Sweet Smell

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She stared up at me from her copy of "On the Road". I'd never seen a girl look at me that way, though maybe because I was usually far too busy nervously counting the threads in the carpet under my feet whenever the possibility of human contact arose. I stared back. I half-expected to look around and see a Fabio-type sexy man standing behind at whom she was actually staring, the go-to gag of many-a-sitcom. But she was looking at me. Maybe she thought I was some sort of escaped circus freak and was about to call down the Animal Control people to shoot a tranquilliser dart in my neck and bring me to the vet''s to be spayed or whatever. I took my eyes away from her. We only made eye contact for a second, but it was probably the greatest second of my life, if you exclude the time I found all one hundred secret packages in Vice City. Right on cue, she packed up her book and left, not looking back. I was once again alone in the college library. I thought of following her, the way a teenager thinks of shooting up their school. It would take someone with a lot more balls and a lot less scruples to work up the nerve, and what would you probably get for your troubles? A lifetime of asking "what if?"


That was Monday. I avoided going to the library again until Friday, even though I had work to do for the summer exams. One thing you should learn about me is I'm a coward. I am scared of everything. Every experience that could possibly, remotely have even a teeny tiny, infinitesimal chance of leaving me even the smallest bit embarassed or humiliated was to be avoided. There was no question. It was a fundamental part of my brain, an instinct gone wrong somewhere along the line that can only be fixed with a jolly good thrashing or something. But three days was enough avoiding. I had to do my work. I hoped she'd be there, in a way. A part of me wished I'd never see her again, the awful doubts she mades me have about myself, the stupid thoughts she made me think. I wished her beautiful, raven hair would disappear, her incredibly attractive features would just dissolve, that unmatchable, unmistakable sweet scent I got smell from the other side of the room would just bugger off. But it wasn't to be.


 


I knew it was her. I was so far into my "Freud For Completely Stupid College Students" that the first thing I saw was her legs, in jeans, and her dainty feet wearing those black runners with white toes so beloved of students. I almost cried with nervousness and laughed with grace to Providence.


 


"Hi."


"Hello!" Was I too friendly? My first thought was that she was somehow mocking me, that this was part of an elaborate prank to steal my money or give me crabs or something.


"So, you're into psychology?"


"Kind of."


When I said that, she kind of did that subtle "of course he does" eye-closing-and-head-shaking thing nervous people do when they say something silly and that's when I knew I was in love with her. I took out a loan of courage from some metaphysical being and said


"Are you... into psychology?"


"Not really."


She shuffled her feet akwardly. I loved her.


"Do you mind if I sit down beside you?"


"Yes... I mean no, I don't mind."


She sat at the table in the college library beside me. Only me.


She took out her "On the Road".


"Do you read a lot?" I asked.


"Usually, unless I find a good box-set or something. Have you ever read this?"


"No."


"Oh, it's great. In a way. It's kind of a bit pretentious too, you know? I prefer innocent or angry or honest stories. I hate pretension."


I loved her.


"I'm Peter. What's your name?"


"Kate. Or Katherine if you prefer."


"Kate. That's nice. Kate and Pete." I stuttered, I mumbled.


"I mean, not AND... I mean, just they sound the same that's all."


She smiled a little.


"What are you studying?" I asked.


"History and literature."


"Wow, I love both of those. Especially history. As long as it has a high body count. You know, lots of explosions, a tank battle or two, Hitler karate chopping some bears or what-have-you..."


She laughed the most wonderful laugh in the world.


"Do you go to The Kiln?"


The Kiln was the local nightclub. I stilled live at home with my parents, quite a distance away, so I didn't. Not that I would if I lived closer. I wouldn't. I have problems being with one sober person, never mind being in a situation with fifty drunken idiot students.


"No. I don't..."


I trailed off. She understood. I hoped.


"Well, I have to get to class, Pete."


"Oh, me too. Where are you heading?"


"The Holloway Building."


"Oh, I'm going the other way. Will you be around tomorrow... I mean, Monday?"


"I don't think so."


A couple of seconds later she had disappeared from view, and all that was left was her sweet aroma. I loved her. I thought about her all weekend, and all next week and right through my exams, which I failed, miserably. I never saw her again.

Created: Jul 14, 2012

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