Nicole Zelniker

Ocean Eyes

Your date has been sending you covert glances and “fuck me” eyes all night, but you only have eyes for Jordan. He’s dancing with Kira, the only skill among the drunkenly swaying bodies at the bar Kira chose for your double date. You’ve been to this particular bar many times. It’s one of your favorites to go to with your friends. You like it fine, particularly the brick aesthetic and the live music. It’s very Brooklyn, whatever that means.

It’s Kira’s third date with Jordan, your first time meeting Jordan and his friend. The friend is pretty, with auburn hair hanging over her shoulders in short waves and a smattering of freckles across her wine-flushed cheeks. Normally you would have no problem taking her home except that Jordan is there, and Jordan is, well, Jordan.

You never would have agreed to a double date except that Kira came home one night three days ago with the brilliant idea and you never could say no to Kira, even when you were children. So here you are, pining for the man holding your best friend and roommate in his arms while your own date is –

“You’re gay, aren’t you?” Your date is beside you at the bar, fingers twisting the straw in her pale yellow drink.

“I’m sorry?” You must have misheard her.

“I’ve been watching you all night.” She nods at Jordan. “And you’ve been watching him.”

You’re bisexual, actually, and openly so, but it’s an easy out. You let her think she’s clever. “Kira doesn’t know,” you say. You add a pained note to your voice and think maybe you should have gone into acting.

She smiles sadly and you feel bad for lying, but it’s better than the alternative. “Good luck,” she says. She pats you on the arm and disappears into the crowd.

Kira takes her place. “Is Ingrid ok?”

Ingrid! That’s her name. “I think she’s just seen someone she knows,” you say. It’s a lie that will fall apart as soon as Kira talks to Ingrid for more than five minutes, but it’s the first thing you can think to say, so you do.

Kira nods. “What are you drinking?” she asks. You tell her and she orders one. You don’t see Jordan anywhere. You excuse yourself to get some air.

Outside, Jordan is leaning against the brick bar wall, cigarette smoke unfurling between his fingers. His eyes widen when you step out into the cool night air. “Hi,” he says.

“Hi.” At least neither of you are feeling particularly articulate. He holds out the cigarette to you and you take a drag. It’s not your thing, but you used to smoke on occasion in college and manage not to cough immediately. “Are you alright?” you say.

He shrugs. “Needed a break,” he says. “How do you like Ingrid?” She’s Jordan’s friend from college, Kira’s friend from knowing Jordan.

“She’s nice,” you say.


You laugh nervously. “I fear I might’ve chased her off.”

Jordan pins you with his stare and you can’t help but notice how sharp his eyes are. They’re blue-green and clear, like the ocean, except that you’ve always been a little bit afraid of the ocean. Come to think of it, you’re a little bit afraid of Jordan, but you find you wouldn’t mind drowning in his eyes anyway. “Now why would you do that?” Jordan murmurs. You shrug this time and Jordan takes a final drag of his cigarette before stomping it out under his shoe. “Your roommate … She’s also very nice.”

“Oh.” You bite your bottom lip and wait for him to go on.

“I wish I felt something. I might have, before tonight. But.” He locks eyes with you again and you’re not sure who closes the distance between you. He tastes like mint and cigarette smoke and a fruity drink you can’t quite place. You wrap your arms around his waist and he shivers and you smile against his lips.

You’re hungover the next morning, and when you join Kira for breakfast in your shared kitchen, you make straight for the coffee. “You’re welcome,” Kira says, sipping from her own mug.

You join her at the table and try to ignore the small, steady hammer working at your scull. “Did you have a good rest of the night?” you ask. You and Jordan had only minutes before Kira texted you both asking where the hell everyone was. Because of this, you have his number.

She grins at you. Her eyes shine. “I think I really like him,” she says.

In your pocket is your phone with an unanswered text from Jordan, who is planning on breaking it off with Kira before lunch. What are you doing later?, the text says. You force yourself to make eye contact with Kira and lie. “That’s great,” you say, and she beams at you.

Nicole Zelniker                            

Nicole Zelniker (she/her) is the author of several books, including, Letters I’ll Never Send. Check out the rest of her work at