The supermarket is selling paperback romance novels now. As my mother goes about choosing an appropriate watermelon, I flip through one at random: slinky virginal heroines and honeymoons spent feeding lovers choice meats. At four euros, or nearly five dollars, “Passion” would cost me a third of what “Blindness” by José Saramago did.
Maybe I should have paid fifteen hundred dollars for “Blindness”, instead of fifteen.
Yesterday I presented a report on human rights to the class, and had the time of my life. I’d forgotten how much I loved talking to people who would actually listen. Afterwards, a boy made a few (three, to be precise) kind remarks about my work. They were all directed at fellow classmates, but spoken while I was within hearing range. Can I thus assume they were, at least partially, intended for me?
A school cafeteria became extraordinary when I heard him talking about me, even though I was a passing mention in his conversation, a topical jump sitting squarely between our chances for the World Cup (answer: not very high) and what the theme of Saturday’s party is (answer: Hawaiian). I want to ask him: are you magic? It is as if all my inner organs have swollen up to three times their size while at the same time reduced their density by two hundred percent. I am sorry I could not conceal that fist-pump, it’s very unlike me, I know.
Though he was not expecting one, I spent three hours formulating a response. While chewing my food and walking to and from class I went through possibilities and rejected them for being too cutesy, too serious, too formulaic, too insincere, too sincere. How to say thanks to the kind boy for enchanting me so thoroughly? How to find a good scenario for such a conversation? The universe helped with my plight, fixing the seating alignment so that he could sit next to me, ridding me of the need to purposely seek him out (I daresay my courage did not extend that far). Thank you, thank you, lucky stars.
However, even with the blessings of the cosmos, it took me the better part of ten minutes to tap him on the shoulder. When I finally did, the words poured out in a flash (like a torrent of birds, or a bolt of desire, but neither so pathetic as I was and am).
Miraculously, he understood me (how? Once again, I want to ask: are you magic?) Thank you, thank you, universe, for sparing me the embarrassment of his laughing “what did you say?”
I had thought about what he’d answer, and his response was one I had considered: “it’s the truth”. I had something prepared for this eventuality, and out it went, like a muscular reflex: “it was nice anyway”. The exchange ended there. I’d very carefully coordinated it with the beginning of the lesson. This is the kind of thing I am good at, planning conversations so they fit with a schedule, so that I am not forced to reveal the extent of my social awkwardness.
I wrap up situations like these and carry them everywhere with me, stacked up in the stockier portions of my body. I can no longer recall the birthdays before my ninth year, but I can clearly picture the girl from my preschool offering to trade stickers with me. In my stomach sits this boy who was kind to my presentation, on top of Austin from third grade offering me the role of Princess Leia in his reenactment of Star Wars, the brilliant girl in choir who I spoke to once and never again, Miss Gordon asking me if anything was wrong, the emotional melt-down I had once during school hours.
After “are you magic?” I want to ask him “how much does this mean to you?” It cannot possibly mean as much to him as it does to me, just as “Blindness” is not worth as much to him as it is to me. Exactly how much, down to the last decimal point, does this matter, either positively or negatively?
His “it’s the truth” resides neatly in my stomach now, but it’s perilously close to my heart.