Sunday, November 14, 2010

Do We Stay Together 'Cause We're Scared to Be Alone?

Mood:  hmmm; good question.
Hating:  school work, indecision, and rude people who just cause so many issues that inconvenience you and make you even more upset.
Loving:  brainstorming with Lyndsey.
Lip-syncing:  Pink -- Mean



“We should’ve gone to Starbucks.”

“Sarah, you can’t say that in Second Cup.”
“What? Is there some sort of rule?”
“I’m assuming there is.”
“Nobody has tackled me down yet--”
“Just be patient and wait for your damn coffee.”
I had to secretly agree with her though. We should have gone somewhere else today. What was worse than being stuck at a busy Second Cup in the late morning with a bunch of disgruntled people? Being stuck with Sarah, who was one of those disgruntled people. Usually it would be amusing to listen to her smart comments anywhere else and any day of the week, but that day was about getting out of the cafe alive. And with coffee.

“Do you have any plans tonight?” Sarah asked, glaring at the tall man carrying a briefcase who pushed between us to get his drink. I mimicked her glare as I responded,

“Not that I know of. Why? Is Patrick playing a show tonight?”

“Actually, I thought we could go to the movies.”

“The movies?” I repeated. “Is going to the movies still relevant these days?”

“Just thinking outside the box,” she said, cleverly mimicking the shape with her fingers.


“So will you go?”

“Maybe.” I heard her sigh in distress.

“Oh, come on!”

“I said maybe, Sarah. What more do you want?”

“No,” she whined, waving her hand over to the man with a suitcase who clearly ordered a few people after us. “We were totally standing in front of him!”

“Well, it probably takes extra time and care to make your special little lactose-free, decaf peppermint type drink or whatever you ordered.” Sarah ignored me as she flipped out her phone out to check her messages.

“If I knew this would happen, I would have stayed in bed with Patrick. Naked.”

And as much as I would love to picture that right now, I have to get my coffee,” I said, bumping shoulders with her as I made my way over to the counter.
Sarah and I met when I had just moved into the city, living in a barely decent hotel with a shared bathroom. I was shooting band photos at this club downtown. Sarah was bartending, and some guy had grabbed her ass when she was already on her last thread. She was on the edge of quitting right then and there when she saw me.
The singer for the band I was photographing was offering me something other than money in exchange for the pictures I had just taken. He was very touchy feely and smelled of leather and practically sweated Jack Daniels from his pores. Which would have been attractive, had it not been for his clammy hands trying to reach parts of me that were reserved. The more I refused him, the more his hands wandered. I had uncomfortably shifted and spotted Sarah watching me at the other end of the counter. When we locked eyes, I could tell that we both knew what was going on. She walked over, kindly asked the man fondling me to leave, but he only shoved his almost-empty glass in her direction. Alcohol had spilled on her tank top, and she immediately lost it and lunged herself at him. The odd thing was that she hadn't touched him. His judgment was distorted, and he immediately fell back on his barstool, crashing to the floor and cursing out at no one in particular.
Sarah and I became fast friends.

“Were you meeting up with Jay later?” she asked, batting her eyelashes dreamily in my direction. I rolled my eyes as I took a careful sip of my lukewarm latte.

“Do you always have to refer to my boyfriend like that?”

“Like what?”

“Like he's Brad Pitt or something.”

“Brad Pitt?” she frowned like she had tasted something bitter. “Oh, I would never talk about Brad Pitt like that.”

“You know what I meant.”

“Right. I guess I would have understood it faster if I had some caffeine,” she hinted, eyeing my latte.
I held my small cup of treasure closer to me, before declaring, “Mine.”

