I stared at her for the entire ride, and by the end of it I had decided that I loved her. It was a transitory love, lasting scarcely longer than the dozen reluctant steps from the bus to the school doors, but in that exercise I realized that I could love anyone - absolutely anyone - if I stared at them long enough.
I practiced this for several days, on increasingly unattractive and physically awkward girls. I sat and watched the social dregs of junior high with the razor focus of a sharpshooter, keeping an imperfect mental catalog of the ones I had already fallen in love with.
As with most things at that age, the newness began subsiding and my attentions fell back upon actual, genuine palpitations of the heart, most of which were engendered in me by the dashingly cheerful and beautiful Jennifer Tedeschi, a girl who was in nearly every way the opposite of the spotted gargoyles and leaky, asymmetrical ballerinas that had been the targets of my pre-pubescent anthropological curiosity. Though my ability to 'stare out the lovely' in people still exists, its current manifestation is barbed, rusted over with years of unmet expectations and cynicism and quarter-life angst. The small fluttery frissions that Jennifer gave me almost every day from grades three through twelve were infinitely more powerful than the ones I extracted from the inner-beauty school dropouts of Upper Merion, and even though I was young and didn't know the meaning of the word, I sensed how contrived it all was.
Ultimately, Jennifer never realized that she was meant for me and me and only me, and I resigned myself to a life of seeking a lovely that didn't need to be stared out. A through and through who would give me childlike frissions and absurd neurotic lovesickness and dizzying emotional turbulence to rival that which, ostensibly, only seems to occur in junior high.
And then, of course, when I found her in college I managed quite efficiently to fuck the entire thing up.