Nobody But Us

Bedtime Stories/Fiction

“You know,” I began as I fed her another spoonful of Haagen Dazs, “I never thought I’d date a girl who’s into tentacle porn.”

“Fuck off. It was a phase, okay?” She elbowed me in the ribs and brushed a lock of Mahogany hair away from her eyes.

I shrugged. “It’s okay, I’m into some weird shit too.”

Her eyes lit up. “Shit like what?”

“Shit that I’m not dumb enough to share on a first date.” I scooped up the remaining bit of melted ice cream and pushed it into her mouth.

“A last date, too.” She glared at me. “You’re much better as a friend.”

I slung an arm around her shoulder and kissed her cheek, relishing in the minty fragrance of her shampoo.

“I have a thing for girls who are into tentacle porn,” I whispered in her ear. “If you say this to anyone I will actually kill you.”

She rolled her eyes but smiled despite herself. It’s dangerous and stupid to think that any high school romance would withstand the test of time, but just looking at her face made me want to try anyway.

We zigzagged through the chaotic city streets, watching the Californian sky transform from blood orange to ink black. We jaywalked at the busiest intersections and guffawed as we devoured our Double-Doubles. We talked about nothing and everything. I dropped her off in front of her house just after midnight.

“Just one last thing.” I held her face and stared real deep into those dazzling amber irises. Heat flowed into her cheeks as my lips edged closer to hers.

“Is there any chance of you getting back into that tentacle phase? Cuz it’s honestly kind of hot.”

This time I jumped out of the way just before her elbow connected with my ribs.

~~~~~~~~~~~

I was seven years old when I got lost for the first time. It was in Times Square on Christmas Eve, when my mother took me and my little sister to NYC for some dumb ass shopping spree. I was the third wheel the entire trip, being dragged around like a dog from one store to another. After the third hour, I just couldn’t fucking take it anymore. While they giddily disappeared into the changing rooms of Forever 21, I snuck out and bolted down 7th Ave, stupidly convinced that if I ran long and hard enough I’d soon reach our hotel in SoHo, where I could hop on my laptop and play me some Starcraft.

It only took me about ten minutes to come to a screeching halt. Not because I was out of breath and definitely not because I realized my efforts were futile. What stopped me on the corner of 43rd and 7th was a man, half a feet taller than I but no more than ten pounds heavier. Wrapped in a paper-thin blanket, he spread out a stack of newspapers on the tiny portion of dry ground, making his bed for the freezing night. I stood rooted on the sidewalk, transfixed by the vision in front of me. What mesmerized me wasn’t his physical or financial condition but the expression on his face – the utter resignation and emptiness. It was like he was on auto-pilot, clinging onto life only because he was supposed to. That hollowness was scarier than any physical adversity I could ever imagine.

I didn’t have any money, so I took off my beanie and tucked it into his bony hands, then sprinted away before I could see his reaction. Only hours later – after the cops found me shivering outside of a Starbucks twenty blocks down, after my sobbing mother slapped me then made me a hot cocoa and tucked me into bed – did I realize that the man was already wearing a beanie. Even my minuscule gesture of kindness was fruitless, but what I had really wanted to give him was the desire to dream again. On that day I vowed to never let myself lose the will to survive no matter how many daggers life threw at me.

Fast forward twelve years. Meet nineteen-year-old me in Tufts: sprawled on the bathroom floor, throwing up my fucking guts into the toilet at 9.20 in the morning, 20 minutes after my midterm began. What the fuck are midterms worth when you can’t even see past the next minute? I think of the man in Times Square as a dizzying blackness creeps into my vision. I think of the emptiness in his eyes that had terrified me so many years ago, and I remember the promise I had made to myself. A promise that I had kept so well before my fucking girlfriend threw a grenade into my life. Four weeks and a thousand tequila shots later, I’m still picking up the pieces. I’m not sure if I’ll ever pick everything up. I’m not sure I want to.

The man’s empty grey eyes are the last thing I see before darkness overtakes me. I envy him. Because apathy, at the very least, numbs pain.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Pink Floyd was her favorite.

If someone were to make a collage of our greatest hits, Pink Floyd would be all over it. Her teaching me the chords to Wish You Were Here. Me holding her hand as we lay on the damp grass with a can of stale beer between us, watching Comfortably Numb animate the starless sky. Us hollering to Another Brick in the Wall as we zoomed down the highway: windows down and arms extended, eager to attack whatever or whoever dumb enough to fuck with our dreams.

It’s funny to think that I once held those images like glass beads in my sweaty palms, terrified that if I let even one slip away I’d be lost forever. Now they were like blow flies that haunted me wherever I went.

If amnesia were a drug, I’d give up everything I’d ever owned for just a single pill.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Of all the places I thought I’d visit when I returned from Boston, high school was the last.

When I left L.A. a year ago, I was hell-bent on never laying an eye on this ugly brown shit-hole ever again. And I had zero desire to come back until I landed at LAX this morning. The moment I set foot in the airport I just knew I had to see this stupid fucking place, so being the selfish asshole I was, I ditched my poor mother and hopped on a cab to Shitsville. Sometimes even I think I deserve all the shit I’ve gone through.

As soon as I step onto the disgusting pale-blue walkway I know it’s a bad idea. The whole place reeks of her presence. I walk past the wooden benches where I first saw her three years ago, munching on Doritos chips and copying her friend’s Spanish homework. I spot the tiny patch of grass behind the English classrooms where we’d listen to music and make out after we ditched P.E. I imagine her there right now, smiling and waving as she sees me jogging toward her.

It’s all too much. I take a deep breath and squeeze my eyes shut. I came here for closure, but I knew it was all bullshit. Closure is a fantasy term invented by victims for victims. Visiting the past doesn’t help you get over the past. Remembering good times rips open old wounds. For all I know, I only hate her guts even more right now. Here’s a piece of advice: when you’re torn between the booze and the girl, always choose the booze. It’s better to be fucked up than fucked over.

In the end we are just everything we thought we were too smart to be: two naive teenagers diving head-first into an ocean too deep and rough to navigate; a relationship full of lofty dreams and empty promises undone by long-distance and disillusionment. When did we turn into such a sad fucking cliché?

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8 thoughts on “Nobody But Us

  1. Hi,
    Love this. Particularly your description of the Times Square incident, and the way you related it to the pangs of the breakup. Great work with the emotion.
    Excited to read more of your writing. 🙂

    Like

    1. I love the Time Square experienced with the observation of a man. That showed you have an amazing talent for writing. Great job Claire! Looking forward to read more of your writing.
      Yalin

      Like

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