CONSCIOUS OF THE SELF VARIETY

So we’re here. Here, here. Like, together. As in, I asked her if she’d like to consume food somewhere in my presence, and she ignored my dorky habit of doctoring up my vocab for humor and said yes. The sweat, too. She ignored the sweat that accumulated on my brow, the same kind that always forms whenever I’m around her. She’s gracious like that.

I’m sweating now, too. Only problem is it has nothing to do with her pulchritude and everything to do with the goddamn cold I seem to be coming down with. Seriously, universe? Of all the times you could’ve chosen to do your thing illness-wise, you choose now? When She’s here? The One? Her Pulchritude in the Flesh, and Every Other Capitalized Title You Could Think Of?

The snot’s already forming at the top of my nasal cavity. Dangling over the edge, really, like some kid who’s teasing his mom as she tells him to get down from there, wherever there is.

Anyway, she’s telling a great story right now, and I can tell it’s getting to the climax. To the big joke that’ll top it off, and with it an opportunity to laugh and look in each other’s eyes and maybe even be capped off by her putting her hand on mine or something. I know it sounds hokey, shut up. You’d wish for the same thing if you saw her the way I do.

But I’ll laugh, and the snot will fly, and it’ll get all over her food and be The Most Disgusting Thing of All Time, and I’ll just about die right here in my seat and just sort of be internally vaporized by the embarrassment.

Oh God, the snot’s already running. Code red.

Napkin’s too obvious. Out of the question. Pretending to scratch my face won’t work either.

I could bring curled forefinger to upper lip and thumb to chin in mock thoughtful contemplation. True, she’s telling a joke right now and that reaction might seem just a little fucking weird, but what other choice do I have? Stoic thinker it is.

Every move I’m making is wrong and awkward and terrible, and there’s no possible way she likes me at this point. I wish I was anyone else but me right now. Someone who could be as cool and calm as she is, and not have to deal with dangling nasal brats in the process.

I have to sneeze. I can’t stop it. And…

I feel surprisingly lighter. The cold seems like it went away, too. It was probably all in my head. Yeah, you know what? She totally digs me. Why wouldn’t she? I’m fairly diggable. And that wide-eyed look on her face, like she’s seeing me for the first time… Like all along she knew me as the dorky guy in accounting and only now that I’ve had this post-sneeze epiphany and gained confidence in my self has that self-confidence oozed out of my skin to show her who I really am.

But is that fear in her eyes? And why is everyone else in the restaurant staring?

“What’s wrong?”

My voice comes out as a weird falsetto, and I bring my hand to my mouth as if to stop the sound before it reaches her ears. My fingers feel a lot softer and daintier than what I’m used to. And when I pull the hand back, five delicately painted nails gleam back at me.

Her eyes go to my nails, then to my face, then back again. She reaches into her purse, pulls out a mirror, and shows it to me. At least I assume it’s supposed to be a mirror, even though I see her reflection in it.

Oh shit. The wish.

“Look, I…”

My falsetto is throwing me off, but I need to tell her. I plug my ears. Or rather, hers… on me… look, it’s kind of confusing, but this is what I say to her as I plug my ears like some crazy person:

“Look, I really like you. Like a lot. I don’t want to blow this, but it seems like I already have since I’ve turned into you and everything, so I’ll say this anyway. You make me nervous and unsure of myself, and that sounds bad, I’ll admit, but I mean it in the best possible way.”

I’m still plugging my ears.

“Anyway, I kind of wished I could be someone cooler, to impress you. It’s stupid and childish, I know, but at least now we have proof that I think you’re cool.”

Silence.

“So there’s that…”

Another sneeze comes. I don’t bother to hide it this time. It’s hopeless.

“Right. I’m gonna just go away now. Forever.”

“Wait.”

She actually puts her hand on mine. Like, actual physical contact. On my hand. And my fingernails are conspicuously nail polish-less. I’m me again. Holy shit, I’m in a Disney movie.

She takes her hand off of me and looks me over for a second, as if she might just see her double again at any moment.

“I say we start over from the beginning.”

“Sounds good to me.”

“This time with you being you and me being me. Deal?”

“Deal.”

Story by Chris Piszczek
Written by Nicholas Olson

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