I stand on the steps of St. Anthony's Cathedral, dressed in suit and tie, talking to my Cousin's bride just before the wedding. The bride rumbles as she speaks, gown and veil and hair exploding from her body. Behind her, down the sidewalk, a boy walks toward the church, although the church isn't his destination. He continues to walk, striding quickly, eyes, nose and cap facing the sunset. Then he brings his eyes toward the steps, the brick arches, the wood doors, past the bride. He sees me; looks at my face and eyes. The boy would be attractive in a few years; he's actually rather attractive now. He can't be more than twelve or thirteen, lanky, small and childish, and he keeps looking at me, one locked stare. I bring my eyes to the bride, wondering if my eye contact entices him to stare at me, defending himself from domination, winning the stare-off. I continue listening to her; the bills, Aunt Hannett never comes, the photographer's late; but the gaze, steady and forcefully, remains on me, on the side of my head. He slows down. He walks. He watches me. Now I turn to him, his gaze holds for another moment before he faces the sidewalk again, eyebrows relaxed in a straight line. His walk stays slow, unsure now, tense, fists clenched by his waist. He continues on; the bride's monologue hums in my ear.
I'd stared like that at thirteen, at boys in the locker room, boys on the soccer field, boys at theme parks and restaurants and malls and at school. They never noticed me, never glanced back. They weren't intimidated by that thirteen year old pair of eyes focused on them. I'd lived in my own hidden place that no one cared about. I'd never encountered someone on church steps talking with a bride.