His lips curled in disgust as the page finished loading and her pictures came into view.

In high school he thought she looked cute and innocent, features which were accentuated by her short height. Or perhaps it was her height that made her look cute and innocent in the first place? Whatever the case, cute and innocent was how she had appeared to his eye and mind, and for the next year or two when he was infatuated with her he believed that girls that were cute, innocent and, of course, short, were of his type.

In the pictures he was looking at right now, she seemed anything but cute and innocent. The clothes she was clad in – shorts, miniskirts, small dresses, tight tops – were the kind that easily drew his eyes and mind to the lovely strangers who wore them when he was bored or unfocused, but seeing them on her he felt not attraction but repulsion.

She looks kind of slutty now, he thought. Those clothes just take away her cuteness and innocence. Especially her innocence. She’s trying to look sexy now and I guess that’s working in a way but it just seems kind of distasteful to me. I feel kind of nauseous looking at her.

They were terrible thoughts, he knew, and he also knew that if people knew they would be disgusted by him just as he was disgusted by her right now. But it wasn’t like they’d know or that she’d know, so he decided that it was alright for him to not give a damn about that.

As he put the page to rest, he thought he felt like a former devotee who decided to look upon the beautiful statue of his former beloved deity, only to find it inexplicably altered beyond recognition in the months since he last laid eyes on it, and the alterations had brought not beauty but ugliness, even if the opposite had been intended.

And like that former devotee he would let out a heavy sigh and say, “Does it matter to me?” And they would both let out another sigh and knew that it did, for while they were now disinterested in what they had once centered their lives around they were still enamoured with its image, and to see that image receive undesirable change soured both of their hearts.

After a quiet pause, he sighed again and wondered if his comparison was suitable and if the concerned parties would find it offensive in some way.

Well, the girl probably might. Probably. Maybe? Whatever.

***

He decided to share this with a friend a few months later when they met up at a mall in the afternoon. When he had finished speaking, he received a nod of sympathy.

“The same thing happened with my old crush,” his friend told him sadly. “The pictures of her I’ve seen lately, she looks so different. In a bad way.” It was now his turn to nod in sympathy as his friend elaborated, and in the end they both sighed and lamented the current appearances of their respective former crushes.

Later, as they sat on a bench outside the entrance of the mall, drinking a can of beer each, he said, “Oh well, it doesn’t really matter anymore. She was a stranger who became a friend and a crush, and later she became a mere acquaintance, then a face I knew, then a stranger with a familiar face, and now she’s just someone who looks a bit like somehow I once knew and liked.” He took a sip. He enjoyed a glass of Heineken occasionally, but anything else – even this can of Heineken he was drinking right now – was not to his taste. Still, he drank.

“I don’t think I really care anymore,” he continued. “I don’t feel quite as disappointed or disgusted when I see those pictures of hers nowadays. In fact, sometimes I think she looks pretty darn attractive in them. When I’m not thinking of who she is, at least.”

It was a few hours later, when his friend had left and he was alone in the bookstore, that she appeared. She did not appear as a glimpse in the corner of his eye, or as a figure reading a book with its back facing him, or as a somewhat familiar face among unfamiliar faces. He had returned a magazine he was flipping through back to its rightful place, turned around, and there she appeared, right in front of him. He didn’t know it was her until he had looked down of course, and as he did so she looked up at him, and their eyes met.

Next: Part 2