by H.R. Beck
Story capturing the moment I met the girl who would ultimately change my life.
| “The Beginning; First Encounters”
I can remember when it began. I’ve always thought that odd; that I remember so clearly. I think maybe the subconscious knows when the conscious encounters the beginning of an epic story. Like a instant photo, the image is captured to be recalled later as a reminder of how far one has come.
I remember walking down the main hall where the office was located in my high school. I always favored the side of the wall where the offices were. Maybe they made me feel more secure or maybe I just happened to favor the right side of my body when walking that direction. I think it sticks out so clearly because I was still walking then. I still felt like a confident whole individual.
School had let out for the day. I’d been in the library trying to do my homework though I think it was more likely that I was screwing around on the computers or just killing time. I left because I knew my friend Will was still in the building and I was bored sitting alone. Though he was my best friend at the time, I noticed he’d persistently begun to hang out with other somewhat more...varied people. At this point of the afternoon, I figured he was sitting up at the front of the building just off the offices. There was a rounded curve in the wall where he sometimes liked to sit and chat with people. Like I said, I stuck to the right side of the wall walking towards the front exit doors. Because of the way the convergence of the hall was this also allowed me full few of the sunken in area where the glass windows and doors were. Most people sat on the left side I assume because there was a better view of the street and the camera that watched that part of the hall was slightly out of range.
There were a lot of regulars that stood on that side. Usually band students or those who were getting picked up right after school. This time of the afternoon however the only people that hung out in that part of the building were the people going home late, generally because they needed to take the activity bus or wait for a working parent. I knew Will was there because I could hear him talking before I tuned the corner. I had intended on going to see him directly but before I followed the curve of the wall to locate where he was sitting I caught the sight of a girl huddled against the bottom of the radiator near the windows.
At that time Cathrine was a quiet, darkly, irritable girl who preferred her own company over anyone else, so it seemed. I remember seeing her there huddled on the floor or leaning against the radiator several times before, but I think this occasion was the first time I really looked at her and saw Cathrine. I remember my mind stopping for a moment and though it was probably less then a few seconds I feel now as if I stopped and stared at her. I recall my first thought among a few being that of an observation. I noted to myself (I remember forming the very thought in my mind) that she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen (an odd thought for me at that time). By the same token I remember finding myself privately amused by her painfully inconspicuous stance. I thought to myself that there was a girl trying so hard to disappear and yet her discretion only made her all the more obvious. At least, to me. Then the thoughts were gone and I rejoined Will without further contemplation.
Sitting there in the front of the school became a sort of ritual for myself, Will, and his various acquaintances that floated in and out at any given time. We discussed everything from politics to personal problems to conspiracy theories. Cathrine remained ever at the radiator, sometimes doing homework and sometimes engulfed in her own thoughts. There were times I would look up and see her listening to us. As if she was interested in what was being talked about but was too withdrawn from others to engage herself. Other times, when it suited her, she would randomly join into what ever we were discussing. I liked listening to the bizarre, and at times, paranoid theories about the school and government systems she seemed to believe in. Most of the time I was so captivated by her belief and conviction that I could only nod and listen on even if I didn’t always agree to what was being said. I loved listening to her speak, it was entirely surreal and hypnotically addictive. I found her amusing in the sense that so many other people were intimidated by her to the point of avoidance, and yet when I looked at her I saw a masked sort of compassion. There was a soft brilliance that was kept carefully restrained and hidden from the average observer. Personally, I always thought Cathrine's eyes betrayed her. They gave away her feelings every time. A clear and precise contradiction to the outer image she presented. That’s why I couldn’t ever take her hardened combative cold exterior seriously. I remember wanting to know everything about this person, to understand her. She fascinated me like nothing I have yet encountered. However Cathrine had a amazing way of keeping herself just out of reach. For the most part she remained distant and vague and I tried to respected her apparent desire to remain separate by engaging her only when she engaged me first.
One day, sometime in December I was sitting against the curve of the the office wall that had become my new haunt, when an invitation was dropped into my lap by Cathrine. It was a birthday invitation and I recall being surprised that she had given one to me. At the time I had yet to count her among my friends and I assumed that she felt the same. Yet there I was being invited to a special event by a girl I felt I hardly knew beyond occasional conversation. In truth, I was touched that she would think to invite me. At that time I was used to being overlooked and I had never expected her interest in me to grow beyond casual acquaintances. Back then I wasn’t in the habit of getting involved in things out side of my small intimate circle of friends. However I think I saw the invitation as a foot in, so to speak. A test run of sorts that would either result in friendship or nothing at all. I again found myself eager to know this interesting person that seemed to consider me notable enough to include in her celebration.
To be clear, I have never been good at giving and receiving gifts. I have always found the process awkward because I either can’t figure out what to give someone or I don’t quite know how to react when receiving something from someone else. This event was no exception and so, not wanting to rush out and randomly pick some half hearted gift. I turned to my own belongings. I wanted to offer her something of myself, Something that she could keep and use. So I turned to my treasures and selectively picked out a delicate two strand necklace. It was of gold and what I assume was a dark silver or dark metal of some sort, intertwined together. It was an ironic choice, looking back. The symbolism would set the mood of our complex friendship from then on, though the pattern would not become evident until later on in our lives.
The party itself is a surreal blur in my mind so I wont attempt to describe it in descriptive detail however I do still have strong residual feelings about that night. There was a feeling of great and intense discovery as if I’d found something extremely important and amazingly precious that I hadn’t previously known to look for. Everything seemed to speed up and spin in a wild and frenzied motion that was exhilarating. I believe that was all it took to cement the beginnings of our friendship.
Upon reflection, the night was rushed in a sense. It was as if we were racing against some external force set to catch us on the sly. When it came down to Cathrine, there was never enough time and there was always a sense of danger. As if I was holding my breath for someone or something to take her from me. How was I to know what the future would bring.
And so, friends of sorts we began to be.