Lonely & Looking

There’s a couple across from me. A couple couple, like boyfriend-and-girlfriend couple. She has thick black hair and blue eyes, and wears a lot of mascara. His hair’s curly, and he’s tall and has an almost-beard. They don’t notice me, but I notice them right away.

I like watching them. They have a good relationship, I can tell. He’s touching her hand and she’s laughing. He whispers something in her ear; she looks at him with an adoring smile. I wonder what it feels like to be her, in a lacy crop top and jean shorts, all beautiful and loved and perfect. I try to sit the way she does—on the grass, legs crossed at the ankles, propped up on her elbows. Then I try to put my hair like hers, over one shoulder. I stick out my lips to mimic her puffy ones. A part of me hopes that he—the boyfriend, the man who keeps leaning down and kissing her and telling her nice things—will turn and see me, and then come join me instead.

But he doesn’t.

My mom hovers around me at the grocery store. She’s talking about what we need to buy but I’m not paying attention. I keep seeing couples, everywhere, and guys who make my cheeks go red and my eyes fall instinctively to the ground. I can’t look at them, can’t talk to them. I stay to myself, swirling around to avoid others, a background extra in their life stories. Is it weird to want so badly to be noticed, and yet make such an effort to turn invisible?

Mom’s still talking. “Let’s see . . . pasta sauce. We need a can of sauce. Can you grab that?”

I nod and head off in a daze. As I stumble down the aisles, I see a girl—not much older than me—holding hands with her boyfriend. He has piercings and a hat on. He seems cool. He probably likes vinyl music and foreign films. I bet if we were a couple, him and I, he’d show me all sorts of things.

I don’t even look at the girlfriend, because it’ll just depress me, and frustrate me, and I’ll start doing that comparing thing (which I hate to do and which I don’t feel good about, for the record). I dart away from them quickly, to a different aisle—the candy section. Oh no. What if someone sees me? Buying candy for myself? Not that I really am, of course, but that’s how it’ll look . . .

. . . though, I suppose buying pasta sauce isn’t much better.

I leave the candy aisle and aimlessly wander around the store some more. I shouldn’t have worn this outfit—leggings and a plaid shirt. The shirt’s too big on me and makes me look fat. I bought it only because I’d seen this girl, with her boyfriend, wearing a plaid shirt, but hers was unbuttoned and she had a green crop top underneath. She’d looked so cool. I thought if I had one, I could look like her, but I completely forgot the fact that I can’t wear crop tops (my stomach isn’t flat enough—yet). So now I just look big.

It’s silly, I guess, and stupid, and all kinds of things. I don’t even know why I want a boyfriend so badly. Or even if I do want one in the first place. I guess I mostly just want the attention that comes with it. I like the idea of having someone, an actual real-live guy no less, kissing me and telling me how pretty I am, and going to movies with, and watching foreign films or listening to vinyl or whatever it is that cool guys do. And that’s what a boyfriend does, so that must be what I want.

Oh, and he should be exciting, too. Someone who’ll take my hand and start dragging me off on an adventure. Someone who’ll enter my life suddenly and make it better, take me far away from this place and to somewhere—


My mom. She comes walking toward me at a brisk pace. “Did you get it?”

“Oh, uh, I was about to . . . I guess I got lost.” I lift and drop my shoulders just a little. (A shrug with less effort.)

She scrunches her eyebrows together. “You know this store backwards and forwards. How could you’ve gotten lost?”

“I don’t know. It happens.” I’m almost whispering now. There’s people everywhere. Single guys. Pretty groups of girls—friends, real, proper friends. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the couple again, the cool guy and his girlfriend. I start to sweat, but I’m not sure if it’s from the stupid, too-big plaid shirt or my nerves. It’s so embarrassing, to be shopping with my mother still, when all the other girls my age are with friends or boyfriends.

“Something wrong, Shana?”

“Nothing. I’ll go find the sauce,” I mumble, and I slink away, hoping again to turn invisible.