I took a stroll down the college quad with a girl I had my eye on for sometime, and according to friends, she had her eye on me. My friends mentioned it to me as a warning though. Rumors ran pretty rampant on campus about damn-near any and everything, including the ice queen-like nature of whom I took a walk with that day, and how guys got affected by her, or even dropped out because of her, somehow.
I told them I'd take my chances, and so I did as walked next to this beautiful woman. She was dressed for fall, in a stylish-looking full-length coat, expensive thigh-high boots, velvet gloves and a scarf. They were all brown, tanish colors that matched the colored foliage quite nicely. Rumor has it she came from money, which was no surprise from her ensemble and the way she carried herself like a debutante. I tried to be as gentlemanly as possible next to her, walking close but giving her cordial space, carrying on a light conversation about the weather and school, and keeping my glances at her to a minimum.
Her visage was heavenly to me, but it also reminded me of the fact that I would be seen as a few wrungs below her, in status, in looks, in money, being a scholarship student, and probably a few other ways. Other guys she dated, and thinking about how she earned such rumors kept me sharp, as to not make any kind of embarrassing misstep with her. Strange how I was living a collegiate dream just having a shot with her, but filled with more anxiety than the average first date.
Even stranger was some of the little things. A cool breeze hit us on the path, with a little bit of chill to it. I'm sure I flinched a bit, but I noticed she smiled and let the breeze hit her face as if she was receiving it in some other place that was sweltering and in need of it. She took a breath in through her nostrils, and I noticed exhaling through her mouth came with another, gentler cool breeze to our faces.
I couldn't place her expression other than to call it 'pleased acknowledgement.' In the time I'd seen her, she rarely smiled like that. I could only hope me being in her presence could inspire such a smile.
The next strange thing that happened was that stopping to bring my attention to a tree we'd just passed by. Atop the tree was a lone leaf, a bit darker than the orangish-colored siblings surrounding it. It was pretty high up, and for some reason, she'd decided to take one of her gloves off to point it out to me. I'd already seen which leaf she was referring to, but the finger she pointed it out with drew my attention. The nail was long, had an intricate design to it, like a web shape, and one small crystalline jewel near the center. I saw that clear jewel glint at me, and a second later, the leaf had been blown out of the tree by the wind, and began its descent.
Nothing was said between us; the implications of her gestures were clear - 'look how interesting that falling leaf is.' I watched it and her nail follow it's path. At first I found it funny how the wind kept it at a steady pace, twisting and turning it, but guiding it straight down instead of letting it fly off in the distance like other leaves; it wasn't lost on me how the breeze hit it in the same rhythm that my date breathed.
It couldn't have been her finger directing the fall of the leaf, or so I thought. But it magically kept pace with her pointing. My eyes kept pace with the jewel more than the leaf falling. I wondered if it was supposed to look as if the jewel linchpinned the web together. Something about it was really, really compelling. Part of that had to be the light anesthetic feeling I got the longer I looked at it. It kept me pleasant and hazy, even a little drowsy. The leaf fell and got closer to us, the nail still directed my eyes to follow, and I felt a sinking feeling in my eyelids; not really heavy, but not allowing my eyes to be wide open.
The leaf was coming straight down on to us. I thought it would surely land on either one of our heads. I hoped it wasn't my head, as I had trouble dealing with growing sinking drowsiness, despite my rapt staring. The breeze could almost push me over to sleep, and maybe the leaf could tip me over. Not the best first-impression to make on a date, subtly expressing that she's boring and makes me want to take a nap. The brown leaf came between us and I saw her hand stop pointing and let it come to rest perfectly in her waiting hand; in that same moment, I saw her glove fall to the ground in my peripheral vision. I automatically knelt to reach down to get it, drowsiness and gravity helpfully assisting me. I reached sluggishly to pick it up and hand it to her, but she showed me the leaf, and cruxed her finger so I could see the special nail again. Not since she wordlessly pointed out the leaf did she finally resume speaking.
