“To be honest,” he said in a low voice, “I saw you outside the dining hall that first night we met. Then when I realized we had study hour together, I was pumped. I thought you were a freshman, and you took my breath away. Not only were you stunning, but I saw the way you consoled your friend in the courtyard. Don’t panic or any shit like that; I’m not some crazy stalker. I just liked the way you looked and acted, that’s all. After chatting with you for a quick second, I decided I’d never met someone tough and sweet like you. Yeah, I was turned on, but also interested or something like that. Where I come from, people are either tough or nice, but not both.” “Seems to me that you’re both,” I interjected, my kind words coming out of left field. I bit my tongue, silencing myself, and continued to listen quietly, finally raising my gaze to meet his.
“I wanted to get to know you, but I was nervous and made a stupid joke about your name.” Taking a deep breath, he seemed to gather his courage. “Look, I’m just a dude from the streets with a bad Jersey accent and a pretty good jump shot. I get where you’re at . . . you don’t want any part of a brother like me. But that’s not me. I’m not just some guy who plays ball. I’m a decent person.”
Looking up into his pale blue eyes, so amazing with their openness and vulnerability, I felt my protective barrier shift. His warmth chipped away at my outer layer of ice, melting it away as I admitted, “I was just being overly sensitive about my name.”
“Either way,” he said, “I don’t know anything ’bout your past, and quite frankly, I don’t care now that you told me. We all got secrets and history, so you’re not scaring me off with your sordid shit. But I get you don’t want anything to do with the likes of me, all young and ghetto, but I’m twenty and probably seen more than you ever did.”
“It’s not that,” I started to say when...