Half our class attended the reunion just to see how she turned out. She wasn't there, of course. Gossip that night swirled above cheap polyester tablecloths and between tacky carnation centerpieces and somehow she was in every conversation, each with a different theory of where she was and what she was doing, and all remembering her amazing eyes.
We had been friends of a sort. I was bookish and kept my head down. Still, I somehow made peace with every clique while belonging to none. She, too, was an outsider, although by choice rather than happenstance. Some days she would sit with me in whatever corner I'd found, alighting like a hawk on a wire, watching with unblinking eyes the hubbub all around us. She didn't feel obliged to chat; however, she would occasionally share a wry observation that finally made sense hours later. It was as if she saw more than the rest of us. I never mentioned how much I admired her.
We continued our acquaintance through college and beyond. I was honored whenever she called, dropping everything to meet her for coffee or to catch an esoteric indie film which she understood and I mentioned at cocktail parties in order to seem more interesting. I never initiated contact; it seemed implausible that she'd want to be my friend. Still, we got together nearly every month, commiserating on school and professors and sharing war stories about our dating lives. She followed an esoteric course of study, exploring feminism and sociology before finally finding her path in psychology. Her keen skills of observation, first honed in high school, brought swift clarity to patients whose relief outweighed any nervousness at her piercing gaze or somber outfits. My interests were more pedestrian until I tangled botany, anthropology, and biology and found myself heading to the rain forest to try to find a cure for cancer. When I got back I suddenly was the interesting one, with stories of having lived -- and shared rites with -- cannibalistic natives in order to collect unfamiliar plant species. At dinner she turned her blue, blue eyes on me and I basked in the attention, reveling in the role reversal, as if I finally had achieved my dream not just of being with her, but being her. That night she told me she'd always admired my style. When we kissed my high-school self leaped for joy.
Our romance was fast and hot and died just as quickly when she came to see how empty I was. She'd mistaken my fascination with her for an actual personality. The disappointment was palpable as she packed to leave my apartment the final time, while I sat, shocked, terrified of losing her. I couldn't imagine what shape I would take without her as my mirror, my muse, my model. I had spent so much time wanting to be her I'd never learned to be myself.
She graced me with one final kiss, the same gothic girl I hungered to be, black dresses and wry laughter and piercing blue eyes. I tasted her laughter. I tasted our past. I tasted what I could become.
I ate her eyes last.
This post was prompted by Bliss Morgan's "Nightmare Fuel" challenge.