Good evening, Useless Diary. It has been a day or two since I last wrote, and here's what you missed.
Amy and I are being all fake-nice right now. Around other people. It's like Stepford Wives without pearls. When we're alone, we don't really get into it or try to grow and learn, we just... hold each other for a while if we can get away with it. Or maybe hands. And I could be speaking out of turn by saying this, but I'm pretty damn sure she's terrified the entire time we're "enjoying" it... like I am. Maybe I'm wrong. I feel wrong all the time anyway, so it wouldn't be a jolt.
No kissing, no touching, no nibbling ear lobes or toys or anything stupid. Hugging each other the way we do now is gross enough. If I could rewind and undo this, put us back in the Friend-Zone of yesteryear (yesterweek?), you can bet your sweet ass I'd have already done it. Screw this annoying "sexual tension" bullshit, it's pathetic and aggravating.
Moving on... another thing happened before dinner. I wanted to write about it as soon as I got home but I got home just in time for dinner, so Mom forced me into the dining room so I could have the pleasure of watching my dad space out and my mom act all neurotic about quiche. Quiche. Now that such tortures are over...
First of all, I'd like to apologize for how this starts, but it's what happened, I swear. No, I don't know why it did, but it just did. Like when somebody taps you on the shoulder, and you're not expecting it, and you spin around and elbow them in the solar plexus? Pretty much the same.
I was coming out of Mama Joy's cause I wasn't feeling it, and I was even thinking about heading over to Gino Chang's for some pot stickers or a slice of bacon-and-peppers. As I rounded the corner, another person was doing the same thing in the opposite direction. We automatically spent a couple of seconds doing that "you go left and I'll go right – oh crap, you went right too, so now I'll go left" dance before we both realized we knew each other.
"Hey," he said with that slight half-smile of his. I'll admit, I was staring at the way a few snowflakes had stuck in his hair and how the chill wind made his nose a little bit red; how cute it made him look. The boy was still cute, he was always gonna be, girl-kissing tendencies or no girl-kissing tendencies. That's part of the reason I was so distracted that I fumbled the ball when he asked... "How've you been lately?"
"Gay. How about you?"
When his eyebrows came together in that thoughtful-slash-tortured-artist look of his, I knew I was dead. I'd just Kurt Cobained myself in the face; nobody could clean this up, not even Courtney Love and a gallon of bleach. What do they call that? A Freudian Slip? Yeah… GOD did I slip.
"Uhh... gay, how? As in bubbly and carefree?"
"Um... no, I..." Needless to say, my reaction failed to smooth things over.
"So who's the lucky lady?" he joked, obviously secure in the knowledge that I hadn't really meant I was a lesbian. Poor dumb guy.
"N-nobody," I mumbled, staring at my shoes. "I... I gotta go."
"Hey," he said in an urgent tone, catching my forearm as I made to speed past. "Hang on a second. You're really upset, huh? What's up?"
"Don't worry about it, okay? Sorry."
"Laynie... seriously, what's wrong? You look like you're gonna blow chunks."
"Leave me alone, okay?" I snapped, trying not to meet his eyes while meeting his eyes. You know what I mean there, right? "I'm... I'm just not in a good place, and you're not gonna be able to fix everything with a magical potion from Pianoland, so just... just leave me alone."
Then he leaned in, expression flipping from confused to alarmed. "Wait up, hold the phone. You're not actually... uhhh, not, uh, that it would be a bad thing or whatever, I just... wow, really?"
"Dammit, Ephram, go to Hell!" I succeeded in pulling away from him, ran full tilt for a few steps, then practically fell against the nearby building. "Damn..."
I wasn't surprised he didn't run after me once I stopped moving. He kind of strolled up behind me, didn't touch me again, didn't move more than necessary. Then he whispered, "You wanna talk about it?"
"Okay. You need me to get you some water or something?"
Something about the way he offered to help me without prying for details made me lose it. I flung myself onto his chest and sobbed like a toddler with a skinned knee. Except what I was feeling wasn't like a skinned knee; it was like being skinned on every surface of my body. Yeah… flayed alive. That's how this grand thing we call love really feels, people: flayed. Flayed and filleted and flambéed.
I'll spare you the ten minutes or so that I spent blubbering and howling incoherently and cut to the two of us on the Mama Joy's back steps – you know, by the loading dock where the supply trucks dump their giant boxes of cheese and stuff. He had an arm around me, and I could tell he felt nervous and uncomfortable but not as bad as, for instance, Bright would have been. Or anybody else probably.
"You can't tell anybody," was the first thing I got out that contained actual thoughts. Somehow, the way the frozen shards of precipitation hung in the air around us made me feel like we really were in some safehouse where nobody could overhear my humiliating secret. "Please, swear it, swear you won't go around telling the whole town that I… that I've been-"
"Hey, don't worry," he told me quickly. "I mean, it's Everwood; these broad-minded folk would probably paint a big red 'L' on you or something annoying. Nobody wants that." When I didn't volunteer anything else, he said, "So… wow."
"Is this is a recent thing?" Then he kind of squeezed his eyes shut. "I don't even know if that made sense. Just, I was thinking about how I saw you guys holding hands a while back, and… anyway, it's not like you just signed up and got a ceremonial neckerchief."
