You always fucking did it. That night was no different. I said seven o’clock and it was ten by the time I made it to your dorm. I was so sick of waiting for you. If you didn’t want to come you should have said so. Instead I sat there like an idiot, waiting. You have no idea how mad you made me during that night. I seriously wanted to break things off at least twice that year. That night, it was one of those times.
I had to hunt down Jamie on campus just so I could get in. You never answered your phone. Like always, Jamie was apologizing for you. Everyone always put themselves to your defense, “Emma had a long day.”
“Emma is taking way too many classes.”
“Don’t take it personally.” I think that was my favorite. How could I not take getting stood up and ignored personally?
We were suppose to spend that night together watching Rebecca’s show. She finally got a lead part and was begging for us to come. You were less than enthusiastic as usual. You hated “art”. Anything that didn’t have some fundamental cause and effect seemed to put you off. I showed up alone and left alone. Even so, Rebecca still played to your defense. I was always alone in my resentment towards you.
That night was special too. We usually only had the weekends to spend time together but that night, a Thursday, we both were suppose to manage some time. I was going to drive in and we would skip our Friday classes and just have the weekend to ourselves. It was a two hour drive to U of M from Western. Two hours of happy thoughts crushed by three hours of waiting and disappointment.
Jamie let me in your room. The tall halogen was on in the corner. You were tucked deep into the bottom bunk. The place was a mess. I knew you always cleaned when I came but I had no idea it was this bad during the week. I felt Jamie push her way in. “Wait,” I whispered. We exchanged glances and Jamie took the hint. She left us alone. Her parting words, whispers of apology.
You never really talked about Jamie after you graduated. I figured you two were pretty close. She seemed to really like you. She was pretty; very tall. She was part french or something, right? I was always a little jealous of her. You never kept too many friends around now that I think of it.
The halogen was a horrible source of light. I stumbled through the pile of clothing and nearly tripped over what felt like a book. I swear I a saw a bowl of soup somewhere; twisted noodles and sodium laced chunks of chicken floating in a murky broth. What was it that you used to say? Something about great minds having no time to worry about appearance. That hasn’t changed I’m sure. You’ll always be more concerned with convenience over cleanliness. Or as I always put it, you were lazy.
The bunk was small, hardly a twin. We would always have to twist our bodies when we had sex. It was beyond uncomfortable. Yet, there you laid, sound asleep. You slept over the covers, socks still on. Your face was angled towards the wall. Your arms and legs folded tightly to fit into the bed.
I thought for a moment as I stood near the bunk. How was I to wake you? How was I going to piss you off the most? You had no idea how angry you made me that night. I wanted to scream, stomp my heels into your back, I wanted you to pay attention. That always was the problem, right? I wanted attention. You hated that mind-set. But what was wrong with wanting to be acknowledged, especially by the woman I loved?
In the end I decided the best punishment was to wait. I wanted to be there when you woke from that that happy trance of sleep. I wanted to see your face as you realized I was tired of your shit. Ripping you from a dream wouldn’t have the same effect. I wanted you to stumble peacefully back into consciousness then hit reality like a brick-wall.
We were only together for two years by then and I was already fed up with your sarcasm. Snarky is just a cute way to say “bitchy”, right? You treated me like crap some times. Why? I knew how you felt but every now and then you decided to just push me away and hide. You never explained those mood swings to me.
I sat at the cramped desk across from the bunk. The seat was just as uncomfortable as the bed. I just sat there arranging all my insults for best effect. It’s strange when I think about it now, how you could twist my emotions like that. I never met anyone else who could do that to me. Maybe I just learned my lesson after being with you.
My eyes bounced across the room as I was getting bored. I traced the ceiling and walls. Above you, Jamie’s bunk was neatly made, her wall covered in photos and notes. The halogen gave a certain glow to all her possessions. She seemed almost angelic in her photos. I could never recall all the faces but I’m sure at some point we met them all. Jamie was always introducing us to someone. She was “social royalty” you said.
Then there was you. The dragon sleeping deep in the cave under the princess. I watched your body expand with your breaths, I swore I saw a hint of fire. It was dark but I knew you had nothing on your wall. Only that picture of us from summer I put there. You were always alone Emma. Looking back that’s all I keep noticing about you. You were alone.
