VACANCY by Amy Dupcak
CONCENTRATE ON THE URINE collecting in your bladder.
he looks so serious, so goddamn serious all of a sudden. it’s this dance that kills you.
you offered him a ride back from yonkers because it’s you who has the license and the car, who grew up ten minutes from school and has been driving to and from wherever you want for the last three years, and he always takes you up on that offer and then you, still without your yearly parking permit because you seek to cheat the system, claim your space in the far reaches of the lot, the two of you fastening your coats and speed-walking to main campus where your dorm rooms sit face to face on opposite sides of the lawn, fraternal twins separated at birth.
and here you are again under the streetlight that isn’t really a streetlight because this isn’t really a street, the only cars that come through are security vans or students dropping off groceries or the occasional fire truck when some drunk asshole pulls the alarm at 3 a.m. you tell him to move slightly because you can’t make out the lines of his face under the glare and then think, maybe i shouldn’t have, because it’s easier to talk when you can’t see, when you’re not wearing glasses.
think about the way you guessed his soul. it was before or after sex, who remembers?, and you were lying downtown on your rented mattress, a mini fan blowing hot summer air into your dilated pores. you’d closed your eyes and visualized sucking his paper-thin soul from his paper-thin bones and you’d put it in a jar, the grape-jelly kind, and noticed the color as clear as day: midnight blue with a hint of purple. his eyes had gotten huge, two full moons in his head, and you’d said, am i right? and he’d said a friend with synesthesia claimed his name was blue with a purple v, and at that moment you’d felt like you knew him better than anyone. maybe you had. maybe he’d thought so too.
start babbling about your dying computer because it’ll pique his interest, much the way you’ll ask about video games or japanese culture or porn…guys love a girl who knows porn. don’t bring up poetry, dadaism, your migraines, nirvana, or anything even remotely feminist because he’ll do that thing where he takes two whole minutes to respond and when he does it’s either huh? or a monosyllabic word that means to say i’m bored, you bore me, what the hell kind of girl are you anyway?
try to be cute around him, giggle and pose and bite your bottom lip until it hurts. you’re not cute, you’re clumsy, but there’s nothing you can do. you’re a pc user for god’s sake, how will he ever understand you?
don’t look at your watch because it’s rude.
you know it’s late and you’ve wasted more time, precious time flushed down the toilet, spent watching cartoons and getting high when you could have started that paper or finished that book or for god’s sake taken those films back to the library; you’re not cheating the system by paying five dollars a day for shit you don’t even have time to watch.
wonder how long this dance will take…whether or not your next step is homeward-bound across that lawn, which feels so vast and vacant and vague when it’s only you and orion calling out marco polo from behind wisps of blackened sky and you never mean to cry. you smile on the way and pinch your arm to get endorphins sliding through your veins, but you end up crumpled on the floor like someone’s dirty laundry all the same…crying into your hair that smells like bad habits. you pick yourself up ten minutes later with mucus clogging your brain to take vicodin, valium, or more pot and try to fall asleep on your ice pack because you can’t end up with another migraine: you haven’t done enough work, not nearly enough, and it takes at least an hour for you to drift off, the same four songs overlapping one another until you hallucinate or dream or cry or lie there staring at the wall.
it’s funny, because sometimes this lawn is the most goddamn beautiful place in the world. when it’s 9 a.m. and he has to be awake for japanese and you’ve still got a few hours until film history and you’re kinda stinky and kinda sticky, walking braless with your hair in one giant knot like someone who’s been fighting herself all night, because in a way you have, and the sun is shining and the birds are singing and it’s that feeling of waking up nestled into someone’s armpit that tells you it’s going to be a good day.
he won’t listen if you talk about anything else, so start making stuff up about the computer. there you go, he’s asking questions and it’s becoming important, a serious technological atrocity, even though it’s not.
you know his middle name, his hyphenated surname, you know what all his names mean: he’s kingly and biblical, a prince of the past. wonder if he knows that you don’t have a middle name. wonder if he knows how to spell your last name, czechoslovakian and nowheres near phonetic.
sometimes you want to say: it’s not fair, all you have to do is smile and i’ll say whatever you want me to say, do whatever you want me to do, be whoever you need me to be…i am malleable like paper, i fold and bend and shred and crinkle, o yes i crinkle…i am candle wax paper, the translucent kind.
