One Smile Too Few

My first thought of him was that he smiled too often. I remember thinking that exact thing as my eyes followed him around the party. He gave it out with frivolous freedom to every girl who met his gaze. No freshmen had the right to have such an intimate boldness, and that mesmerized me. Twenty minutes later, I had lost sight of him in the crowd. Between that and my “first time drunk” college experience, his face quickly slipped from my mind.

I didn’t see him again for two months. Classes, quizzes, parties, and hookups had begun to blur together, but his face still stood out from the haze. Study time in the library was quiet, with the corner of my mind keenly aware of his existence at the table next to mine. Initial contact was deliciously indifferent. He didn’t have a clue who I was; he just needed to borrow a pen. There was a quick smile, a quick thanks, and we were separate worlds again. But every Thursday, he sat at his table, I sat at mine, and he borrowed a pen. I didn’t argue on the day he simply sat down beside me, not saying a word, just studying together in silence.

He was still too bold, still too loose with his smiles, but he was mine by semester’s end. I grew used to his touch, his kisses, the sound of his breathing at two in the morning. I shared with him my different laughs. He showed me his secret book of angsty poetry from middle school. He became versed in my every curve and every care. We loved. It didn’t matter what: Life, Each Other, Food, Drink, Music, Literature. We simply loved.

My last thought of him was that he smiled too often. I remember thinking that exact thing as he kissed me goodbye before leaving for class. His lips met mine, the corners turned up, and I shivered as he whispered promises for later that night. His room smelled of dirty soccer cleats, Old Spice, and us as, hours later, I waited in vain for his return. Then I learned of the hit and run, the hospital room, the late night flat line. The world’s truth wasn’t my truth. I could not accept that he had ended up giving me one smile too few. For the first time, I realized he could never have smiled enough for me.

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