He was leaning against a wall across the way looking just as bored as I felt. Tall and dark-haired and sort of rumpled, but in a cute way, wearing faded jeans and a concert T-shirt. He was drumming on his knees and nodding rhythmically as if hearing music in his head—a musician, maybe?
I felt a weird little rush. Like all the blood in my entire body suddenly decided it needed to be somewhere else in my body. And then there was my head. There was some pinging going on up there. I’m not sure how else to describe it. Just … pinging.
“Check it out,” I whispered, more to myself than to Britt, as my gaze wandered back to the T-shirt. I’d recognized the logo right away. “He must be into Maybe There Is a Beast.”
Britt followed my gaze. “The Beast? They’re, like, your favorite local band ever!” she hissed. “You should totally go talk to him!”
She had that excited glint in her eye that meant she was getting revved up about this already. I had to reel her in before she did something embarrassing. Embarrassing for me, not her, obviously. But for a second I couldn’t say anything. I was still feeling that weird rushing and pinging. It was kind of distracting. Could these be the sparks Britt was always talking about?
A sharp poke in the ribs brought me out of my stupor. “Go over and talk to him!” Britt urged in a stage whisper so loud I was pretty sure they could hear it on Jupiter even without the help of any of the scientific space gizmos currently surrounding us.
The guy was still drumming on his knees, seemingly oblivious to everything around him. He still looked bored, but in a content, accepting way, as if he didn’t really mind that much and was happy just standing there keeping the beat with the music in his head.
I stared at him, for a second wishing I could do it. Wishing I were a little more like Britt. What would be the harm in going over and saying hi?
And then what? my brain demanded in a panic, pinging away more furiously than ever. You say hi, he says, “Do I know you?” You mumble something about the band. He stares at you like you have two heads. Then his girlfriend comes over and demands to know who you are and what you’re doing. You melt into a puddle of humiliation on the floor….
“I—I can’t,” I stammered. Ms. Worst-Case Scenario strikes again. “I—I wouldn’t know what to say. I—”
At that moment a bunch of students poured out of a nearby doorway, completely blocking my view of Mr. Cute Maybe-Musician. By the time the crowd cleared, there was no sign of him.
I couldn’t help feeling a rush of both relief and disappointment. What was that?
“I can’t believe you chickened out.” Britt glared at me in disapproval, pursing her freshly-slicked lips. “He was just your type! I mean, how many guys could actually appreciate that wacked-out band like you do?”
“Yeah, good point,” I agreed weakly. “MTIAB isn’t for everyone.”
“He was probably your soul mate,” Britt said. “And now you’ll never know. Why don’t you ever listen to me?”
There was more, but I wasn’t really listening. I knew it all by heart anyway. Plus, my mind was taken up by more important matters. Like figuring out why in the world I’d reacted that way to some random guy I’d never seen before in my life.
Maybe Britt was rubbing off on me at last. Because for the next hour or two I kept catching myself looking for that guy. Every time we gathered for a lecture with one of the other schools; every time we headed back out into the main part of the museum. But there was no sign of him.
“What are you doing?” Britt asked as we stepped into the museum’s food-court-style restaurant. We had a half-hour break before the final two events of the day, another lecture and then some kind of planetarium show. Britt and I had decided to revive ourselves with a little caffeine and sugar.
I realized I was doing it again. Scanning the faces of everyone in the restaurant, looking for that guy.
“Um, I’m just looking for, um, Kris and Vivi?” I blurted out guiltily. “I figured if they’re here, we could sit with them.”
Britt narrowed her eyes, peering into my face. “No way,” she said. “I can’t believe it!”
“Can’t believe what? That Kris would eat anywhere that wasn’t one hundred percent organic-certified?” I joked weakly.
“No. That you’re actually still thinking about that guy!” She threw her arms around me, bringing surprised looks from everyone within a twenty yard radius. “My baby’s finally growing up!”
“No, I’m not. You’re crazy.” I yanked away from her. Then I sighed. I can’t lie to Britt. She always sees through me. “Okay, so what if I am still thinking about him? I just want to ask him where he got that shirt.”
She looked delighted. “See? That’s your perfect opening line!” she exclaimed, grabbing my arm and shaking it so hard I almost dropped my purse. “I mean, okay, it’s maybe not what I’d say, but this is you we’re talking about. You’ll probably do great with that straightforward, nice-girl stuff.”
© 2010 Catherine Hapka