The girl next to me asked why we had to do it.
My professor’s lips curled into a sad smile. ‘Well, why do we do anything?’ he asked. ‘We wake up, we get up, we do what needs to be done, and then it starts all over again. That’s life.’
Yes, it is.
It was true, she was pretty even though she was out of focus. Her friends often wondered, when her eyes glazed over, whereabouts her mind was drifting during their conversations.
She craved attention, yet enjoyed the background. Forcing laughs, and making small talk to entertain the masses. The only real excitement came from the stares of male passersby. She imagined their trousers tightening as they eyed her short skirt and long, shapely body.
As she shamefully walked inside her home the next morning, removing the cross from her neck and opening a textbook, the make-up hid the bites he had left on her throat.
It was true, she was pretty.
But, she was out of focus.
The words are twisted, dancing upon my tongue like fiery tornadoes. I long to spill them out and spurt them over the page to make a pretty story, but the desire for that is all. I don’t really want to write. I know I should, I know they want me to; but I don’t feel like it. And my accounts are meaningless, anyway.
Somebody, or perhaps nobody, once told me that writing shouldn’t be done unless there is a great demand in your body for it. Unless your heart is dripping with shame; unless your eyes are searing with jealous anger; or unless your head is blissfully napping on the soft underside of a cloud with the one you admire most.
So I won’t push it. I promise. That’s what I’m going to do: wait for that moment, the moment when that desperate desire to write swims into my veins and leaves me with a raging hunger to form characters, which in turn will form a story so beautiful you will never want it to end.
But right now, that’s just not going to happen.
The club was a nest of vodka-infused dancers and raging techno beats. As we gyrated, I looked over the sea of heads and imagined us all in the same building during daytime, sans music and dark lighting. In my mind I saw the sunlight flowing in from the balcony as men and women awkwardly shuffled from inch to inch, and yelled at their neighbours like mental patients in order to be heard over the thumping silence.
From behind, a faint but distinct touch roused me from my reverie. Ignoring it, I danced on. Yet there it was again; a hand slowly moving up and down the curve of my body, defying the quick musical beat pumping from the speakers. I turned my face to find a familiar pair of blue eyes staring back at me in hunger. I remembered the Persian lyric I had discovered only the day before, but made no resistance as he leaned in and fixed his lips to mine; all the while wishing that it were Tom instead.
Only afterwards did I understand that I had weaved myself a pattern. An inescapable embroidery in which I was forever moving through, yet forever pinned.
One day we got high. The highest we’ve ever been. And we sat there, under the monument. I laughed for a while. But eventually, I came to fear everything around me. The sky roared as if it were about to collapse and crush me into the Earth. The pigeons sung ominous notes, heralding mankind’s death. And everyone nearby looked on in disgust. Or so I thought.
Josie smiled at me.
When the rain came, we took shelter in the luxurious department store. Louis Vuitton and Chanel made lonely love to each other while I looked on in wonder, navigating myself through the maze of wet tiles and blinding lights.
I was dizzy. So very dizzy.
Besides which, my feet were bricks. Every step was an effort to lift my whole body up and drag itself forward. Life was a movie. I could stand in front of a tram and it would pass right through me. Yes, it’s just a movie, I thought. And time is nothing. I didn’t have time to do anything.
By chance, I bumped into some other friends. They wanted to hang out.
Fuck off, I said. I’m high.
The wind is tearing across my face. I push my feet hard against the pedals. Gulping in the cold air, my mind swells with sick thoughts. I scream from within. Tears run down my face as I pray for a saviour. But it is only the wind who answers, howling back at me.
I recognize the feeling now. Helplessness.
In a literal sense.
My very being aches with the memory of how I abandoned you. You left. So quietly and disappointedly. My head pulses with the thought of being with you. My hands tingle at the anticipation of your touch. My throat is bedeviled with marks of your biting love.
And your words still resonate softly in my ears.
‘I hope you like it rough.’
‘I’m just going for a walk’.
But she never came back. Her beer stood half-empty upon the bar for hours before it was drowned in the sink. Days passed and I still thought it rude of her to simply disappear. But then I realised: maybe it was just too hard for her to say goodbye.
I recalled the lead-up to the events which transpired. Passing me her own hand-made gift, she asked me to likewise sign it also and be the one to present it at dinner. I agreed.
‘Oh, Jess’, he said. ‘Thank you so much!’
I shook my head and tried to shift the attention back to her, but she looked on wearing an unfathomable expression. It was then that I knew. She had given it to me first so that it would seem she had no part in any of it.
Apologetically, I said, ‘It was all E.’
Her eyes were evasive, but not from embarrassment or anger. She looked like she may cry. The girl who couldn’t care for any person, be it friend or lover. The girl who would never show emotion. The girl who feared nothing and savoured death, horror and destruction. Now with a lover, saying goodbye to one of her best friends in the world.
She had more heart than I thought.
‘Music helps’, I say.
His eyes widen and he nods in avid agreement. Suddenly I imagine him in his apartment wailing hysterically to Air Supply, but am soon humbled with the reminder of my guilty pleasure in gyrating to KC & The Sunshine Band. It’s true: music is good therapy.
Back home it is lonely. I switch the lights on and sit at the head of the table eating a bread roll with sprinkles. After finishing, I stare at my plate for a long time. The excess hagelslag is scattered across the porcelain like tiny rat poos.