He remembers the library, but it wasn't the books, studying or reading.
It was the hushed tones where he had to lean in to hear her, so close he could smell her shampoo.
When you're in high school, shampoos smell different — better somehow.
At 18, he has trouble putting his feelings into words, but he knows he's different now. He wants to do nice things for her. He wants to prove himself.
Because he likes everything about her.
"I guess the second that I started talking to her it started happening," he said. "It was pretty simple at first, but I don't know, it just kind of clicked."
He first caught sight of her at a barbecue with friends, but they didn't talk. She is a junior, so they spent about six months passing each other in the halls the way you would see someone around town.
You're intrigued but don't meet. You may make eye contact and smile. Eventually, you stop and say hi.
"We didn't really talk at all, but then about a half year later we started talking daily as friends, just hanging out at the library, and then it just went from there."
Then they talked everywhere: the quad, the field, the beach.
He plays soccer; she runs cross-country.
"We became best friends," he said. "We started doing adventurous stuff together — art museums and stuff like that — not really stuff that high school kids would do."
By day, they hung out at the beach. He surfs and skims. She does "girlie stuff."
They have spur-of-the-moment fun, the random things that make high school dynamic and unexpected.
"Just small fun, you know? We're not going skydiving or anything."
They met friends together, drove his white Kia Sorrento, ate at Wahoo's.
Right now, he's not trying to think too far ahead. He's been accepted into some colleges, but he hasn't picked one and is not in a big hurry to decide.
He is just looking forward to completing the year with her, day by day.
There is no more reason to plan beyond that.
It's enough to live in the moment, this moment, the end of high school, the beginning of something else. The pressure to start a new life is beyond his grasp.
He likes where he's at, born and raised in Laguna Beach.
He likes that she's into reggae and wants to be an architect.
"She's tan and has big brown eyes," he says, hesitating, wondering if he's saying too much.
"I'm a pretty closed guy. I don't really show much. Even right now I'm kind of nervous talking about her. That's why I wanted to do something like this because I'm probably the least likely to do it. But I wanted to show her I can be open."
So you like her, right?
"Yes, I do."
And what do you like about her?
"I really like her smile. She is an amazing person. She's really kind and funny. She can make anyone laugh. She's beautiful."
That was very thoughtful, and what else do you want to say, Jacob Kunkel?
"Ariel Carlson, this is Jacob. Will you go to the prom with me?"
(She said yes!)
DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at email@example.com.