The walk over was full of realizations. Garbage lied lightly everywhere, while sounds of similar good times filtered out into the streets. Too many elements were sparking interest. I tried to focus on Holly and Marcey, what they were saying, who they were talking about, but it all became muffled. The sound of the wind seemed more enlightening. I glanced over at Ross. He was in a similar dazed state, watching cars pass by, paying more than enough attention to lights overhead or right in front of the both of us. I wanted to fall into a pile of snow and let myself slowly freeze. I could wake up in spring, and hopefully manage to look at things differently. Events would have happened; connections ended in perfect moments of tears and drunkenness. She would have moved on, and I would’ve woken up the same person.
Holly looked back at the two of us; both irregularly lost in the thick of it all. It was more than obvious, and yet I wasn’t sure if they would be able to tell the full extent to which we were losing our minds. I suppose I just looked happy, possibly a step above drunk or unapologetically stoned. They were in the same boat almost, ready to find new scenes and drugs. I was following without giving any of it much thought. It became a subtle skill to which I couldn’t ever live down. I would be abiding by rules, standing in straight lines, and waiting for the next bus to nowhere for the rest of my life.
“So are you guys okay?”
“Yeah, we’re fine, why?”
“You just seem a little out of it, that’s all.”
“It’s the weather,” Ross said, breathing in smoke from the cigarette he just lit. The walk seemed to take an eternity. There was too much to focus on. I wanted to open the door to every house and take a look at love and loneliness. Those seemed to be the only two things that mattered, even if there were fringes on the in-between feelings engulfing us all the time. I was slowly starting to realize that I knew everybody far too well. We were all too caught up in each other’s lives, waiting for things to happen or not happen.
In the past few months I had become good at hiding, and yet it didn’t help other people to understand. I was an anti-socialite, encased in too many sayings and looks from those who learned about my vices through unnecessary means, double-clicking on links, or reading less than poetic comments from those I would later choose to simply forget about.
My nightlife happened occasionally, and always ended in the same way. I lost the nerve for one-night stands, and always attempted for something more substantial. I was excruciatingly bad at leaving things casual. Even at the vaguest signs of sparks, I would instantly fall into pits and attempt to crawl out of my own self-imposed confinements. There was no way out, though. I would have brief, albeit somewhat short moments where I would know specifically that there was a chance of something happening, and yet in the same way that the rest of my life was moving, I always managed to let it explode in the worst of possible circumstances. I would be drunk and saying all the wrong things. My thoughts would inevitably come out. She would know I liked her, and it would fall apart from that point. Honesty meant nothing other than a temporal means to an end.
“So how much farther?”
“Like another too blocks or so.” Holly replied without turning around. I felt like I was asking the same questions over and over again to myself, sometimes out loud even, just to see if anyone would notice or care.
We managed to still be breathing by the time we walked into another front door. It was darker than Amelia’s apartment, more faces drowned in excess, finding ways to be creative and stand out in the crowd. My way of looking at particular abscesses that night made it easier to crawl into each and every room. There were looks of confusion, intertwined with those who wanted so desperately to forget. Others were looking like they had found love and managed to keep it close, latching onto shoulders, or letting hands graze the waists of many. Some people didn’t have solutions or reasons to be there. They just needed something to lose themselves in. It was this type of environment for Ross and I. We couldn’t handle those we knew. The less than familiar offered comfort and grace.
We all followed Holly for awhile. She knew too many people. We were pulled into a bedroom full of Van Gough posters. A cute girl in a green snow hat sat across from me in the circle, packing up a pipe for all of us to indulge. She told me her name and I instantly forgot it. Ross started talking to Marcey. All the irregular subjects. Nothing in the least bit pop culture oriented. It was bigger than that. Celebrities on magazines were shit. I glanced over at a small pile of Maxim’s sitting on the floor. They reminded me of how incredibly lonely it all seemed sometimes. I thought about it being a guy magazine, and yet the one in the green hat would read it on a regular basis. I picked a copy up and flipped through the pages. Leila Bennett. She had a subscription.
After smoking for no reason other than it seeming like a regular practice, (we walked in out of the cold, looking for something more mind numbing and most likely readily available), Holly decided to go out for another cigarette. I followed her again. It didn’t seem like it was pathetic, but rather that I was simply trying too hard to think about how to move things along alone. Ross and Marcey were hitting it off. We could both tell as each subtle action from either one tried to elegantly hide how easy it was for them to simply fall together one night.
As we walked back through the house, I saw the same things occurring everywhere, all around us. She would laugh at his jokes before asking if there was somewhere more private. Although, privacy never necessarily meant the same thing to everyone. Some didn’t mind it being in front of all those they knew. Some wanted others to see. There were always the ex’s, or possibly the ex inclinations that never quite fleshed out. In any case, it wasn’t in the least bit shocking. I felt more comfortable in a house I had never been in before. It was already trashed, therefore there would be no sense in attempting to clean up, or act differently. I would just breeze in, and stumble out later in the night, when we all became dry and repetitive.