Oh, come on,” she begged, “Just a sip and I'll wait patiently for my peppermint bliss.”
“But it's at a decent temperature now, and I want to savor every drop.”
“But you owe me!”
“Owe you for what?”
She stopped attempting to snatch my drink for a minute to contemplate a good answer. “You know, that one time? When I...uh...”
When she tried to grab my coffee cup, things got complicated, and we found ourselves play fighting in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was bumping up against people I didn't know, and some of my drink was getting spilled down my fingers. Apparently this happened to Sarah as well, but she didn't take it the same way I did. She let out a high pitched yelp and let go, causing me to stumble backwards, smashing against a stranger with enough force to spill my latte all over the front of my jacket. I didn't realize until I stopped freaking out over the front of my coat that the back was also stained with hot coffee. I turned around, my mouth gaped, and I stared at the guy.
“Oh my goodness, I am so sorry!”
He, too, had a brown stain in the front. Hopefully he had put on several layers like I had so the heat wouldn't be overwhelming, but he didn't show a lot of reaction. Instead, he glanced over at Sarah and then back at me. It was almost as if time stopped around us until he would say something in reply. I tried to say something else, but nothing would come out. I was too shocked. Even the uncomfortable feeling of being wet didn't overwhelm me. I just watched this guy, wiping down the front of his sweater with his hand. He was fair skinned, had dark hair, and along with the new coffee stain on his shirt, there were paint stains of colour as well. When I looked up at his face, I couldn't help but notice a small closed-lipped smile on his face as he turned away from me and towards the counter to get some more napkins.
“Are you all right?” 
Shut your mouth, Charlie.
“I didn't mean to–” 
Be quiet, Charlie.
“I mean, you're not saying anything, and I feel really bad...” 
Run away in shame now, Charlotte.
“It's fine,” he finally answered, looking at me as he set his hollow sounding coffee cup on the counter.
Since my mind had told me to be quiet, I couldn't help but finally listen to it and stand there like an idiot. Life continued moving back in motion, and we just sort of blended in with the crowd of morning Second Cup traffic.
“Really,” he assured a second time, a smirk making its way onto his face as he wiped down the stain on his jacket. “It's fine.”
Sarah eased into the sad excuse for an apology as she walked over. She waved her hand in front of my face as if I was supposed to be in a trance. “He's fine, Charlie. Leave the guy alone.”
As my best friend convinced me to walk away from the situation, I couldn't help but glance behind us at the guy standing there, still smirking. Then, I noticed right before I turned back around that he was looking straight at me, and his hand lifted slightly into a wave. I was confused.
Sarah snatched the empty coffee cup out of my hand and tossed it in the trash. We walked down the sidewalk together.
“So what was that all about?” she asked.
“I don't know what you're talking about.”
“Oh, come on! You totally phased out like an idiot in front of that awkwardly cute looking art guy.”

I glanced at her. "Art guy?"

"Messy black hair, paint stained sweater, and pale skin? Art guy."

"I didn't know you wasted your time classifying people into pointless groups."

“Well, I get bored,” she shrugged before grinning. “...Okay. Carries around a ratty spiral bound notebook, mysterious bad-boy edge, and a voice that makes my heart explode.”

“Your boyfriend?”

“Music guy. Patrick.” She wrapped her arms around herself and squeezed giddily. “Okay, okay. One more.” 

I sighed in defeat. “Shoot.”

“Gorgeous man!” she exclaimed out of nowhere with a burst of energy. “Perfect teeth and beautiful blue eyes! British accent! And his body was carved by Greek Gods!” I could only stare at her in total shock. “Actor guy. Your boyfriend, Jayden, remember?” she gripped my arm. “Or did Art guy make you forget?”

“Shut up.”

“You never answered me. Are you going to see him later?”

“I really don't know,” I confessed softly. “I haven't seen him all week.”

Our conversation faded out the more we began to walk in the direction of the park. The city was unusually crowded that day, despite the heavy clouds and the occasional cold breeze. I couldn't help but inhale and take in the lightness of the winter air.

“It’s going to snow soon.”
Sarah sighed heavily as if she was experiencing a big letdown. “Are you serious? It better not be within the next two minutes. I hate walking in the snow.”

“Don’t you watch the weather?” I said after a sip of my drink. “It won’t be until late tonight.”

“Are you serious? You just lifted your head and smelled the air like a hippie, and
then you mention the weather channel?”

“I just needed clarification.”

Sarah scoffed and looped her arm into mine as we made our way through the park to avoid crossing the street. Despite the cold weather, people still sat in the benches aligned along the two grassy fields. Walking past everyone enjoying their lunch break was a similar yet less annoying way for winter window shopping. There, within that little area contained an astounding number of pea coats, scarves, and boots for me to make a note of the next time I had a little extra cash. In the meantime, I was content with layering my shirts and wearing two socks on each foot to compensate. I let out a sigh, watching the white puff of air fade away before I turned to Sarah.

Maybe it's just that time,” I finally announced. “Jayden and I are going in different directions –”
Sarah stopped in her path and turned to me, “Charlotte, don't say that. You two are great for each other.” I sighed. The moment ‘Charlotte’ came out instead of the familiar nickname ‘Charlie’, I knew I was now dealing with a very serious Sarah.

“Are we?”

