There is a girl I like at school. Not “like” like or anything terribly mushy, but I really enjoy talking with her and she is amazingly pretty. She’s inhale sharply and clear your calendar kind of pretty. She is “how in the world did God make something this pretty” kind of pretty. She is ... okay, she's a terribly mushy sort of pretty. That didn't sound right, so I'll abandon the visual descriptions and move on.
We’ll call her Carrie, since that’s a close approximation of the name she gave me when we met a week ago in line to take collegiate placement tests. She speaks Spanish and was bemoaning the inconvenience of sitting through a language exam when she already knew her skill level. My agreement started a conversation which covered everything from heritage to plans for school (she’s half Italian and is majoring in International Studies). We didn’t get a chance to exchange contact information, but she assured me that we would “probably run into one another in class.”
Carrie was right. Not a week after our first meeting, I found myself on the other side of a small classroom from her, listening to a lecture on Plato’s critique of democracy. I’ve read the Republic and consider myself a regular advocate of the philosopher king concept, so the lecture had little new to offer. I spent most of the hour, conjuring up various ways to look at Carrie. I caught her eye once and drew out a gorgeous smile of recognition. I considered that delightful grin just reward for the effort I'd exerted.
During a break, I maneuvered across the room and said hi. Carrie told me she’d passed her exams easily and we shared a laugh over the easy language questions which helped to “place” us. Then – foolish, foolish me – I asked about her class schedule. Nobody wants to talk about how they have mister or misses so-and-so for Econ and the tall guy without any fingers for political science. I tried to cover my mistake by asking questions about her teachers, but she remembered hardly any of them and I could tell she was growing bored of the conversation. I concluded it and went back to my seat, mentally kicking myself because I hadn’t asked her out.
Class ended after one of the longest forty-five minutes I had ever experienced; how many times did we have to hear a definition of “philosophy?” But the excruciation finally ground to a halt and I headed for the front of class to sign up for an assignment. I figured I would see Carrie at the front, ask if she had an opening for lunch sometime and exchange contact information. But reality hardly mirrored my plans.
Carrie had already signed up for the assignment and was out the door before I could write "Nigeria," which is, by the way, what I wrote. I charged after her, but when I got to the door, I saw something that was as deflating as it was familiar: Carrie was walking along with another guy. And, to make matters worse, her escort was the class nerd, a low expression introvert with a sandpaper voice. I’d never caught his name, but he had apparently caught Carrie’s.
For a split second, I thought about running after the pair and inviting Carrie out anyway, but that would have been a blatant violation of the masculine code of conduct. Instead I just stood dejected as they marched into the warm early afternoon.
As I watched, I noticed something about Carrie. She looked genuinely happy. She was making emphatic gestures and laughed a couple of times at something the nerd said. She seemed to be enjoying herself with this guy. Maybe, I thought, it was meant to be; maybe I was trying to butt into a situation that demanded my respect and distance.
But then again, my interest wasn’t necessarily romantic. I just wanted to get to know her. She could continue whatever relationship she was developing with the nerd while doing a lunch with me.
I continued thinking about the situation while chewing on some unkosher sweet and sour pork at my favorite Chinese eatery. My thoughts were jumbled and disorganized until I opened my fortune cookie at the end of the meal. There, in bold red lettering, was the answer I was looking for:
NEVER LET AN OPPORTUNITY PASS YOU BYI folded the message carefully and slipped it into my duct tape wallet. These were words to live by; uninspired but still profound.
Carrie and I have a whole semester of class together and our majors are similar, so we may be interacting as students for a couple of years. But Mid-Term 1 is just around the corner, and I think I know who I will be inviting to my study group.