You couldn't have asked for a better day to watch a football game, though I suppose you could ask for a much better day to play football. It was about 80 degrees, and the sun was shining brightly.
I'd paid $15 for my ticket to the game, and I was sitting in the temporary stands at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium. I found my seat pretty quickly, and then went down to the front in order to find my brother in the mass of uniformed band members out on the turf. My parents were easy to spot, over in the corner of the stadium, snapping pictures and waving madly at me and my brother.
I stood for a while, watching things go on down on the field. I'd been at Purdue most of the morning, and had been watching the band practice and play a short concert before heading over to the stadium. As I scanned the field, I realized that my seat was in full view of one of the dance-squads. The girls were wearing black outfits, halter-tops and pants that fluted out at the bottom, and carrying pom-poms of black and gold.
Recalling an earlier instruction to the band's flag corps ("Girls, pick out one guy in the audience and make and hold eye-contact with him for the whole show. He could be your future husband!"), I started wondering if this held true for other performers down on the field. So I started watching these girls whenever the band wasn't playing.
For a while, the girls would just bounce around and cheer randomly, and I just tried to make eye-contact, to see what would happen. Finally, I caught the eye of one girl on the end (or else she caught my eye, I'm not sure), and I settled in to watch her specifically.
She had very light brown hair, probably highlighted, that bordered on blonde. Her hair was done up in a nearly culry, but more wavy manner, and it fell to somehwere between her shoulders and shoulder blades. She had a broad, but not unsightly smile, and her blue eyes sparkled with vigor and a bit of playfulness.
I watched her for a while, until they had finished their routine, and then I went back to watching the band, where my brother was playing again. As the band marched, he would fade in and out of view, and my gaze would drift back to the girl on the field.
Her gaze was also drifting back to me occasionally.
She was standing with two other girls from the squad, and they noticed me noticing her fairly quickly. They didn't pay this much attention, though, until they noticed her noticing me back. Then they started to tease her a bit, I suspect, because she turned a bright red and started blushing like crazy.
They started to cheer and dance again, and her eyes were back to being locked onto mine. Most of the time, I tend to get embarassed when I am caught looking, but I pushed through that feeling and started to be amused by the game.
When the dancing stopped, the other two girls looked up at me, and laughed out loud. They said something to the first girl, who seemed to quietly agree, which brought out a few more giggles.
Suddenly, to my right, I heard someone say, "Mom, there's Emma! Look at her, she looks good! She's ripped!" This was followed by a shout of "Emma!"
And I had her name.
I couldn't help but wonder, as she looked almost startled at the sound of her name, if I wasn't supposed to hear that. I wasn't totally sure yet if I was cute or creepy to her, but I was hoping for cute.
Emma waved at the people standing next to me, who (though selective eavesdropping) I discovered were her family. Then another dance routine started up again, and here eyes went back to me.
By this time, it was nearly kickoff, so I took this chance to head back to my seat. By the time I reached it, I was sure I'd have been lost in the crowd to her, but I was surprised to see her eyes still on mine when I turned around. Apparently, she'd watched me retreat into the stands. Once their number ended, she leaned over to one of the other girls and made a quick point in my direction and they giggled a bit more.
The football game began, and I watched Purdue start to systematically dismantle Syracuse. Every so often, I would glance down to the sidelines, and I would catch Emma's eyes flicking away, or locking onto mine. Occasionally, her friends would look up at me and laugh a bit more.
I watched my brother march from the sidelines during half-time, and occasionally glanced over at her, and again I either caught her looking away quickly, or centering on me during a dance routine.
This went on all through the game, and after the game, I headed down to the sidelines to await my parents. I'd leaned back against the wall of the stadium, watching the band do its postgame show, and I heard a voice to my left.
"Hi, I'm Emma."
I was a bit surprised, but I turned, smiling. "Hey," I said to the girl next to me. "You guys were good out there."
"Thanks," she said, pushing back her hair. "You seemed to enjoy it."
"Well, before the game, I heard the band leader tell the flags to pick a guy out of the audience. I just thought I'd make it easy for you if you guys had the same instructions."
She blushed a bit. "Actually, we did."
I grinned. "Thought you might. So what's up?"
"I just saw you looking and thought I'd come say 'Hi.' You were looking at me, right?"
"Yeah, I was. Like I said, you looked good. Do you often come talk to your marks?" I asked.
She blushed a bit deeper. "No, not usually. But then, no one's ever been quite that interested in my performance. Do you have season tickets?"
"No, but I'll be back for the Ohio State game," I paused for a moment. "I'm an OSU student, actually."
"Ah, the enemy," she smiled. It was a rather pretty smile.
I grinned right back. "Yes, you could say that. My brother's in the band, though, so I came to watch him. He doesn't like OSU much, either."
"I see. You're 'with the band.' Well," she said, "I guess it could be worse. Could be Notre Dame."
"I think that's an insult," I said, grinning a bit more.
"Maybe a bit," she replied. "Look, I have to run. The girls are headed out, and I think you want to see your brother play. It was nice chatting with you." And she turned to leave.
"Hang on." I pulled out a card and wrote my email address down on it. "Drop me a line sometime." Anticipating a look of horror, I quickly added, "You sound like a neat person, and I'd like to get to know you a bit better. No pressure, it's up to you. I'm not interested in anything else."
She took the card. "'K. Talk to you later, then. Or see you at the OSU game."
And she went off into the late afternoon sun.