and think of the way you made the bed last semester in the extra room of your on-campus apartment. you gave him your favorite star and moon sheets and your grover stuffed animal so he wouldn’t be lonely. his eyes were red and smeary and you hate seeing boys cry so you offered up all kinds of things, juice, bagels, ice cream you didn’t have, trying to give all sorts of advice: everything happens for a reason bullshit he shrugged off.
you’d waited for him, drawing pictures with your neck aching and legs asleep, waited until their official breakup was over and done and then you’d led him across the lawn, tripping on your shoelace and staring at your feet, as he sulked like a scorned lover would. in your head buzzed words like bees begging to be freed: who cares about her when you have me? when i am here and i love you? and you’d wondered, was that possible at all? you couldn’t sleep with him brokenhearted over someone else so you’d let grover keep watch as you slept brokenhearted in your own empty bed.
he’s looking serious again. think: i should have skipped this whole dance tonight and gone striding straight across the lawn, cat walking like a woman who couldn’t care less, but here i am in front of his building lit up like a goddamn hotel.
he starts slow, perhaps unsure, but you can never determine intentions from his tone because he’s an actor and who the hell knows what’s real and what’s a lie? you’ve always envied actors. the way they fill a room.
i don’t want to lead you on, comes tumbling a little too forcefully and he’s staring you dead in the eye. be glad his are brown because the pupils are harder to find, the eye of the eye obscured. this is fun and all, stressing fun as if using italics or spreading the word e.e. cummings-style, but i don’t want to lead you on (again)…i don’t think i am.
look at his feet and think about the customized mix cd still sitting, unopened, on his desk. iggy pop, aphex twin, nine inch nails…he doesn’t care he doesn’t care he doesn’t care. say, no you’re not. your voice is so small it’s like you’re seven years old, the father you never saw asking what’s wrong? why don’t you eat? why are you afraid of everything? and you clutching the bottom of your shirt trying to fight back tears, trying to sort out the heaven and hell buried inside of your still growing bones. even now you hate chewing and swallowing and you’re careful never to touch your eyes or mouth if anyone sneezes or coughs.
wonder: what was the point of tucking him into bed like a scared little kid, smoothing back his hair? spending an hour lost in brooklyn to watch his play in a shitty amphitheater without suntan lotion, red and raw and peeling for two weeks after? waiting for cartoons to end and trying not to fall asleep so miraculously you both leave at the same time, offering him the usual ride, sprinting at the “speeding when flashing” meter on the road, laughing as he beat you by 9 m.p.h. and protesting, your legs are longer, it’s no fair! reasoning, he’s a boy after all.
wonder: what was the point of telling him you’d 69’d in your catholic school skirt? that lolita functions as your favorite erotic novel? that you’d fucked your ex-boyfriend, the only love-of-your-life, in the parking lot during your break at work? and rape…telling him you like it rough, when he holds you down, forces your hands above your head until your wristwatch bruises the backside of your palm, biting and scratching and cum everywhere, staining newly showered skin?
don’t ever tell him you take pictures of the hickeys and bite marks he gives you, those pretty souvenirs. don’t ever tell him you’ve taken three, at least three, pregnancy tests because you keep letting him stick it in then pull it out condom-free. what kind of girl are you anyway?
you know more than he thinks you do:
he only wears one pair of pants and they’re hand-me-downs from the ’70s.
he has three jackets that all look the same and smell the same.
he smells good even when he doesn’t shower.
he wears shoes without socks when he doesn’t do his laundry.
he doesn’t do his laundry.
he talks with his hands and bounces to music and always knows all the words to all the songs, insisting that you hang out in his room because he has hundred dollar speakers and you know nothing about technology.
he does crosswords, t’ai chi.
he likes acid and batman and doggy-style.
his biological father was a mountain man with flat knees.
he can’t hear properly out of one ear, you forget which, you forget why.
he fucked some drunk girl on a couch in london, not to mention three, maybe four, girls you are friends with on campus, including his heartbreaker ex who happens to be one of your best buds. she doesn’t seem the doggy-style type, though.