There was a long pause after that.
We ended up going to Sarah and Patrick's apartment, a place I was no stranger to despite the fact that Sarah and I were no longer roommates. We both found apartments with our boyfriends on opposite sides of the city, but I always found myself at Sarah's anyway. It had a terrace that overlooked the park. It was a great place to hang out and sip hot chocolate with its warm, comforting vibe; unlike mine and Rob's place, with our modern, minimalist furniture. It felt cold and empty.
“Maybe we should stay in tonight,” Sarah suggested, looking through a sushi takeout menu. “I'll invite Lyndsey and Brian to meet us over here for drinks. Patrick is coming home from the record store in about ten minutes, so he can pick up--”
“I just want a big, fat cheeseburger and a huge order of fries,” I said as I sank into one of the big comfy chairs, my hands making gestures as to exactly how big I wanted the burger.
“Burgers,” she repeated, switching takeout menus. “Burgers sound good.”
An hour and a half later, there were five of us sitting on the terrace, slightly tipsy from the drinks of the evening and our tummies full with the oh-so healthy burgers and fries. Our friends, Brian and Lyndsey, joined us as well as Sarah's boyfriend of almost a year, Patrick. I did feel out of place. But I didn't have to share a chair and a blanket this time around, so it felt pretty comfortable from what I could judge between Lyndsey shifting around on Brian's lap every five minutes. Sarah had her own blanket as well since Patrick was so busy strumming on his acoustic already, gazing deeply into his girlfriend's eyes while she stared at him like he was maniac. When Patrick got drunk, he was usually our source of entertainment. That night, he was cooking up his own rendition of Lionel Richie's ‘Hello’ just for Sarah.
“I can see it in your eyes,” Patrick sang, his voice echoing for the neighbors. “I can see it in your smile!”
“Can we please go inside?” Lyndsey begged, breathing out a miserable white puff of air into the cold.

Lyndsey was a nurse. She was one of the coolest nurses I had ever known. Well, I only compared this to the hormonal haggarts who literally enjoyed the pain of stabbing needles in poor soul’s arms. She truly loved what she did though; she worked even crazier hours than I did. Brian owned his own construction business. They met under the unfortunate circumstances of his trip to the emergency room after saving one of his employees from being flattened by a cement block. Having Lyndsey clean him up put Brian in such a good mood he didn’t even fire the guy operating the crane.
“Aw, baby, just one more verse!” Brian begged, pulling her to sit back down on his knee. Lyndsey rolled her eyes and gave in, putting her arms around his neck and snuggling close. Brian gave the three of us a wide grin. Sarah and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes.
“You doing okay over there in solitary, Charlie?” Brian asked, “Jay couldn't make it tonight?”

I shook my head, “No.”

“Acting thing,” Sarah explained, shrugging it off for me.

“‘Cause I wonder where you are!” Patrick practically elongated the last word as much as he could hold the note, causing stirs from the people below us.

Lyndsey couldn't seem to take much more of it and stood up. “Time to go inside.”

“Lynds!” Brian begged as he stumbled over to the window we had kept open. After that it was only the three of us. I guess it wasn't so bad since Sarah needed company along with Patrick singing like a drunken idiot. It must have been a long day at the record store for Patrick to drink so much.

“Have you called Jay?” Sarah asked, slyly trying to reach over to Patrick so she could grab his guitar from him.

My lifted my hands from inside my cozy blanket and checked my phone on my lap. “Not within the past fifteen minutes.”

“Maybe his phone's off.”

“Maybe he's ignoring me.”

“It's all in your head, Charlie,” she sighed, both for me and the fact that she failed since Patrick moved over to the chair Bri and Lyndsey had vacated. “Just because you saw one guy today who made you rethink things does not mean you should start ending your relationship.”

“It's called lust,” Patrick briefly stopped his singing to say one relevant thing for the entire evening. I sighed.
Sarah, I know you're like the love cheerleader and all, but for once, can you be realistic?” She pursed her lips. I continued. “I love him. I love his dedication to his career...” Brian and Lyndsey, who both happened to be eavesdropping, interrupted.


I looked over at them, back at Sarah, and even Patrick who was still at it with his guitar.

“But I'm not happy.”

My phone began to ring in my lap. I hesitated answering it since four pairs of eyes were all staring, waiting for me to make up my mind. When I did pick up the phone, Patrick decided it was the right time to start strumming his guitar loudly.

“Hello!” he sang. “Is it me you're looking for?”

It broke the ice between them. I, on the other hand, wasn't laughing. I held the phone to my ear, listening to him breath.

“Charlotte? Are you there?” His heavy British accent echoed through the other end of the line.

“I'm here,” I replied.

He sighed deeply into the phone, “You should come home. We need to talk.”

“Home?” I repeated out loud. How strange. I never called our apartment a "home". It was more of a place, a place I couldn't imagine living in.
“Yes, home,” he said, sounding a bit annoyed.

We didn't say goodbye to each other. That was part of every phone conversation between me and Jayden. We would just hang up, no other explanation. Instead of worrying, I just closed my phone and tried to focus on the game of charades Brian and Lyndsey were playing from inside. Even Sarah had convinced Patrick to calm down and watch them through the window. They seemed to both be having such a good time as a couple. I felt like I should leave. I grabbed my shoes next to the leg of the chair and attempted to tiptoe towards the window.

