I saw her in a biology lab, walking across the room as I learnt about enzymes. The way her hair fell across her face and her top clung to her body caught me. I was always distracted when learning in science lessons. She became my distraction that lesson. I fell.
It was the week before Valentine's Day, and I spent hours making her tracklisting. I'd spoken to her once, the friend of a friend, and I'd gone instinctively quiet as I always am around new people. Nothing stopped me. She made my stomach leap and my heart fall. I wrote it. I rewrote it. I asked my friends' opinions. I said "Do you think she'll be freaked out?" They said maybe. They said it was kind of cute, but kind of OTT. Still I carried on.
I didn't make it in time for Valentine's. School was on holiday for the week after, and I planned. I made it once. Then I chucked it across the room and left it there as I started on mark II. Rewrite. Keep some songs. Chuck some others. Search my record collection for better songs. Play. Record.
It ended up looking like this (though it should be noted that she is the only person with the final list. The first side is entirely accurate, taken from an email I sent someone asking their opinion. The second half is taken from memory. One day, I'll get the listing off her.):
I carried it around in my pocket for days. I saw her and I fell again. I planned what to say. I practised my lines in the canteen at lunch with my friends. I was spot on. I walked down the corridor purposefully after my last class on a Wednesday afternoon, mind made up, then saw that she had a late class and wouldn't be let out any time soon. I went home.
Then a music trip and a biology trip, both on the same day - me music, her biology. I knew she'd been doing more than distracting me the first time I saw her. Our pianist was late. My best friend dared me. Of course I was going to do it.
I ran across the street, telling my conductor - who must've been scared that I'd go missing as well as the pianist - that I had to talk to someone. I tapped her on the shoulder. I asked if I could speak to her. She said of course and turned away from her friends. I told her that she could think I was crazy. I told her that I probably am. I told her that even though I knew I had no chance, I had to give her this tape.
I waited for an answer. She said thank you, and then she asked me why. I stuttered over the word "Because" for five seconds before blurting out "I like you." In hindsight, I would've said something else. Something like this - which I fell in love with the first time I read it two weeks later - changing the last words to "is why I'm giving you this tape."
The first time I saw you, my heart fell. The second time I saw you, my heart fell. The third time fourth time fifth time and every time since, my heart has fallen.
You are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. Your hair, your eyes, your lips, your body that you haven't grown into, the way you walk, smile, laugh, the way your cheeks drop when you're mad or upset, the way you drag your feet when you're tired. Every single thing about you is beautiful.
When I see you the World stops. It stops and all that exists for me is you and my eyes staring at you. There's nothing else. No noise, no other people, no thoughts or worries, no yesterday, no tomorrow. The World just stops, and it is a beautiful place, and there is only you. Just you, and my eyes staring at you.
When you're gone, the World starts again, and I don't like it as much. I can live in it, but I don't like it. I just walk around and wait to see you again and wait for it to stop again. I love it when it stops. It's the best fucking thing I've ever known or ever felt, the best thing, and that, beautiful Girl, is why I stare at you.
As it was, she looked a little surprised, but we kept talking. She told me I had good music taste, and we talked about bands. She told me she was cold, and if I hadn't had to run across the street again a minute later I would have offered her my jacket. She was as beautiful as I'd always seen her. And I got cold feet. I told her I should get back. She thanked me again. I walked back across the road, triumphant this time.
I knew I'd never have her. She told my friend, her friend, that she liked the tape. Now, she says hi, and every time I see her, my heart falls.
Excerpt used: James Frey. A Million Little Pieces. London: John Murray, 2004.
Update on 11 August 2004 for anybody interested: After months of "hi"s, I remembered her saying, when I gave her the mix tape, that she'd like to see the Pixies. My gig buddy is skint, I got the girl's number off a mutual friend, and she's coming to see them with me in nine days' time. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.