It’s not my fault I love you. Playful. If it’s anyone’s fault it’s yours, for being so damn adorable. Teasing. It made him uncomfortable. He went to get another drink.
At the bar, he noticed a blonde eyeing him from across the room. He averted his eyes and focused on calling the bartender. He guessed he didn’t like blondes. He used to.
A pair of hands covered his eyes. Guess who? Questioning. No. Teasing again.
He was supposed to know. Freezing up, he tried to recall the name. Debbie? Danna? Pauline?
It’s ME! Grating. No, teasing again.
He wished she would adopt a new tone.
Did you get my drink? This was no better. Flirtatious, he guessed. Why, he wondered. He glanced back in the direction of the blonde. She was no longer looking at him. He sighed. He hoped he had amused her at least. He had changed his mind about blondes.
Later that night, he remembered his girlfriend’s name. Anne. It was a boring name. She was boring.
Sometimes, he suspected that she didn’t even love him. He supposed she didn’t know what love was. Just the stupid shit that was in the movies. She made him watch those movies with her sometimes. Because that’s what couples do. Make each other miserable, he thought. But she said they were supposed to share interests. And friends apparently. He hated her friends. Some of them hated him. Certainly, they resented his presence. Probably said he wasn’t good enough for her.
She was pretty, he assumed. At least, he certainly thought so before. He thought he thought so. It was very hazy. He wondered if he had been drugged. How long had it been? He counted. Not that long. It seemed longer. Life seems long, he mused.
It was the following day. He got dressed for work. He put on his shirt and then his tie and then his pants and then his belt and then his jacket. He put on his socks last. He kept them with his shoes. Every morning he wondered if this made him boring or interesting.
To some. Not to others. Anne told him she found it interesting, when he asked.
He could tell she was lying.
He could tell because she didn’t find him interesting at all.
They had nothing in common.
They never talked about anything. But they talked about nothing sometimes.
It was easy to talk about nothing with her. She would talk and he would nod. She would accuse him of not listening and he would repeat the last thing she said. She would start talking again until she accused him of not listening again. He was always listening. He held out hope that if he listened to her talk long enough, she might say something interesting. You know what they say about monkeys and typewriters.
But she never did.
He supposed she thought what she was saying was interesting. He didn’t know for sure. On occasion, he thought she was messing with him. It was an interesting thought. But he highly doubted it was true.
After getting dressed, he went to work. He got on the same bus and went to the same place every day. Except weekends. He didn’t like weekends. Weekends were hers.
He wanted to know what ended relationships. That was the question that kept coming back. There had to be a formula for breaking up. According to the movies, he should cheat on her. With her best friend preferably. Mutually beneficial. It would guarantee she would find true love and he would be free.
Unless her best friend snared him.
He hates her best friend.
Courage, he decided, ended relationships.
When he got to work, he checked his phone and answered the perfunctory text: “Good morning! <3” He would assume she was forwarding the exact same text to him over and over again, but sometimes the heart was a smiley face. Sometimes there were spelling errors. He looked forward to the spelling errors. It gave him something to think about.
For his part, he did forward her the same text over and over again. “Good morning, sweetie! :D” It had felt dirty to type that out. But it was easier to fake over the phone. Small price to pay and all that. As was his custom, for a moment he wondered why he was still with her. And then he went to work.
At lunch, he had a sandwich from a deli and sent the standard: “Bon appetite. Thinking of you <3” text. He had no idea why she thought that was romantic. Why should he think of her while eating a sandwich? But she seemed to like it. So every day, the message was sent.
He wished she had answered no when he asked her out. Or when he asked for her number. Or all the other countless times she could have denied him. What was it that kept her compliant? He wondered for a moment and then went back to his sandwich.
After work, he went to a bar and ordered a drink and tried not to think of her. But, as always, she would pop up in his thoughts. He would be thinking about books and she would show up in his head.
Eveline. No. Anne. He must write this down.
Nights were better. Some unspoken verdict dictated nights were free. A slight contempt took hold of him as he wondered what she thought about when she was free. She probably didn’t think at all, he imagined. Just a social machine, doing what she presumed was correct. But he supposed she was an interesting philosophical experiment. How long could a man be miserable before he summoned up the strength to change his circumstance? How long could he keep this up?
There were no blondes at this bar. He finished his drink and went home.
It was the weekend now. Her time.
He got up and got dressed for the day. They were going picnicking. He put on his shirt but not his tie, and his pants but not his belt. He put on a different pair of shoes and socks last. He woke up later than he did for work and took a different bus. It was his weekend bus. It was an alright bus.
He got off at his usual stop and went to meet Anne.
It wasn’t a long walk. The air was fresh and cool, he deduced. He didn’t think much as he walked but eventually, habitually, his thoughts turned to some introspective thought. Only to become repetitive reflections about her. Maybe he did love her. He wondered what that meant.
Well, who? Who could it POSSIBLY be? He was a little angry. He turned around, having forgot the name again.
It’s ME! Still grating. But enthusiastic now.
This was a stupid game.
He examined her face, trying to decide if she was pretty or not. For the life of him, he couldn’t decide. He had seen too much of her. That face had bred familiarity. He couldn’t separate the face from the soul. Couldn’t separate him from her. He wished he could leave her. Tell her right now that he wanted out. He could, couldn’t he? The words were in his head, had been buzzing around for ages. If only he could move his tongue and force the words out of his mouth. He wondered how she might take it. She’d probably throw something at him. She would be angry. Or sad. She might even beg him to stay.
He could do it, couldn’t he?
He spent the day picnicking.
It was alright.
The next day was the last day of the weekend. He woke up with her next to him. It wasn’t that bad. He decided when she was asleep, she was pretty. He also decided she must then be pretty when she was awake. It was only logical. He got out of bed.
When Anne woke up, she saw John with his shirt on (but not his tie), pulling on his pants.
She knew there would be no belt today. She knew he wouldn’t put his socks on until they left the house. To pass the time, she wondered which shoes he would wear today. She already knew, but she wanted him to leave the room before she got up. He might say something to her, ask her about her day. She still holds out hope.
But no. He never said anything. She wouldn’t be able to stand the silence.
He was an automaton, she figured. The same thing, over and over again. Every single day. He was like his texts, she decided. A different time stamp and nothing else, nothing more, day after day. She supposed he liked the routine. So she closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep. As was her custom, she briefly wondered why she was with him.
When he left to make breakfast, she got up and put her underwear on. Then she put on her shirt and her pants. Defiantly, she pulled on her socks.
She wished she was free. Things were better when she was alone. Happier. She thought about different things then. Now…thoughts of him circled around and around. She hoped they were circling a drain.
Flaw overwhelms her. She would never be brave enough to walk away.
She pulled off her socks again. Then pulled them on. And on and on, she thought.
On the slow train, rushing towards eternity.
She looked out the window and wondered how long it had been.