YOU see him first in a record store in the middle of L.A., snagging the last Pink Floyd LP from its confines in the wooden compartment, secure; safe; unused; unplayed. It's 2021. Records are few and far between these days. You're both fourteen, born way after these times, and no one expects you to know what records and record players are, much less how to use one.
Your Victrola sits on your desk, waiting to be played. Just as you are, with the exception of needing anyone to play, instead of just one person. Always and forever: just one.
Him. You don't even know his name. You will, soon.
THE next time you see him, you're going into your second year of high school, turning sixteen just before the beginning of the year. He looks the same, even with the curve of youth in his now lean body gone. Those big, dark, liquid brown eyes. Level on yours. Lovely. So lovely. Older, ancient, like he's seen a thousand, a million, a billion years, and managed to survive them all.
He notices you staring from across the supermarket. (How romantic, baby powder, you think, but it's swept away in the sheer intensity of him, his eyes. Of him) Across the aisle. His eyes don't stay their mysterious, breathtaking brown for very long. They drown themselves in black, black velvet, as satiny smooth as you're so very sure his touch against your skin will be (desire desire desire desire) (him him him him).
His gaze is heady, like a brand against your flesh, burning holes everywhere, even where it doesn't touch.
But you aren't ready yet. So, you flee, leaving him behind.
(I love you, you think, immediately regretting it. You don't know him.) (Yet)
THE next, you're just getting into college, on the other side of the country, no longer a child, not yet ready for the world, but getting there, no longer unsure, inexperienced.
He's in every one of your classes, (how is he here, I left I left I left) and you're five years old, all over again, confused and terrified with everything (terrified) (everything). Every single one.
The end of whatever this is between you looms in the back of your mind. Once he reaches you,your heart will no longer be in a singular hold. It will be a shared space, filled by him. You know it will. You've known since you were fourteen, even when you didn't. The signs are there. You're perfect together (for each other. God)
But, for now, you push through the waters of his ocean of feeling, emotions like tides. In and out. In and out.
In and out.
THE next you see of him, when he sees you, (you can't count just looking as seeing. You do that all the time. He hasn't looked back. It only counts when he does. Then, and only then, do you see him. When he looks back) you're graduating, caps and gowns and giddy laughter. You've grown used to his face, his body. The way his lips pull upwards when he smiles, the flutter of his hands when he's nervous. How, when he doesn't like someone, he touches his hair, runs his hand through it, tousling and threading it on end. (He never touches his hair around you. It makes you so very nervous.) There's a birthmark under his left ear, and you've imagined running the pads of your fingers over it more times than you remember. You know him better than anyone, even yourself, and, despite this, you haven't met his eyes since the beginning of college. Now that you are, everything ceases to matter. The breath freezes in your lungs.
THE next time you see him, you give in. You let him pull you under, drowning you in his embrace, (he's an ocean: inescapable) eyes like milk chocolate, warm and sweet, just the same as when you were sixteen, still getting used to the word "desire".
His body (shoulders, your favorite. Why exactly, you will never understand) feels right under your palms. His heart is yours as much as yours is his. And, finally, finally, you learn his name.