When Tiffany Stills walks into a room, most of us pretend not to notice, but we do. She’s that pretty, and I’m kind of sick of pretending she’s not. Most of English we try not to stare. My head drops and I sort of watch the floor or search the classroom for anything that isn’t her. Hello, blue pencil sharpener, you’re beautiful today, sitting tucked away by the window. You’re not Tiffany at all, so please, Mr. Blue Pencil Sharpener, please don’t make me lift my head and see her hiding a strand of curly hair behind her little ear.
When it’s safe, I stare. I lift my head and Tiffany sits in front of me. When there’s no Tiffany and curly hair, I sketch another bicycle floating through space in my notebook. My pencil touches the page and I drift. After the bell rings, Tiffany turns and asks, “Do you have a highlighter?” and I don’t say anything at all. She asks again, and I swallow my throat, then drag my pencil across my notebook and draw another star. It is important I keep my head down, eyes cast away. If I look at Tiffany Stills, time will explode or something worse. She’ll step out of reality, reach into my chest and pluck out my heart, and I will do nothing but smile and stare like a weirdo, and worse, Tiffany Stills will stare back and realize I’m analyzing her, inch by inch, and I will vomit inside my heart, and Tiffany Stills, what will she do? She’ll roll her eyes at another boy in love with her low-cut shirts, and the scary part is I won’t notice. I’ll keep staring, taking in her smooth skin and blue-green eyes. I won’t even realize she hates me.
If Tiffany smiles one more time. If she chews her pencil. If she nibbles the erasure the way she does, if a smile perks from the corner of her little mouth, I’ll disappear. I’ll do it, blue pencil sharpener. I will.
Is it weird to want to simultaneously kiss someone and swallow their lips? But they are small lips, soft, and, oh god, and here goes, not now, and I’m monster. I’m a monster, and kissing Tiffany Stills would be like reappearing out of magician’s hat. Magic. Every time. Like making stars appear.
I don’t want to eat her lips, not really. I want to hold Tiffany against me, and kiss her once.
I’d do it too, and it would be soft, and we’d both have our eyes close, so it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t look at her or if she can’t see me—it doesn’t matter.
How about I make a small promise. I’ll never study how Tiffany sits kicking her feet across the tile in a slow rhythm. Never again. If today works.
Because when Tiffany Stills leaves class and walks down G-hall, it’s only us, her feet tapping across the waxed linoleum.
“Tiffany,” I say, and she stops. She stands by Mr. Bello’s door, and she can either go in and pretend she doesn’t hear me or she can turn around.
She can look at me.
But the thing is when girls like Tiffany Stills walk into a room, we notice, even if we pretend not to, even if we act like we can’t see her closing Mr. Bello’s door and avoiding our eyes through the pane of glass. We notice, and we understand girls like her can’t, and guys like us, we draw bicycles in the stars.
That’s what we do.
Until it happens.
Until the Sun is the Moon and here we are and this is it and who cares—because it happens.
In the hallway, no one walks. I float, I stand, I hesitate, and, as Tiffany Stills closes the door, my notebook falls to the floor. It’s an accident, but she sees it. The pages open, and Tiffany can’t help herself. She has to prove me wrong, and she does. She opens Mr. Bello’s door, strolls out, bends at the knees, and picks it up.
In her hands, she holds the universe. There are stars. A sun and a moon, and on a bicycle a boy drifts through space. She smiles.
I asked you for a highlighter, she says. Earlier.
I asked you for a highlighter earlier and you ignored me.
I was drawing.
Yeah? Still kind of rude. And you weren’t drawing when I asked.
You stopped. The bicycle. You heard me.
You can keep it.
The drawing. You can keep it. I should’ve answered you.
Yeah. I. I don’t know. I want you to have it. You’re right. I heard you.
I know you did. And, ah, thanks. This is actually kind of cool.
It’s a bicy—
I know what it is. You’ve been at it all week and haven’t even colored the bike in.
I wasn’t going to.
You should color the bicycle red. It’ll pop.
When Tiffany leans over, we tear the page out, our hands touch, the tip of her index sails across my palm, and she smiles and I see it, and that’s enough to keep me afloat—because if Tiffany Stills likes bicycles in space, if she touches our hands, we notice, even if we pretend we don’t. Boys like us, we notice, and it’s enough to make us color bicycles red for the rest of our lives. It’s enough to keep the universe together and one single red bicycle in orbit until the next time the Sun touches the Moon.
Christopher D. DiCicco was born during the winter. He is the author of My Mother, She Lives in the Clouds and other stories (Hypertrophic Press). His work has appeared in such places as Superstition Review, The Fem, and Gigantic Sequins. Visit www.cddicicco.com for more.