This Great Society - Contents


This Great Society


Illustration: Jim Boraas

"The Beginnings of a Deep and Thorough Infatuation Destined to End in Heartache” by Noah C. Buck
Illustration: Jim Boraas


His name was John.
          He worked at Blue Hour (a somewhat—no, make that a very— pretentious and sophisticated restaurant in the Pearl District of downtown Portland) and we met one random Friday (November 30th, to be precise) while I was on break from my job serving at P. F. Chang's.
          I had wandered across the street to Whole Foods where I tended to spend my 30-minute lunch breaks eating, listening to music, and writing about the people I quietly observed. That particular evening, as I sat in the supermarket cafe with my Odwalla juice and croissant, journal pages in front of me just begging for ink, I listened to my headphones and gazed lazily over the crowded interior of the store.
          The people around me were engaged in all of the average behaviors of Portland grocery shoppers: some were eating, some checking out, some organizing their backpacks for the bike trips they would embark on after leaving through the automatic doors.
          Then my eyes fell upon a tall figure wearing a deep aubergine scarf tucked neatly into the collar of a black wool coat with epaulets and square pockets. His slender limbs were painted a subtle shade of navy by fitted denim that disappeared into weathered brown, square-toed boots. I was spellbound by his calm, innocent face, his graceful poise and elegant, liquid gait as he seemed to glide through the register line.
          While it is my custom to watch from an objective and demure distance, my would-be glance quickly developed into a hypnotized stare as I found myself completely lost in just seeing him, drinking in his organic beauty.
          His golden brown hair, coiffed in a pleasant disorder, contrasted with the starry blue of his mysterious eyes. His lips resembled the vibrant skin of ripe nectarine adding a natural, lush sweetness to the poetic composition of his angelic face.
          I was transfixed.
          He settled into a chair and began reading as he consumed his meal. I could not see the title of his book but I observed his pupils traveling from side to side in a wave-like rhythm as he slowly followed each sentence across the page. It was as though his eyes were dancing with the words.
          In that moment I felt myself come to with a jolt not unlike being awoken from a falling dream. My focus turned to the open journal in front of me and to the pen resting patiently next to its leather bound pages. I began to write about the wonder I had for this boy. I posed the question of where he was from, what he had been through, who he was inside. I couldn’t persuade my mind from its sprite like flitting around and about this unknown person and felt compelled to approach him.
          I had this intuitive confidence, this assurance that talking to him would bring about something beautiful. Still, I hesitated. I was a flower in the presence of fresh and warming sunshine, so dazzled I could not bring myself to bloom.
          Finally I wrote my name and number on a napkin followed by a short message, “I find you fascinating. Call if you would like to have coffee sometime.”
          It felt so mundane. So uncreative. So blandly solid next to his mottled and colourful aura.
          Setting my small work in front of me I proceeded to wrestle with the thought of actually giving it to him, my reason vacillating mercilessly between a) following my urge and b) avoiding the quite possibly (if not highly likely) awkward exchange.
          Precisely at that moment the girl sitting next to me abruptly slid off of her stool, her shoulder jarring into mine causing me to put new effort into my balanced perch on my seat.
          “I’m so sorry about that,” she said with a genuine tone of regret. In order that she not feel unnecessarily guilty I quickly responded by saying, “No worries, honestly it’s fine,” offering a sincere smile and returning her imploring eye contact.
          Her expression changed to one of relief, a nervous half-smile, as she then said, “By the way, I love your hair.”
          “Why, thank you,” I replied.
          “It’s really, really beautiful,” she continued with an unguarded glance at my long dark curls.
          “Well, I really appreciate that,” I replied. “What a sweet compliment.”
          After a brief conversation about nothing in particular the clumsy yet complimentary girl rose to leave and I began gathering up my things, once again looking in the direction of the beautiful boy.
          He still sat, reading and eating.
          Then I made a decision to myself. If a girl next to me can step into my little bubble long enough to repair what very well could have been an uncomfortable situation, I should have no qualms about following suit in my instance; namely, giving my brown paper napkin to this boy.  

I felt my blood flowing more rapidly as I slid my journal and pen into my black work apron. My fingers trembled slightly, almost indiscernibly, as I wrapped my headphones around my iPod and placed it with the other items in my pocket. My feet began to carry me over to the far end of the seating area where I knew the quietly stationed figure could not help but notice my direct approach from his peripheral vantage point.
          I squared my form to be directly in front of him as I prepared myself to actually go through with what only moments ago had been a defeated plan.
          “I know this may seem somewhat forward,” I began, displaying the same nervous half-smile the girl had given me only moments before, “but that’s just the kind of person I am,” I finished almost apologetically.
          “Oh,” he said in a tone which could only be called curious amusement. He had begun to look at me just as I had begun to speak and at the end of my presentation he accepted the napkin, using two fingers to slide it toward him across the tabletop.
          “My name is Noah,” I said, trying to fill the potential silence before either one of us was able to begin feeling that sickening tightness of social invasion.
           “I’m John,” he replied with a smile.
          “Hello John, it’s nice to meet you,” I said, while inwardly regretting the fact that I had just used the most stereotypically Boy Scout response imaginable.
          I felt that I looked and sounded trite and ridiculous.
          Even so, I came back to the moment in order that in talking a bit I might be able to salvage my first impression.
          “You seem really familiar. I think I might have seen you somewhere before,” I stated with a playful tilt of my head and a jocular squint.
          “Yeah,” he said with a tone of moderate seriousness, “possibly around campus.”
          Suddenly feeling like I was actually being taken with some semblance of gravity my whole body relaxed slightly as I grew more composed and confident.
          “Do you go to Portland State?”
           “Yeah—well—I’m taking a break right now.”
           “What are you studying?”
          “Environmental studies. But I just needed to take some time to myself.”
          In that instant I realized that we were actually having a conversation, and I was actually caring about what he was saying and asking genuinely interested questions.
          “Oh believe me, I understand that need,” I said with a muted guffaw. “I took a spring term off last year and then subsequently went into summer, so I had a long time away but it was definitely refreshing.”
          “Yeah,” he agreed again with a cheerful seriousness. “I’m hoping it will be for me, too.”
          “Well, I need to get going back to work. My break is almost over,” I ruefully informed him as I stepped back from the table, “but it was definitely great talking to you. And seriously, if you ever want to do coffee…” I finished in what I hoped was a smooth and casual open diminuendo, gesturing toward my napkin now in his possession.
          “I’d enjoy that, thank you,” he quickly said, not breaking eye contact. “I’ll definitely call you.”
           With that we said our goodbyes and I walked back across the street, oddly elated at having actualized my intentions.
          A week later we had our first date. Two weeks after that I asked him to be my boyfriend. A month passed and he broke it off saying he wasn’t ready for a serious relationship. Six months after that my heart was finally ready to give the whole game another go.
          His name was Sean…


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