What were you hiding? My malice thoughts turned to curiosity as I watched you sleep. Maybe the boredom took over. It was awhile since I conceived my plan. I always thought at the start of our relationship that you had some dark secret and that’s why you always pulled away. Really you were just socially inept. But the curiosity always pulled me close. That’s probably why everyone always gravitated to you in a strange way. I wonder when you became aware of it?
There was a long black cord hung across your shoulder and back. I leaned closer and squinted in the low light. You had a pair of headphones on. No surprise there. Music was the only thing we truly had in common. Not so much our tastes but, that we both found ourselves so attached to it.
Even though music was “art” you saw it mathematically. Each beat, each count, there was something beautiful to you in that order. Melody was the purest form of cause and effect outside of physics to you. How you manged to love David Bowie so much is still a mystery to me though.
I was artsy about the whole music thing. Even though I grew up with a cello and Shostakovitch as parents I found myself in to more expressive musicians and bands. I could lose myself in the sound. Music was freedom of thought and pure emotion. I think the closest I ever got to understanding you was listening to your music collection. And yes Emma, I did see that Madonna CD even though you tried to hide it.
Again that allure of your mystery… I lost track of my anger and found myself sliding behind you in the bunk. I wanted to hear what it was that kept you from me. I wanted that brief peek inside of your head. I ran my hands across your hips to test your alertness. You were motionless to my touch. I slid my hand up the side of your body and rested it on your shoulder.
Up and down; your sides kept expanding and contracting. You put on weight. I couldn’t dare tell you at the time but you must’ve gained ten to fifteen pounds when you started college. You never acted like it but you were always self-conscious of your weight. The one thing a great mind couldn’t ignore, huh?
My hand slid into the slight curve of your neck. It was the most feminine part of you. I loved your neck. So strange, I know. But I loved touching you there; kissing you. Your body always became warmer as my lips led me down to your neck. Maybe I just enjoyed knowing there was a way to make you melt. Maybe.
I reached for the ear bud in your left ear, it was cloaked with your dark hair. It slid out gently. I pulled the ear bud to me only to ignore the obvious tug it would cause. Your face twisted towards me as I couldn’t stop the motion. The ear bud was still in my hand as your soft face rested before me.
You were beautiful. You were always so beautiful. How could you have never seen that? I tried hating that face so much. How I wanted so bad for those horrid feelings to return and spill out into rage. But they wouldn’t. They never could. Your face… Every time, I swear, every time; you could win me over with just a smile.
Your lips curved as I saw your eyelashes flutter open. I was frozen, stun by the dance of your eyes adjusting to reality. That moment always stuck with me. I watched you wake so many time before but that night, I don’t know, maybe it was the constant fluctuations of emotions but it felt like you came to life. This horrid beast of pain and disappointment was only there a few seconds before. Then this soft angel sprang from the beast’s back. Her face so pure and innocent.
“I love you Emma Tyler,” was all I could say to myself as your eyes focused on my face.
A “hey,” crawled out of your dry throat.
“Hey,” so soft, barely a whisper.
Your eyes began to take in the situation. You smiled as you noticed my frozen hand above your face, the ear bud still tightly in my fingers. “Caught ya.”
“You’re the one in trouble.”
“What do mean?” I loved your voice when you woke. It had a slight husk but was always so playful.
“Its almost eleven-thirty.” You paused. I swore I heard the actual gears in your head click.
“Shit! I’m so sorry.”
“You’re so sorry everyone else is sorry for you.”
“What does that mean?”
“You can’t keep screwing up like this.”
“I’m sorry. I just figured I could cram some of this German before I left and–”
“It’s too late for an excuse.” Laying so close to you that was so hard to say.
Your eyes sunk behind your lashes, “do you hate me?”
“No,” it seemed impossible to feel that way now.
You smiled, at ease, “So what’s my punishment? Or, can I sex my way out of this one?”
“Is that all you think about?”
“You’re the one in bed with me.”
“I was just planning to strangle you with your headphones as you slept.”
“Quite the romantic.”
“Could you blame me?”
It was quiet. Perhaps you actually thought I was serious about my threat. Knowing you, you were already 10,000 thoughts deep with analysis of the situation. I kissed you, “Stop.”
“I wasn’t thinking about anything,” you said with that playful tone still intact.
“I want you here. You can’t hide away after standing me up tonight.”
“You do know how counter-productive it is to kiss me every time I do something you don’t like?”
I kissed you again, and yes, I always knew. “Why are you learning German? Last time I check they also teach Physics in English.”
