As a freshman in at Northern Arizona University, Isaac struggled to find importance in his life. The guitar club was full of losers who just wanted to use music for sex, and Isaac refused to associate with people he felt didn’t take music seriously. His degree in English wasn’t a burden, but it gave him nothing to look forward to. So whenever he felt the need to search for that importance in his life, for whatever would make him feel like he was worth something, he would go outside, sit under his favorite tree by the Liberal Arts building and strum his guitar softly while the sun fell behind the mountains. People would watch, and he was aware, but he always assumed they were just watching because it’s not something they see every day. Not so much paying attention as they were noticing that something was different. He would even leave his guitar case open, sometimes, just to see who would actually throw any change in there. He considered himself lucky if he even made a dollar.
He got carried away, one afternoon. He was strumming a verse of his favorite Say Anything song, “Do Better,” and he started singing some of the lyrics, his voice soft but not lacking in emotion. He was in the middle of one of the verses when he looked up and saw a green-eyed, dark-haired man wearing a brown leather jacket standing over him, with a black backpack slung over one shoulder. The last pluck of the guitar was extra hard, caused by being startled, his eyes widened as if Tyler just saw him naked.
“I’m so sorry,” said Tyler. “You were just so into it. I couldn’t help but watch.”
“I guess I just don’t assume anyone’s watching,” Isaac replied, still tense, still trying to decide if he needed to justify what happened.
“Well they should. The world needs more beautiful faces.”
Tyler’s brow furrowed, and he looked up at the tree, as if avoiding Isaac’s flushed face.
“Did I really say that? I meant ‘voices.’”
Isaac smiled. He smiled bigger than he ever remembered smiling. Tyler glanced back down at him with his head still facing the top of the tree, his own smile widening, as if he was realizing his own victory.
“Just curious, though,” Tyler began. “Why assume that no one is watching?”
Isaac shrugged. He’d never really thought about it, but he knew that’s not what Tyler wanted to hear.
“Easier, that way,” he said. “I wanna be good at it, but if I assume I’m good enough to be watched, and it doesn’t happen, then I won’t have to be disappointed.”
Tyler pointed to the spot next to Isaac, and Isaac nodded. Tyler sat next to him, his legs crossed and his backpack in his lap, his eyes on Isaac and his smile still apparent. Isaac was working so hard to untie the knots forming in his stomach. He’d never been caught
so off-guard by men before, but Tyler did everything right to break down the shell
that Isaac constructed. All Tyler had to do was smile,make a cheesy attempt at flirting, and compliment his musical talent to turn Isaac’s shell to dust.
“Well I’m just a stranger, so maybe my opinion isn’t what you’re looking for” said Tyler. “But you’re better than ‘good enough.’ Way better.”
Isaac tried not to show that he was blushing, but it only made it more apparent. Tyler was good at it, and he knew it. The smile in return, that smile that said “look at me, I’m handsome and I can make you smile just by saying words” said everything Isaac needed to hear.
“Thank you,” said Isaac. “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that.”
“All in a day’s work,” said Tyler. “Now uh, if you don’t mind me asking, can I hear that one line again? The one I so rudely interrupted.”
He found the importance in his life, and all it took was that handsome man asking him to sing one of his favorite songs.