grace time between classes than the actual classes themselves.
And I was there, owning the passenger’s seat of his car and thinking, “Could this be our first date?”