“It helps for reading some of the content in its original form. Plus my counselor was breathing down my back to take a non-physics course so I could have something to fall back on.”
“German is hardly something you should fall back on.”
“I actually kinda like it.”
“Yeah,” you paused as you searched your head for a few words, “Ich liebe dich!”
“Sounds dirty. And knowing you…”
“Maybe when you’re done being mad with me I’ll tell you what it means.”
“I guess I’ll never know then.” I turned my back to you. Which was a near impossible task to do gracefully in the cramped bunk.
You were quiet. I knew you were thinking again. I hated that little thought factory otherwise called your brain. You could never just react. You had to think, plan and then, slowly, execute your idea. I felt your hands pass across my hair. You put the ear bud from your right ear into mine.
Chocolate. Every time I hear a cello that’s what I think. I’m not sure where I developed that attachment for the two words. The chords always sound so deep and smooth on a cello. If chocolate had a sound it would certainly come from a cello.
“Do you like it?” You said leaning over my shoulder.
“Nice. I didn’t know Bowie played cello.”
“It’s not Bowie,” that was the end of you playful tone. “I decided to try something new. It’s–”
“Bach. Cello suite no. 2. Quite a step up from Bowie,” I said smiling, knowing I ruined your chance to impress me.
“So do I get any points for becoming more cultural?” You leaned you face closer over my shoulder.
“Nice to see you’re keeping track of points but not time.” I would have pulled away in a snub but any further movement would have threw me from the bunk.
“You stood me up. For three hours! Don’t expect any sympathy from me. Just be happy that I’m talking to you.” It was a playful banter but I knew you would take it too seriously. You internalized everything. “I’m not that mad. I’m mad. Just not that mad.”
“You still going to stay this weekend?” You wrapped you arms over my shoulders.
“I don’t know, your German sounded pretty bad. Maybe I should let you study.”
“It’s not that bad. You don’t even know German.”
“But I know bad German and that was bad German.”
“I love you,” you said with a laugh and kissed me on the cheek.
We laid there as you held me. The “chocolate” still playing softly in my ear. Looking back, I wonder if that’s how you felt when you thought. Everything felt so overwhelming but to a point of harmony. All those tiny little things racing at once but every now and then they met and formed this perfect peaceful feeling.
That’s it isn’t it? That feeling, the reason why you hid in your thoughts all those years. To feel so covered and protected by all those things is… comforting. That’s also why it was so hard to break through to you; why you were always alone. I don’t think I ever truly broke through it. I used to think I did when we were a little younger; I knew you changed but you were always guarded.
“Emma?” I asked, concerned you may have fallen asleep.
“Yeah?” Almost there.
“Ich liebe dich.”
You exhaled, “I thought you only knew bad German?”
“Is there such a thing as good German?”
You laughed and I turned back to face you. I felt like a pretzel tangled with you in the bunk. “Don’t take me for granted.”
“Then show up. I can’t always be waiting for you Emma. I can’t.” You looked hurt. It was so hard to be mad at you. You always turned yourself into the victim somehow.
“Lee, I’m sorry.” I could tell your thoughts were distorting with guilt.
“I love you. Just please didn’t let me feel like the only one. You’re so hard to be with sometimes. You–” I stopped. You weren’t listening. You were already beating yourself up in your head. Going over again and again all the things you should’ve done.
“Emma,” I kissed you, “Please stop. Don’t do this. I don’t hate you. I’m just hurt, I need you to know that. I still love you. Just stop doing this.”
“I can’t help it.” Your voice was getting dry.
“Just listen. It’s okay. Just stop worrying.” I managed my hand towards your face, “I’m here. If you want to be with me you have to be here too.”
“I don’t ever want to lose you.”
“Then stop making everything so complicated. I just need you here. Nothing else matters to me.” I waited. I didn’t kiss you then. I wanted for you to kiss me.
You cried. I talked you through it. School, work, life, it all boiled over into vague statements and sloppy tears. We had sex and slept through the night. Bach’s cello suite playing through both of our dreams.
After that night you were a little better. So many things were left broken over the years. How could we not see them when they caught up to us? Still, that night was special to me. All of our nights were. It was always magic with you Emma. Even when I was hurt it was always magic. But I’m still waiting, you know? No matter how many times I replay that night in my head, I’m still waiting for you to kiss me. I’ll always be waiting.