As hard as he tried not to, Devon had a tendency to miche whenever Paula came round. Her curly raven hair, her bubbly laughter, the way she smiled with her eyes… everything about her seemed to steal his thoughts right out of his head.
Every evening he would go for a quiet walk before going back to his room and sitting down at his desk to eat a takeout dinner. He would ponder all the things he should’ve said when Paula was so kind to say good morning before class started, or ask him how he was adjusting to university life.
Instead of giving an intelligible answer to her direct queries, he would often stare blankly, excuse himself and relocate to a safe area that was outside Paula’s gravitational pull. It was only after he was some distance away that his thoughts would begin to return to him, coherent and grounded in reality.
He mentally chastised himself, as he kicked patches of grass in the university gardens.
Why didn’t he ever speak?!
He figured his sudden disappearances couldn’t be that noticeable.
He was wrong.
As Devon was sitting on a stone bench in the shade, Paula quietly and quickly walked up to him and sat down.
“Devon, what is your name,”she asked, startling him away from his book.
“Uh…Devon…but you know that,” he said confused.
A large smile crossed Paula’s face.
“Good,” she said, “now we’re having an actual conversation.”
She was right.
Devon sat stunned by the fact that he had actually communicated a full thought to Paula.
“Don’t stop,” she said. “Don’t crawl back into your head, just be here.”
Devon felt heat flush his cheeks, realizing how observant Paula had been for the last three months.
“What book are you reading?”
Devon started to think about how unexpected the moment was, but realized he was mentally drifting like an unanchored ship in the tide.
“It’s a book about the history of jazz,” he said handing it to her.
“I love jazz music,” she said, surprise on her face. “I’m actually obsessed with Coltrane–I don’t worship him or anything, but I love his sound and depth.”
“Really?!” Devon was shocked. He had never thought he had anything in common with Paula other than a few random classes.
“I actually have a few albums of his on vinyl,” he said. “If you’re ever interested in hearing them… I can let you borrow them.”
“That would be great…” Paula said with exuberance. “I’d love to listen to them with you, though, and get your take on Coltrane’s style…if you ever have the time.”
“I have the time,” Devon accidentally yelled. “I mean… I would like that, yes…I would like that.”
The bubbly laughter that Devon loved so much poured out of Paula. It was contagious and spread to him as they sat on the stone bench, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
When their laughter died down Devon realized he enjoyed sitting in silence with Paula as she flipped through the small book, just as much as sitting and laughing with her.
Today being present and out of his head seemed to be doing him some good.