The text was typical Kyle, short and a bit cryptic. “gn out. jn us?”
After puzzling it for a minute Ryan typed, “who’s going?”
“me n kayla n alyssa”
“Yes,” Ryan answered.
“c u then”
Ryan and Kyle used to be inseparable, but since his best friend started dating Kayla, at first as a joke but then seriously, Ryan really didn’t see much of him. Besides missing out seeing his friend, Ryan also liked to be around when Kayla’s younger sister Alyssa was with them, which was most of the time. He began to really look forward to the evening as it would be a double treat, seeing Kyle and, even more, seeing Alyssa.
“She’s hot,” Ryan said out loud. “No, more, she’s just so… She’s… yeah, she’s all of that. She’s all of that and more. She’s… Hmm, smart and sassy and… yeah, and she’s hot. No, it isn’t just looks. She’s…. yeah, she’s just so….”
Not really paying attention to the nonsense words he was spewing Ryan poured himself a glass of water and then grabbed some chips. He went back and sat down on the couch with his laptop, ate a chip and realized he had left his water on the counter.
“I guess I’m getting absent minded,” Ryan said. “Hmm, ‘getting up’, that reminds me of a joke. I wonder if Alyssa will remember what she said about the joke I told last time I saw her. Oh that’s so stupid. Why did I even think of that? I mean, it was embarrassing, but, damn, I couldn’t think. Maybe too many jokes? No jokes tonight. OK, what was I doing? Oh, yes, I need a drink.”
Ryan grabbed a soda out of the refrigerator, opened it. Staring off into space, only seeing a picture of Alyssa in his mind, he started pouring it into the already full cup of water. He mumbled her name and repeated “She’s just so…” a few times before he realized water and soda was splashing onto the floor.
“Damn!” He grabbed a bunch of paper towels, enough for a mess three times the size and cleaned up the spill, still repeating random words out loud. Half way through he stopped and listened to himself with a laugh. Ryan was one of the top people in his field. He had an international reputation and had made the list of most respected people under the age of 25 two years running and yet here he was, babbling like a cretin. He laughed again as he continued to clean up, but then, getting into the task, he started talking to himself again.
Water cleaned up, but a pile of damp paper towels still on the counter, Ryan grabbed the cup of watered down soda and sat down, drumming his fingers on the kitchen table. It felt as if a balloon was expanding in his head, driving all of the thoughts away, a balloon of Alyssa taking over. His eyes unfocused, not seeing anything except for the object of his heart’s desire. The pressure built up in his head, as if that balloon was about to pop, sending his mushy brains out of his ears.
Ryan decided to look at Alyssa’s Facebook page to see if she said anything about the evening, to see if she mentioned him at all, but realized he didn’t have his laptop. He was perplexed. Wasn’t he just using it? He got up and noticed it on the couch with an open bag of chips. How had it gotten there, and when did he get chips out? He grabbed them both and sat back down at the table.
“Hmm, a silly meme, a selfie with Kayla, hmm, no, another meme, hmmm, damn, that jerk she works with.” Ryan didn’t know anything about Nate except he was occasionally in the pictures that Alyssa took at work. “Hmm, nothing about tonight.”
The balloon in his brain deflated then continued to shrink passed nothingness, dragging his brain into the hole it left. The world disappeared in a fog. The fog short circuited his brain making linear thought all but impossible. Ryan’s world descended into nothing, nothingness, no feeling, not even hurt, just absence.
“Getting ready to go out for drinks with Kayla.” Alyssa was puckering up, as if kissing her phone, in the new selfie she posted.
Ryan’s heart burst in a colorful supernova. Waves of heat coursed through him, filling his room with rainbows and shooting stars, filling the room with images of Alyssa.
“She did that for me! I know Kayla said I was coming and she did it for me!” Ryan said.
Ryan’s feet never touched the floor as he prepared for the evening. Visions of her were everywhere, filling the ether with her likeness. It would be a fantastic night, he was sure of it.
Arriving at the apartment door at 7:57, Ryan paused. He didn’t want to look too anxious so he decided to wait until after 8 before he knocked. As he stood waiting he could make out the voices inside.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Kyle said. “I haven’t seen Ryan in a while so I invited him out with us. He’ll be here any minute.”
“Ryan who? Do I know him?” Ryan’s heart jumped. It was her, it was Alyssa!
“You know Ryan, Dr. I made Who’s Who at 17,” Kyle said. “He’s one of my best friends. I used to hang out with him all of the time. You know, the silly jokes?”
The universe came to an end and the weight of the cosmos landed on Ryan’s shoulders.
“Yeah, ‘him’,” Kyle said. “Come on, smile, I think he likes you.”
All Ryan could see, all he could feel was blackness, less than blackness, void. The crushing pressure deformed his head, squeezing it into oblivion, turning his mind into a black hole.
“I thought you said he was kinda cute,” Kayla said.
A light, a spark in the distance. Was it possible?
“Yeah, but, you know, the stiffness, the awkward silences, the jokes…”
The flicker went out, all hope ended.
“Oh, give him a chance,” Kayla said. “He’s actually a fun guy, he’s just nervous around you. He feels stupid and tongue tied. Haven’t you felt that way before?”
“Nervous around me? Me, Alyssa? Why would anyone be nervous around me? It’s just me, while he’s, well, you know. Everyone knows! But it’s just me. Why would he be nervous of me, Alyssa?”
No, the spark was back, not out, it was there.
Ryan glanced at his phone. 8:04. He knocked on the door.
Kyle opened the door. “Hey Ryan, long time no see. Come on in, buddy.”
“Hey Kyle, nice to see you. It’s been a while. Hi Kayla. Hi Alyssa. Great to see you both. How’re you two doing? You both look good. I’m sorry, I mean great; fantastic. Uhm…. You know what I mean.” Ryan could feel the flush on his face.
Kayla shook his hand and said something, he wasn’t sure what since his mind was buzzing at a million miles an hour. He answered with a pleasantry and turned towards Alyssa.
Alyssa smiled a shy but genuine smile, a small blush touching her cheeks. She held out her hand for him to shake but he bent and kissed it instead. She blushed brighter. The supernova went off in his brain again, fireworks flashed before his eyes. It would be a super night.
And he promised himself that there would be no stupid jokes.