The back porch was empty. All the smart ones were smoking inside. I didn’t understand one shred of Holly at that second. I had met her under extreme circumstances and for some reason or another was latching onto the smallest insignificant aspects. She would smile subtly, or laugh like it didn’t matter. She would glare into the eyes of others; not saying anything at all, but letting them know exactly how she felt. She was different from the others, someone I wasn’t used to yet, but it didn’t really feel like anything. I could have been imagining her, putting words into both our mouths, and waiting for the other to get offended enough to spark some sort of underlying passion between us. It seemed trite, and not worth it. I wanted to be with Amelia, to say the wrong things to her, and yet somehow she made it impossible for anything to change. She was far too comfortable in pretending like she hated everything. I wasn’t the same way anymore.
“So can’t you smoke inside?”
“I guess. I don’t know. Maybe I wanted to breathe a little.”
“Well, it’s just really cold, is all.”
“Well you can go in. I don’t care.”
“I don’t know anyone else in there.”
“Meet someone new.”
“I have this rule where I can only really meet one new person a night.”
“Well, you broke it already. I mean, Marcey and I.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t really meet Marcey or talk to her or anything. We both just sort of followed you.”
“I guess that’s true. Plus, she seems more into Ross, right?”
“I guess that’s part of it.”
“I think that’s a big part of it Jim.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“So do you feel better now that you’re away from the other party?”
“Sort of. I don’t know. It’s like no matter what happens, where I end up, whatever, there’s still gonna be someone around. I can’t write anybody out of my life completely. They never let me.”
“Well, don’t you have people you just don’t say hi to anymore?”
“I guess, but there’s still the inevitable look before I walk right past them. I have a backpack full of those looks now.”
“Yeah, I do too. I hooked up with this guy once. I think his name was Jeremy or something. It was my freshman year, and we were both drunk and looking for some sort of answer. Anyway, the next morning he told me that he didn’t really find me attractive or anything, and that we shouldn’t talk about what happened. He had a girlfriend back home. Her name was Wendy. I still remember that. Isn’t that fucked up?”
“Anyway, I walk past him all the time now. He’s in the same room as me before I have class, and I’m always early for some reason because I have a break, and it’s the same goddamn look every time.”
“Well, I’m sorry about that Holly.”
“Why are you apologizing? You have nothing to do with it.”
“Yeah, I know. I just… Well is it wrong for me to abide by the philosophy that people in general aren’t worth it?”
“No, I don’t think so Jim. I’d say that’s normal.”
“It really isn’t, though. I mean, part of me wants to love everything and give them all the benefit of the doubt and stop pretending like any of the bullshit matters, but it all does. It always matters.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I mean, well can I honestly ask you something?”
“Sure. I think I’m in the mood to tell you the answer truthfully.”
“Did you only hit on me tonight, or talk to me or whatever because you wanted to make Amelia jealous?”
“No. Not exactly. I mean, you looked interesting, and I know that that’s a stupid thing to say, because it sound superficial or something, but it’s the truth.”
“Well that’s good.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“I also ate a cut of mushrooms tonight and sort of needed a way out.”
“Okay.” She began to laugh uncontrollably. I joined in, feeling the same sense of randomness. Holly and I didn’t make sense, and for that very reason it was all the more enchanting. We walked back inside and felt the warmth of everything around us. I lost track of Ross that night, and yet knew that he would inevitably find his way back to whatever spectacle of a location felt like it was worth settling into. We would talk about it the next afternoon; our heads spinning with stories that we only had pieces of. Our other halves knew the full extent of each minor detail, and yet felt like Gods hiding fire from us.
I walked with Holly to her apartment on the other side of town. We held hands, our black gloves shielding us from any true affection. We kissed briefly before she walked inside. I felt happy and alone as everything began to slowly descend. Objects became less than necessary again. There were no gigantic explanations or views of the world, just different sources of discourse. I wasn’t thinking as much as I walked back. It seemed like the easiest path, and yet somehow still shocked me, and tore up my insides as I walked past that same front porch again. The place where we met that night, and now was all of a sudden a means to an end for something else. They looked incredibly chilled as his hands moved down to her waist. Amelia and Will were hiding from everybody who was still awake, breathing half drunken breaths and looking for places to subtly sink.
