She said once, during a cold night, that she had so-called ‘commitment issues’. She said that while trying to order a coffee from a very distracted waiter, and I sucked on the cigarette she’d passed me across the table and shrugged.
“We all have those.”
“Not like me, you don’t.”
Really, I shouldn’t have ignored what she said. But a week later I helped her drink a bottle of vodka and I let her lead me to her dorm room and I let her help me take off my clothes. I let her scratch my back red and bleed my lips swollen and she let me spend the night.
Lips are for biting here.
And time passes like it always does, with the seasons reflecting on the campus green like a mirror that changes colours; the grass turned greener as we approached March, and I kept finding myself being invited into her dorm room. I joked about moving into the room with her, occupying the empty bed in there and sharing the space. She blanked when I did; she hated the thought of being tied to me like that.
Well, she never actually said that, but you can always guess what rushed kisses and being pinned to a mattress meant when they were always used as conversation-stoppers.
I asked her out to coffee once, and she asked what we were studying.
“Nothing, just coffee and how it tastes, if you want.”
“But you love the coffee place in town.”
“Yeah, when we’re studying for finals, not when we’re going on dates.”
“It’s not a date.”
She didn’t believe me. Quite frankly, I don’t think I believed myself enough, either. I’d stopped being convincing weeks ago, when my eyes lit up every time I opened the door and she was there with boxes of shitty Chinese takeout and a liter bottle of our poison of the week.
It’s not like I had asked for this, to fall in love with someone so captivating. And I’m not even sure what about her was so captivating. When something starts off so raw and almost-violent, you don’t imagine that feelings are ever going to get in the way.
I found the cure to growing older, and you’re the only place that feels like home.
Once, lying on my hideous, carpet-fitted floor, she crossed her legs at the ankle and stretched her arms above her head and yawned. “You’re good to me. A good friend.”
I just rolled my eyes and cleared my throat, trying to make sense of the equations sprawled on the page.
“You don’t think we’re friends?”
“I think we’re friends behind that door. Or whatever you want to call what we have. I wouldn’t call it friendship.”
“What would you call it?”
I pushed off from the desk and stood up, planting my feet at either one of her hips, staring down at her as her eyes lit up and her body tensed slightly.
“Nothing. It’s what you want.”
Always barely out of my reach. Just there, just lingering an inch away from the grasp of my fingers and my affections and my commitments, her hands on the small my back guiding me like an anchor that simultaneously pushes me away and warns me that nothing can come of this.
I power through, because the thought of not reaching for something hurts more than the thought of never getting it anyway.