This is Fiction I Swear: Part 8

Part 8: Squares, Circles


But it’s not stars it’s a goddamn ten by ten cement holding cell. At least we don’t have to share but you’re right across the bars staring at me, waiting for me to say something but I’m not. I won’t. It’s not fun anymore and I’m furious that you got me stuck in here and I won’t let you think for one second that I’m giving in.

When they give me my phone call I call Angelica and tell her we need to meet up later because I have things to tell her. She asks if it’s about the eviction and I have completely forgotten about that and say it is most definitely not. I know her next guess will be you. And it is. And I tell her I’ll be by later to talk about it. I hang up and she’s still saying something about a bad idea. Well of course it is.

But things get off track when they make us wait together to get our bikes back. We walk outside at the same time and I’m not saying a word which makes you furious so you “congratulate” me on my unconventional tactics to win you back.

Win you back! I stop you dead in your tracks, look you in the eye, and tell you how wrong you are but your eyes are locked on mine and you’ve got that look and now your hand is on my waist. The words are melting off my tongue and I can’t look away. Even if I wanted to stop it, I couldn’t. My eyes shut, our lips lock, and I can’t tell if my heart is beating too fast or if it’s not beating at all. Breath comes quickly, in bursts, and the neighborhood knows about us, but it’s the only one. Then there’s nothing but the gray dark of my bedroom at the 1:00 hour. The kind of dark that gives no way of knowing what’s me and what’s you. That kind of dark.

My favorite kind of dark.

And I wonder—does my name excite you? Does the sound of it sink into your spine and travel up to the base of your neck? Does it give you chills? Does it? You never admitted that much to me, but I know it’s true by the way you clung to me. You think too much about me, you said that once when we walked a long way in the wrong direction one night. It was raining and my head was down but I was listening. To know that, to know you, I knew you weren’t gone. I knew if I stayed still for a while you’d reappear, and we could start tracing circles again. You know the ones—the ones that start far apart, but get closer and closer till they’re on top of each other, entwined in perfect wholeness, then—they break apart and float parallel once again.

Dating When You’re Thirteen vs. Twenty-Three


Think back to your first boyfriend or girlfriend (or should I say “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”). Chances are you were around thirteen years old and everything was new, everything was sparkly and exciting and surprisingly simple. How have our dating habits changed in a decade? Read on and decide for yourself whether we’ve made progress or not.

You know he likes you when:
Age 13: He lingers in the hallway after school to talk to you before your parents pick you up outside in the parking lot.
Age 23: He sleeps over and makes breakfast the next day (or at least buys brunch).

You know she likes you when:
Age 13: She’s thrilled your name is the only one not crossed out during sleepover games of M*A*S*H (and doesn’t care if she also gets “shack”)
Age 23: She reserves a few hours of her precious Friday or Saturday night with you.

He’s flirting when:
Age 13: He steals your pen/gloves/books and runs down the hall with them.
Age 23: He stops by your cubicle and teases you incessantly about your pictures/plants/coffee mug.

She’s flirting when:
Age 13: She actually chases you down the hall to reclaim her pen/gloves/books.
Age 23: She emails you to help her with a “computer problem” that she totally knows how to fix.

Best bet for a first date:
Age 13: Local carnival. All the lights, all the stomach-dropping, heart-quickening rides, and best of all: every one of your friends is there so you won’t have to talk to each other alone. Shudder.
Age 23: Cocktail bar. Classy but not too serious, you won’t be sober, and when all else fails you can talk snobbily to the bartender about craft bitters.

You know you’re a couple when:
Age 13: He stands by your locker, looks down at the floor, and says “Will you go out with me?”
Age 23: You really never know.

When you describe his good qualities to your friends you say:
Age 13: He’s really cute, he’s two grades above us, and he’s on the basketball team!
Age 23: He’s really smart, lives in a one-bedroom with no roommates, and he has a salary!

Meeting the parents means:
Age 13: You both need a ride home from the mall.
Age 23: Shit’s getting real.

Cheating means:
Age 13: Talking to someone else on the phone at 10:30 pm.
Age 23: Nothing because no one is in actual relationships at 23, only nebulous “Yeah, we’re sort of dating” situations so basically anything goes.

You know the end is near when:
Age 13: You’re both on AIM and he/she hasn’t said anything in five minutes and didn’t put up an away message. He’s obviously talking to that skank Tara/she’s clearly flirting with that JERK on the soccer team.
Age 23: After four days of not talking you get a text saying “Sorry I haven’t replied I’ve just been sooo busy with work. Let’s try to meet up next week?”

Average length of relationship:
Age 13: Two weeks, or until right after next school dance, whichever comes first.
Age 23: 6 months-1 year, or until someone moves to go to grad school after getting sick of their job/friends/current location, whichever comes first.

Worst place to run into your ex:
Age 13: Outside the locker room right after gym class when you’re all sweaty and haven’t had time to reapply your Victoria’s Secret Love Spell perfume/Hollister cologne.
Age 23: Outside the bar at 3:00 am when being told you look like Ke$ha would be a compliment.

