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psychology of social mirroring

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Abed smells of watermelon lip balm. Troy notices one day, when they lean over his desk, reaching for a worksheet being passed around.

That's probably a weird thing to notice. He didn't mean to, though, it just sort of happened.

It's a nice smell. Soft and summery. It makes Troy's mouth water.

And suddenly Troy wants the same lip balm more than he wants a football scholarship or four day weekends. His dad offers to drop him at the mall, and he jumps at the chance. He spends the bulk of the afternoon scouring every cosmetics store for that lip balm. He says it's for his girlfriend, the one he doesn't actually have. He doesn't find it.

He wears strawberry lip balm to school on Monday. No one notices, but it still feels special. Not quite right. But special.

Abed's growing out their hair. It falls in front of their eyes, sometimes, when they look down at their desk. It looks so silky. Troy wants to tuck it behind their ear, run his thumb down the line of their jaw.

Their hair types are too dissimilar to ask Abed which products they use. Even super smooth King Troy can't figure out how to ask that without seeming weird.

He fiddles with his own hair through class, mesmerized by the subtle waves beside him. Part of him, a usually well hidden part, pretends the hair between his fingers is Abed's. It's enough to distract him for most of the period.

The bell interrupts his daydreaming. He tuned out half the class. This cannot be helping his grades. He can't seem to make himself mind.

Abed wears an earring to school. It's small, just a clipped on gold loop that they take on and off throughout math, pinching and releasing their earlobe. It glints under the harsh classroom fluorescents, constantly catching Troy's eye.

He thinks it looks cool. Like a pirate. His teammates seem to have a different opinion. They always do. They say Abed wears it on the wrong ear, the gay ear.

Troy looks up which ear the gay one is after school. The right one. The one Abed wears the loop on. He wonders if Abed knows. He wonders what it means if they do.

They don't wear the earring again. Troy feels like mourning.

Abed's nails glitter. Short, sparkly, and lavender, they drop a paper onto Troy's desk and he freezes. Abed raps their nails twice against the fake wood and moves on to the next desk.

He watches them go, watches them pass the past week's quizzes back, nails winking back at him.

Watching their nails transitions to watching their fingers, which dance across their desk throughout the period, long and lanky and never still. Troy tries to come up with an apt metaphor, but all he ends up with is jellyfish in a current.

Whatever they remind him of, desire curls up in his stomach.

At Home Depot, he lingers in the paint aisle. His dad thinks he's looking to repaint his room, but he spends thirty minutes trying to find that same pale lavender. He hides the paint swatch in the bottom of his sock drawer.

It's kind of fun to have a secret.

It's kind of fun to be hopelessly devoted to Abed Nadir.