"Did you come out here to smoke?"
"No, actually just to breathe."
"It is kind of crowded in there, huh?"
"Yeah, it definitely is." I took a few steps closer to her and leaned against the railing. She flicked her cigarette out into the snow. I began to watch each individualized flake take a slow descent before becoming one with the others. It seemed to parallel everything I knew far too much. She took a breath and scratched her head. She was wearing a brown hat, most likely embroidered by Asian children, a few years before. I was focusing on too many elements of my life at one time. I wasn’t sure how my handling of a supposed conversation, the main reason I decided to come outside, would go. I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say, which seemed almost normal, and yet I considered discussing my jumbled thoughts as if by some sort of divine grace or manageable circumstance she would understand, and be somewhat taken by all of it.
"So we don’t know each other, do we?"
"No, we don’t."
"Nice to meet you."
"You too." We exchanged fucked up looks as she grabbed her bottle encased in a coaster of lingering white snow on the front of the porch.
"So, are you the Jim that Amelia talks about?"
"I’m not sure. I mean, I think I’m the only Jim she knows, so yeah… I guess that’s me."
"Right, I figured."
"So what does she say?"
"Uh, I’m not sure I should tell you now."
"I think both of our messed up enough to trust each other."
"That’s not the most rational of thinking Jim."
"Whatever. No one ever said thinking is supposed to be something that’s rational."
"I guess not. She just talks about how you used to have a crush on her or something."
"Yeah, and this one time I guess you got real fucked up and embarrassed her in front of all of these people."
"Yeah… Well that did happen."
"Oh, so she’s not just talking shit, is she?"
"No, but it was awhile ago. I don’t know why she’s still talking about it."
"Beats the hell out of me."
"Especially to somebody who I don’t even know."
"Well we know each other now, don’t we?"
"That’s beside the point."
"Whatever. I wouldn’t worry about it or think about it that much." Immediately after she said this, I realized how many times I would do just that throughout the night. It would plague my mood and make images seem less than beautiful. I would wake up the next morning, having forgotten mostly everything, and yet I knew I would still think about her, and us, and whatever the fuck we could even call it anymore. It wasn’t friends, and we were the farthest thing from acquaintances. We were just people who thought we knew each other at one point, and could never quite get over the fact when both of us realized that we didn’t.
"I’m not going to. But uh… How do you know Amelia?"
"We’re in the same Bio lab. She’s my partner actually."
"Oh, well that’s cool."
"Yeah, this is actually my first time at her house, though."
"Well, that’s sort of funny. This is my first time here in awhile."
"Really? I thought you looked like a regular."
"I used to be one. Just not anymore, which I suppose is a good thing. I mean, I’ve been keeping busy with other things, ya know?"
"Oh yeah, like what?"
"I’m not entirely sure. I mean, nothing’s coming to mind right now, but if I think of something I’ll let you know."
"So if the two of you only have lab together, why were you talking about me?"
"I don’t know. I think you walked past one day and she said something. That’s all. You shouldn’t really get worked up over all of this shit. It’s nothing"
"Yeah, I know. I’m not. I’m just trying to figure things out."
"Oh yeah, like what kinds of things?"
"Nevermind. It’s not worth talking about."
"Yeah, I guess not." The two of us were quiet for awhile, the only topic that either of us had any common ground on instantly becoming taboo. I felt out of place and more so than not, completely alone in the world. Each aspect of my previous self was shredded, and although it felt wrong to blame her for such an occurrence, her actions along with mine only being somewhat responsible for our temporary descents into madness, myself silently viewing the world through green goggles, and her participating in social hours with the dry presence of Calvin by her side, I couldn’t help but feel like none of it mattered in the grand scheme of things. We would always just be those who talked to others about our losses. We had too high of expectations for each other, and in the same way knew that the other would only fall into the regular position of disappointment later once the dust settled.
"So I had higher expectations for this party?"
"Really? I’d say this is about what I expected."
"Yeah, but you’ve been to these type of things before."
"And you haven’t?"
"No, I’ve been to parties before. It’s just that every party you go to, you can always expect a different crew, and well I only really knew Amelia, and now I’m talking to the guy who’s heart she broke, so it’s sort of like a strange sort of parallel to some other party."
"She didn’t break my heart."
"I think you’re assuming too much Holly. We just have a weird relationship."
"Well, most people do."
"I know, and there’s no real point in talking about it. I get what you’re saying though. There’s always gonna be different kinds of bullshit at different parties, right?"
"Well, it’s just one of those things you have to deal with."
"Yeah, I know. So why are we still outside if it’s so cold out?"
"I don’t know."
"Actually, I was thinking about leaving soon. My friend Marcey knows about another party, so I think we’re gonna go there."
"Oh, well that’s cool."
