I remember this feeling from the very first time that I got onto a rollercoaster. The train slowly made its way up the first, biggest hill, and I felt my stomach being left further and further behind. With each foot that we ratcheted along, I knew with more and more certainty that I’d made a massive mistake. I could see the drop-off, the disaster, growing closer-
-and I couldn’t do a thing about it.
Now, sitting in my bed and staring at my phone’s glowing screen in the darkness, I felt that same pit opening up in my stomach, that same sense of disaster.
“Oh, shit,” I murmured to myself. Then again, louder: “Shit! Shit!”
Quick, is there any way to stop a message in the process of sending? To Googl- no, too late. It’s sent. “Delivered” popped up at the bottom of the screen.
I stared at the word, praying that it wouldn’t change. Maybe she’d gone to bed, maybe she fell asleep with her phone pressed against her face, up too late talking to me, a little tipsy from the night’s drinking-
“Read 11:38 PM”
I leapt out of bed, cursing as my not-quite-awake feet tingled underneath me and wobbled, and sprinted down the hall. As a senior, I’d earned my own single room in the old, creaky fraternity house, but Aaron still shared his room with Boomer. I knew that Boomer was likely still out at the bars, but Aaron had wandered back a half hour earlier.
“Whazzup?” he’d slurred, leaning into my room while holding onto the doorframe as if it was the only thing keeping him upright.
I had sat up in bed, looked over at him. “Hey, you made it back from the bars! Alive and alone, as usual!”
“That’s mean,” he pouted, but he still came further into my room. We’d traded insults back and forth for years; we both knew the flow of things. “How’s your night been? Stuck here, probably jerking it a bit to some nasty porn?”
“If that’s how you describe studying, then yes,” I said, gesturing at the open textbooks spread out on my bed. “Texting Alice a bit.”
He frowned. “Alice – she’s that girl in your anatomy class, right? The one that had all the guys hooting and hollering when she came over and put her anatomy on display?”
I grimaced, remembering that. “We’re just friends.”
“But you’d like to be more,” Aaron guessed, keen despite the alcohol dulling his senses. He grinned at the look of discomfort on my face. “Oh come on, dude, she’s perfect for you. Smart, knows all that same science stuff that you love, and goddamn, have you seen that chest? I couldn’t stop staring- ow!”
He yelped because I threw my pencil at him. “Out!” I commanded, pointing to the door.
“I’m just saying, dude,” he insisted as he retreated. “You need to just go for it. Make that move. Sweep her off her feet, into your bed. With your nerdiness, she’s the best you’ll ever land.”
I closed the door firmly behind him – and then sank back down in my bed. Back to studying, I told myself. My fingers, however, quickly strayed back to my phone. Back to texting Alice.
I didn’t want to think about what Aaron had said, not the least because it was all true. Alice really would be perfect with me, but she’d never see it, never go for me. She was that cute, smart little blonde girl who seemed to attract success like an aura, wore it around her shoulders like a cloak. She’d end up with some six-foot CEO who could buy her a yacht and a mansion, clinging to his chiseled arm and making the rest of us envious as we stared up the mountain of success at them, the figures on the peak.
Sure, I made her laugh – and I remembered that one night when, both of us yawning after a late-night study session that devolved into binge watching Happy Endings on Hulu, we snuggled together. I could still smell the faint scent of cherries in her shampoo, remembered her warmth against me.
I wanted that, and because I ached so strongly for her, I knew that I could never have her. It wasn’t meant to be.
I heard my phone buzz. “Good night, hope the test doesn’t murder you,” she had sent me.
I quickly keyed out a reply. “I’ll live thru,” I typed in, my finger already flying towards the send key.
It was then that it happened.
Even as I pushed send, unable to stop that impulse traveling through my hand and down to my fingertip, I saw autocorrect jump in. “I’ll live thru” shifted, became “I love you”.
And then the message was away, too late for me to respond.
Now, bursting into Aaron’s room without knocking, I gasped for breath. “Aaron, help! I accidentally told her that I-”
I paused, averting my eyes as Aaron scrambled to haul his pants up, his screen still displaying a buxom lady moaning as she touched herself. “Dude, knock!” he groaned.
I laughed, but even this sight wasn’t enough to distract me from my woes. “Aaron, I texted her that I love her!”
“What?” Half-done-up belt forgotten, he turned and stared at me. “That isn’t what I meant when I said you should go for it! Start with coffee!”
“I didn’t mean to!” I wailed. “It was autocorrect! But she’s read it! What do I do? What do I say? Should I go over to her house and apologize? She’s only a block up the street-”
Aaron stepped forward and slapped me, which I needed. “Thanks,” I said, rubbing at my cheek and trying not to think about what that hand had touched before it hit my face.
“No problem.” He sighed. “What did she say?”
I checked the phone. “Nothing. She read it, and then nothing.”
“Well, damn.” He sank back down in his chair, noticed that his porn video was still playing, paused it. I tried not to look at the face of the woman – or any other part of her – on display on the screen. “I think you have to go over there.”
“Right, and apologize-”
“No!” He stood up again, his eyes shining. “You need to own it! This wasn’t on purpose, but this could be your chance! Wouldn’t you rather know if the two of you have a shot, instead of wondering forever?”
“No, you would. Now, go! Get downstairs!” And even as I protested, he pushed me out of his room, down the stairs, down to the main room of our fraternity house!
Even at this hour, a couple guys lounged about on the couch, watching late night television. They turned and looked at the two of us, but Aaron didn’t even pause. He kept pushing me towards the front door.
“But I don’t know what to say to her!” I wailed, as he shoved me forward.
“Say the truth! Tell her that you’re sorry you came on a bit strong, it was autocorrect, but you really do like her and want to take her out for a drink! Tell her the truth!” He gave me one last shove, and my hand landed on the doorknob.
I pulled the door open.
And Alice stood there on the other side, her hand still raised to knock.
The air drained from my lungs, that sinking feeling in my stomach once again. “Alice,” I breathed out, and then ran out of oxygen.
“Hi,” she said back, her voice barely audible. “I just- I wanted to- I mean, I didn’t know that you-”
We both stared at each other. The guys on the couch stared at us. Everyone was frozen – except for Aaron.
“Dude,” he hissed at me in a whisper that everyone could hear within a mile. “Kiss her!”
I couldn’t respond, but I felt heat creeping up into my cheeks. And, amazingly, I saw a blush spread across Alice’s beautiful, smart face as well! Her eyes kept looking back into mine, bright, almost imploring me.
Slowly, clumsy as a newborn colt, I stepped forward. I slid my arms around her, and she pressed forward against me. “Alice,” I murmured, still not quite able to bring myself to do it, to commit. “That text, it was-”
She kissed me before I could finish the sentence.
Flashbulbs burst around me, inside my eyelids, as fireworks exploded in my brain. I heard a clink next to me as Aaron’s pants, barely held up after I burst in on him in his room, gave up the ghost and dropped to the floor. The guys on the couch behind us all hooted and hollered, making monkey noises at us.
I didn’t care about any of it. I kissed Alice back, loving the feel of her in my arms.
And that’s the funny thing about rollercoasters, isn’t it? You go on it despite, or perhaps because, you’re so terrified at the beginning. But then, by the end, it’s so much fun that you couldn’t imagine doing anything else, and you’re raring to go again.