Ezra looked at me and laughed. We were on the porch of his house and had been chucking stones into a small pond in front of it.
“So you want to ask her out? Right after your best friend dumps her?”
“And so you start the conversation by sending her some painting you made? About a guy tearing his face off of his skull?”
“Yeah.” I said, starting to get what he was getting to. He burst into laughter.
“You, my man, are something completely new!” He wiped away a tear from his laughter. “Okay, show me what she answered.” He chucked into the pond the last stone he had been holding. I gave him my phone. He sent a thumbs up to her acknowledging I agreed it was a nice and slightly disturbing image.
“What? Why’d you do that? I don’t want to make it seem like I don’t care!” I exploded.
“Hal, trust me, they’re more interested when it’s that way. Quick, give me a day.”
“Humm,” I thought, “Wednesday!”
“Do-you-want-to…meet-me-Wed-nes-day-evening…” he spoke out as he wrote. “Okay, it’s sent.”
“We wait. So tell me, how’d you go from not caring about her to this?”
“Well… I’d say it’s because I met her.” I laughed. “She’s wonderful, and to be honest, I’m just afraid of not being good enough for her. She’s off-the-charts in…everything. I mean, way above anything I am. If I’m some guitar player making a living playing in bars, she’s Beethoven changing the world of music forever. I mean, I’m here reading Douglas Adams, not discounting how great he is, but she’s over there reading the biggest classics ever written. What am I doing, trying to catch her? I’m just a puppy running after a butterfly, at any moment she could fly out of reach, and there’s nothing I could do to ever stop it. I just know how to tell jokes.” Ezra was looking at me.
“Hal, that’s so nice. You do know how to word the unexplainable. You know, you may not read the high literature that she does, but you’ll certainly be writing it in 20 years. And look, don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll be crazy about you. What’s there not to love in you?”
“Well, that’s the very issue…” I laughed, “I just have to hope she thinks the same as you…” My phone buzzed. She’d answered. My heart froze as I anticipated her response.
“What’d she say?”
“Of course! Where would you like to meet?”
I gazed into her deep, dark eyes. They pulled me in as she talked. How fitting she be named Iris. Her mouth moved as the words slid out, but then she stopped and her mouth curved into a smile.
“Are you listening to me? Last I checked, eyes don’t talk.” She joked.
“Yours do, Iris.” I smiled back. “I’m sorry if I seem to drift off. You mesmerize me.” She smiled and reddened, clenching her glass in her hands.
“You know what amazes me in you? How eloquent you are. You know just what to say and when to say it. You should try and write; I’m sure you’d do great at it.”
“What makes you think I don’t? It’s all garbage though, so you’re not missing out.”
“Stop letting other people’s anticipated judgement affect you, Hal. Never assume something without knowing. It isn’t of any use. And you should learn that. You could touch the stars if you watned to, and I know you intend to. Don’t let meaningless stuff like this pull you down.”
At the back of the bar we were in, Walter nodded.
“You have no idea how beautiful your smile is. I could believe anything you’d say with that smile on. You talk of me like I’m something special, but you obvioulsy have never looked into a mirror.”
“Oh Hal, stop it!” She smiled even wider than she’d been smiling before, something I didn’t know was possible.
“I’m dead serious. Anyway, let’s leave this place, I don’t like it too much.”
I grabbed her hand and we walked out, leaving Walter behind. As we walked, she asked me who my best friends were.
“Well, I’d say Ezra and Luke, maybe also Mike. Funny thing though, I don’t really belong with them. Like, I’m not part of the group, I’m outside of it all. Like some foreigner, you know? It’s not that people don’t like you, you’re just way too different.”
“You know, I feel the same. But I find pleasures in other things, you don’t need a group to be happy. Besides, you’d lost a lot of what makes you Hal if you did. You’d have to conform too much.”
“I know, I know… Have you ever thought of making somebody up in your head to compensate this lack? Like another you? The you you always wanted to be? Or just something in which to confide and guide you?”
“What? No! That’s crazy. I hope you haven’t.”
“Nah, don’t worry,” I laughed.
The bright lights in the dark city feigned the light of the midday sun.