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Semantic satiation: A short story

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SEPTEMBER 09, 2023

“Tonight, I’m going to have myself a real good time,” sang Freddie Mercury through the radio.  Liam was taking deep breaths, and his hands were tightly gripping the steering wheel. The music was too loud, but it didn’t bother him. “You got this. This is what you’ve been waiting for,” said Liam to himself, shaking his head to the music. Liam was a senior in high school, and was currently driving toward Diana Creed’s house to pick her up for their first official date.

The young acquaintances had gone to the same school since freshman year and had slowly developed feelings for each other. They first met at a school rally, and since then, their friends had been teasing Liam and Diana to get together. Last week, during their AP psychology class, Liam finally found the courage to ask Diana out. 

As cars passed Liam, the people inside looked at him strangely because it seemed as if he was angrily yelling at nothing. Suddenly, his GPS told him that he was one minute away from his destination. Entering a lovely suburban neighborhood, sweat began to drip down his face

“Shit. It’s happening.” Liam laughed. 

“You have reached your destination,” said the GPS. 

A woman by the destined house was talking to a neighbor. She looked at Liam and gave him a big smile. It was Diana’s mom, and she was walking toward Liam’s car. Her mom was tall and skinny. She had brown hair and blue eyes and wasn’t over fifty. Her old tan shorts and light purple v-neck shirt told Liam she’d been at home most of the day. 

“Hi, Mrs. Creed, how’re you doing?” said Liam, lowering his window, putting his car in park, and wiping the sweat off his face. 

“Great,” she said excitedly. “You can park on our driveway. Diana’s inside. She should be ready soon. You can come in if you want.” 

Liam nodded, parking. “I’ll do that.” He exited his car, and Mrs. Creed glanced at his outfit. 

“Looking sharp, Liam,” she said. 

He smiled, following her to the front door. Liam wore brown chukka boots, dark blue jeans, and a striped, sleeveless button-up shirt. Two braided leather bracelets covered his left wrist, and he wore a brown watch on his right. 

The Creeds had a tall, wooden ellipse door. Mrs. Creed opened it, and Liam entered Diana’s house. The walls were white and to the left of the entrance, there was a charming piano in the living room. There were stairs between the walkway leading to the living room, and another walkway, Liam guessed, led to a kitchen. He looked around but didn’t know where to stand. 

Mrs. Creed put her hand on the stair railing. “Diana should be—”

“Hey, Liam,” said Diana’s voice. 

Liam and Mrs. Creed turned and saw her standing by the piano. Diana’s tan skin glowed against her curled brown hair resting on her shoulders. She looked at Liam with a half-smile. Her brownish-gray eyes made him blush. He looked away, forgetting where he stood. 

“Hi, Diana,” said Liam. 

Politely, the pair hugged each other in front of Mrs. Creed, who, poking fun at their awkward movements, gave a short laugh and encouraged them to have a good time.

They left the house and Liam led the way to his car. It was hot, and Liam regretted wearing jeans. Alternatively, Diana wore denim shorts, a peach short-sleeve button-up top and a pair of low-top sneakers. She also wore a silver necklace with the letter D, and her earrings were simple gemstone studs. 

They were both too nervous to slow down and enjoy the moment. As Liam began driving, he lowered the volume to his music, and they began to ask each other simple questions. 

“How are your classes?” said Liam. 

“Easy.” Diana began to fidget with her fingers, “Compared to last year, my schedule is nothing.” 

“The beauty of senior year.” 

She nodded, and he drove, forgetting what he had said. 

Nothing was as glorious as they’d imagined it would be. More than anything, it was awkward. Liam was afraid that Diana would get bored of him, and Diana was scared they wouldn’t have anything to talk about by the night’s end. 

The restaurant they went to was fancy. Diana didn’t want to abuse Liam’s money because she didn’t want to seem selfish, but Liam was ready to spend anything on her.

“I think I’ll have the chicken salad,” she said, looking at the menu. 

He looked up from his. “ Didn’t you say you liked salmon? Remember last year during homecoming?” 

“Yeah, it’ll probably be too much food. I’m not super hungry.” 

“But then you can have leftovers for later,” Liam said, excitedly. 

She thought for a couple seconds, but then concluded. “I’ll have to stick with the salad.” 

 They spoke about what colleges they wanted to attend, talked about their mutual friends and even gossiped about some of the people they disliked. Liam and Diana knew they weren’t telling each other everything they thought because a barrier of fear kept them from speaking their minds. It all seemed too childish. Why weren’t they more comfortable with each other? 