wonder: what the hell does he know about me? does he know you can’t pee if someone’s outside the door? that your mother slapped you clear across the face one night in ninth grade when you woke up panicked and afraid, running back and forth senselessly like a trapped rat in an invisible cage? clawing at your skin, ripping out clumps of hair? she’d threatened to send you to an asylum and have each of your fingernails individually detached.
does he know that you’d come into school the next day, limping from the self-inflicted hole in your knee, unable to take off your sweater (the scratches) or let down your hair (the bald spots), crying at the lunch table telling your friends it’d been a bad day? you still have the scars.
every time you ask him, what’s your favorite band, favorite book, favorite film, favorite color, favorite anything fortheloveofgod because you define yourself in terms of favorites and you need to classify him, he makes that angry face with his upper lip rising and his eyes narrowing and he claims he doesn’t have favorites, he hates favorites, he never asks you yours.
the urine still gathers in your concave bladder and the pressure is almost too much to handle. you must know you’re not convincing. you must know he knows you like him, you like him like him more than two friends having fun. you must know he knows you know he can use you whenever he wants to because you know he knows you can’t say no, you’re too goddamned nice, why the hell did you spend two hours making that mix cd he hasn’t listened to or watching cartoons you don’t care about so you can have fifteen minutes alone, away from his ex and all of your friends, so it’s only you and him in the glow of the streetlights racing each other back to your dance, that unavoidable dance, where more and more often you’re going home alone to cry onto your dirty rug into your dirty hair giving yourself another goddamn migraine?
i don’t want things to be awkward, you say as if he were your friend and not the only quote unquote lover you’ve had for months. they’re not, he says, apparently oblivious to the fact that you’re standing in the cold instead of his room or your room and the night can end in one of two ways: two paths diverge in a wood and you take the path trampled and traveled with caravans.
you make all of your mistakes twice, then three times, then three times more, and your friends are getting sick of sitting with you on this lawn saying you’re too good for this snot-nosed asshole who hangs up before he says goodbye, never holds the door, smokes all your pot, doesn’t kiss or hug or hold your hand if anyone is near, who clearly and obviously is not your friend. and you sit there and defend him: his medication gives him mood swings, his money’s running low, he’s got this hectic rehearsal schedule, really, you know…he’s an actor, what the hell can i expect?
try to describe the way his smile widens when he blasts his songs, asking you to sing along, the way his skinny wrists flip and flop like marionettes your dad would use to cheer you up. try to tell them: his scent in my skin is better than the best poem i’ll ever construct…but still they’ll say, you’re fucking up.
he says, you can’t get offended if i decide i don’t want to do this anymore, ok?
and now what are you supposed to say?
sometimes you imagine punching his lights out. not only his, you imagine punching or stabbing or drowning everyone who’s ever chewed you up and spit you out like yesterday’s gum. but then you’ll fantasize about some anonymous boy scooping you from sidewalks or parking lots or dorm rooms and having his way with you. someone to give you a bloody nose and black eye and strip the clothes from your bones and spread your legs as far as they’ll go and grind your knees into the ground so the next day you’ll show off your shiners and put on a tough face, and everyone will have to admire you for it.
i can get offended, i just can’t blame you for it, you mumble back. try to stare past the eyes into his midnight blue and purple tinted soul, that soul you think you know. those same pants always hastily thrown on his floor.
faintly remember a time before dorms and pot and this goddamn lawn, before washing clothes cost quarters you don’t have, when you believed sex was personal, expressive of some chemical bond…the combinations of dna or the fusing of atoms, hypersensitive electrons running back and forth. it meant you claimed another’s human scent, another’s skin as your own. it meant you could whisper any dirty little secret and he’d have to listen, he’d want to.
it feels like you’re caught in that tangle of wires lying in a clump at the foot of your bed. you’re in some kind of perpetual mess, clinging to old photographs and a dream you once had where kurt cobain sang a lullaby, a song you’d never heard before. now you dream you’re curled on the couch as he’s fondling your shoulder and kissing your throat even while everyone sits alongside.
you wake up in the morning, dizzily confused, and stumble to your window just to watch him amble out the door, on the way to rehearsal or lunch or yonkers or some freshman’s room who fucking knows, but you always see him and he never sees you and what does that make you? psychic, optimistic, masochistic…well, aren’t you?