Rebounding means:
Age 13: Isn’t that a sports word?
Age 23: Enough tequila to make out with that one platonic friend who’s always been into you.

Next time around you’ll:
Age 13: Make sure you don’t fall for such an asshole.
Age 23: Make sure you don’t fall for such an asshole.

This Is Fiction I Swear: Part 6

Part 6: Someone Dies


Everything was going according to plan and more smoothly than I could have imagined when the worst happened. I don’t even know the logic of it nor can I explain the chain of events, but here are the steps in order:

I was getting off the train at 18th just after 9 PM, money in my pocket, when I spotted that boy (I call him Graham but that’s not his first name) stepping out of another train car. He came up to me and we decided to get a drink as we exited the station. I was dressed nicely for once and he thought it would be fun if he dressed up too so we could go somewhere fancy. “For kicks,” he says.

When he stepped back out the door of his apartment he was wearing a suit that fit him in all the right ways and he looked like James Bond and I felt like Ava Green or whatever the hell her name was. He slipped his arm around my waist, looked me in the eye, and asked shall we?

Everything was still ok at this point, and we went somewhere stupid and snobby in the West Loop because why not? We were drinking things with rye and bitters and candied cherries and I don’t know what else, but it was fun and we were laughing and one drink turned into a few, and that’s when you walk in. She isn’t with you, but still.

Of course you come right over to our table and start asking me questions like How have you been? and Where are you working? and How’s Angelica? like you’re my best friend, and all this without even looking at the boy sitting across from me. Finally he takes the first step and introduces himself to you and you size him up like you’re figuring out how much is worth more: his scalp or his body? Finally you shake his hand and give your full name—your full name!—like you are someone, like you do things. I put an end to the conversation because I don’t know what you’ll do if this goes on. You go to the bar to meet your friends and I’m left to explain things to this boy who still looks like 007 but who’s looking at me like I’m the villain now.

Whatever I end up saying is the wrong thing, and Graham starts to get up so I try to stop him. I’m talking quickly and it makes sense to me but somehow the words aren’t going across the divide so I start saying them louder which makes him say what he was saying louder and next thing I know the waiter is holding me by the arm and walking me to the door. I have whiskey on my dress and some on my elbows, but I don’t remember spilling anything. The upended tumblers on the table tell a different story. Outside I try to dry myself off, but then he comes out and touches my arm to say Let’s go this way, and we start walking down the alley in the kind of silence that feels like an apology but tastes like rust.

When we’re far enough from that stupid bar he grabs my hand and presses it and I know we’ll be ok. I realize my heels are making more noise than I was aware of before and that’s when some guy steps out from the dark. I don’t know where he came from but he’s standing in front of us, blocking our way, asking for my purse and our cell phones with one hand, and gripping a small black gun in the other.

For a half second time stops completely and I’m frozen and Graham is frozen and so is the man with the gun, but then time catches up to us and speeds past us to make up for what it lost. I don’t know what’s happening now but there’s commotion and I feel my body moving and someone grabs my arm and I collide with someone else and there’s a deafening pop like a gunshot.

I look down and Graham looks down, and there’s a growing pool of hot dark blood seeping from the man’s head onto the pavement. His eyes are stuck open, staring at the sliver of night peeking through the top of the buildings, but he’s not really seeing it because he’s stone dead that’s for sure.

We’re running now, down the alley toward god knows what, but I can’t feel anything, can’t feel my legs moving or my heart beating, and only know I’m running not flying because of the sound my heels make when they smack the pavement. Then the ground gets closer and closer and I’m on all fours with gravel in my palms. I may have cried out, I’m not sure, but without missing a beat Graham turns back and grabs my arm to pull me back to my feet.

We continue down the alley and it’s then I realize I’m holding the gun. I can’t remember if it was me who pulled the trigger or him or how I got it or why it feels like an extension of my own hand, but I grip it tighter and we run until I feel like my lungs will burst if I take one more step. There’s a covered stairway up ahead so we come to a halt and collapse onto the cement to catch our breath.

We’re looking at each other, breathing hard under the yellow light but not saying anything. I look down and notice that my knee is bleeding through my tights from when I fell. He sees it too, and asks me if it hurts. I tell him it doesn’t and we both ignore the gun in my hand.

He moves down one step and tears a little hole in my tights at the knee so he can dress the wound. I brush off the little stones and debris, but it still looks pretty ragged. He takes a handkerchief from his pocket, dabs off most of the blood, then folds it a different way and ties it tight around my knee. It’ll do for now is what he tells me.

Then he wraps both arms around me and I lean my head on his shoulder and we stay that way for quite some time. There are sirens in the distance and I’m thinking about my mother. The sirens get closer and closer and I’m so sorry, Mom. I’m so so sorry and Graham is gripping my shoulders more tightly until finally the sirens wail past us and it’s all over..