Diana and Liam looked at each other, their faces clear, like a mirror showing them something unreachable, but close and intimate. 

“Are you excited for college?” she said. 

“Yes. I mean I’m ready to get out of high school, start a new chapter.”

“Yeah, but I know I’m going to miss home a lot. The people, the experiences.” 

Liam quickly retorted his previous answer, “Oh absolutely! Me too.” 

Time was flying by. Not because they were having a good time but because they were telling themselves that this was what they wanted. In reality, they were not feeling anything special. It was the worst way to lose time, wasting thought and energy and letting the precious gold of life disappear into nothingness. If only something would force them to say something worthwhile. Everything was happening in their heads, but this prohibited actions from being actualized. 

Oh my god, her eyes,
her hands, her lips, her legs,
her silhouette, her words,
her voice, her everything.  

Liam thought this as they spoke about their school’s art program. The waiter was a nice man in his mid-twenties, and Liam tipped him six dollars and paid with his electric wallet. When they left the restaurant for mini-golf, their minds were scuffling for new questions. 

Diana got closer to Liam. “Have you ever mini-golfed before?” 

“No, actually. I’m not much of a golf guy.” 

She laughed. “Me either. I’ve never mini-golfed.”

“Your dad plays golf, right?” 

“Yeah, he put me in golf lessons when I was younger. I’m pretty good. I’ve just never played mini-golf.” 

“You’ll probably beat me.” 

“Oh yeah, I will,” said Diana jokingly. 

The mini-golf complex was four minutes from the restaurant, and slowly but surely, the teens were getting comfortable with each other. Time wasn’t secretly running away anymore. Liam and Diana were making it stop sometimes. They were starting to notice little glances lasting longer than usual, and Diana would give Liam flirtatious pushes while he would reciprocate with nuanced jokes. Their body language was changing, and they began to copy each other’s gestures and postures. 

“What are you going to miss about high school?” asked Liam. 

“The people.” 

“Not the classes?”

“God, no.” 

They laughed together.

It was a hot day for mini-golf, but other couples and families were also playing. The people around them looked calm and normal. This bothered Diana. In her mind, how could anybody be so tranquil? She laughed and teased Liam, but it hurt her to think that this date would be a memory tomorrow. 

Diana felt awkward asking Liam for a picture together, but she wanted one. She just didn’t want him to think she was needy or showy. Part of her wanted them to be like the other couples in the complex, holding hands and standing very close to each other. Diana wanted Liam to yearn for her. She wanted his mind to swirl and be agitated by his feelings for her. 

Say something.
Say anything.
Tell me I look beautiful. 

Mini-golfing was disrupted by time. It was 8:00 p.m., and neither of them wanted the date to end yet. So they drove to an outdoor mall to get ice cream. 

At first, they couldn’t find parking, and they joked that a cop would stop them and give them a ticket for no reason. Finally, he found a spot, and they entered a small gelato shop. Liam ordered a medium cup of raspberry gelato, and Diana got a coconut shake. They chatted about other trivial matters as they walked out with their desserts. Their conversations remained superficial throughout the evening, but their feelings grew like a summer daisy. After each moment, they wanted to be closer, but neither was courageous enough to change the subject. Diana then suggested they sit down on a chair to finish their desserts. 

Liam put a spoonful of gelato in his mouth. “So, you’re mainly reading and working this summer?” 


“What book are you reading?” said Liam. 

Diana’s voice got excited. “Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.” 

“What’s it about?” 

“I’ve only read two chapters, but so far, it’s fine. It’s set during the Great Depression and goes through the lives of people affected by it. It’s for AP literature.” 

“Sounds interesting.” 

Diana’s elation crumbled, noticing that Liam had asked that question only because he didn’t know what else to talk about. The sun had loosened its grip, but a humid heat held on to the atmosphere. Diana looked around at the cars driving by while Liam stared at her, and an uncomfortable silence overtook them. 

I need to ask her. I can’t. Yes, I can.
It’s not that hard. I need to know. It’ll be better for us. 

I should ask him to take me home.Why is he staring at me?
Does he expect me to say something? I’ve
already tried.
It’s getting boring. 

She’s getting bored. 

I thought he would be more exciting. 

I need to be more interesting. 

I’ll call it a night if he doesn’t say anything. 

Ask her. 

Do something. 

Wow, she looks good. 

This is awkward. 

Shut up and ask her. 


But I’m scared. What if she thinks I’m weird for that?

He’s boring. 

I don’t care if I’m scared. I need to ask her. 

