The flower petal landed right on her nose, that’s what was so unbelievable. Her brain showed her the angle that usually went ignored, and she not only saw the mango-colored rose petal but her own nose.
Her whole life, she could see her nose, but her brain filtered that out. It was something she had always known, but it took a whole new meaning right at that moment.
“The brain knows everything, but I don’t think it understands a lot.”
“What’s that?” He asked.
It was suddenly right there. The things she had seen but had filtered out. Rachel plucked the petal off her nose and sat up, eyes wide over blushing cheeks.
They had met on the beach. We never truly remember how we made a friend. One day we had no idea about each other’s existence, and the other, we were in each other’s lives.
It was like that with him.
But the scene came to her. Just like her mind showed her the nose that ever eluded, so did it now reveal how the moment had unfolded.
He was walking his dog, she was reading a book. The dog got her attention by barking, and so she looked at it, and then at him, and he was already looking her way. She had seen many handsome men, and yet, none had caused the reaction that that face, slightly unkempt as it was, managed to burn into her. She smiled, and he smiled, and that was it. They both wanted to talk to each other.
Until now, that’s where it had started. They wanted to talk, so they did, but looking at the reason behind it, Rachel now understood it had not been that simple. Something had happened between step a and step c, and she didn’t understand it. Yet, she certainly didn’t regret it.
“Nice to meet you, Rachel. This is Duke.”
She had giggled at that, pulling her hand to scratch the young dog’s head and gain its favor. “You introduce the dog first?”
“Of course. He’s the one that caught your eye, wasn’t he?”
Rachel had looked up at him, amused.
“And I caught yours, is that it?”
“Eventually,” he said with a thoughtful smirk. “First was the book.” He pointed down at it. “I’ve read it, and I really liked it.”
Ordinarily, that should have offended her somewhat. As she perused over that memory, she expected to have continued the conversation out of politeness, which was the obvious step e between d and f. The truth was different, she now realized. It was clear that his response had been charming to her. She had continued the conversation out of interest, not politeness.
The fact was that their first interaction had not been socially scripted in the way all relationships are.
From observing her own relationships, and that of others, everyone always seemed to be following a script that had been written by some ethereal agreement from which culture had been fabricated, and on which society had been built. People hardly spoke as they truly wanted, said the words they desired or did to others as they knew should be done.
Do not step on their toes. Do not overreach. Do not hurt their feelings. Do not be too informal, or too formal. Take into consideration their profile before choosing your words. Their history, their appearance, their gender and race, politics and religion. All of it.
Do not, ever, be yourself until you are sure that it’s appropriate. Rachel had never witness otherwise being beneficial, and as far as she could remember, she had only tried it once herself. To terrible results.
People either followed the right script, and their relationship thrived for the benefit of both people, or they followed the wrong one, and then not at all. As far as she could tell, several reasons were behind the mistakes that could be made, but the main one was willful ignorance.
Rachel, though, observed and considered everything carefully. Ever since she was a child, seeking to understand her parents and how not to disappoint them, Rachel had been incredibly apt at deciphering the script. Even if people weren’t themselves, they were still very honest about what they need in an interaction, if one pays enough attention.
Rachel paid a lot of attention.
They started meeting at that spot often, her and him. Rachel could see all the steps unfolding as they usually did. She watched, she listened, she deciphered the expectations. Politeness and interest gave way to subdued flirting that could very well simply be friendliness, and that gave way to overt flirting that makes the situation obvious, all the while avoiding any subject matters that could threaten their appreciation of each other’s company.
Enjoying moment after predictable moment, making sure nothing would be said or done that would ever ruin the mood. Building the relationship step by premeditated step.
Now, though, Rachel recognized how very unlike that it had been, actually. The overt flirting had begun when he showed up without Duke, his dog.
“Had to drop him at the vet for some treatment,” he had explained.
“And you still came to the beach?”
He smiled at her, knowingly. “Of course. I wanted to see you.”
That was skipping a few steps, for sure. That had not been Rachel’s interpretation, though, but rather that she had simply misjudged the script as far as that relationship was concerned. That she had an inaccurate perception of what the steps were, and which one they were on.
“Well I’m glad one of us gets what they want, but I wanted to see Duke.” She winked at him, and he chuckled.
“He’s with me in spirit. I’m a guy, after all, we’re all dogs deep down, right?”
That was usually a very negative thing, especially to admit, but in that context, it was again inexplicably charming. Rachel gave him room on the bench and read not on more page that day.
The kiss was another thing that was odd. It was another day, and she had been driven into a small fit of giggling by the interaction between Duke, his dog, and a couple of poodles.
“Oh man,” he said, pained, and then he kissed her. She froze, not because it was unwelcome, but rather because that did not fit into any understanding she was currently on as far as the script was concerned. “Sorry,” he said. “Is. Is that okay? Am I okay to do that? I wasn’t sure, I just really wanted to? Sorry!”
He shied away, afraid of the consequences. The scripts existed for exactly that reason, so they can live without fear or embarrassment.
Rachel picked the petal off her nose and shook her head. Or try to, anyway, she thought.
When had she ever not been afraid? Her entire life was one long, uninterrupted attempt at avoiding embarrassment and regret. They had been meeting at that beach site for over a week and had explicitly made their attractions known. Why was it so illogical for him to kiss her?
Why was it not a step for her to kiss him?
Until now, she had been continuously trying to decipher the script. What was she getting wrong? What didn’t she understand about him?
The answer had been in front of her the whole time. Like her nose. It had eluded her because she was not wrong and never had been wrong.
Know the scripts. Follow the scripts. One makes no enemies. But then, they also make no friends they can really trust. And know no love that they truly believe in.
Because no one will know who they really are.
As they sat there, watching a beautiful day end side by side, she realized she didn’t know if he really liked Rachel. However, she knew she really liked Chris. There was no script to figure out, there was only who he was.
Rachel turned her hand around to wrap around Chris’s, since it was already on top of hers, and looked over at him. He was watching her a bit worried.
“Are…are you okay?”
She brought the petal and lifted it, holding it in-between her fingers. Rachel smiled and blinked tears, and he only looked more worried.
She took a breath and focused on the petal. It was now or never.
“I’m pretty sure I love you, Chris. And I’m terrified that that’s a mistake. I’m scared that I’m not being honest enough with you and you’ll change your mind about me. And. And-and I’m scared of the investment that we have to make to find out.”
Rachel was tearing away the script. With how much she cared about Chris and hoped that they could take their relationship the distance, it should be the last thing she should do. She wasn’t even sure why anxiety was gripping her so tightly, but stubbornly, she pushed through it. It was all a sign she really had to fight it.
Now more than ever, with him more than anyone, she needed to know that they could function without any script. Without rationale. Without any steps in mind, only the destination.
“Me too,” he said.
She blinked and took the petal down, blushing and hesitant.
“Me too…uhm, to what?”
His other hand reached and caressed against her back, gently pulling her close by the torso, and he leaned in.
“To everything.” He kissed her, then pulled back and smiled, desire in his eyes. “To anything.” He kissed her again, and she kissed back, with a purpose of emotion that she had never experienced. “To you.”
A bit teary-eyed, not really controlling herself as she started to laugh, she pulled back, glared at him, and then threw herself at him for a hug.
His hand came over to brush her hair.
“I have to be honest, I really don’t like those superhero movies,” she said, goofily.
He just laughed.
“I think I can live with that. But I’m still gonna watch them.”
Rachel chuckled into his neck, half-dizzy with relief. With a level of joy that was unprecedented.
Who needs the scripts? Who needs steps, when they finally have someone they can run with?
“I can live with that,” she said, pushing to lie him down.