It was right in the middle of my first real conversation with Josh that I noticed the zit on the right side of my nose. It was as though it grew there instantaneously.
Just minutes before I had been standing in the sun. Flirting and enjoying myself.
Then, from the corner of my eye I could see the bright red splotch. First I thought there was something on my face (there was, but I thought it was a bug or a splash of ketchup from lunch or something equally mortifying, yet wipeable). So I tried casually brushing it away.
Not going anywhere.
Of course, I had to maintain some composure. I couldn't just look. I mean, apart from the obvious reasons, I couldn't just go cross-eyed in the middle of the conversation to gawk at it.
But there it was, the stoplight to all dating possibilities blinking at me from the edge of my peripheral vision.
Was it even possible that it had just appeared so quickly that Josh hadn't seen it? Perhaps he was currently so engaged in our clever verbal dance that he failed to notice the middle of my face.
It could happen.
I tried to remain calm.
I cocked my head to the right, hoping the good side of my nose would obscure his view of the blemish, and with a slight hair flourish, I used the new angle to appear as though I was looking coyly at him.
"Jeez, are you okay?" he asked.
"Uh. Neck cramp," I blurted and rubbed at the phantom pain.
"Oh," he said. "When did that happen?"
About thirty seconds ago.
"Old dance injury," I said.
"Comes and goes," I added.
Josh studied me for a minute as though he was trying to work out what had just changed. Yes, I had gone from a normal person to a weirdo in six-point-two seconds.
In face, he cocked his head and began looking at me though the corner of his eyes—the difference between us being that he actually looked adorable doing it.
"You sure you're okay?" he asked again with a slight smile, as though unsure whether I was being an idiot on purpose or if he should be in on a joke.
"Oh yeah. No biggie. So ... what were you saying about the dance?" I tried steering him back to the part of the conversation I had been enjoying.
"Right. Yeah. Well, just that I've got this killer paper to finish for chemistry before I can even think about going." Josh looked down at his watch. He wore it backwards, so that the dial was on the inside of his wrist. It was another one of those quirky things about him that made him so—"Speaking of which, I'm going to be late for class. Hey, it was nice talking to you. Seeyaround."
Crap. I'd been staring at him. Staring. Like an idiot. My mind raced to catch up. "Yeah. Yes! See you later." And then before my mind had caught up, my mouth got desperate and I heard it saying, "I do my homework on this very bench every Tuesday. After class. About this time." But I said it too fast and too late because he was already walking away.
My mind was going to slap me across the mouth when it caught up.
I rolled my eyes as he turned a corner and out of view.
And I caught sight of the zit on my face again.
He had seen it. And if he hadn't, my own stupidity would have driven him away.
I closed my left eye and looked in, crossways, with my right, to ogle the huge cranberry-like profusion exploding from my nose. I was hideous.
I began rummaging through my book bag. Surely I had some back-up face powder or something.
But after some digging all I came up with was an almost empty box of TicTacs and three gnarly looking gummy bears.
Who was I kidding? There wasn't enough make-up on the planet to cover this. What I needed was a small tent.
Who cares? Besides, its not like I have to go to every dance at college. It was still my first year. I would know a lot more people next year. Just through some mathematical odds process I was bound to go to a dance at some point with someone. Right?
I sat down to read and to forget my misery. But the volcano kept poking up into view. After a while I achieved some sense of peace by closing my right eye and reading with my left. But since I wasn't wearing my contacts, I had to squint the one good eye to get the words into focus.
That was the lovely face I was making when I noticed Josh standing in front of me again.
I looked up, right eye closed tight, left eye squinting, red nose glowing. And there he was.
"Josh!" I cocked my head to the side so fast I think I gave myself whiplash. "Ow."
"They cancelled class," he said. "Still got that kink, huh?"
"Yeah," I said, and found myself rubbing the opposite side of my neck that I had last time.
"Let's see if we can't fix that up for you. Scoot up."
I sat forward on the backless bench and he came around behind me and began to rub my neck and shoulders.
What?! How could this possibly have worked out in my favor like this?
Little squeal inside. Mental text to BFF: Holy crap! Josh is touching me!
Finally an answer to my problem: a faceless, yet brilliantly stimulating hands-on conversation. (He was definitely stimulating. I should try to be brilliant. But best not to talk and screw it up.)
Josh cleared his throat. "Hey, if I did finish my paper, would you be interested in going to the dance a little late?"
Total geeky dance throw down on the inside.
On the outside: "Yes. I'd love to."
See? I can be normal. And calm. And normal.
I just hope there's enough makeup in the store to fix me up by Saturday night.
Or I may have to wear a neck brace.
But then I'd have no excuse to not look directly at him.
Mental note: Text BFF to find an excuse to wear an eye patch.
Still, if it weren't for this zit, he might not be rubbing my shoulders right now.
Thanks, little zit.