Stop staring. 

Okay, here it goes. 

In five seconds, I’m standing up and leaving. Five

Liam, you got this. Three

Four, three



One, ask. 


“Do you like me?” Liam asked, hardly audible. 

She leaned forward. “What?”

“Do you like me?”

Diana shook her head at the question and rolled her eyes. “Why do you think we’re out on a date right now?” 

“I don’t know.”

“Yes, I like you, silly,” said Diana, leaning back on her chair.

Their eyes were glued to each other.


“What’s going on?” asked Diana. 

“We don’t say what we feel,” said Liam, looking at the floor, “We’re too nervous, and that’s okay. I mean, this is our first date, and even though we’ve gone to the same school for three years, we don’t know each other very well. But I think that’s one of the reasons I’m confused.” 

“Tell me what you’re feeling then, Liam.” 

“I asked you first,” he said with a smirk. 

“I’m feeling … a lot of things, around you,” Diana said, “but I’m just worried that ––”

Liam lowered his head. “That we’re both going to college next year and—”

Diana’s voice became more assertive. “Yes, that’s why I have doubts about us. It’s not fair for you.” 

Liam looked at the sky and laughed. “What? How isn’t it fair for me?” 

Diana turned her head away from Liam. “I don’t want to waste your time. I don’t want to be the one stopping you from finding something — someone — better in college.” 

“You won’t,” he said abruptly. “You shouldn’t feel bad about anything you’re doing. We both need to go to college. I just want a clear answer. Either we’ll try to work out, or we won’t.” 

“Sure,” said Diana, “but would you want to try a long-distance relationship?” 

Liam put his hand on the table in front of them. “I … Well, I’m not sure.” A darker silence encompassed their unresolved problem. Liam wanted Diana to say something comforting, but she stood motionless. 

He reached for her empty cup. “Let me throw this stuff away.” He went to the nearest trash can and walked back to the table. “Come on, let’s get going,” he said, signaling to the car. Diana was surprised and troubled, but she stood up and followed him. 

“I’m clueless,” said Liam, walking next to her. 

“Me too,” she said with an irritated laugh. “Do you even want a girlfriend when you go to college? So many people want to go to college free and single — ready to explore.” 

“If I’m in a relationship that’s working for me, then yes, of course, I do.” 

He opened his car, and they got in and drove away in silence.

Liam looked both ways for a stop sign and waited. “Okay,” he said finally, wiping his hair off his forehead. “I’ll tell you what I want.” Liam adjusted himself to his seat. “I want you to be my girlfriend. That’s what I want. I’m not asking you right now because we still need to get to know each other better, but I do want you.” Liam took one hand away from the steering wheel. “All the stupid college hookups and partying wouldn’t matter because I would have somebody by my side. That’s the coolest part of dating someone. You don’t need to worry about being alone because that person will be there, and I want that with you.” 

Liam kept on driving but didn’t hear a response. He turned his head to Diana and saw her marvelous smile. 

“That’s what I want too,” she said. 

Just like that, she placed her hand on his arm. 

As Liam turned into Diana’s neighborhood, a peaceful ambiance landed on their souls, and the night’s worries disappeared. 

They arrived at her house and got out of the car. Whenever they looked at each other, it felt like the first time. It was like looking at a word for too long that you forget what it means, and the once meaningful word becomes a mere sound — semantic satiation

Liam stopped in front of her door. “Tonight made me want you even more.” He moved his eyes to the dark sky. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.” He looked back at her brown eyes and then at his shoes. “But I hope it’s a good thing.” 

Diana put her hand on his left jaw. “Me, too,” she said, softly smiling. 

As they entered the house, Mrs. Creed was pulling a steaming mug out of the microwave, her hair adorned with curlers, and body wrapped by a fuzzy robe. She looked up from her mug and welcomed them in. 

“Looks like you two had a fun day,” said Mrs. Creed.

“We had a great time,” Liam replied. 

Mrs. Creed smiled at him warmly. “Have a nice night, Liam. Hope to see you soon.”

Liam nodded and waved. He went to Diana, and they gave each other an outwardly simple hug and said goodbye. Liam turned toward the door, but his hand had stayed with Diana. As he left, his hand slipped down her arm. 

“Drive safely,” she called out. 

“I will,” answered Liam, his last finger leaving her forearm. 

The door shut, and the date was over. 

Liam walked with a flushed face. When he got into his car, he turned off his music and drove home silently, happily smiling. 

Contact Andrés Tomas Latorre at 


SEPTEMBER 09, 2023