Word Count 500
By Sam McManus
She is awkward without being awkward, that perfect combination of teenage angst when it meets
middle age and realizes it has to adjust to survive. I know all about; I was her ten years ago,
before it was fashionable to be awkward, back when a unique personality was superfluous, when
all the extras in the world couldn’t make up for being a social pariah. But she is popular in a way
I never was, a dragonfly among butterflies. She stands just so, in stark contrast to how I stood
there ten years ago, and I want to strangle her she’s so beautiful.
I try to put her out of my mind, even though I see her every day, even though I long for her in
ways that would make a schoolboy blush, if I placed those words down, pen to paper. I would
never use pencil; she’s far too permanent for that. Instead of her curling brunette tresses, I focus
on the space between us, both the physical and the chronological, both the material and the
immaterial. I make my lists, I check them thrice, and I see no way we could ever be together,
even in this age of appropriation, when we take what we want because we want it. But I could
never be like that. She has a sweet fragility that cannot be duplicated, and I don’t want to ruin
So I pine in secret. I sit at my desk, in my cubicle, and I watch her from afar. I cross my legs at
the ankles, demure as I’ve been taught to be, and I sigh into my coffee cup, because there is no
use, because I can’t admit to myself that I’m in love with the thought of her. In her I see so many
bits and pieces of myself I thought were lost forever, but there is a special spark too, a beautiful
danger I never had. Could she see that, too, if I stood before her, my soul nakedly bare, my heart
beating soundly in my hands?
The water fountain is so far from my desk, but I need to drink, to sate my tremendous thirst, to
do something else with my hands besides this nervous wringing. When I’m around her I am
young again in ways I never was when I was young, in ways that drive me to the brink of a
wanton desire I didn’t think I possessed. I stand up, my hands damp with sweat, my mind racing
“I never thought you could move so fast,” she says. I look up, and she is there, perfect in her
imperfections, a smile kissing her lips.
“I can when I’m motivated,” I reply, my throat suddenly so much more parched than it was
before. I can’t take my eyes off her.
“Then maybe you should be motivated more often,” she says, and continues on her way to the
copy room. Which is, of course, the only motivation I need.