he wants to make it perfectly clear, crystal clear, that the way it is is the way it is and nothing’s gonna change. you want to scream unintelligible utterances but your bladder is growing mold and your hands are cold, always cold, and you pick at a scab on your inner wrist and smile weakly, like someone who knows the drill, someone who’s having fun, like a good little friend with benefits fuck-buddy you never thought you could become.
and still you’re dancing: what he’ll say next, where you’ll end up, undecided. you can press words to paper but you can’t cast them out like songs to his ear.
wonder: on the floor of your room or the sheets of his bed? facing the wall with your pounding head or resting on his clavicle, sensing his inner metronome, your face rising and falling with his every deep breath? neck twisted, body tensed, he’ll smell good of stale sweat.
he doesn’t know about the trail of band-aids lining your windowsill last summer. he doesn’t know that you scrutinize his back when he sleeps turned away. he doesn’t know that you once loved a boy who actually loved you back, the two of you in matching pajama pants watching horror movies until the break of dawn, fucking under covers in case his mother came down to do laundry.
wonder which one of you three-maybe-four is his favorite, but he doesn’t have favorites, remember? he doesn’t believe in right and wrong. he doesn’t believe in self-sacrifice. he doesn’t believe in altruism. he fantasizes about becoming famous and that’s got to count for something, right?
well, he sashays and gives you that playful look, do you want to come upstairs? as if this were a first date, or a second date supposing you’re not that kind of girl.
you have a few seconds here, only a few seconds to decide what to do. think about what your friends would say, your friends unconnected from him and this whole group where guys share women the way you loan hairbrushes, believing you’re too old to catch lice.
how about we watch a movie? you want to say. how about we curl up in pajama pants and turn out lights and hold each other’s hands as leatherface chases sally because you want to see the blood? how about no sex, just cuddling, just warming each other with internal heat, flannel pants, stale sheets? then remember that he sleeps in his boxers or nothing at all.
you throw in, i’d like to, because it makes it sound all the more consensual.
you should grab your skirt (grinning ear to fucking ear) and some chapstick, this weather makes my lips dry.
isn’t this what you want, after all?
and you’re off, stepping one foot in front of the other across that goddamn lawn. you’ve got heavy dream legs, the kind that refuse to run when something large and menacing chases you, a villainous vacuum threatening to suck you dry. the stars aren’t out and the moon hides behind the branches of a tree, and this is only a pit stop, you tell yourself, so why the fuck are you crying? there will be a return trip as soon as you grab your skirt and some chapstick and maybe, for once, a condom. comb your hair, finally pee, and yes you are fine.
concentrate on the slime in your socks.
glance at her watch…the glare beneath this pseudo-streetlight is strong and you can’t make out the time. wonder why you’ve spent three hours watching cartoons getting high when you could have been getting shit done…all you know is you’ve got to spend free time doing something/anything mind-numbingly entertaining otherwise you’ll wither away under the claustrophobic mess of your room worrying too much about the work you need to do after sleepwalking through weeklong seven hour rehearsals. if only you had time to do laundry.
she offered you a ride again and you took it knowing you’d up end up staring while she babbles incessantly avoiding your eyes. this wouldn’t take long if she weren’t nervous all the time, if she weren’t so intent on making her lip bleed.
wonder: when was the last time i got laid? a week ago, more? when she walked across the lawn in her pajama pants at 1 a.m.? you’d played video games that night until you got pissed at your dysfunctional controller and she was laughing, saying no big deal, and you’d turned out the light and climbed into bed and she’d snaked up beside you saying, don’t fall asleep, and you were saying, you have your own room you know, even though you wanted her to be there: under the sheets, folded in your ribs, knotted in your skin. that was the night you’d asked about her fantasies: catholic school and older men and s&m. you’d bit her neck her hip that space between chest and back and she’d liked it, you could tell.
five minutes driving from the yonkers apartment to the parking lot, another ten (less if you speed-walk) from the back of the lot to your buildings sitting head to head on the north lawn. the entire time, in the car, on the street, you fiddled with your fingertips thinking what should i say? should i say it? should i leave it the way it is and let her think whatever she thinks or should i communicate something clear because we’re never clear and we never communicate? should i tell her, it can’t be me and it can’t be now?
the eyes behind her glasses reflect florescent light and her pupils, those dark amorphous blobs, swim vacantly.