“Is Jay coming?” Sarah asked, a hint of hope in her eyes.

I just exchanged glanced with her and Patrick and shook my head. “No, I've got to go.”

“All right,” she said, “Call me later.”

Jayden’s first good experience with acting started as soon as we moved into the apartment. I guess it was understandable to say that I blamed the fail of our relationship to that overpriced loft on the eighteenth floor. It looked like neither of us on the inside. The first room was the kitchen, a room I barely used since I failed at being a cook and could only make a decent grilled cheese. The next area was the living; or non-living room. We barely used it. It was just oddly shaped couches and chairs that were too firm if anyone sat on them to watch the television that had no cable. But the view from the window was breathtaking during the evening. Then there was the bedroom, a room barely used by me since I was at Sarah and Patrick's so much. The bed was still fairly new and had only been used once or twice since we moved in. Poor bed. There wasn't a lot of colour either, despite the numerous times I had suggested it. Instead, it was now mostly ice blue walls with black and white furniture. He had hired a decorator. We never had time to really plan out the place for ourselves. She just sort of worked with it, and we just gave her the money due to our conflicting schedules.
I waited miserably for the elevator to hit the eighteenth floor and the doors to open. My keys were already dangling from my hand.

He was leaning against the counter when I first came in, his buttoned down shirt opened with his sleeves rolled up. His hair was a dirty brown mess, like it was every other day. He was in typical model mode, definitely not convinced he wasn't working anymore that day. His phone was still in his hand, as if he was about to call or text someone when I'd just walked in the door. When he looked over at me, he shoved his phone into the pocket of his dark denim jeans, ran a hand through the front of his hair and started towards me. His arms wrapped uncomfortably tightly around me.

“Hey," he whispered softly into my hair. I gritted my teeth.

“Where were you?!” I pushed him away from me. “I sat there alone with Sarah and Patrick and –”

“I didn't feel like being around those people,” he mumbled. “I wanted to be with you. I wanted to talk about—”

I looked at him in disbelief as I slammed my bag on the side table. “I sat there like a lonely...lobster or...a penguin-”


“The point is that you weren't there!”

“I didn’t know it was a group thing--”

“Well it was!” I snapped. “And I was embarrassed!”

He shook his head and sighed before walking over to me, “I’m sorry. I didn't want to be with people, just you...What am I supposed to say?”

“Those people are my friends!” My skin tingled to the touch of his hands on my shoulders. He let go soon after to run them through his hair. Like that was going to fix anything.

“I’m sorry,” he repeated, returning to leaning back against the counter. “You were embarrassed, and I'm sorry."

“‘Sorry’ isn't going to cut it anymore,” I admitted, folding my arms tensely.

“What are you talking about?”

“I never see you anymore,” I murmured. “The only time we talk, we get into fights.”

He shifted his eyes towards me instead of the tiles on the floor. “What do you suggest?”

My mouth opened, but what I really wanted just couldn't form into words. “…I don't know.”

“I got signed with a very good agent today,” he confessed, eyeing the tiles again and holding in his excitement.

“That’s great.”

“He’s based in Paris.” I nodded, glad that I didn’t have to wait so long for the catch, but it definitely left some extra time for the word “Paris” to sink in.

Jay walked over and took my hand, squeezing it, hoping for more happiness to come out of me or something as if I was a sponge of emotions. But I continued looking away, scared to even glance at him.

“It’ll be six months of networking and shows, and there’s just a lot more to do over there,” he explained in his soft, romantic voice, probably hoping that I would take it in better that way. Again. Sponge.

“And where does that leave me?” I asked him, finally looking up into his eyes. “I have a life here, Jayden." He winced as I used his full name.

“But-” he interrupted chuckling in some sort of disbelief, “I can take care of you, Charlotte. I was going to leave on a flight tonight so I could surprise my family in London. I was hoping you’d come with me and meet them. And then Paris for a few months –”

“Great. A few days of you teasing me before you leave me alone in a strange city for six months. Sounds great, Jayden. A fantastic time.”

“So what do you want to do, Charlotte? Huh?” He tensed. “Tell me what you want to do right now, because I have a plane to catch.”

I felt the air become dense as I breathed out and looked at him. For once, I admired the scruff around his chin and the color of his eyes. None of that mattered to me in the beginning of our relationship. It was just him. Being around him. How he used to be. He used to be the guy singing off-key with Patrick at our little get-togethers. Now he was someone I barely knew, someone I could only pretend to be happy with.


He briefly pressed his forehead against mine, and that was the last moment we had. He left with his suitcase.
What we just did was undefined and left up in the air. Even though it wasn't official, it felt like it was.

And it felt lonely.

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