First Exercise – As Yet Untitled
I’m standing underneath the willows on the pathway leading to the Humanities building, pretending to be examining the way the willow branches arch over the path and fall on the other side. I am really watching for her with my peripheral vision. What can I say? I can be pretty sly when the need arises.
It was also pretty sly, I must admit, how I asked her flat mate Maritza about her classes for the day. I am almost mostly positive that she will come by this path on her way to class.
It was by chance that I’d heard about Kristen’s old flame. A friend from UCSB had been telling me about her friend, also studying in Englandthis year, and about the horrible break-up she’d been through the previous June. She’d signed up immediately for the study abroad program and had shut herself up for the summer – awaiting her escape, ignoring the threatening phone calls from her ex as best she could. When my friend described the girl, I didn’t need to ask anymore, not even for the name. I knew it was Kristen. Over the following days I watched Kristen more closely, and I came to the conclusion that she was living with a desperate kind of sorrow. What would she do if she couldn’t forget this boy from her past? I’d overheard her telling her friend Marcus that she wanted to see Cairosomeday. I, of course, hadn’t planned on ever mentioning it. Kristen is a sweet girl. It wasn’t any of my business. Now, however, there are… circumstances.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a powder blue hat and long brown hair.
“Hey Kristen!” I say, turning toward her. “What’s up?”
“Hey Megan. Not much,” she replies as she stops to talk to me.
“So… uh… listen. I’m not going to beat around the bush about this. I am not going to try dropping hints and stuff, and just hope that you catch on. I’m just gonna say it. I know.” I make my voice go a little deeper when I say “I know” because I want her to realise the gravity of the situation.
“What?” she asks, trying to appear confused.
“I know, okay?” I say, more gently this time. “I know about him and you and what you’re trying to do, and I’ve figured it out about Cairo.”
“Cairo?” she repeats, for all appearances puzzled.
“Don’t pretend not to understand. Tell me this, though — why Cairo?” I hadn’t planned on trying to give her advice, but suddenly I want to help her, if just a little. “Maybe, instead of running away, you should go back and face this.”
“Uh… I don’t know what to say,” she says, looking genuinely confused. Who wouldn’t be, when someone they’d perceived as a threat starts giving them relationship advice?
“I don’t mean to be threatening. I just want you to know that I know. You know?”
“Not really,” she pretends. A tough cookie to crack.
“Well, it’s just that, we bothknow things. If you get my drift.”
“Uh…” she says, looking down out her watch, “sure.” She looks back up at me and nods.
“Oh, I’m so relieved, you know?” I say, truly glad to have gotten that out in the air.
“Sure, but—” she starts.
“So, wanna go get a coffee or something? Since we’re friends and all?” I ask, smiling at her to make sure she knows that I have no bad intentions.
“Uh, actually, I have class right now. I’m kinda late for it,” she explains, backing away from me with a puzzled expression on her face.
“Oh, that’s right,” I reply, smiling wider. “17th Century Poetry, right?”
“How did you? Never mind. I’ve gotta go.” She turns around and walks quickly toward the Humanities building.
“Well, maybe we could hang out later!” I yell as she hurries down the steps and then turns out of sight.