The sunset beams in a kind of aqueous way this time of year, hitting the house and slowly dripping down the walls. And the earlier-than-usual glow of late August's pre-dusk has a kind of sad Technicolor movie hue to it. The living room can look like it's front row to a dimming sun's last gasp with its filtered orange tint. It's another thing that keeps Welnot inside most summer evenings, how nice the evening looks from the comfort of a shapeless and coil-spring protruding couch.
Most of the evening he's been thinking of what he's going to say to Alex Stuart when they're both at the party tomorrow night, having avoided him for a few days since he left the house post pre-roommate meeting. He's thinking it may be time to let some of his resentment go, now that he's gone beyond any rational person and collected a duffle bag full of polaroids of Alex from the last few months in various reputation-damaging scenarios.
What Myles and Trevor have in common is that the people they feel so connected to are totally incognizant to the intense connection. Those schoolboy crushes are weird, parasocial relationships. There's the Person of Interest at one end, unaware of their subject-in-residence status in the mind of the hopeful lovelorn, immune to the same perpetual palpitations and denim-sheathed boners of Excaliburian thew the admirer endures. Then there's the other, the hopeless romantic, pining away and losing the best of their years wondering why this person won't be with them.
How does someone to get this point? It's all textbook infatuation kind of stuff: X meets Y. X is of a certain level of attractiveness based on proportions, two clean, defined lines and angle symmetry that makes it an unmistakable X and not some awkward phoenician k. X also possesses a friendly disposition and a stock level of politeness in conversation that they grant Y just as they would anyone else. Y is rarely treated so wonderfully by anyone let alone an X like that, is floored that a consonant so uncommon gave them the time of day and is convinced that X is their soulmate but X just doesn't know it yet.
The crushed-upon person gets to a point where no misstep would rattle the beholder's estimation of them. This is because the person in the devotee's head—the saccharine takeoff of this real-life existing guy or girl—is what's on their mind, moreso than the actual real person triggering this longing. The crushing can go on for weeks, months or years before the person is even aware of it. The pair-forming stage of a courtship is completed by the crush's rosy and deified mental image of this person they actually have little contact with in the real world.
This is why, if there was ever any time in the history of man approaching woman, or woman approaching man or any of the possible variations on the set, that the pickup line "Are you tired? Because you've been et cetera et cetera" was less a degenerate's attempt at a pickup and some truthful admission of their obsession with the P.O.I. it would so perfectly detail the unilateral nature of the romantic crush. The unfortunate subject of this infatuation would maybe take the comment confusedly and respond with "No, I'm not tired, because I have not been walking around your head all day. That wasn't me, you must have me mixed up with someone who likes to stroll around you all day long. Sorry, have a nice day though, Trevor." In a rational world, this person, depending on their level commitment to the crush, would put a ceasefire on their salvo of affections and let it be. Because they'd realize that person was correct, what Trevor was probably interested in was a totally non-existent person, some made-up version of Leland; a Leland that was as over the moon for Trevor as he was for her, one that walks around with him, shares her life with him. So the person would hopefully let go of the mawkish pestering, persuading and daydreaming and move on, and the answer to "why can't I be with this person?" would be answered simply with "because that person doesn't exist."
But Trevor hasn't had any clarity on the situation yet, and not taking anything Alex Stuart told him to heart, plans on letting Leland know she's been in his head wearing nothing but his fleece Northern Getaway pullover for weeks now.
The Leland that Trevor hardly knows at all.
The Leland that sat on the back porch that evening, shielded from the world-ending sunset, listening to the whirring of insects that crackled like windblown sparks.
The Leland that was allergic to fleece.
The new chapter of Half-heard is published in The Coast—newspaper version—every Thursday. One week later it is published here online. So it's easy to catch up online, but best to stay ahead in print.
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