Originally written for Thought Catalog: Paper Airplanes
I want to see you, on a balcony across the way, and throw a paper airplane to get your attention.
I want our love to begin with your best set of binoculars.
I want to be ready for you.
You have a story to tell, I can see it. Yesterday I went out and bought my own set of binoculars, just so I could see you better. I watch you pull back the red curtains in your window, watch the sun wash over your body, watch the corners of your mouth turn up and then you lower the binoculars.
You look shy. Kick imaginary rocks around with your feet. Blush. From the sun. From the heat. From my gaze. You look like chewing caramel to a jazz ballad. You look like the beat slowed way down. I bet you smell good. I think you’re on the 20th floor. I tried to count exactly but I kept losing track.
Draw the binoculars back up to your eyes. This time it’s me lowering mine. I’m nervous. I squint from the glare of the setting sun off your building. A smile spreads across my face like a flood, the movements uncontrollable. I’m awash with uncertainty. I giggle. Look away, down and to the left, but raise my arm, my right hand, and offer a gentle wave. And then I look back, and see you, without binoculars, waving. Big sweeping motions. Like you’re acting out a silent movie. I want to be in black and white with you.
I blink. I breathe. Something catches my eye and you’re gone. I grab the binoculars and whip them up to eye level. I search for a Lion on the Safari. I seek a bird in flight. I look for the last piece of cookie dough in the cookie dough ice cream. But you’re gone. I close my drapes, the night feels heavy. I tell no one. This is not my secret to share.
Morning comes. Drapes are opened. And there, across the way, something catches my eye. Big. White. A sign. Nestled in between those red curtains is a sign for me. You’ve thrown a message in a bottle. You’ve put your hand in the wet cement. You wrote Dave was here inside the desk of your first year college dorm. My knees get weak.
Where did you go? It says. I’m sorry I left, I thought you knew I would come back. Your smile is more beautiful than my heart can stand. Come back tonight, at 10pm. David.
I can’t think straight. But I have a life and it must go on. The day happens, things get done, time does not stop for me. I go out and buy big white poster boards and colorful felt markers. Evening comes and I peek out of my window. I stand off to the side. Shy. Not ready yet. But I wonder if you’re there. You are not. I remind myself you said 10pm and spend the next two hours acting like I’m getting ready for a date. I clean up my apartment, I shower, I do my hair and makeup. I try not to think myself insane. I write my name in Red.
At 10pm I open my curtains, it feels like opening night, and there you are. Sitting. Waiting. You jump up in excitement and I know that you see me. I hold up my poster. Show you my name. I’m watching through binoculars. You clap your hands, your mouth opens to form an O and then a smile. You hold up a hand that looks like STOP! but I know really means wait. I kick myself for not knowing this last night. That I should wait.
I can see you scribbling furiously, bent over a table to your left. I can see into your apartment. It’s very nice. And I’m instantly glad I took the time to clean mine up as you can probably see everything. I think about my apartment, imagine what it says about me, wonder if you’ll think me juvenile for the IKEAness of it all. Wonder if you think it looks like doll furniture. Wonder if you would judge me. Decide that you wouldn’t.
I look back at your apartment. And wonder what kind of man has red curtains. Floor to ceiling, rich and deep, your curtains are the centre of a cherry, the place where flesh meets pit. I wonder if we’ll ever meet. I look down at the street and think it could be that easy. Two elevator rides, two swinging doors, two strangers on the ground. But it feels right to stay here; to write our story in signs, to write ourselves pending in poster boards. I’m not ready yet.
And then you’re back, and holding up your sign.
I want you to know it says and after a few seconds you fling it behind you to reveal the next poster.
That you’re doing just fine. And then you lower the boards and just look at me. The sun is going down. Dusk is hovering. The night waits in the wings.
I quickly turn to my own table laden with paper and markers.
Dave? I write. How do you know??? Hold up the signs for you to see.
Again you turn to write something and then come back to show me.
Because the board says and then you reach into the back pocket of your jeans and bring out what looks like a piece of folded up paper. You open it up and place it flat against the glass with your palm. It reminds me of Good Will Hunting. I can hear Matt Damon say, how do you like them apples? I’m not yet certain I know what this is. And then you begin to fold it up, you make it into a paper airplane, and make airplane flying motions with it until you’re sure I recognize what it is. You put it down and pick up more signs.
You hold up the because message one more time. This time a second message follows.
It’s enough that you want to.
My stomach flips. My heart fills. My head spins.
I remember the paper airplane. I remember the day I threw it, months ago. On a Wednesday in December I stood on a balcony covered in snow and looked down at a city blanketed in white and I threw my hopes and dreams in the shape of a paper airplane.
I just want to make you smile. That’s what I’d written inside.
He must have found it. Must have kept it. All this time. How did he know it came from me? Had he been watching that day, when I had thrown it? Had he been watching other days? Had he run down to get it? How did he find it? And then of course, why?
He watched with his binoculars as I slowly put it all together. And then he wrote one final message.
I want to be the person who makes you laugh.