Chapter 12 Continued…
So here they were, both of them were once again nestled into their special corner of the library, hidden away from the rest of the world. Something had changed. The atmosphere around them seemed thicker, more difficult to breath in.
Just being near her was a strange sensation. It was as though several opposing forces were battling inside of him. When her brow furrowed, eyes narrowing as she did her best to follow his celestial rants he felt embarrassment for his nerdiness as well as elation that she cared enough to listen. When she smiled he felt light as air that she shared it with him as well as heavy like a rock thinking it would be shared with anyone else. When her hair swiped his cheek as she read over his shoulder, or her hand grazed his when they reached for the same pen he felt both euphoria that she was so close and misery that it was only for a moment.
Orson sat hunched staring at his Astronomy textbook poring over his assigned chapter. “Ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia, China, Egypt, Greece, India, and central America were among the first to assemble astronomical observatories.” His eyes were beginning to ache and loose focus. Pulling off his glasses he lifted his head and rubbed. When his vision came back into focus Dani, sitting across the table from him, puffed out her cheeks and crossed her eyes. Orson let out a chuckle.
He leaned back over his textbook and picked up where he left off. “…were among the first to assemble astronomical observatories. Early observations concluded that the Earth was surely the center of the universe with the Sun, the Moon and the stars rotating around it.”
The AC units kicked in with a loud bang. A stream of cool air rushed over them. Dani instinctively shivered, swiveled in her chair and retrieved her hoodie from a large teal backpack. A small noise that sounded like she was blowing out a candle sounded over and over from her side of the table. He looked up from his book again only to see that pulling the sweater over her head had disheveled her usually perfect coif. As Dani searched for her hair tie in the depths of its hood, he couldn’t help but stare as her ringlets kept falling around the frame of her face in untidy bouncing strands.
He had finally managed to re-focus on his reading, “… the Moon and the stars rotating around it. Later this idea became known as the geocentric model of the universe, or the Ptolemaic system.”
Fifteen minutes later Dani got up from her chair, book in hand and walked around the table. Standing at Orson’s side she gingerly slid her book on top of his. Slightly reaching her arm over his shoulder she pointed to a paragraph in her book and asked, “You’re the Physics minor, can you explain what they’re talking about in terms I might actually comprehend?”
She was close enough to him that he could feel the heat her body was radiating and smell a hint of coconut wafting from her pores. Forcing himself to focus he did his best to answer her question.
He settled back in to read… he could still smell the coconut drifting across the table. His eyes saw letters but his mind couldn’t form words from them. His mind and heart was a million miles way. A taught string somewhere inside him snapped! He slammed the book shut!
Back at her seat, Dani shot her head up in surprise “Is everything ok?”
Maybe he should have felt a myriad of different motions at this moment but all he could truly discern were frustration and a sort of anger. “NO! Everything is not okay I’ve been reading the same stupid paragraph for nearly an hour! I’ve got an above average IQ and I can’t seem to wrap my brain around one silly paragraph about the origins of Astronomy!”
His voice kept rising as he spoke. Dani, befuddled by a yelling Orson sat frozen in her seat as he continued. “Would you like to know why? It’s because apparently, my brain can’t seem to spare a single synapse because they’re all firing ‘Dani! Dani! Dani!’ 24-7. Instead of solving the riddles of the universe, what I’m paying thousands of dollars to study, I’m visualizing your smile. I’m wondering what your thinking. I’m dazed by how good you smell or the way your forehead tenses when you’re trying to hide your worry!”
He couldn’t believe all of this was pouring out of him. He couldn’t believe it was literally screaming out of him. He couldn’t seem to alter the level or timber of his voice. He couldn’t lookup from the carpet, either. But he could and would make himself finish.
“I can’t do it anymore! I can’t lead two different lives, the one in my head where I might have a shot at being something more to you than a friend, and the one in reality where I’m further away from that shot than the sun is from Pluto. I’m going to force myself, through emotional catalyst, into some warped form of human mitosis and split right down the middle if I keep it up!”
He took a deep breath and focused every cell in his body on convincing his eyes to look at he as he said his final peace, “I love you! I knew I’d fall in love with you the day I met you. I knew it and was too weak to deal with the fact that there was no way in any equation that involved you and me as variables, that we’d ever be equivalent to something more than friends. I knew that day I should have cut and run not become attached. But, you just had to show up in the basement. You just had to be too interesting to not at least be friends with. Well, I can’t do it!”
His volume finally lowered but became shaky with the alteration. Almost in a whisper now he finished, “Your not the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. You’re the most amazing human being who has ever been a part of my life. Thank you for defying probability and allowing me to be your friend. I’m sorry, I let you down, I just can’t put myself through it anymore.” His adams apple bobbed as he swallowed deeply. Shaking his head in defeat he muttered again, “I’m sorry.”
Dani was still frozen; her eyes trained on him like a laser. Orson flung his book bag haphazardly over his shoulder and grabbed his textbook and papers as he got up from his chair. A numb sensation filtered through him now that every pent up emotion he’d had over the last few months was freed into the world. He quickly retreated toward the stairs.
Just as his foot hit the first step he heard Dani shout, “Hey! Hang on! Don’t I get to say anything about it!” Orson stopped.
Sometimes they equate joy and pain with the phrase about erratic heart palpitations, “skipped a beat.” Much like “butterflies in the stomach” it’s a bit to genial for what you feel in real life. His heart didn’t just skip a beat it froze, suspended in animation waiting for the only electric current that could bring it back to life or char it beyond recognition, what ever it was she had to say .