10 Seconds by Kaitsurinu
Chapter 1 basic expressions
I am determined to make Duo fall in love with me. I have recently discovered that one can do so to another in only ten seconds, if they wish, and I have not been able to think of anything else since.
It was study period when I made the discovery. The rest of the class is generously spaced apart, in their respective groups, at the circular tables filling the boarding school library, while Duo and I are sequestered in our own little corner, alone. The most difficult thing for him in these places has always been obeying school schedules under the pretense of actually being an enrolled student, and he has his head buried in his arms on the table, sleeping. I sit across from him, awake, watching him for a spell. Assignments and homework and an algebra book lay stacked before me, untouched. Duo's pile is spilled over the floor carelessly at his feet.
I simply watch his back gently rise and fall until intellectual boredom sets in. Then I rise from the table, and walk quietly into the towering bookshelves, each replete with old, musty books and newly tattered ones. I run my eyes over each spine without care. The titles flow into my consciousness as quickly as they flow back out, a memory instantly tossed aside as another comes into focus. I know not how long I do this, for Duo sleeps throughout, until I find myself in the human biology section, amused by the colorful titles there. But among the rest, one spine protrudes into the corridor, instantly drawing my eyes. Drawn, I pick it up.
It is a publication dedicated entirely to the human face. For some reason, I am riveted enough by just the cover not to immediately put it back. I have no intention of actually taking any books from the library shelves, but I take this one. I open it and curiosity induces me to flip the first few pages, soon confronted by the image of beautiful woman's face in close-up, green eyes gazing up at me with temptation. I find myself flipping the next; an old man with a painted face greets me opposite that.
A young Indian girl bedecked in jewels, eyes rimmed in blue and pink, gazing shyly at the camera. Identical twin girls in innocent straw hats. A dark woman in a white shirt; a pale man in a black one. A black and white horror still, a woman's face contorted in a scream. A young boy begrudgingly crying.
I do not realize that I have sunk back into an old reading chair sitting across from me, dusty from years of remaining unused. I read on, about the first creatures to have a pair of eyes, the darker nature of male skin, the Golden Mean, the complex mesh of muscles taken to produce a smile, the basic expressions possessed by every human being—fear, anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, surprise and contempt. Entranced by the color of each different face presented and fed by the information, I sit there in silence, forgetting time and reality, thinking about anything but how I am a soldier between missions, falsely enrolled as Odin Hito.
I read on, continuing to a passage about the 'conscious smile'.
'We all have a natural smile, the basic and universally recognized expression of happiness. When happy, we make this expression whether or not anyone else is around. Of course, in everyday life we also put on conscious smile. These are smiles that are not natural expressions of happiness, but are for purposed of communication. They help to smooth the path of social interaction. Sometimes they are used to hid natural expressions, which would give away too much of how we are really feeling.'
That's when I lift my head and look at Duo. He sleeps at the table, face buried away in his arms from the overhead lights, motionless. Even as I force my eyes on the text again and continue, I think of him. I read of the genuine smile of true happiness and enjoyment, the Duchenne smile, and think of him. I think of him, replaying the shape of his mouth, and trying to remember just how his eyes looked. I become increasingly curious to know which Duo uses around me—the contrived or the real.
I read on for pages, though, to try and concentrate on something other than him. And I manage this, until I pass a large, fuzzy, black and white photograph of three young children, smiling happily as they huddle close for the camera. On the next page, I begin to read the next segment, entitled 'Eye-to-Eye'.
'In normal conversation, the periods of eye contact are very short…'
I see in my mind's eye Duo's glancing at me we sit in last hour, as I say something offhandedly about the inferiority of the professor, and he agrees with a nod and a smiling word.
'We glance up at one another for brief periods of about three seconds, but will hold one another's gaze for only a second or two—any longer makes the speaker and the looker feel nervous…'
I see Duo's face as he walks into the dorm room, our eyes meeting, something to others otherwise mundane, but for us charged with information. We are both fighting the same secret and terrible war, and our gazes remain for a fragment longer than natural rhythm dictates. Duo looks away first, and begins talking haphazardly about our cramped room, and I glance down to the glowing laptop screen.
'Prolonged eye-to-eye contact of more than ten seconds indicates that one of two things are about to happen—the two people are preparing to fight, or make love!'
I almost see Duo, chest bare, lips parted, his hair unwinding around his face, coming closer to me, a hand raised to hold my cheek—but it is not real. But still feel my heart rate leap and blood flood when I look over at him.
I'm electrified for the rest of the day.