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I rolled the glowing tip of ash against the edge of the cup, and watched the burnt tobacco and paper fall. I'd been smoking too much lately. Funny how I could think that and keep lighting one damn Dunhill after the other. Must be stress. Yeah. That was it. My hand crept up to my temple and started to massage it lightly, then harder, dragging strands of hair into my eye. I had found myself obsessing today... I was lying on the still damp grass near the pond with a friend of mine.

We were watching the ducks swim aimlessly around, and the swan make a general obnoxious pest out of itself; both normal activities for the pond life at the University. And she and I both were shifting position every so often to catch a view of the passing students, and to see what the step sitters were up to over at the Student Union. Like I said, normal. It was spring. The hormones were out.

Today was beautiful. The sun was shining down, drying off the last of the spring run-off. The wind was just cold enough to carry the memory of winter. It hadn't taken much convincing to get her to come with me and hang out.

She flipped through her newly-purchased Cliff notes on Moby Dick, and I stared up towards the south end of campus. So many people. It seemed like thousands passing by. Maybe it was. Damn, this University had a lot of students. I looked at them. A woman, dressed in a sheer skirt and loose top that clung to her chest as the wind blew over her. The skirt billowed attractively around her tanned calves as she went by, and I smelled the faintest spice of perfume. A man, in faded green pants, black sweatshirt, tightly-laced combat boots, long brown hair that curled at the nape of his neck. The sleeves were pushed up, and I could see the hard muscles of his forearm as he pulled his falling backpack up. I looked further, past the immediate crowd that I'd already seen. Then I realized who I was looking for, and sighed. This was getting pretty stupid.

I was graduating in a few weeks, and here I lay, looking for a guy I hardly even talked to. Maybe I should get pushed back to freshman year for being such an idiot.

It had started... When? I wasn't sure. After I realized who he was. That he was in my class. Of course, I was the second of us to realize who the other was. One day he had seen me log into my account and placed me. Not long after that, I had asked to borrow his notes from our course together. I had been skipping too much this semester. Sleeping in, or just being a slug and reading junk like "Macho Sluts", or "Sandman" comics. Anyways, I needed to catch up in this lecture, the midterm was coming up pretty soon. After I had taken them from him, I didn't look at them, but just stuffed them in my bag and took off. Later that night, I had opened the cover and caught a glimpse of the name penned inside. Hmmm. I wondered if it was the same person that posted those letters to the file. I started flipping through the lined pages. No dates. He didn't bother with writing them in. Shit. This was going to be harder to get than I thought. Screw it. I could borrow them from some drone in the back of the class that went there religiously. I looked at the doodles in the margins and grinned. Universal. I put the notes back in my pack and dropped it under the bed.

I returned them the next class. He smiled and asked if I had been able to interpret his scribbles. I laughed and said sure. So what if I hadn't copied them, I could have read his writing. I got the others the next class. She had the dates. Dates, and she had parts joted in... I stared closer at the ink. Greek? Great. Oh well. If the professor thought I could read and write Greek, if I remembered them verbatim from her notes, could be brownie points in there somewhere. Yeah, right.

I was logged in the next day, seeing who was on the system, reading my e-mail. I scanned the account names. Hurmph. Let's see if this is the same person. I tried the naive approach: "Hey, did you ever take a Classics class?" "Yeah, you borrowed my notes," the reply. Heh. I sat back in my chair and smiled. Nailed. End of conversation.

Next class I said hi, and sat back up in the front, my usual spot. There was a small interval in between when I got there and when the professor arrived and started his lecture. With the knowledge of who the other was, we both just sat there. I pondered what to say, gave up, and opened the college paper. He opened his notes. I started reading the editorials. Rape sucks, racism is bad, the bureaucracy here pisses me off, I'm graduating and am whining... The normal. "Ok, class, here are last week's quizzes. Miss Bonivito?" I closed the paper and stuck it under my notes, opened to a blank page, dated it, and waited for the transcribing to begin.

It went on like that. More letters appeared in the file - a public mailbox of mine that received mail from about ten people and had a couple lurkers as well. I had set it up my freshman year to discuss sex, pervert frosh that I was.

It had passed from machine to machine as I got new accounts on each. Now students with accounts, mostly those in a small clique I was in, wrote in... I was glad to see new, well, aliases. His letters were well-written, intelligent, showed he'd been doing quite a bit of outside reading. Refreshing. Paganism, the occult, science fiction television, tantric approaches to sexuality, feminism, bondage/domination, gay curriculum in schools... The topics blew through as the days passed on. I found myself writing in almost every day.

A couple days ago I had seen posters up around campus, advertising the lecture by a visiting author. He wrote cyperpunk stuff. Being a compu-geek, I was naturally interested. I walked into the graduate research center, going in to see if anybody I knew was around. They were, and as we stood around talking in the student consulting room, the lecture came up. A friend of mine had decided to go... She asked me if I wanted to meet her later in the high-rise after she taught her discussion. Maybe, I offered, and went off to check my daily influx of mailers. The terminal room was crowded, full of computer science newbies, writing their low-level programs or playing dungeon games. I went to sit down at one of the dinosaur terminals, a Morrow. Piece of Neolithic hardware.

