Eighteen

Dylan called twice today,” Kesa said, gesturing to our machine. I had just come back into the room with my bath towel wrapped up in my hair. I squeaked across the floor in my shower flip flops and picked up the phone. It was late, but I tried his cell anyway. He answered on the first ring.

I told him all about my day, for once not having to edit anything out. He was appropriately outraged when I explained what had happened the night before. He was proud of me for putting that scumbag in his place. I cringed a little at his admiration of my moral strength. Accepting it felt abnormally degrading.

After talking for a few more minutes he said, “I love you, you know?”

“I love you too… and I miss you.” I replied, honestly.

“I miss you too,” he whispered. Then we hung up.

I avoided eye contact with Kesa for a few minutes more, then finally chanced a sideways glance in her direction. She was sitting cross-legged on her bed, her right eyebrow high enough to hang her from the ceiling.

I did miss Dylan and I did love him, I just didn’t want to be with him. The subtle nuance of this was lost on Kesa, however. I couldn’t imagine why. I wasn’t entirely narcissistic. I felt like an insensitive jerk, not being the girlfriend he wanted me to be (both loyal and on the same continent). But I simply couldn’t. I wanted to be free. I wanted to thrive. I was in Hawaii, experiencing life more fully than ever before, and loving every minute of it. I was happy, fully entrenched in the unbridled exhilaration of my own life. This was my time and I refused to give it up for anything … or anyone.

If only I could just tell Dylan that. For some reason, honesty was the most difficult and daunting action that I could imagine. I was petrified at the very thought of exposing myself to his unfiltered inspection. It felt so much safer here, in my personally-constructed, fictitious world.

Yet, all the lying had been quietly taking a toll on me. I wasn’t trusted by those around me and I wasn’t even sure if I could still trust myself … if I even knew who myself was… Even worse, I now lived in a state of constant anxiety at the thought of being uncovered like a slug hiding beneath a rock, exposing my anemic flesh to the heat of the sun.

But what could I do? Clearly, the time had come to do a little pruning.

I tried to break it off with Dylan later that day. It didn’t work. I couldn’t even force the words to form in my mouth. I tried again the next day with the same result. It was useless. So I switched my attention to Cole. I had loved the time we’d spent together. It was easy and fun. I liked it that way. But I could already feel us becoming an “item” and I couldn’t accept that. I needed the space to be me, not just someone’s girlfriend. Not to mention the fact that I was already someone’s girlfriend.

Baby steps.

I was terrified. I hated hurting people and I hated confrontation. I had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t want to be in a serious relationship. Since I was currently in two steady relationships and had been playing around with as many more, it felt like I may not have been accomplishing that goal.

I found Cole sitting in the flag circle, exactly where Gavin and I had kissed only a few nights before. I could literally see the two of us suctioning each other, right behind where Cole now sat. I was pretty sure he could see it too. I was a bad person.

Cole looked devastatingly handsome. He smiled when he saw me approaching. The vision of my past self gave me a dirty look. Then she flipped me the bird over holo-Gavin’s shoulder. I sat down and Cole slung his arm loosely around my waist, kissing me happily on the cheek.

I tried to get right to the point before I could change my mind… although was I really sure I wanted to do this at all? I forgot how cute the crinkly smile lines around Cole’s eyes were. Had he smelled this good before? It was such a nice day outside, why ruin it when we could just go to the beach and enjoy the…

“I think we should see other people!” I blurted, surprising even myself.

The wind blew slightly, tracing my hair across my face, as I waited in mortification for his response. Bits of other conversations floated around us, mingling with the smell of Plumeria and sea salt. Inside my head was a cacophony of chaos.

Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. This was going to be bad. He was going to hate me forever. What if he punched me??? What if he screamed at me??? What if someone called the police and they arrested us both? Of course he’d never shown any inclination towards violence in the past… but this could be it. I was going to push him over the edge. That laid back attitude was all a ruse! He was going to murder me in my sleep! What if he broke down in tears??? Oh God. I was an awful human being.

I should have just transferred schools and waited for the relationship to burn out on its own…

That would have worked…

That was a good idea…

What was I doing here?!?!

As the sun shone down, highlighting his thick brown hair and almond eyes, I braced myself for the worst.

“OK,” he said.

“OK… what?” I whispered, quivering.

“OK, we can see other people.” He remarked, offhandedly.

“Really?” I mumbled, completely shocked and tongue-tied, “Can we still be friends?”

“Sure,” he shrugged.

I struggled for something more to say, something to end everything on a good note, a joke maybe? Why were there no good breaking up jokes?!

Instead, we just sat in silence for a minute more. Finally, he stood and headed off to his class. I got up and moved on to mine, confused and a bit concerned. I had anticipated any reaction – anger, sorrow, accusation, even refusal, but indifference? What did that mean?! At least we can still be friends, I thought, comforting myself.

As the weeks rolled by, however, it became exceedingly apparent that we could not. Cole would respond if spoken to, but he acted like he couldn’t quite recall where he knew me from … but he was pretty sure it wasn’t good.

 

This is the latest installment in my story. If you haven’t yet read the previous entries, click here to start at the beginning. Then continue to read each post in numerical order.

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