Forward: These vignettes have been my personal challenge not to write dialogue because it was much easier writing informative paragraphs than monologues during my morning lectures, and now all my professors commend me on taking copious notes. Some stories are based on real experience, others fabricated from daydreams, but all if it is fictional in some way. Some are long, others are short, and the rest are invisible. These stories are simply the mediators between the attempts at chapter stories and myself when it is my imagination that inspires me to write and not my characters.
"Now this applies both equally to you and I.
The only thing we share is the same sky.
These empty metaphors, they're all in vain,
like can't you see the grass is greener where it rains."
- Eve, The Apple of my Eye, Bell X1
She didn't want a better grade and she didn't care about prestige among her friends, her peers: She had fallen in love with her professor. The way some of them looked at her in those brief moments of enraptured ingestion during lectures was with a curiosity of whom she was outside their classroom. With her eyes she gave them nothing but a disinterested gaze; her pouting lips helped to his effect. They continued looking and she continued gazing, never raising her hand, never answering a question, and always sitting in plain sight. She liked thinking that when they were playing with their children, they thought of her, and would - only briefly - wish they were hers. She imagined them lying beside their sleeping spouse and thinking about her, wondering what she was doing, if she had a boyfriend and if he were touching her.
He could fail her, she said; she couldn't care less about American government, and apologized for saying it so brashly. He said she had expressed her constitutional right of the fifth amendment. A friend of a friend was exhibiting an art gallery showcasing political pop art. If he decided to attend, she would be the girl in the red dress standing in the middle of the room, waiting for him.
When he showed up that night, she handed him a glass of cheap, flat champagne and cheered to good company. In surrounding herself with her friends and as many champagne glasses, he could watch her like he never could in a classroom, but she continued to gaze. She didn't drive that night so he could take her back to her apartment, not her dorm. He mentioned how responsible that was, she mentioned not having a roommate. She wasn't that drunk, she could drink most men under the table, over it, around it, and she was well aware of his hand on her lower back as he walked her to her door. She remembered how his cologne reminded her of the smell of wet asphalt, which in turn, reminded her of summer rain. At this, she was overwhelmed with a sense of frivolity.
She said she had a gift for him, and after he passed through the threshold, she presented him with double chocolate chip brownies she had baked earlier that day in gratitude for driving her home. She poured him a glass of milk, urging him to try one. He said they tasted like no brownie he's ever had, and she joked it was from the illegal drugs she had put in them. She continued to say her ex-boyfriend thought they were better than the sex. He said that was impossible. And she when she kissed him, he let her and he tasted sweet.
He touched her differently than she imagined, more forced, less gentle. She understood why and made it as painless for him as possible: She loosely tied a scarf around his eyes, pinned his hands at his sides so he didn't feel he had to touch her, and she put the condom on for him. She hurried the night; she would have lingered if he wanted it from her. She made sure they came together, and as he did, he pulled the scarf away from his eyes so he could watch her. Breathlessly, he said her ex-boyfriend was very much mistaken.
He fell heavily out of her when she rose off him to enter the kitchen to retrieve the plate of brownies, mentioning dessert should be the end of everything. He agreed as he took two. Silence followed as reality permeated their cooling skin with the return of blood to major organs between dry swallows. She tucked her chin close to her chest when she said she didn't want any of it to change their professional relationship. There was probably no chance of that happening now, he told her, and she knew such truth the moment his hand helped her into his car. She said he could leave, that he didn't have to stay, and he said only if she wanted it of him.
When she woke up with the morning light sifting through half-opened blinds, she saw him getting dressed in his wrinkled collared shirt and brown sports jacket, fixing his lapels and tightening his belt. When she thought he would look over at her, she closed her eyes and pretended to be sleeping. She had done it countless times when she lived at home.
Moments of stillness passed before she heard his shoes squeak against the wood floors, and he kissed the bridge between her eyebrows as he ran a cold hand down her arm; she refrained from shivering. She imagined what it would be like every morning: Razor shavings in the sink, shared accounts on the computer, dirty laundry piled behind the doors, someone to crack the wishbone with and fight over who rightly deserved the bigger half.
She heard the front door close behind him and then it was over. Maybe she was in love with him, maybe she just wanted to assure herself that she could be the vixen she had always dreamed herself becoming. Maybe it could have been a momentary lapse into the Harlequin romancer she believed herself to be. Maybe she was in love.
It depended on her next test grade.
He shouldn't have gone to that party last night. He knew this would happen today: The continuous rise of acid at the back of his throat, his equilibrium gone to shit, and for some reason he was sweating profusely. Maybe it was because he was constipated. He knew once he got the chance to get to a bathroom, poison control would have to restrict it as a toxic waste dump when he was finished. That was the payoff of a long night of Jagbombs. Just thinking about using the bathroom made his stomach lurch in pain, echoing a low, grumbled, agonized moan. The girl seated beside him twitched her head in his direction, as if he had kicked the back of her seat at the movie theaters.
He hoped he didn't smell. He felt more perspiration prickle over his skin each passing second and couldn't remember if he had used deodorant that morning, let alone if he had even taken the time to shower. Suddenly everything was just one big blur - and there was no way he could graph the powers of national, state, or concurrent governments. Fuck history, people never learned from their mistakes, and they never will: Wasn't that preaching to his hung over choir just then?
