For JVC & JTP.
This is Joel. He just left the library. He was there to study for an exam. To take in the smell of worn books. To people watch. To text message. To procrastinate until the last possible moment.
This is Jeffrey. He just sat down to read. To take in the smell of worn books. To people watch. To find beside his chair a notebook. To open it and find messy notes on eighteenth century literature. To find a name to type into Facebook to return the notes to their proper owner…
JEFF (13:00): hey, i think i found your notebook at the library. black spiral-bound Five Star?
JOEL (15:00): omg ty! yes, that’s mine. major lit test coming up. where should i find you to pick it up?
JEFF (15:30): i’ll be at the library for another thirty mins or so. here?
JOEL (15:30): on my way.
And to Jeffrey, Joel is cute. And to Joel, Jeffrey is, too. So Joel, with only thirty minutes left and a ten minute walk in front of him, takes a shower. He shaves. Brushes his teeth. Changes into an outfit a little more revealing–a polo to emphasize his arms. He walks to the library smelling himself, wishing he put on more cologne. (No, no. Less is always better. Right?) He listens to music on his iPod to pump him up, and arrives at the library with a minute to spare.
Jeffrey, who has been damning himself for not wearing something cuter today, has just had the most unproductive thirty minutes of his life. He’s texted his girlfriends, giddy about the cute boy about to retrieve his notebook. His handwriting is sexy, Jeffrey decides. It’s… chicken-scratch meets circles-for-Os. Jeffrey’s scoured Joel’s Facebook, too. They have mutual friends. GAY mutual friends; could this mean Joel is gay, too? The butterflies are explosive.
It’s all leading up to this moment: when Joel spots Jeffrey sitting in his chair, pretending to read a textbook. Joel swallows his heart and Jeffrey sees him from the corner of his eye, but does not move. Noticing him too soon will make for an awkward exchange.
Jeffrey reads and re-reads one sentence in his textbook as Joel makes his way. I have pit stains, I know I do, Jeffrey tells himself. And my heart is beating too hard. Can he see it pounding?
Jeffrey takes a deep breath because he knows he’s about to have to speak.
Joel lets out the breath he’s been holding for twenty seconds–the one he inhaled to calm his racing heart.
Joel is beside Jeffrey, and Jeffrey looks up. Joel opens his mouth and lets out a strange croaking noise that was supposed to be “hello.” Face flushed, he clears his throat, and… “Hi. I’m Joel.” Jeffrey is as gorgeous as his pictures.
“I’m Jeffrey,” he hands Joel his notebook. Joel is beyond perfect. He’d never be interested in me, Jeffrey reasons.
Awkward silence. Jeffrey looks down at his textbook.
“Ok, well thanks,” Joel says.
“Anytime,” Jeffrey replies, still looking down. A decision he immediately regrets.
And Joel leaves. He doesn’t like me, Joel decides.
This is Joel. He just left the library. He was there to pick up a notebook he left behind. To take in the smell of worn books. To people watch. To procrastinate until the last possible moment.
This is Jeffrey. He just left the library, running. He was there to read. To take in the smell of worn books. To people watch. To find a lost notebook, and almost let loose its owner. To chase him outside and call his name. To swallow his heart and ask for a date.
This is Joel and Jeffrey. They like people watching and the smell of libraries. They text message and use Facebook. And there’s nothing particularly special about either one, except that they’re romantics, whether they know it or not.
And you may think that they don’t exist, but they do. They exist behind every flutter and in every hope.
The difference is in leaving the library.
DeVotchKa & Mychael Danna’s “The Winner Is.” I bet you’ve heard it. Go for a listen, will you?