A book about the guys who poofed (chapter 8, rough draft)

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THEODORE

Whenever I see the Orion’s belt in the night sky–those three equally spaced diamonds that flicker in the dark, I think of you. I think of what we could have had.

Isn’t that constellation the very foundation of whatever it was that we had? It was something distinctly ours.

Two years in East Lansing and I haven’t met anyone I could actually really be interested in. My roommate, Mona Lisa, told me it was because I’m quirky and I haven’t met someone with the same amount of quirkiness.

I think Mona Lisa was just delivering some general pep talk shit that works with most people in general. It was the kind of comment that will make you think hmmmmm. You don’t necessarily agree with it, but you also don’t necessarily disagree with it.

I didn’t think we share the same amount of quirkiness, Theodore. But I liked you nonetheless. It was the beginning of the spring semester in 2006 when I started watching you. It creeped me out. My brain discombobulates every time I looked at you. Why are you watching this guy, Jess? Why do you want to know him? Who is he? Why this guy and not someone else?

See, Theo, you really baffled me. You’re not someone I would typically find attractive. I mean you’re alright, more than alright, but you’re not my type. Still, I find my eyes glued to your direction like that dried up chewing gum under your chair. Don’t ask me how I knew that there are three chewing gum stuck under your armrest–two pinks, and one white–because it will make me sound creepier.

I guess this creepiness started after you finished your presentation in our writing transcultural contexts class. Your topic was about travel, migration, and exile. You focused on the different reasons people are prompted to travel, and shared travel experiences of your own. You spoke about how you think you would have been a completely different person had your parents not migrated from Athens. And you spoke about the Greek community you grew up with in Detroit, and how it shaped you to who you are today. You spoke about how humbling it was to be in Delhi, and how your volunteer work in Ethiopia changed you as a person.

You had me at Delhi, Theo. I didn’t know you then, but all of a sudden I just wanted to fly kites with you in India. I wanted to know you. I wanted to know more about you. There was a seeping interest growing inside my stomach that at that moment, I was convinced I want to travel with you. I want to migrate with you. I want to exile with you.

So, when the class finished, I pulled myself together and went straight to you. Our first conversation orbited around Gandhi and mughlai cuisine. You told me how you appreciate the aroma and distinct taste of spices in tandoori and biryani, but this was just a stream of gibberish passing from one ear to another. In my head, I was already thinking that mild to spicy is what I wanted out of you and me. I asked if you wanted to have coffee so you can tell me more. That coffee agreement started a series of afternoon coffees we had that semester. And from one coffee to another, we moved to having dinners together. You liked talking and I liked listening to you. I liked how the words that came out of your mouth swirled and fluttered the butterflies inside me.

One evening, as you walked me back to McDonel hall, you looked at the sky and pointed out three stars.

“I never paid attention to stars before,” I told you unapologetically. And that’s when you told me about the hunter and his belt. 

“I didn’t know you’re into constellations.” I said.

“I’m not, but I can relate to Orion a lot.” You telling me about a Greek god, and me looking at the stars–it sounded romantic and mysterious then. It felt like we were Jack and Rose watching the stars so vast and endless but so small. This was back in our university days, Theo, so everything felt tremendous and dramatic and related to pop culture at the time. But that scene in Titanic never made it to the big screen. It was cut. Deleted. Just the way you edited me out of your life.

The next day, while we were having our usual afternoon coffee, I told you that I like you. You said that you like me too, but you don’t see me like that. I asked how you see me, and you said that you see me as your reliable, chubby friend. You said you enjoy my company, but that’s what it was. It was only coffee, and dinner, and talking, and nothing more.

Reliable. Chubby. Friend. You denied me romantic affection because I was overweight. Because I did not fit your criteria of bombshell body for a girlfriend. Your choice of words said a lot about me at the time–that I was bigger and rounder than average, and did not fit the conventional definition of beautiful. It says a lot about you too–that you might appear genuine on the outside, but you’re shallow and superficial to the core.

You avoided me, Theo, like a plague. You stopped hanging out with me, you stopped talking to me even when we are in the same discussion group. You pretended that I’m invisible even when we’re standing next to each other in the elevator. Did you think that I can’t handle rejection? Or that you’re making it easier for me when you ignore me? The rejection, I can handle. But you acting like a total jerk is what I can’t.

A few weeks after I told you that I like you, I heard a girl, one of our classmates, the same girl who sits next to you in our creative workshops class, talk to a friend about flying kites with her Orion next fall.  

You know what, Theo? I liked you, I really liked you because you seem so original. It took a while to realize that you’re just a knock off. Orion’s belt? Delhi kite festival? Take it back, Theodore. Take it back. It’s all yours.

 

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