Remember to Drink Water
I’m sad to say I can’t remember the first time I met him. I’m possibly more saddened to admit I was disappointed the second time I met him. But by the end of the second time, I can say I was sad to see him go.
So the third time I knew I’d see him, I sit in a summer camping chair under a screened canopy and watch the road like a lover waiting for a letter from the mailman. I worry I may not remember him again.
I’ve only seen him in the winter, not the summer heat and sun. But then a boy in a dark t-shirt emerges from a car with a baseball cap on, and my heart jumps into my throat with the force of a sprinter. I know him the second I see him.
Though there are people all around me, I rise from my seat, step down from the platform my chair is on, exit the gate. I take two steps, each one makes my smile more uncontrollable, like my face could actually split in two. My walk bursts to slightly jogging and throwing myself into his opened arms with the speed an accuracy of a football player. Most guys fall over when I do this. He doesn’t.
“Hi!” I say when he puts me back on my feet.
He smiles. “Hi.”
“I only know one other person here beside Mat and Becky. So I might latch onto you. This is your warning.”
We walk back to the party together. I’ve already had a beer before he arrived. As we walk in, a guy in a blue polo who’d given me the first beer offers me another. As he tries to talk to me, I glance as my friend sits down.
Be careful, he mouths. I can’t usually read people’s lips, but he made sure I see him.
I reply with a questioning look, but he’s already turned away. In response, I take the beer from Blue Polo, thank him, and head toward my friend.
“What was that warning for?” I ask.
“I don’t know him. I don’t have a lot of respect for guys who just feed girls drinks,” he says.
I take a sip, processing his words. Blown away by the simplicity, the protectiveness. I haven’t eaten much. This is my second beer. I’m a lightweight. “Thanks,” I say.
For a few moments longer, it’s just the two of us. “You have a spider on you,” I say.
His body stiffens. “Kill it. Get it off me!” The panic in his voice is unmistakable.
I give him a look, cup my hands around the little resident, and place the spider on the wooden fence before making my way back. “Scared of spiders?”
He points to his nose. “Only since one took a small piece.”
I look close. Sure enough, there is a small crater on one of his nostrils. I chuckle. “Well, you’re safe now.”
His friends surround him. I expect to fade into the background like I do with most of my friends and all of my family. Instead, side conversations were started; with a red-haired woman about snowboarding, a tall man with a tongue ring about my gloves being his paintball team’s colors.
I finish my beer.
“You should drink water,” he says quietly under the volume of the other conversations.
Instead, I get up to pee and my head is spinning. He’s right. I need water.
Near my return, he brings up water again. Then says, “How much have you eaten?”
I smile the way fucked up girls do, I tell him, “I’m fine.”
We convince his friend to make me a hot dog. He has me drink another bottle of water.
An older gentleman I don’t recognize interrupts us. “What you’ve been doing the last hour? That’s marriage,” he says.
We make eye contact. I stop moving, desperate for his response. He shrugs, still watching me. “It’s not so bad,” he says with an easy smile.
I smile and look away before he can see how hot my face is.
He’s here. I’m drunk. People are friendly. I try to give him space and socialize with people I don’t know. One gets an electric fly swatter. I convince this person to touch it until it shocks him. He jokingly swings it at me. I run to my friend, who’s standing with an older couple.
Without a word, and without asking permission, I link my arm through his. He doesn’t stop the conversation he’s having, but looks sideways at me. He doesn’t move away, doesn’t change his body at all, so I continue holding on. We stand like that, and I nudge him though he’s clearly in the middle of talking. At an appropriate time, he tilts his head toward me so only he can hear me. These small side conversations are as though we’ve created our own little world, and I want to live here orbiting his galaxy.
“They were trying to electrocute me. I save you from spiders, you save me from creepy guys.”
He nods with a small smile and resumes the conversation without missing a beat. I’ve held on to him long enough. My arm slips back through his and rests at my side.
“You need to eat,” I whisper in a tone mocking his earlier suggestion.
“No. You made me eat. You eat, and get me a beer.”
I bounce around the party awhile before returning to him. Eventually, he eats a hot dog and hands me a beer. If it weren’t for him, I’d be hammered right now. Instead, I’m buzzed and happy.
I stand beside him, like I’m welcome or I belong there. Somehow, whether it’s gravity or magic, I stand too close and my leg rests against his. Instinct tells me to pull away, but something else dares me to stay. I stay. So does he.
One second goes by, then another. Heat flashes through my body. I press my leg a little harder against his to tell him I notice, to allow him to move away from me. Instead, he reciprocates the gesture, pressing back into me.
Did he just push back? Did I imagine this?
To test this, I relax the tension in my leg and begin to separate. If I’m not mistaken, his weight shifts. His leg follows mine. My heart threatens to burst out of my chest and into his hands.
Every cell in my body is daring me to move closer. To see what else, where else, I’m allowed to push against.
“Are you two dating?” the woman in the couple asks.
The moment, our legs touching, rips away like shattered glass. We chuckle. He answers, “No.” The tone in his voice suggests this isn’t the first time someone has asked today.
I want to kiss him. I notice how tall he stands beside me. The small piece missing from his nose, the tiny imperfection in his teeth.
I want to kiss him.
He glances at me from the side. How often has he been watching me today?
I take my beer, thank him again, and venture off again.
It’s closer to nighttime. Most everyone has left. I’ve somehow managed to piss the future bride’s best friend off but I’m not 100% sure how I managed to do that.
He gets ready to leave. He’s called me a bitch, jokingly. I’ve spit water at his face and he laughed. This could be everything I’ve ever wanted and I don’t want him to leave.
We make plans for the morning. He wraps me in his arms and before I’m ready lets me go, gets in his car and drives away.
I go inside and I curl up alone on a loveseat. I don’t sleep. My knees hurt, a boy I barely know is on the human-sized couch. It’s too hot.
So I fixate on the moment where my leg was pressed against his.
He runs his fingers through my hair and pushes his lips against mine. He holds my hand.
And I fall asleep with his invisible hands touching me.