My heart feels like it's been stepped on.
It beats, yes, but the beat is uneven. Sometimes it's so fast I can hardly keep my balance. Sometimes the drumming tone, a dull, encaged thunder, vanishes completely and I can't help but hope I'm dead. Then it starts up again. Always, it starts up again. And I'm not really thankful. It's terribly frustrating.
Suppose I deserve it.
Sighing dejectedly to myself, I rest my head against the sharp brim of the bath and rub my eyes with warm, wet fingers. They smell like flowers and imaginary waterfalls, according to the picture on the bottle. A magical world far away. The bubbles collect between my thighs. It tickles whenever they pop against the salty acid of my skin.
I was so stupid.
I'm tired, caught staring at the backs of my eyelids, lashes pressed against my cheeks. Blindly I search for my glass. My touch is tentative, just as it had been when I first touched you. I'm careful, and when successfully having taken the flute between my fingertips, I bring the wine to my lips for a sip. It tastes bitter, but I swear it said spicy on the bottle when I'd bought it.
I was stupid to think it could have lasted and bloomed into something more.
I swish the stuff around in my mouth, then swallow. My tongue recoils a little at the thought of a second sip, so I put the little glass back down. I hum softly, making up my own silly tune as a form of distraction. To try to take my mind off things, off you, and it's all so pointless because all the same I can't help but wonder something.
How did this happen to me?
My hand begins to drift on its own and soon I touch my abdomen, feeling the muscle shudder beneath. I open my eyes and study myself, searching for imperfections, finding only an exercised, carefully maintained body, as it should be, but doesn't feel like. I double check by pinching some flesh. Next I squeeze my stomach, wholly unsatisfied by my dinner. Still, nothing is apparently wrong, so I begin to draw shapes. And it makes me think. I was always about being active, not just lost in my books like I might appear. You said you liked that about me, that I wasn't like any professor you'd had previously. That I was cool and hip and awesome and popular and that you liked me and-
Oh, now I know.
I chuckle dryly to myself at this realisation that is hardly shocking. It shouldn't be. No, now that I let myself really look at things rather than burst into tears and push all sensibilities away, I understand that I should have seen this coming long ago.
Whoever said age brings wisdom was himself a fool.
With this decided, I sink deeper into the tub and stew in my own juices.
Yes. Fool. I'm a fool. Fool, fool…
It was you, wasn't it? I think it was. But what about you, exactly? There was so much. So much that wasn't really you. So much I added.
How I thought you loved me. How you seemed to think I was special. How you were willing to risk it all to pursue me. How nothing but us mattered to you. That was all invented.
I loved you. Love you still. That much is real, but all else was not.
Everything about you was my own fabrication. My imagination taking something pretty and making it into a monument. I became too comfortable in your glory, so at ease that I forgot our age difference and my profession, forgot them so often when we were 'hanging out' after class that we became friends.
I'd forgotten myself. Against better judgement, I didn't mind it when you started showing romantic interest, and in turn, I showed interest back. Because we were friends, and sometimes friends became more than friends. It felt normal, yet exciting, and so right to me.
I didn't chew you out when you started holding my hand in the times we felt safe and weren't being watched. I didn't slap a detention form in your face when, of your own doing, the boundary between student and teacher, between friends, was officially erased as you pulled me down into a kiss so sinful it was magic because I just couldn't see beyond your eyes.
Running my tongue over my lip, I envision you in my head. Young, charming, full of energy and life. You're such a delight. Or you were, until I realised my affection was essentially a game you played, since you evidently were too immature to understand the depth I had fallen. And I should accept that. You're a kid, and kids shouldn't have to deal with the complications of a large world.
And still I don't agree with all of that, and I sorely miss you.
So I think back. I delve into happier memories before you dumped me. A teacher passionately in love with a student. A forbidden fruit having been tasted, then devoured because I was starving for affection after a nasty divorce and loss of my own children.
You filled a gap, somehow.
And tomorrow, I understand, I'll see you again. The holidays stretched so long. I haven't looked upon your youthful face in weeks. I've been thinking about you so often, pining for you, wishing things turned out differently and I could still secretly touch you whenever I get free time. But you won't return my calls and if I keep this up, I'm pretty certain your parents will catch on and I'll be arrested.
So I guess I'll talk to you tomorrow. Hey, maybe I'm wrong about all this. Maybe you're just scared or under pressure. So tomorrow, we'll talk. We'll fix this.
You stroll into class with a smile on your face.
I feel excitement, then anxiety. I hope I look good. I'm wearing my best clothes. I've tidied my desk when I'm normally a little haphazard. I'm the image of the perfect professor this morning, responsible and clean and desperate for your approval.
But you don't so much as glance my way.
I watch you from my desk, making an effort not to seem too obvious. And I'm burning inside, begging you to break down and apologise, break down and beg for me to love you once more. To tell me you were wrong and we must try again. I know I would say yes because I never stopped caring for you in the first place.
I want to try again, if only you'll ask me.
But you stroll over to your desk, tossing your messy bag on the floor, and you give your friends a broad, arrogant smile and tell them how great the holiday was.
I despair, but don't look away. I can't. I love you. Baby. I miss you. Baby. I want you back. Baby. Take me back.
See me see me see me see me…
And in a pause of your boasting, our eyes finally meet.
There's no hidden affection, no desire, no nothing.
Just a student looking at a teacher.
After a moment you look away again casually, like to you I'm just another mark on the wall that you happened to notice, then shrug off, because you don't want to clean that mess.
My heart pangs.
I hurt because for all my trouble trying to send a silent plea across the classroom, when you've finally left your friends and turned to me again, you knock me asunder with all you have to offer me; an apathetic wave and a 'Hey, Professor' that counts as nothing, nothing compared to our enthusiastic greetings before, our banter.
I wave back, hoping half-heartedly that you're putting on an act. When you sit down and write things as I go about the lesson, contributing nothing, I think that this must be true. You're wondering what to say to me when the class is over. That's why you're so quiet rather than tossing jokes every so often that disrupt my lecturing and force me to playfully scold you. So I act as normal as I can as well, and when the bell rings, I ready myself for you.
But you walk out the door with everyone else, not a goodbye or fleeting look offered, no messages conveyed in your eyes or your face. You look just like the other kids, eager to leave class, thankful you haven't got homework.
And I don't stop you, even though I could.
You leave me standing here, covered in chalk, confused and hurt. And after some thought, your silly teacher finally realises the truth about you, student.
You don't love me.
You never loved me.
It was only a game to you.
You banged the hot teacher and now you're too disgusted to even tell your friends about it. There is no maybe for us. This is it. You made it clear, but I always hoped…
No yelling in class, teacher.
I sit down and bite my tongue.
My next class comes.
I stand again and begin the lesson, thinking about you all the while.
I think all through the rest of the day.
Think until the end, when I see you again, heading for the bus to go home.
You walk lazily, chatting to a cute youngster with your arms linked and faces all too close for simple friendship, and you don't notice my stare, my hurt, my final thought.
How can you look so happy?
"Fool." I quietly make my way to my car.