Peels of Romance

I went out to eat dinner with my friend yesterday. We planned to catch up with each other’s lives, sort of check in with one another.

As we ordered our ramen, we began small talk — how’s school? Lots of papers to write? Any plans for the weekend?

We always inched our way slowly into the deeper parts of our conversations. This was our way of comfort. It matched our personalities, too. We were both the type to never dive right in, but instead took extra measures to naturally flow into the more substantive, juicier, harder parts. Timid, but also somewhat assertive. My friend, however, more so than I, always added one more layer of protection before opening up, one more peel of onion left to her defense.

But today, I felt like she showed me herself in her most uncooked form — no more barriers, no more peels. She created room for me to share with her the most embarrassing and painful emotions. She wasn’t left to her own devices anymore. She tampered her ego, and in doing so, she became completely vulnerable.

My friend, a studious and upright person, always focused more on academics than anything else. She wasn’t concerned about any other worldly things — gossip, parties, romance.

That’s why to my surprise, she mentioned a special someone who she had been holding dear to, a boy who managed to steal her heart.

As her cheeks turned red, she kept saying, “Ah, this is so embarrassing.”

She would usually stop there, not taking the effort to continue the story. Today she did.

I listened as she told me about how she had never felt so fluttery before. It was the first time she would think incessantly about a person. The first time she grew jealous watching him with other girls.

She was feeling all these things which was perfectly fine for a college freshman to be experiencing, and yet to her it was odd. Contrary to her past.

“It’s the first time,” She said over and over again.

And like all first times, she didn’t know how to make of these amorous sentiments. They meant something to her, for sure, but she didn’t know how to interpret them. She was thinking too hard. Approaching the situation as if it was a math proof. Too formulaic. Too methodic. Not enough feeling.

I probed her. I asked her a little too much, but she answered and she told me more.

The little things, she said, were what struck a chord in her. She constantly became attracted to his small gestures, gentleman-like manners, considerate reactions, and uplifting words. He called her name so intimately, or at least they appeared to sound so to her ears. He always seemed to know the right thing to say at the right time.

“He’s a soft boy,” I said. “He’s a keeper.”

“If I can keep him, that is,” She replied.

“You’re going to try, right?” I asked.

“No,” She answered.

The problem was the more she became interested in this boy, the more she grew insecure about herself. She couldn’t help but compare herself to all the other girls. She felt inferior, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not good enough.

That’s why she didn’t want to pursue anything further. She didn’t want to hurt.

“I’m too selfish,” She said.

“No, you’re too scared.”

She didn’t care though. She’ll continue to remain as a shadow in his presence, but that was enough for her.

Her purpose — it was sad, but beautiful.

She wasn’t going to fix herself. She treasured herself too much.

Once again, she began to add layers of peels, sheathing her inner conflict from the world.