I heard music behind me as I turned to sit and saw he was there. It had been raining outside, and I was in a black jersey dress. Well, a damp black jersey dress. Wet, I corrected myself. I felt odd... The water had beaded up on the fabric like silver beads. I greeted him, and sat. More and more of the beads sunk through, meeting my skin. I logged in, and checked my mail, checked the file. Nothing new.

He asked me, or I asked him. It was the class. "What were you doing for your paper?" "Not taking that final right?" "Oh, Dionysian orgies?" "Man, I thought I had to do... " I moved and turned to sit sideways in the chair, letting one arm hang over the back. He didn't look directly at me during the whole conversation, I thought. Maybe a flick of an intake with his eyes but that was all. I asked if he was into the "whole cyberpunk thing", knowing his reply. At a yes, I followed up with if he was going to the lecture that night. "Oh, really? Cool". Skipping a class to go even. A friend ran in then, to ask me about a concert we were going to the next day. After that, I got back into my account.

After wasting about a large chunk of time, I figured I should go get something constructive to do. Maybe a paper... Yeah. When I came back in, I ended up across from him. As I tried to write an analysis of _The Aeneid_, failing miserably, I kept catching myself wanting to look up, over. His hair, thick and glossy, curled over his head in onyx waves, over his neck. Dark lashes, brows. Stubble a clean shadow, clear brown eyes. He laughed at something he was reading off the screen. That smile. I forced myself to turn a page in the book and look at it, and start typing.

Later, I asked him if he was still going, my voice light. "Oh, what time is it? Shit, thanks, I would've been at that all night if nobody stopped me." We walked together out into the rain. None of us had umbrellas. The rain fell coldly, I wrapped my arms under my breasts and shivered. Once inside, I felt the warmth start to dry my skin and hair. Sitting, in the dimness of the lowered lights and the heat of the dark, I listened to the author speak, laughed at his jokes. He was good. I'd have to get his book. The shoulder next to me moved against mine briefly and I found myself focused on that small space of sensation, through layers of fabric. To imagining more, like the warmth of his skin, the scrape of his rough face on my lips, smell of his hair. My heart beat hard in my throat as I eased myself back in the seat and recrossed my legs. I had ideas of being blunt then. Just asking him straight out what he thought of me. But the incredible fear of rejection kept my mouth silent.. and me stuck in a world of banality.

It ended, and I was entrenched in a group of people I had just been introduced to when he brushed past me with a goodbye. I caught him in my eye, holding his olive-green bag, then he was gone. As the talk went on in front of me, I pushed the image away, and put on a grin. Flicking away my hair, I laughed at one man's joke, watched his eyes as he looked me over. Here was a guy, perfectly blatant in his appraisal. I, on the other hand, was being a complete coward about the whole thing.

"Though I've tried before to tell her/Of the feelings I have for her in my heart/Everytime I come near her/I just lose my nerve/As I've done from the start..." I refolded the lyrics and put them down beside the stereo, turning up the volume. I stripped off the clothes, and put on a robe. I stared at myself in the mirror. Black kohl around my eyes, dark lipstick, two pairs of gold hoops in my ears. They'd gone well with the grunge look today. I pushed the long bangs out of my eyes and took out the earrings. The sweatshirt lay crumpled on the floor. I kicked it out the way as I passed by, going to the shower. Nothing like your own cowardice to induce self-pity. My mouth turned down in aggravation as I flipped the water on. As I watched the rivulets run down into the drain, I thought. Contemplating what to do, how far to push this, an infatuation. Pros and cons flashed briefly past in my mind.

Graduating in a very few weeks. So was he. He was heading off to grad school, in physics, in Pittsburgh. He listened to industrial music. He was from Chicopee and commuted here. Sources had it as unknown whether or not he "seeing" anyone. Did it matter anyway? All this information I had learned and did I give a shit. I had not dated anyone since my last boyfriend and I broke up... in late 1991. Almost two entire years. Sex between then and now had been sporadic. It was pretty unfeeling on both sides. Superficially sastifying. I was tired of emotionless couplings. Passion would be nice. I didn't need love now.

I kept having these pictures come up at the oddest moments in the day, from my imagination. Thoughts of possible sensations and words. Even as I typed in these words, I wondered at my motivations. A friend of mine had suggested I was writing it in on Unix, in Emacs, only to post it or send it to him. I denied it but it nagged at me. Maybe it had been the reason, subconciously lurking, and he had exposed it. Because now it was a thought to me... send this to him? Post it to the net? Delete it? I wavered between all.

I rinsed the final traces of soap off. It was like a weighted scale tipping back and forth in my head. At first it swung back and forth quickly, slowing as the loads evened out. I grabbed the towel and started to dry myself. It clicked back from one side to another. No resolution. Jesus, even mental props didn't help. I laughed and stepped out of the stall, put the soaps away.

20 days left on this campus. No matter what, there would be something decided, whether on purpose or simply through my own dreary inaction. I'd have to see... I had watched so much. How sick was I of it? The wallflower role was wearing thin.

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