try to be serious…before she makes more mix cds, asking, always asking about favorite films and books and colors…you’ve never had a favorite color.
she’s still going on about computers, mixing gigabytes with megabytes and god she has no idea what a ram is! but you need to slow this down otherwise you’ll end up with her breath in your ear losing all sense of what should have been said. your friends have been talking: she’s a sweet girl, go easy. you overheard: he’s using her, he’s using her. if only she weren’t everybody’s friend.
remember the time you threw a shoe at your girlfriend’s, excuse you, exgirlfriend’s face? it’d been one of those nights when you were pissed at the world and she’d walked through the door: smiling, vulnerable, freshly washed and waiting to fuck. later she’d thrown a pillow or towels, something harmless back at you, and you’d staged a temper tantrum as if she were your little brother. wonder how you became such a jerk.
offer as much as she needs, even though you know she knows you know she has no idea what you’re saying because she’s technologically illiterate…a pc user for god’s sake. you’ve told her time and time again to get a mac, she doesn’t listen.
wonder how exactly (what exactly) you’re going to say, how much it’ll even matter. you can say you hate her guts but you bet she’ll still call to play games or smoke pot, asking, do you need a ride? saying yes is all too easy.
don’t ever tell her you can’t remember her middle name, girls are sensitive about that sort of thing. don’t ever tell her she’s done things in your fantasies too depraved to say out loud. you know she’s kinky, but not that kinky.
you’ve got seconds to spare for a much needed mental checklist. go:
cut your hair
score some pot
rehearsals up the wazoo
homework (at some point?)
wonder where she might fit in.
one time she said that your birthdays have the same five numbers only slightly rearranged, wasn’t that strange? another time, that you were both aquarians and aquarians needed companions, being peace-makers, water-bearers, humanitarians. you’d told her the stars must have lied because you’d always rather be alone.
remember your eighteenth birthday. some friends had come over and partied in your basement and you’d cleaned the rug with club soda and hid all embarrassing family photographs. when your mom sat you down on the couch the next day you’d figured it was about that foot-long stain which hardly came out or those precious pictures stashed like popcorn bowls under the sink. perhaps she’d found condom wrappers in your trashcan, or the bag of weed stashed under the bed? she’d looked at you all serious and numb until you were ready to crack, ready to confess to every (or nearly every) crime you’d ever committed in her miserable house but then she looked you squarely in your retinas saying, you’re old enough to know that dad isn’t your biological father, and suddenly everything fell apart and came together in exactly the same instant — time is relative, imaginary, virtually irrelevant and your brain did a quadruple take on its own existence as you scanned the long stems of your hands wondering, was this really you? you’d figured it couldn’t be, it couldn’t be at all…now don’t trust your family, your friends, and don’t trust yourself.
start off slow, a little unsure, but the words fly out uncontrollably: i don’t want to lead you on. stare her squarely in the eyes, brown like yours but rounder and usually sad.
all you want to do is fuck her.
all you want is to open the door to your brightly lit building and climb three flights of stairs, pausing at each level to peer at your faces, expectant and afraid, reflected in the walls of glass (suicide-proof). all you want is to lead her past the dirty clothes heaped on the floor, past the sporadically placed paper cups of ash and resin and used condoms which you never have time to throw out, past the fallen posters and the empty packs of pills to your unmade bed, its sheets still scented with sweat from the last time you invited her in. all you want is to play that game where you pretend you’re falling asleep and she pounces on you catlike because she’s not sleepy and neither are you and she knows it. toss her from side to side, shake her off like a little bug, laughing as she falls off the bed or bumps her elbow against your wall…and you say, shhh i’m sleeping, and she says, you better not be!, and you say, well what would you rather us do then?
soon your legs are tangled like wires and she’s taking licks at your throat while you purr because she thinks it’s cute. soon there’s no time to pull the hair from your mouth (either yours or hers always sticks in your kiss) or take off her shirt…no time to get under the sheets, no time to search your chaotic room for a condom unless there’s a break midway through where you need to catch your breath, and you stumble to your jacket or drawer or pile of clothes and grab one. as you slip it on she might take off her shirt and you might take off yours too and then you’ll place one large hand on the hollow of her back and she’ll circle her fingers around the wrist that holds you up, holds her against you, holds you inside of her, and she’ll moan into the pillow and you’ll peck at her neck, all full of sweat, because you don’t want to hurt her…unless, that is, she wants you to.