The girl beside him turned to look at him again, her features etched with worry now. He just smiled and nodded his head assuring he was okay - if he correctly read her worried expression. She rearranged herself in her seat before turning her attention back to her test. She smelled good, like freshly peeled oranges, as she always did. It was much more pleasant than his breath, which he tried confining behind thinned lips. The girl who sat beside him every morning since the start of the semester was what society called 'curvy' or perhaps even 'voluptuous'. And when she smiled, her cheeks rounded giving her the face of a young girl - not that she ever smiled at him. However, he'd seen it a few times and assumed it turned a few heads occasionally. She'd had only one boyfriend, who had breasts bigger than she did. Jeremiah, Jason, Jeremy . . . something like that. She drove her brother's car, a real piece of work that many women had lost it to in the backseat, which was now full of empty water bottles, text books, and clothes.
He knew because she had to drive him home once. Last night. And now, he recalled she smelled exactly how she did then, sitting beside him. He was a real tool, almost vomited in her car . . . her brother's car. Why she had been there for him last night he would never know, but he remembered her wrapping his arm around her shoulders and leading him to the car he had been drunkenly driving the night he had killed her brother. If he had been her, he would have let himself get into his car and drive off a very high cliff.
He didn't care what the Establishment Clause did for freedom of religion. He failed the test and without even needing to look at it. And what peeved him most was that he had studied, and studied hard, and was ready for it nearly twelve hours ago. But all that in between stuff royally fucked him over. He wondered what she would think if he committed suicide. What would it matter if he did commit suicide? She wouldn't care, and she was the only one he wanted to care.
He decided to say people had the right to do whatever the fuck they wanted to do, even though they're hindered by the government and the media who made promises like freedom of religion, which only became a freedom if they supported the right side. Maybe he wouldn't use 'fuck', maybe 'hell'. The sooner he got out, the sooner he could get some information, something about another party that night.
She looked over at him again, sad.
I dyed my hair once, two shades darker than my natural color. Nothing drastic like the girl in my art class with weekly alterations of hues beginning with the word 'hot'. It was boring, like watching the news and hoping to hear about natural disasters by which hordes of people perished, but only getting political debates. I liked the difference, however subtle, and the only person who noticed wasn't a friend, not much of an acquaintance either. Wearing his lab coat and safety glasses as I had been, he stared at me for some time as if deciding whether he was staring at a pimple or a scar on my face. He then smiled, nodding his head at me. Right on, he said, holding up a clenched power fist.
The man in front of me was looking at me as that boy had done. Only this time, the man's gaze roused a shame in me that I did not expect him to ever provoke. I may as well have had the blood on my hands. There would be no need for a trial, only a sentence to death in the most grueling of ways, a fourteenth century torture chamber of sorts. Death by crushing, by burning, by stoning - anything that followed 'death by', as if needing no explanation, seemed appropriate enough. I accepted my fate, I had accepted it as I was ripping a marriage apart, right down the center, with no serrated edges and no tears. I couldn't just watch her make another mistake.
Joe was a man in his late forties with balding patterns and prescription sunglasses. He wasn't anything extraordinary, but she claimed she was in love. She once said that good love is as sweet as honey, but great love is what sticks to the hips. Personally, I wasn't favorable toward any rambunctious weight gain. She said I wouldn't understand until I experienced it for myself. I only fell in love between paperback bindings in the back of the library, in darkened theaters, lying in tall grass. My sister was really good at falling love, and she did it almost every week; she repeatedly recalled those 'rainy nights' in whichever month some boy fingered her until they convinced her of true love.
I was told I would be so lucky as to find my soul mate, and I would have pitied those half souls wandering around the world unable to find their perfect match, if true. Perhaps that was why people traveled around the world to find themselves: I've noticed they always come back with a significant other. Perhaps 'finding themselves' was another way of saying they were sick of being alone. Perhaps they were truly hopeless and needed completion. True love can cure sickness, cause death, enlighten and depress - true love can supposedly do many things, and who wouldn't want such an all-powerful entity in their lives? I think it's all made up to give people a purpose if they haven't amounted to anything by the time they've reached their thirties.
I believe true love is one person going to another to decipher their own handwriting. I believe it's when one person lets the other have the part of the broken wishbone that counts. I believe true love is fighting all the time because when people fight, they're honest, and I think that counts the most. True love is the hand at the elbow in case anything should go wrong, remembering to eat from the newly purchased plates instead of out of the box, it's the remote control Nazi letting the other person surf the channels during commercials. To me, true love is all the little things because I think love is so big that we can never have it all at once - so it comes as indecipherable handwriting, broken wishbones, kitchenware and, of course, orgasms. Those are what truly matter.
I dyed my hair again. The same color, nothing anyone would notice with a glance. I dyed it for the wedding, and my chemistry partner was the drummer of the band playing at the reception. He stopped in his step when he noticed me and held up that fist, that fist that could have represented brotherhood, assurance, or just a habit he couldn't escape. Either way, he's the only person I believe to have ever understood me, and when I held up my fist back at him, he dedicated the first song to 'the girl with all the answers'.
And I did.