Part of me hoped they wouldn’t notice me. My steps were rough, but somehow still graceful. The fallen leaves underneath the new patch of snow should have offered the perfect cover. I wanted to float by unnoticed, no longer just the spectator, but the all-knowing anomaly that had managed to dabble in perfection that night, only to have it later fall apart in plainest of sights. They stopped faster than I would have expected, like it wasn’t anything new for either of them, but rather something to which both had been elegantly hiding from all of those who expected to know one another. My head hurt from both their looks. I continued to walk past. I wished she wouldn’t have caught up to me. I knew he was just going to open up the front door again. We were no longer the type of friends who needed to explain anything. It was hell knowing them both. We were all too good at managing our time and torturing one another.
“Just stop walking Jim. I can explain.”
“Explain what? I don’t give a shit. It has nothing to do with me. Just leave me the fuck alone.” I kept walking and she kept following. I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t ever figure her out, why she needed somebody like me around, as if I was somehow pathetically reliable. It drove me to different locations later in life, just the dimly lit highway, and thoughts of how we were always so close to being something else. I was thinking too much again. The drugs had worn off for the most part. I was falling deeper and deeper with each step, until I decided to stop. I would pretend to listen, wait for her supposed explanation, and then let everything fall apart for her as well. I was practicing my last look all night.
“You’re always like this, you know that?” I stopped dead in my tracks. Nothing had an effect anymore. Even her words were mediocre. Her as something else was a pipe dream, an overly dazzled unrequited falsity. I had just been too good at picking up the pieces, even when I knew they could never completely fit together.
“Is there somewhere you’re going with all of this?”
“I just want you to listen. I don’t want you freaking out like you always do.”
“I freaked out once, and you know why, so stop fucking glossing it over like I’m some sort of overly irrational being or something. It’s not like that. You’re the one who’s fucked up, not me, remember?”
“I’m fine. I have been for awhile.”
“Really? So this is a normal thing, huh? There’s the new boyfriend who seems like some sort of decoy, to somehow hide the real truth which is that this thing with Will has been going on for a long time, and we’re all supposed to turn our heads and act like it not a big deal or anything, and you somehow feel better about yourself when you call and invite me over, because it’s like everything is fine again, well it’s never fine. I don’t get it, though. I mean, maybe you just like the extra attention.”
“I don’t. I’m in love with him, Jim, and he’s in love with me.”
“Really? Is that what he said? Did he use those exact words?”
“Yeah, he did.”
“Well, that’s really spectacular. Maybe the two of you should tell Donna about it, since she’s probably drunk, passed out somewhere in your house, right?”
“Jesus Christ… It’s always like this. I thought you would be smarter than the rest.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s easier for Will if things are overly complicated. I think he gets off on it or something. There’s no such thing as love or commitment. You’re not the only person he’s done this to.”
“He said you’d say that.”
“Whatever. I don’t care anymore. Don’t talk to me ever again. Tell him that too. Make sure he understands, ya know? This isn’t just me being irrational. I didn’t take mushrooms and imagine this.”
“You took mushrooms tonight?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“How was it?”
“Incredible.” She said some other things. They weren’t the kind of words that lingered like the others used to. I was growing up and out of all of them. They thought it was exhilarating to be casual and say that it was love. I hated understanding it. I would later hear about the entire situation in brief passings of time with mutual friends. The summer was a web of looks and things left unsaid, and then one day they decided to try and live with themselves. Neither had that big of a problem. Will was used to himself, and Amelia didn’t know what being lost was quite yet.
I made new friends as I tried to avoid old ones. It was always strange later on. The looks and casual appearances of those who used to mean so much. I didn’t really dwell on it after that night. I fell asleep in my bed, a mass assumption. I would never know the full truth, just what I wanted to think. I didn’t want apologies or explanations, just for somebody to cut the shit, once, even for the briefest of moments. She never called me again. I suppose she finally understood.
I still try not to think about any of it now, as I run away from familiar tones. It’s better that we don’t mention those minor incidents. They would just add up to something bigger than all of us later. I packed light. It was just going to be like any other weekend. I had already heard stories about all of them, about their passions and infidelities. They had bright moments, and laughable tales of lost identities surrounded in suburban turmoil. I didn’t talk too much about all the others. They were slowly starting to become blurrier in the back of my head. It was easier that way.
I spent money on unnecessary means to escape. The sun was slowly setting. She always took her time getting ready. Before the exit she fell asleep on my lap. For once, I felt like it was something more than the both of us. I never discussed the way it all was before, with her. We were something new, something fundamentally spectacular. They would all hate me, though. I knew that. It was a rough set down. I could already feel the looks from her ex-boyfriend making their way into my subconscious. I was comfortable and still somehow alone.
It wasn’t just us settling, though. It meant something. We were supposed to become pieces meticulously glued back together again. I turned the radio down and listened to her breathe for awhile. It was pleasant. I liked focusing on something else, something new and beautiful. It helped to remind me that some perfect scenes still existed, right before the closing credits and crescendo of the soundtrack. I didn’t sleep alone the rest of that semester. It felt like heaven pretending as if I had my life figured out.