this is fun and all, you hear yourself say as if watching your body from the height of that florescent light, watching the two of you cast one large shadow over the expanse of the dead-empty lawn, but i don’t want to lead you on. throw in, i don’t think i am, because that way she can’t blame you. look at the crooked part in her hair and think of that night you made her wear pigtails.
no you’re not, she says meekly, as if you were her boss or teacher or perhaps her father.
you know enough:
she doesn’t take acid (you do).
she celebrates christmas (you don’t).
she’s never been to europe (you lived there a year).
she studies film history (you’d rather star in movies than analyze film).
she writes poetry. you hate poetry. words are meaningless symbols designed to articulate sight and sound, taste and touch, but how on earth could arrangements of letters convey emotions? she’ll sit on the floor at your friends’ place in yonkers quietly listening while everyone talks and who can tell what she stores in her brain cells, soaks up for later use? you hear she’s good but you’ve never had time to read any of her stuff.
remember the morning you walked in on your ex asleep with your best friend? it was last semester, the week or two after london; you were sticking around campus before the beginning of summer when you couch surfed manhattan and performed shitty plays in brooklyn.
really, you should have seen it coming…the two of them scurrying back and forth like rats across the lawn. someone should have stopped you from drinking too much whiskey and fucking too many random girls in random beds, stopped you from twisting yourself into knots so you could have crawled across the ocean and yanked your ex back to shore.
that morning you’d bent down on your best friend’s floor and almost vomited everything everywhere. you’d almost jumped onto his bed and punched his fucking lights out, bloodying him so badly she’d never dare touch him again. instead it’s you she’s never touched again. unless, of course, she’s passing a blunt or offering your coat.
this weather makes your lips ache and still your feet are clammy. now isn’t the time to ask for chapstick.
she must know you know she likes you likes you more than a friend. wonder: what the hell does she want from me? could she know that you strangled your girlfriend, excuse you exgirlfriend, once in the shower when you were afraid she’d cheated? could she know you’ve told all of your friends (exgirlfriend included) that she means nothing to you, nothing more than a good fuck? she must know you can see straight through her: when she calls to smoke pot but only wants to make a move, when she waits to finish watching cartoons, only hoping you’ll lead her upstairs and into your room, as if this were a rent-by-the-hour motel. wonder: does she know that all you want (all you really think you need) is one friend who doesn’t expect anything? one girl who won’t fuck you over?
in the afterglow sometimes, when you’re curled together like kittens keeping warm, she’ll nuzzle into your arm or ribs or chest and you’ll loosely fold your fingers over her tightly clenched fist. it’s very mechanical, you figure. you’ve both done these kinds of things before.
remember the time you saw her cry? after slamming your best friend’s door that morning, the exgirlfriend still buried naked under his covers, you’d stomped across the lawn, barged into her room, locked the door and paced her floor shouting, i can’t believe they would do this to me! this is the worst thing that’s ever happened! i wish i could kill them both! on the ground, holding your knees, you’d whimpered: just as i was so deep in love…and she herself had burst into tears, quickly hiding her eyes in her hands so you wouldn’t see.
i don’t want things to be awkward, she says. tell her, they’re not, even though they are. if they weren’t would you be standing in the cold contemplating how to set the record straight?
you’re trying to resist. you’re trying to say no. you’re trying, for a change, to be alone, all alone like you’ve wanted from day one…even across the fucking globe you were still holding onto everyone you know, still swallowing sweat of off some girl’s back whenever you got drunk enough to score.
you’re an actor…walk into a room and suddenly fill every corner with facets of your multidimensional soul: disperse your energy, set your isotopes adrift, build a new self from the infinite atomic specks that encircle you, yes that’s what you do. there is no definable you in this universal gene pool: both existential and nihilistic, all at the same time.
remember that night in september, a few weeks into school again, when the two of you were sprawled on your best friend’s couch (the exgirlfriend nuzzled beside him in bed), talking as if you hadn’t fucked whenever you crashed at her place all summer long? she hadn’t driven her car that night and it was raining, neither of you felt like walking back to the muddy lawn. instead you’d stayed awake discussing karma and morality and free-flowing qi until 10 a.m. you’d told her, there are no boundaries between you and me because the world is matter, trees and cars and birds and bricks: everything is stars.
