She was the most amazing girl I had ever never really known.
Her name was Agatha (as I came to learn years later), and she went to the same school I did from grade five all the way up to graduation. You could always easily pick her out of the crowd of other students. How could you not notice the girl who always had her head shoved into a book? How could you miss the girl who managed to weave in and out of the current of students with the ease of a graceful ballerina without ever having to lift her eyes from the pages of her novels?
Not once did she ever bump into another person or object lining the halls. Always just barely missing anything that happened to step into her path with impossible ease. Ducking, shifting, and sliding across the polished flooring, all the while her face remained hidden behind thick hardcovered books. Her attention fully captivated by the stories written across those captivating pages.
Yet interestingly enough, most didn’t know her name. But say you were looking for the girl with her head stuck in a book? And suddenly everyone knew who you were talking about. Personally, I always found it funny. We lived in such a small town, and yes, many students and workers lived in the other nearby towns, but I always found it interesting that though everyone knew the girl, nobody actually knew her.
When she was not dancing through the halls (and not in class), one could find her surrounded by high piles of books at the back of the library. If you sat nearby and waited long enough (well, more than a few minutes), you’d see one well-manicured hand reaching up and pulling down a book, while the other set one atop a different pile. Or, if you were lucky, you’d get a quick glimpse of the top of her red-haired head peaking out from behind the stacks.
But not once, in all the years of seeing her, had I ever seen Agatha’s face in person. Sure, I’d seen it once or twice in the school yearbook, but I’d always found it so strange that I had never seen it in real life. I mean, I sat two desks behind her in three different classes, and yet I’d never seen her face? How?
It became my mission to see her face, unobscured by her books. Just once, i wanted to see this girl who everyone simultaneously did and did not know.
Yet, no matter how many classes we shared, no matter how many times I pushed through the crowds, I never achieved my goal. I never saw the color of her eyes shine under sunlight or the shape her mouth would form when she smiled or laughed.
School, home-life, and just life in general slowly consumed every spare second I used to spend chasing Agatha, until I just accepted that I would never get to really see Agatha. Never know the sound of her voice. Never to know what she might say in a given situation. It would probably be something really smart though. How could she not be when she spent so much time living in the words written by long-dead men and women?
I gave up seeking Agatha, but that didn’t mean I didn’t treasure every glimpse of her in the halls, every minor piece of gossip. I never stopped wanting to talk to her. Just a “Hello” would have been enough.
Then graduation came. I stumbled though it with my eyes always facing forward. Catching glimpses out the corner of my eye of that achingly familiar waterfall of shimmering red hair. Until one of my friends pointed out the lack of a book covering her face. It was only then that I realized, Oh yeah. They wouldn’t have allowed her to hide behind a book at graduation.
Before I could think, I was chasing after her again. Throwing my shoulder against the door she just stepped through, and bursting outside. Just as Agatha was about to unlock her car. And then…
And then she turned around to face me.
The most amazing girl I had ever known, was a red-haired, green-eyed girl who walked the halls of my school with her face always hidden by a book. Everyone knew her, even when they really didn’t. She was the girl who walked around without ever looking up from her books. Who danced around obstacles with an impossible ease, and spent her free-time surrounded by towers of novels in the back of the school library. Her name was Agatha.
And she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Even if I had only seen her face once. Had only heard the beautiful bell-like quality of her voice for one night. That graduation night I called out to the girl — no, woman — I had watched and ran after for years, and she spoke back.
We exchanged only a handful of words, simple meaningless words. Words you spoke to people you barely knew anything about, but those words held a special place in my heart. I had loved Agatha from afar, but as she drove home, away from me, I realized I didn’t really love her. How could I? I didn’t know her after all.
But… I think I loved her anyway. Even though I never saw her again. That bookworm girl. She taught me something anyway, even if we had never really interacted. Even if she would never know what she had done for me. I thanked her anyway.
Next time I saw someone I wanted to know, I didn’t wait. I chased after them and even if I failed to catch them, I treasured the knowledge that I had tried. That when I really wanted something, I was unafraid to reach out for it. Even when it resulted in little reward for me.