In my first year of college, I made the misstep of taking class at the ungodly hour of 8:00 a.m. Against all advice, I, the beaming young student, was eager to tackle the demons of chemistry in the wee hours of the morning. The folly of my decision would soon become apparent through sleepless nights of composing reports and balancing equations, but for the moment I possessed an unrelenting determination to succeed.
After successfully ignoring my alarm for a week, I soon understood that 8 a.m. was not as charming as I had thought, and I numbered the days until I would finally drop the course. On the last day, I decided out of respect for the teacher that I would brave the challenge of the early morning one final time. So I sat in the last row of seats, unsure of whether or not to take notes, feeling an awkward sense of premonition.
It was not until 20 minutes into class that I decided to remain enrolled in the course. The professor, up until then, had been speaking about elements and the periodic table while I had been exploring the deep and intricate folds of my eraser cap. That was when she came in, 20 minutes late, and sat down next to me.
I will not go to great lengths describing her, for this is no Shakespeare ballad. But it must be said that her features harmonized in a way that could only be described as perfect equilibrium, and try as I may, I could find no traces of entropy about her. For weeks, I could not muster the courage to even speak to her, though she continued to sit beside me in the last row of the classroom. The flustering awkwardness of imagining a “hi, hello” followed by silence was enough to dissuade me from ever uttering a word.
But as I soon learned, some reactions just need a suitable catalyst in order to occur, and that moment came weeks later when she happened to have lost her pens. It was her question that acted as the catalyst for a smile and a hello, a “I’ve always sat next to you but I’ve never known your name,” kind of conversation. Unfortunately, my responses are not the sharpest in the early morning, and so, by my request, we exchanged numbers (or electrons) before leaving class.
Our relationship flourished beautifully. Every similarity seemed to further justify our union; every difference made us distinguished and independent individuals. In short, it was a giddy, near-addictive relationship. There was just as much excitement in anticipating our next meeting as there was in the meeting itself, an intoxication that violently dominated my thoughts.
We grew from close to inseparable, our bond enthalpy increasing with each text, each call, each meeting. Like salt or like water, we were a unit: we were two beings regarded as one. In the eyes of other, we had always been a couple. And so it was only natural that I asked, soon after, to officialize our relationship.
I must admit that I was rather surprised by her answer, and a little taken aback. Relationships, she said, were too permanent. They required time, attention, and a nurturing that was too demanding of anyone. The ideal bond was one that would dissolve at a whim, reform elsewhere, and then dissolve again. Permanence, or even temporary permanence, was just too much to ask.
You can imagine how foolish I felt, standing there, asking her to be a part of my life. Because that was what I truly wanted. I wanted someone to share my thoughts with. I wanted someone to join me in dining, or in reading, or in jogging. I wanted someone to share in my life. In my own naive mind, I had imagined that she held the same desires.
But she didn’t. We simply existed in different planes. We walked two different lives, she and I, the dissolved and the shared, the ionic and the covalent.
Still, I did not abandon my desire so readily. I had the mind that she would eventually find comfort in a solid relationship. Her refusal had put an awkward twist on our relationship, but we soon fell back into our regular manner. Yet her desire for ephemeral bonds was something that I became increasingly aware of throughout the year.
By April, she had called me three times in a panicked worry, unsure of whether she was pregnant. On the third time, I loaned her what little money I had left and accepted her apology and her promise to return the payment.
In May, she called me from the hospital where she spent the night recovering from alcohol poisoning. I brought her flowers and spent the day with her. Before I left, she said thank you. She told me that everyone needed someone like me in their lives.
I told her to just get some rest. She was still too unstable.
When the class was over in mid-May, I saw her again, neither of us knowing it would be our last time seeing each other. She gave me a hug and thanked me for everything I had done for her throughout the year. I smiled and said what are friends for. She told me that she was sure we were going to stay lifetime friends. I said of course.
I ended up getting an A in the class.
But I still don’t know a thing about chemistry.
Brian is a freshman studying computer science in the College of Engineering. He enjoys reading and video games. He can usually be found listening to music in Olin or Duffield. His story collection, Days of Our Lives, appears on alternate Tuesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org