He put out his hand to stop her. All he grabbed was air. She had whipped by, leaving in her wake, the strong scent of vanilla and that closet smell that was particular to her. He had once spent an entire afternoon inside that closet, rather than going to the university to work on his thesis. She had found him there when she pulled aside her dresses to reach for her least worn blouse that warmed the back of the closet. Her face had folded into an ‘o’ of utter surprise but she had remained silent, gesturing only for him to exit the closet. They had never spoken of that incident and, now, when he had gathered all his courage to say a word to her, she had swept right by him. He was invisible to her, he felt. The pain of that acknowledgement cut into his forehead, releasing a tremendous headache that was helped along by the tears pooling in his eyes. Strangers looking on may have surmised that he was drunk as he weaved from side to side, annoyed at himself for failing to stop her, upset with her for leaving that beautiful smell in the air around his head. Clouds of vanilla seemed to congregate around his head, chiming at him, mocking words that he could not decipher. He knew that they were mocking words because now everybody was staring at him, and the words seemed to be written on all their faces. Mocking. He failed to realize the sight he presented. Tears streamed down his face, his eyes as red as a blood spurt, his mouth twisted in silent agony and his body starting to fold over into itself. He pulled at his hair, the woolly mass that he had failed to comb for the last 87 days since he had met her. He folded onto the ground, missing his chair by millimeters. All he knew was that she was gone and he had failed to stop her. His failure was like a tattoo branded onto his forehead. Someone peered over him and asked if he was okay. His voice failed to appear, and he closed his eyes so that he could stare into the redness of his lids and wish away the concerned voice that was repeatedly asking if he needed a doctor. As he lay there on the classroom floor, he began to imagine where she had disappeared to. He imagined that his invisibility to her was his own fault. Voiceless in front of her, but courageously jotting down his thoughts of her and letting himself into her private space when she was absent, he thought he had made an impression on her. But it appeared that he had not. He had reached out to stop her. To tell her that she should not venture out to coffee with that glib male specimen that had grabbed her elbow after the class meeting and steered her away from him. He had reached out to stop her. To make her see that he was alive and should be considered. The rhythmic thud of his heart pounding against his ribs seemed to worsen his headache. And it seemed that there were more voices around him now. His heart was beating faster than it ever had before, and suddenly, he was being lifted and placed gingerly on what seemed like a pedestal. Funny, he thought, I had placed her on a pedestal but she still did not see me. He lifted his hand to try and pry his eyes open but a strong grip held him down. His eyelids fluttered open weakly and he was looking into the bluest sky. And he was moving. His hands held down by a band of some sort, and the voices were fading away. His head lolled to the right side and his heart almost jumped out of his skin. He saw her looking at him, the glib male specimen behind her. He saw her looking at him, and he saw her eyes widen. As the blood rushed out of his head, and he faded into blackness, he smiled.
The paramedics pushed him, on the stretcher, into the waiting university ambulance and one cheerfully announced to the crowd, ‘Nothing to see here folks…just an overworked graduate student…’
All he remembered was that she looked at him. And saw him.