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My mind whirls as I sit here in the back of your parent’s broken down minivan in your backyard. I’m staring up into your eyes—the exact shade of brown that Crayola uses in their crayons—and I can’t stifle the thousands of thoughts that are running through my head.
“Do you want to?” you ask me. My mind flashes back to last summer, earlier this winter. How many times have you asked me that question, and always with the same response? But I guess this time is supposed to be different. This is why I came over isn’t it? I stare at you and somewhere in the back of my mind I know I must look like a deer caught in the headlights of a car she knows won’t swerve to miss her. I sit up, crawl out from under you and re-button my blue jeans. I know you’re disappointed, maybe even a little angry. You say you’re just frustrated, but that you expected it.
Have I become the predictable one then? I guess maybe I always have been. I’m the one who always comes back. So easily sucked back into the vortex of our non-love story. We walk back out into the front yard. The street lights have come on and I know I’ll have to be home soon. I’m reluctant to leave though, I shouldn’t be. In fact I shouldn’t have come, but it’s no surprise I did. You toss the basketball to me and I throw it at the hoop, miss. You swish a three pointer. We’re talking, in that antagonistic way we always do. There’s always that underlying tension, the words we’re thinking but leaving unspoken, because to try to sift through the details of our relationship conjures up the visual of trying to count grains of sand on the beach. Impossible.
You’re saying something, the pang in my chest registers the fact that you’re talking about when things were good but I don’t really hear the words. My mind is elsewhere. Maybe it’s with the promise ring that I know is sitting on your bedside table, the one that’s in scripted with two names, neither of them mine. Or maybe I’m focused on the feeling of worthlessness that has been unsettling me for weeks and in this moment is making it harder to breathe. “We were a thing then weren’t we?” You ask me, I think I hear nostalgia coloring your voice. But that would imply that you miss that chapter in our story, and that is too much to hope for. Dangerous even.
“Yeah, we were.” I answer quietly, and I hope that we won’t talk about it anymore tonight. We banter casually while we take turns shooting the basketball. I miss more than I make and the irony of the moment almost makes me laugh out loud.
Somehow we’re back on the topic of us. I don’t know why we’re back here. Trespassing in territory that is clearly marked ‘keep out’, but on we tread and I know there will be repercussions. Why are we talking about this? About how we’ve messed up every time we’ve tried to be together. This is painful, should be avoided. We’re talking about the first time, when things were the most honest, made the most sense. “You messed that one up.” You say to me. I feel the flame ignite in my face and my breath come out in a huff. The hurt I feel is almost tangible, like you’ve slapped me hard across the face, I can feel the sting in my cheek. I pin you against the garage door, you could get out if you tried, but you don’t. “I messed that up?”I retort, all the accusations I want to hurl at you are sitting on the tip of my tongue, waiting to be released. “You’re the one who screwed that up.”
“No, it was you.” You tell me, I see something in your face that I can’t identify, even with all the hours I’ve had studying your expressions. I think for a moment you may be serious, the stinging sensation returns.
“How did I mess that up?” I feel the indignation on my face.
You think for a moment. The silence is ominous and I can hear cars driving past at the end of the road.
“You didn’t, I just said that because I like to argue with you.” You tell me with a sly smile. And while it’s true that you love to argue with me, I don’t buy it. Something about the look in your eyes before tells me that it was no joke. But further prompting brings me no closer to an answer and I have to let it drop. You’re the king of manipulation and I know that no words from me will be able to change your mind. Instead of answering my question you only make new ones arise when you bring up old times again. Again I feel like there’s something behind your expression that hints at actual emotion, but I’ve given up trying to figure you out.
We try to talk about something else but suddenly the spotlight is back on us. I think back to the beach metaphor and suddenly I feel like I’m buried under a hundred feet of sand. You tell me that we’re playing a game. I ask who the other players are but you won’t tell me. My mind travels back down stairs to your promise ring. You tell me two people win this game, you and someone else. When I ask you when we find out who wins, you tell me to ‘give it a month’. I’m unsure whether I really want to find out. Whether or not I’m sick of playing your games. Besides, I already know it won’t be me.
It’s time for me to leave now, and you kiss me on the cheek. But that isn’t good enough. For all I know, and more than I should care about, this could be our last kiss and I won’t let it slip away that easily. I kiss you full on the mouth, and you kiss me back. Then I am gone. I know as I drive down the street, away from your house, that this…friendship, this truce, will only last so long. I know it’s only a matter of days before the text messages become one word responses, and the hellos in the hall way become fewer and farther between.