In winter, Jessica and Dave's paths crossed silently but frequently. At the Italian sausage shop. On campus. At bus stops, clubs and bars. At the gym, as Jessica worked out with free weights in the far corner where there were no mirrors. Dave found her plain-faced, with a broad rump that spread out when she leaned over. Yet he counted on her presence as time passed; he coordinated his workouts to match hers.

"So why, seriously, do you just look at me twenty times a week and never say anything?" she asked him one Saturday when she walked past him sitting on a bench outside the workout center. Dave looked around. He didn't want to be embarrassed.

Jessica sat down beside Dave with her bottle of water and spread a towel across her lap so she could lean her elbows on it. "If you don't want to say anything, why do you keep looking?" Dave liked Jessica's eyes more than he had expected. She had thin lips and long hair pulled into a loose ponytail. She was a little younger than he was. A dull pang rattled around in Dave's stomach. Jessica took a swig of water but didn't look away. He answered the question with his name. She said hers. They exchanged a sweaty handshake and their hands held until Jessica broke the grasp to rub her nose, which she did violently, like a bee was stinging it.

"Sorry," she said. "That probably looked weird."

Dave looked at Jessica's nails, chewed to the nub. When he looked back at Jessica face she had a small smile and her eyes were dull but kind. She regarded him in a certain way.

They engaged in small talk, exchanging majors (this time, he was Architecture) and very brief life histories, laughing at dumb things, stating the obvious, dancing around the connection. Dave panicked just as he spoke each time, for fear of silence. Jessica scared him. He found his way through a few more lines before he wrapped up the conversation and rose to leave. Jessica said she wanted to give him her phone number. As Jessica ran to the equipment desk to borrow a pen and a sticky note, Dave watched as the desk attendant, a tall pimply-faced girl with a perm, who almost seemed to be baring her teeth. Jessica jogged back to Dave, pressed the number into his hand and said goodbye, turning for the locker room. She turned back.

"I like movies," she said, backpedaling. "Anything, really." Dave watched her go too far down the hallway and turn into the pool entrance. He scattered before she came back through the door and saw him standing there.

Driving home, Dave's thoughts of Jessica troubled him. He couldn't picture her sexually. He tried to, putting her in lingerie, in leather, on top, in a chair, in some short summer dress, all glammed up. It didn't work. He thought mainly about her face and the way she spoke, how her words had been soft but precise. She seemed nervous, but she wasn't creepy, like some lonely girls Dave knew who showed up at work or hung around asking to do the laundry the morning after. But his stomach had a dull pang. He didn't like it. He knew what it meant.

Dave avoided his normal Jessica routes and gained five more pounds he didn't need. He nearly expected her to look up his name in the university phone book and call, but he knew better.

He returned the gym a month later, and a week after that, he made his way down the stairs toward the exit when he saw Jessica ascending toward him, feverishly looking down. But as they crossed, she looked up at him while he stared straight ahead, and she lost her balance, clapping the stairs with her hands. She was back on her feet by the time Dave turned around.

"Hey," Jessica said.

"Yeah," Dave said. As she walked again, the pang returned. Start this over, he told himself. By then Jessica saw him staring. He saw her cheeks, flushed.

"What!" she said.