"Do you wanna come with us?" I needed a way out. I knew that, and she was providing the right context for an escape. It’s not like the party represented anything other than something mindless to do on a Saturday night. I needed to venture into new locations. I was tired of wasting buzzes with all the same individuals. Holly was different and I couldn’t stop staring at everything that was surrounding her. She was lit perfectly, each slow descent in the background only adding more perfectly to her sense of self. She looked lost and beautiful, afraid of certain aspects of conversation and words said, and above all else, well on her way to being totally and utterly shit-faced. Things didn’t feel wrong or right, but rather simply trite or semi-explosive. I had said all the right things, and some of the wrong ones. We knew we couldn’t simply avoid one another, and yet we were doing just that. I would walk away with grace, dignity and enlarged pupils. She would never understand completely.
I opened the door for Holly as both of us stepped back in. She walked right over to Marcey, who was sitting on the living room floor, passing a small bowl around with some other brash faces. She was good at looking like one of Holly’s friends. The two of them had similar styles and expressions. They had most likely lived on the same floor freshman year, and decided that their roommates were less than exhilarating. The two of them would dress up to go out together, bleach each other blonde, and later get angry when the one managed to score with the guy who made it a habit to look like he didn’t care. He would flip his hair back and talk about less than interesting topics. One would cry, while the other moaned uncontrollably, and then on Sunday they would return to their closets and repeat the process. I felt like I didn’t fall into any category, but rather was just bouncing off of preset walls, stepping on buried mines and trying to not show how fucked up I felt everything was always going to be. I was bad at walking away and worse at staying.
Amelia and Calvin had left their station, and were probably off pretending like they were beyond into each other. It was a less than alarming display of what can become of those who simply fall apart over visuals of those they don’t know. The reality of it was less than amusing. I could tell that she was strangely encircled in her own losses, accepting the awkwardness with temporary solutions. She would change the subject or kiss softly to forget. It was a lot of expectations filtering into the ever so distant idea of settling on the right apple. We would all sit on kitchen tables and rot away eventually anyway.
I found Ross in Carey’s room. It was empty, as he sat on the bed with the window open, letting the cold rush in and hit him in increments. The room felt like happiness, as it was properly plastered with all the right things to stare at. I began to sink deeper and deeper into my sweater. My feet were taking steps on their own, and making different decisions for me. I felt particles pass through my fingers, as it all began to slowly spark theories on why we were who we were. I could feel everything breathing, and less than nothing doing anything about it. They would just as easily be somewhere else that night. Nothing mattered. We wouldn’t ever feel any different.
"You’re losing it, aren’t you?"
"No. I just wanted to be alone. I wanted to meditate for awhile."
"Any huge epiphanies?"
"No. I can’t remember what I’ve started to think about. It’s all over the place."
"Same here. Do you wanna go to another party?"
"Is there another party?"
"Uh yeah, I just met this girl Holly, she knows about one, or her friend Marcey knows about it actually."
"Oh, well I guess I’m up for going."
"Okay, well I think they’re leaving now."
"Cool. Okay." Ross stood up, and tried to get his footing. We were both having the same less than levelheaded problems that night. The kitchen had a new kind of depth as both of us walked into it. I could see him being overly lost it in all, putting a cigarette quickly in his mouth and walking straight for the door. There was no reason to say goodbye or so long. We would see them all again in no time flat. I took a breath; ready to follow when both of them walked out of her bedroom. I couldn’t understand to this day why my timing was so bad, why I couldn’t have just followed right behind him. I guess I’ve always been bad at such things. He walked past me right for the fridge as I grabbed my hat out of my jacket and put it on my head.
She looked at me for what seemed like the first time that night. It didn’t have the same effect as it used to. We were on different levels, one trying to come back down, the other managing to make it harder for both of us. I couldn’t look right at her. It hurt to be there, and she was beyond oblivious.
"Are you leaving?"
"Uh yeah, we’re going to another party with Holly and Marcey."
"Well okay. We didn’t really get to talk tonight."
"Yeah, I know. It felt just like old times."
"What’s that supposed to mean?"
"I don’t know. Don’t think about it too much, otherwise you’ll be just like me."
"You’re pretty fucked up, aren’t you?"
"Yeah, I am, but I couldn’t even begin to come close to being as fucked up as you are."
"How am I fucked up?"
"You’re dating mindlessness." Immediately after saying it, I realized she wouldn’t understand. It didn’t matter. I would have excuses and she would be better off with the idea of hating me. Holly zipped up her coat in the hallway and walked outside. I followed her into the night, one of us turning away from the familiar, the other walking back into it. We wouldn’t be comfortable anywhere. Every front door offered a bigger step into the heads of others. I had been taking similar steps my entire life. She slipped on the ice once and I held her up. It didn’t mean anything.