By Evelyn Kennedy Jaffe
He’s lying next to me and my chin is resting on his shoulder when I have the urge to tell him that he has pretty eyes—and he does, they’re rich brown and I want to keep looking at them for as long as physically possible—but something makes me pause. A familiar sensation is flooding my body. You know that feeling when you like someone a lot for a long time, and at last, you get to be alone with them, to be close to them, to see tiny details of their face? Your heart pounds in your throat and behind your eyes. You feel painfully aware of the fact that you have limbs that exist. You know the exact distance between your hand and theirs. The places where their body touches yours are incredibly warm and seem to have way more nerve endings than they’re supposed to.
And everything feels so formative. The part of me that runs through meadows for fun has already laid a silk bookmark on this page—the beginning of a romance, the first steps towards falling in love. So everything I do and I say must be the perfect amount of smooth and classy and cool.
So like the hero in a romance novel, I gaze lovingly into his eyes and spit out, “Soup eyes lookin’ ass,” referencing this tweet. I know he knows the joke I’m making, but it still takes a second too long for his mouth to split into a wide grin and laugh. His laugh makes me feel like I’ve won something. It’s like the bell dinging on a game show to indicate the correct answer. He pulls me closer and cups my face in his hands. We’ve both said, “I’m so nervous” about a hundred times so far this evening, and I know that he’s wondering the same things I am—is this overstepping? Is this really your skin under my fingertips?
“I was gonna say what your eyes reminded me of, but it’s weird,” he smiles. When he smiles it makes me want to squish his face into oblivion. Or tattoo it on the inside of my eyelids. I needle him, tell him that it couldn’t possibly be weirder than soup and that nothing he says could be weird. With his face lit up so warmly like this, I’d listen to anything he says, for as long as he wants to talk. It’s the kind of warmth that makes you completely oblivious to everything else as long as it’s just the two of you. Or that makes you want to write pages of poorly-composed poetry, or live like you’re in a rom-com. I usually hate rom-coms, and the perfectly staged moments make me want to gag. But with my face in his hands, I’ve swallowed any bile the cheesiness caused.
Finally, he caves, and he turns to me and mutters that my eyes remind him of Trimeresurus insularis. “What in the world is that?” I ask. And he tells me it’s a snake. It’s a white-lipped island pit viper that’s oddly bright blue and lives mostly on Komodo Island.
If I’m being honest, I’m only a passive fan of snakes. It’s like they exist, and I exist, and if I see one, I’m like, “Oh cool, a snake.” I certainly don’t seek them out. But I swear this was the best compliment anyone’s ever paid me. And I demand that he tells me everything about this specific snake. And I make sure to hold him close and kiss his nose and all that sappy stuff. Because never in a million years did I think I’d be falling in love with someone who told me my eyes looked like a snake’s.
But here I am, lying next to him on my little twin bed. And I’ve fallen in love so recently, but this time is different—every time has been so different. But that feeling is always there- the mutual nervousness, the moments I want to preserve in amber, the heart racing in my throat.
The way I see it, falling in love is sort of like reading one of those cheesy rom-coms. The story might be really short or several movies long, and it might be a comedy or have a coming-of-age subplot. It might be full of twists and turns or wholly predictable. But each film still sends butterflies swarming through your gut when you watch it for the first time. And when you rewatch it years later, you’ll see the ghosts of the moments you shared and old feelings will squirm in your stomach.