"Fall is a great season, probably my favorite. Everything about it so indicative of life to me. Like leaves, and people. The come in so many colors, and show themselves in so many colors. Life blows them in one direction or another, and in the end, everyone has this instinctive ability to fall. The leaf never knows how or why it might, nor will it know what hands it will fall into; it just knows that it must fall."
I didn't know where the conversation was going, but the head space I was in, that twilight point between being awake and asleep, I found myself nodding, as if to agree with her.
"You aren't the first man to drudge up enough courage to ask me out, nor the first one to suggest taking a walk. You all have your reasons for wanting to get close to me, and they've grown quite predictable. I don't wear a sign that suggests the toll to meeting my standards is quite high, nor do I wear anything to imply I have special ways of dealing with those who try and fail with me. But why should I have to give anyone warning? I would not think my standards are unreasonable of any woman. Respecting a woman, honoring one, should not be so difficult, but men regard women with such flippant disregard. Eventually, every man runs into a woman like me, who won't settle for the wrong reasons or motivations. If that woman has to be me, then so be it. It works out for other ladies in the long run."
"Approaching me for the wrong reasons, I could crush you if I wanted to. Your grades, your ambitions, your will and fortitude if I chose to do so." Her other fingers and hand slowly started to close around the leaf. I watched it fragily begin crunching under her pressure, and a feeling desperately warned me that she wasn't kidding, and more than you'd expect someone of her public stature to be able to do.
"Approaching me for more satisfactory reasons..." I watched through half-lidden eyes as she gripped the stem of the leaf, and ran her gloved finger over the length of the stem. Just watching her gave me a shiver up and down my spine, surprisingly not of fear.
"I did ask you if you were sure you wanted this experience. I did warn you things might not be as you'd expect, and now you might realize why, for however much your mind can comprehend at this point. When I snap my fingers, you're going to close your eyes and I'm going to have a talk with you, beneath your surface and at the core of your being. The "real" you as people would say. What I find there, pray that you measure up."
I was already on my knees, feeling like I was exalting my date, but I know she meant different. I just watched that nail move with the leaf still in-hand, and then it jolted as her fingers snapped and the world went dark, and I went deeper into myself. There was talking, I could only faintly hear, but I felt the bulk of the discussion.
My roommates were adamant about me seeing her, for various reasons. They warned me because they knew I was more romantic in my pursuits (a 'sucker' as they so eloquently put it), and they actually cared to see my heart not get broken. Well, less about it getting broken and afraid of the horror of the "bloodbath" she'd leave.
The romantic tendencies were pressed on in me, accentuated. My intentions with my date connected with them. I knew about her money, but that didn't impress me. Nor did her status. She seemed impressive to me as she seemed picky about guys she'd be seen in public with, and weren't like a lot of other girls she or I knew who always ended up with assholes, or really, setting for them. That plus her good looks and confidence got me to entertain the idea of asking her out, and later to go through with it.
If things went well, I could only imagine more opportunities to spend time with her, being the chivalrous gentleman to compliment the elegant lady, following her lead and making her happy. All of this assessing, or self-assessing gave me a compulsion to smile. I didn't know why, but I felt something good had happened, resembling the feeling of nailing a final.
I woke as a leaf flew onto my face and passed me. Embarrassed, trying not to stumble, I held her glove and presented it to her. Gracefully, she took it, and watched her still-nervous date rise to his feet. Her smile was infectious as it caused me to bear one of my own; I was glad she never brought up my sleeping in front of her, yet.
"Quite the cool day today," she mused.
"Yeah, I should've brought a heavier jacket, I guess."
"Well, next date I think we should spend in-doors."
It took me a few minutes to catch the implication that this date was going well enough to warrant a second. I didn't care if I was grinning like an idiot, as my heart swelled from just having her approval. A mischievous look in her eye took the present warmth and rose the temperature even higher, giving me high hopes of a magical future.
I looked at the landscape and realized that I enjoyed the fall season as much as she did.