a video of HJ

I didn’t think much of it in the moment. I’d spent the afternoon reeling in two distinct housing crises as he watched and offered sympathies. We were about to leave; he’d just finished changing.

This is the video: it opens up sideways. It fumbles until it’s right side up, trained on HJ, still a little lop-sided, or perhaps that is just HJ’s inherent slight lop-sidedness. It’s grainy from the low lighting, which somehow makes it look more like a vintage polaroid than just a shitty video. He is smiling easily, a little awkward before the camera. “Sup,” he says, raising a hand in a geeky greeting.

“It’s really nothing…” you hear me say from behind the camera.

“Cool,” he nods. It’s such a statement, devoid of judgement or anything really but simple affirmation.

And his smile: it is unchanging; it is unconditional good-naturedness. He looks at the camera the entire time — and his look. It’s soft, kind, easy. I watched that video ten times just to feel that look trained on me. I watched it ten more times out of pure affection for his essence, beaming so strongly in that three second clip.

I’m beginning to miss him when we’re apart.

 

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that conversation

Why are you smiling like that?

Oh, just every time you look up at me it’s hilarious.

But you also just smile when your eyes are closed. You smile in your sleep.

Well, with my freshman year crush next to me, how could I not?

Wait, what? I was your freshman year crush?

Oh, yeah.

Wow.

Yeah.

But so —

Oh, yeah.

That makes so much sense.

I see.

Yeah.

So…did you know I was in a relationship?

Yeah.

How?

You told me.

I did? Why would I do that?

Oh, no, it just came up on conversation. Like you mentioned something you were doing with your boyfriend, and I was like, oh.

Oh.

Yeah.

Did you ever meet him?

Maybe? I don’t know. I saw you with him once, though.

Really? Where?

I don’t know — but I saw you with a guy once, and it looked like you were, you know, together.

When was this?

Like, freshman year.

Oh, yeah. That would be JKm, then.

So…how did you know we’d broken up?

I kinda just hoped that it’d been a long enough time that — yeah.

Oh, I see.

If I may ask —

Mhmm?

— what happened there? Or, like —

Yeah.

I mean, only if you’re comfortable.

No, I am. It’s fine.

We, ah, dated for a year. And then I just kind of realized we weren’t compatible — like, in terms of long-term compatibility — and so I broke up with him. And he, ah…he didn’t take it well, and, ah, well…now he doesn’t talk to me.

Oh.

But it’s fine! I mean, nothing really happened.

Yeah! I see.

Well…good night.

Good night–

Last night, we held hands, we laughed, we kissed, we looked at each other, and I said:

You’re a really good person, you know that?

And it was far more vulnerable than if I had said something so over the top that it couldn’t possibly have weight. I love youI love you only holds weight when it might be true — I love you to an acquaintance is a dime a dozen: a comment on a profile picture, a squeal at a party of half-familiar faces.

This was vulnerable because I felt it to be so completely true. And his reaction: stumbling, fumbling, throwing a half compliment back and yet not a full one, was disappointing. Awkward returned compliments only happen in the face of perceived unequal power dynamics. He felt I needed affirmation of reciprocation. Fine. But he also knew he couldn’t give it fully. And while I didn’t need that half-assed reciprocation, I think I like him enough that I’m ok with it.

That’s not true. I don’t know where I was going with this.

HJ and events

HJ and I were sitting on the floor of his dorm the other night, talking pointlessly to fill the two hours we had, when the topic of dating came up. He’d realized, he told me, that a lot of his dating had been interview-like for far too long, and after he’d noticed that, they’d always broken it off.

“What do you mean by interview-like?” I asked.

He didn’t know, he said. More like all the dates were just getting food of some sort and talking the entire time about their, he didn’t know, family background and whatnot, and it just always felt so formal. And it never moved on to the next step.

“But what’s the next step?”

Doing things together, he said. Going to events and experiencing things together, instead of experiencing things separately and then talking about it in conversation.

I sat there for a bit, thinking. I’d always placed conversation — conversation in a vacuum: can you talk with this person if you had nothing but the person itself? — as the highest measure of compatibility. I judged my fit of friendships by how well this flowed. And yet: I could see how he was right. Friendships could be built off of doing things together. It rang similar to something WB had said a long time ago, how he valued time in which he did things with friends in silence, in parallel, though perhaps even separately. I didn’t understand at the time. But I do now.

On Friday night, HJ and I, stranded, decided to play pool. Our conversation was nil, but banter was high. I enjoyed myself. I let myself enjoy this conversation that met none of my intellectual standards, that was composed of nothings and dumb jokes and that made laugh nevertheless. I’m learning, I think.

a quick memory, because I know I’ll enjoy this in the future

we’re standing  on the first floor of my dorm; I’m walking him to the door. I’ve stopped on the second to last step of the stairs; we kiss sweetly, the same height thanks to the steps. there’s a slight lull as he’s about to leave and my lips part a little as my eyes smile; thoughtfully small

I’ll — see you soon?

tilting my head a little to the left, and he says

I’ll text you.

and my lips curve slightly upwards as I turn and run up the stairs, two at a time, the slaps of my bare feet echoing

HJ

nothing artistic or reflective this time, which, I will say, means this is something right. the best relationships are the ones that you don’t need to constantly reflect on and think through (hence, the general down mood of all the posts on here).

but! a somewhat significant event, and so, I compel myself to write this:

HJ! where to begin! a wonderful fellow. a sweet fellow, if not a ravishingly fuckable one, he makes up bountifully with earnest and ease.

not to mechanize the process, but shall we check off the boxes? a bookworm! a shockingly matching spotify discover playlist (no small feat for an experimental electronic – bluegrass – funk – afrobeat – folk-lovin’ individual like myself)! a love for the outdoors! a frisbee fellow! a meditator! a movie buff! a twee bit of adorable nervousness!

 

I’ve done this far too many times now; shall we see this familiar format:

the quintessential romantically-interested texts in which both parties talk about nothing and that is quite alright;

the subtle but not so subtle asking of plans for the night and leaving said plans open for a potential meet up;

casual oh so casual brushing of the hand on an arm to break that wee little bubble of personal space segueing into a casual oh so casual hand placed on a leg or a back or a hand and a deliberate ignoring of that elephant;

charming conversation floating like a balloon that I keep bopping up and up again until I tire of the exercise and allow it to happen;

it being the lull, the break, the opening, so to speak, the eyes dropped, nonchalantly peaceful quiet that the music and conversation has casually oh so casually mellowed down to in which the more deliberate of the two, the individual who was not playing around, seizes the quiet that was withheld and casually oh so casually says something along the lines of:

I think you’re cool and pretty, and —

and the individual who is playing around bops the balloon up just for kicks with a:

I think you’re cool and pretty too!

but the individual who is not playing around forges on ahead, strong and determined, and throws out this zinger:

Can I kiss you?

and the individual who is always playing around has enough socialization such that they realize that bopping the balloon this time might result in a deflated balloon, and so the individual decides, finally, to play along.

one more thing:

the individual knows it’s going well when the other individual

jumps on opportunities to make plans

intertwines fingers, easily, naturally, casually actually casually

references future events for when the weather is warm enough to walk around outside in the dead of winter