This one is a short-short. Or Flash Fiction, depending on who you ask. The best anecdote I can share about it is that it’s kind of a fictional portrait of my best, and weirdest, college relationship-that-wasn’t.
“People in cities don’t use their high-beams,” I told you, “they don’t remember them.”
“Sure they do! Look! See?” You flicked yours on.
“What are you doing? You’ll blind people.” We drove down a main street. You smiled and I laughed.
“So now I have to think about the other guy, do I?” You were prone to goings-on like that. You thought it was funny to dramatize everything. You did.
You terrified me because I wanted you. You made me preoccupied. You made me patient. You made me mad. Batty. You looked at me like I was the most precious thing this end of the universe and I was sexy. I believed it.
You made me restless and horny. Just our legs brushing under a table. We almost never touched in public. Our tactic was steeping in want. Want that we thought of as control. We were masochists.
Not the dirty kind, the emotional kind.
Neither of us wanted to believe us because we were good. We looked for reasons to be awkward with one another. Comfort was a symptom of emotional depth, and we didn’t know that. We didn’t want it, either. We wanted each other because neither of us knew why.
Your eyes flickered and you twitched. I was steady. I wondered what it meant that you always wanted to drive. We wanted each other for months, until we were both exhausted in it. Until we were too tired from not sleeping to fight it. Until we could, and it would be like a dream because we would be so tired. We would fall asleep in the middle of it, and it would be a dream. You would have the head of a terrier in mine, even though I loved your face. You said you dreamed of light bulbs. You never explained what the light bulbs were doing.
Sometimes we woke up after, and you would smile and rest a fist between my breasts. You used your fingers sparingly. I never smiled, just looked at you wide-eyed. It seemed weird to me. But I told you that I wasn’t going to force or control anything about us. I was tired of that. You were, too. “Act natural,” we said.
Then you asked me, “What is natural?”
I said I didn’t know.
So I didn’t ask you “why?” when you opened my car door or let me order first. Although to me, those things seemed not natural. But everyone always said it is “the little things” that make stuff good. I didn’t know anything about making stuff good, so I trusted you in that. I didn’t trust you otherwise.
You were emotionally unreliable. But so was I. I was a slave to ideas. Jotted them places: napkins, road maps, fliers. You found the scraps of my brain around, and rubbed your thumb over the letters of some of them. Like you tried to make them disappear, or make them part of you. I was never sure.
The things we said to each other were preposterous. Things people should never say to each other. “I’ll always be here.” “You are better than strawberry shortcake.” “You are smarter than Einstein.” Not even dipped in comedy, just in sentiment.
Your roommate was a fat man named Carl. When you were pissed off, you would swear in Carl’s name, not God’s.
A Buick cut you off.
“For the love of fucking Carl,” you said.
I said, “Why do you love fucking Carl?”
“Come off it. Don’t be jealous.”
“Sure,” and you looked like I was lying.
“Are you fucking Carl?”
We fought. We got quiet, and your fuming profile reminded me of my father. You slammed on the brakes at my house. I got out and you sped down the road without saying goodbye. I cried, but when you called later to apologize, I asked you what you were apologizing for.