realize: she’s probably the only person who’ll sit up with you, letting you do most of the talking, every now and then asking, but what does that actually mean? every now and then asking, and what are your favorite things? telling you the color of your soul.
she doesn’t believe in self-preservation. she doesn’t believe in free will. she doesn’t even eat meat. she’s too generous with her body and time, but perhaps that counts for something?
tell her, you can’t get offended if i decide i don’t want to do this anymore, ok?
watch her face fall.
love is as meaningless as poetry and as complicated as dna. in order to love, there has to be challenge. nobody desires what they already have.
you can almost smell her hair perfuming your stale sheets, almost feel her slippery tongue moistening your skin, but now you have to resist. wonder: what am i trying to prove? on the nights you’re too drained from class and rehearsal, too stoned to care one way or the other, you end up lighting incense to mask the smell of dirty clothes, turning up the volume on your hundred dollar speakers until the guy below threatens noise complaint, sitting idly at your computer asking yourself precisely the kinds of questions that class and acting and pot and killing time watching cartoons prevent you from asking…such as, why are you so afraid? and who are you, anyway?
i can get offended, she mumbles back, i just can’t blame you for it.
she’s staring behind you, looking ready to cry. you hate seeing girls cry for god’s sake. it’s much easier when you’re the one playing the role of dejected lover, sitting drunk and depressed on the curb outside the bar, wishing you weren’t another nameless actor with a broken fucking heart.
wonder if she knows that the scars on your fingers are from purposely punching your hand through glass. wonder if she knows that you can’t recall a single day you haven’t smoked pot.
yesterday, your best friend said you’re in between who you once were and who you want to be. you’d wanted to tell him, i need to shape and recreate, i am only a character, there really is no other me.
realize: you don’t have enough motivation to do your laundry let alone figure out why you’re suffocated, asphyxiated, like there’s too much smoke in your lungs, too much november chill in your bones, too much energy churning in your gut and now wonder, you have to wonder: what does everyone want from me?
your mother won’t pay for a bus ticket home.
look at these sad dark eyes…you know she’d give you money and never ask for a return.
the way it is is the way it is and nothing’s gonna change. she’s smiling and playing along like she doesn’t know you know she’s falling apart and there you are a whole foot taller glaring down like the streetlight, the bad guy by default.
when she smiles big and wide as you race each other along the street, onto the lawn, away to the moon, all the way home, it’s too cute not to love. someone, somewhere, must want to love her…but you only want to fuck her.
shuffle your feet and give her that flirtatious grin: well, do you want to come upstairs?
you know you need her smile, that face, in your hands. more accurately, you don’t want to climb those steps, all three flights, with only your own jaded image in the reflective window glass.
she hesitates for a second longer than you expect. it’s almost reassuring.
sure, she says, i’d like to.
consider for one moment how you’ll feel in the morning when you kick her out of bed so you can (maybe) shower and head to japanese, having screwed yourself (once again) out of a decent night’s sleep, barely able to make it through another tiresome day. maybe what you really ought to do is tuck yourself in, listen to the buzz of silence that fills your vacant room, and cuddle the blanket you’ve had your whole life. but, consider for one second more how she’ll feel in the morning: stomping across the dew-ridden grass, grateful for the night before? honestly, you have no idea.
you should grab your skirt (you can’t keep from grinning) and some chapstick, this weather makes my lips dry.
and you’re off, one foot in front of the other up those stairs, all three flights, peeking past your dumb reflection to that small shape striding straight across the lawn. unlock your door, step into your room, and clear the clothes notebooks ashtray off your bed. fluff your pillows, light a new stick of incense, finally take off your socks. ignore the accusatory voice in your head asking, who the hell do you think you are? and tell yourself: she understands, this is for fun, we are just friends. notice the mix cd sitting face up, unopened, and remember to say, for the next time she asks, it’s not that you don’t want to listen, this just isn’t the time.
AMY DUPCAK studied Writing at Sarah Lawrence College and holds an MFA in Fiction from The New School. She is currently the Features Editor of Beyond Race Magazine, a high school Creative Writing teacher, and is trying to publish a collection of short stories, while also writing a novel. She lives in the "chess district" of NYC.