I don’t understand football players. I don’t understand the need to have your body bashed by some other guy while you throw a ball around. I like musicians. Wiry guys with long hair and haunted eyes. Eyes that make you want to search their depths. Not eyes that tell you something. Not eyes that say, I know who I am and I like it, and I know who you are—I see you, and you cannot hide.
Baylor is getting closer. Close enough to see the way his thighs flex and shift beneath his faded jeans with every step. Close enough to see the flat slab of his belly, apparent even though his t-shirt is loose around his waist and tight across his chest. That shirt, Army green with white lettering asking, How many licks does it take? Instantly, I want to know. I imagine wrapping my fingers around him and applying myself to the test.
Okay, that’s enough. I let my eyes drop, deliberately. You’re not bothering me in any way. See? I have appraised you and moved on. Looking over my class notes is more interesting. By far.
He slides into the desk next to mine, and his long legs stretch out into the aisle. I feel his gaze on me, watching, waiting for an acknowledgment.
He’s sat next to me since that first disastrous day of class. And because I am as much of a lemming as everyone else when it comes to picking my seat, I remain where I am. It would be one thing if this were a large lecture hall, built to hold three hundred students. No one would notice a shift in seating. But those rooms are reserved for freshman classes. Like a cattle round up, they pack in starry-eyed eighteen year-olds and see who guts it out.
But this is History of Philosophy 401. A specialized class filled with mostly juniors, seniors, and a few grad students, all of whom are either majoring in history or padding their final semesters with advanced classes.
To move would be to admit my weakness.
Professor Lambert enters, and class begins. I don’t even know what she’s talking about, I’m so distracted. My neck hurts from straining not to turn my head and look at Baylor. It’s a lost cause, I know. But I try my hardest to hold out for as long as I can. Have I mentioned that I’m screwed?
FOUR WEEKS INTO the semester and I still get the cold shoulder from Miss Jones. At this point, I’ve lost all game and have no idea how to get it back. I wish I could figure Anna out like I can football.
Football has always come easy for me. Don’t get me wrong, I work my ass off to keep in top condition. What free time I have between practice and classes goes to working out or studying. I ignore physical pain and mental exhaustion on a constant basis.
But when it comes to the game? Effortless. Gripping the ball fills me with power. During a game, I don’t fear the three hundred pound linebacker trying to take me out. I control my pocket, see paths, openings, opportunities. I talk to the ball and it listens, going where I want it to go more often than not. If no opportunity presents itself, I find one, running the ball, avoiding the hit, until I can make a play. It’s that simple.
And it’s f**king fantastic. The roar of the crowds, the victories, they’re addictive. But never as addictive as the need to do it all again, throw that perfect pass, trick the defense with a brilliant handoff or pass fake. Because I can always do better. So, yeah, football is my joy. And I know how lucky I am to have found it, that I have the talent to be one of the best. If there was one thing my parents hammered into me, it was to appreciate what I have.
All of which makes Anna Jones’s disdain more irritating. She thinks I’m vain, a meathead. I should stay clear of her. There are tons of women who want to get to know me—kind of goes with the territory.
I still don’t even know what it is about her that gets to me. She is pretty, luscious even, with the classic looks of a vintage pin-up girl. Heart-shaped face, a pert little nose, dark red curls that tumble around her shoulders. But she isn’t my usual type. Normally I prefer a girl who doesn’t look at me as though I’m a hair that snuck into her salad.
So why can’t I get Jones out of my head? All I can see these days are her eyes glaring at me, not giving a shit about the glossy veneer of my fame—hating it, in fact. And it turns me on.
So here I am, slouched in my seat, watching her arms wave and her sweet br**sts bounce as she discusses philosophy’s impact on society.
“Take Descartes,” she’s saying. “His move from trying to explain the ‘why’ of a question to observing the ‘how,’ helped forge modern scientific method. In antiquity, philosophers changed our world by constantly questioning the status quo.”
Because I want her to acknowledge me, I speak up. “I agree.”
Anna’s dark green eyes cut into me with one glare. Then, as if she realizes that glaring at me means an acknowledgement, she reins it in and gives me her profile, facing forward once more.
She clearly doesn’t like it when I take her side. Hell, she doesn’t like it when I join any conversation she’s involved in. It’s like I insult her just by speaking. Which pisses me off and makes me want to do it some more.
“Take his argument on dualism, that the mind not only controls the body but that the body can control the mind.” I find myself grinning, watching Anna’s tension rise, as I lower my voice, directing it toward her. “That one’s passions can overtake rational thought and prompt them to act in irrational ways.”
Anna’s focus stays on Professor Lambert, but beneath her desk, her legs cross then uncross. Clearly, I’ve made an impression on her. Good. Now we’re even.
“Is there a point to your mentioning dualism, Mr. Baylor?” Professor Lambert asks, her wry tone pulling my attention back to her and the class. Shit, what was I saying?