"No, it… yeah, it is. New, I mean. Or maybe it's not and I've been… well, h-had a… I don't know. But no, there haven't been any girls before, I guess." I yanked at my hair. "ARGH, this sucks! I don't even know how to talk about it, much less what to do. It's like fucking Opposite Day, where I have to keep remembering I can't just say 'So he and I' and have to say 'she and I' instead, and can't say 'You know what I mean?' because I don't even know what I mean!" Then I chanced a smile. "Know what I mean?"
All he did was grin and look down at his snow-covered shoes.
"Ephram, I don't want this but it's pretty insistent. That's what it feels like; that what I want is to be a straight girl like I always thought I was, but I'm fighting a losing battle. Because I'm on the wrong side, you know? I'm losing because I'm supposed to b-be… to be gay, even though it's not what I'd choose."
He nodded, breath fogging on the air as he thought carefully about his next words. "We don't always get a choice. Sometimes it's like, life just throws crap at you and says 'Deal with it.' And either you do and you move on, or you don't and you make yourself miserable. Which is totally messed up, but there's no customer service phone number for life, y'know?"
I almost laughed. A little of his mom's untimely death was creeping into that sentiment, which helped to make an end run around my whining about silly things like sexuality. It felt good to not be crying, anyway. Sniffling, I rubbed at my face and said, "Just so you're the first to know… I mean, I probably shouldn't divulge this to anyone at all yet, but it's, uh, it's Amy."
"Amy what?" Then he got it and his eyes flew open. "Oh."
"Yeah," I said, feeling the tears come again and cutting them off. Enough is enough. "Like I saw it coming, either. Just… man, I probably could tell you how it all got started but it would be TMI, and wouldn't really explain how I ended up in this situation anyway, so never mind."
His voice was a little higher and thinner than usual when he squeaked out, "Right."
I frowned at him, trying to show him through my face that I meant what I was saying. "I'm really sorry, Ephram. Somehow I suddenly feel like this is something I did to you, because I know we had a few dates that ended in disaster, and that you've always had a thing for Amy, and now here I go and cut you off from both of us because I can't just stay best-friends with my best friend! I…" Then I coughed, shivering and wrapping my arms around my stomach. "Of course, maybe I'm going postal over nothing. You've got the babysitter chick now. You probably forgot we even dated."
At that, his still-astounded face turned bitter as he smiled. "Ah. Well, I'm not so sure. Madison and me, we spend so much time fighting and breaking up and being weird that I'm not sure at this point that we even still count as a couple."
"Sorry," I told him earnestly. "That bites."
"Yeah." Then he sighed, sending out another little puff of fog. "But you got bigger problems than that. Fresher ones, at least."
I wrapped my arms even tighter around me, suddenly cold down to my bones. "Maybe. I dunno, it's not even like anything's wrong– well, something's always wrong, but we're not fighting, or avoiding each other. It's just… every time we're together it's so surreal that I feel like I lost her as a best friend, and that the… the thing I got in return is so scary that I can't even enjoy it. Like trading in your car for a helicopter when you have no idea how to fly one; it could be really cool if you knew, but if you don't? You'll spend every single second in the air knowing, knowing that you are about to crash and die."
"Wow. Drama." Then I laughed and punched him, and he grinned back. "Obviously you're not completely dead yet if you can still bruise my shoulder."
"Jerk." But I stayed smiling after that. Somehow just pointing out that I was making mountains out of molehills took the edge off, which was totally the right thing. How does he do that, anyway? "Better watch out or I'll bruise more than that."
"Yeah? So when are you signing up for roller derby?" When my jaw dropped he grimaced and said, "Too soon for dyke jokes, maybe?"
"Maybe yes," I told him, even though I was laughing. "And for your information, Brown, there are plenty of straight girls in roller derby – or so I hear on the grapevine."
"Yeah, I'll take your word for it. All joking aside, though, I didn't forget we dated. You make a pretty lasting impression, Laynie Hart."
"Oh yeah? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"
Instead of answering, he just stood up and started walking away. I could see the big smile bunching up his cheek from his profile, though. I almost let him go, then ran after him, only slipping and sliding a little in the snow, and hugged him from behind.
"Thanks. For listening, and for not being a dick."
"Yeah." He cleared his throat and said, "Can I get that on paper? Somebody needs to tell Madison I'm not a dick."
"It's cool. She can call me for a referral." Then I spun him around and tried to kiss him.
"No, sorry," he told me with his middle and index fingers between our lips. His hands smelled like the inside of woolen pockets, and cold... and coffee, I think. Is it weird that I even noticed how his hands smelled? "I, uh… I'm tempted to let you do it anyway, but I really don't think I can be your final test of lesbian-ness. Too much mayhem would follow."
I sighed. "I wasn't trying to do that, you know, I just… I dunno, gratitude or whatever."
Nodding, he backed up a step. "Cash and Amazon gift cards are probably safer." Then he was waving over his shoulder as he moved along through Everwood's white-dusted streets, hands worming into his coat pockets and swaggering like a true New Yorker.
Why couldn't I have ended up with him? I mean, God, he's obviously much cooler than Amy ever was, even if these lobotomized small-town yokels can't see that. Just my bad luck that I couldn't hold his attention. Oh well. C'est la vie or some shit.
AUTHORESS'S NOTE: Morning, all. I am truly sorry for disappearing over the weekend, but I have been declaring all-out WAR on las cucarachas. Yes, they're a menace to society, and I've had the so-called "exterminators" round several times to no avail. Therefore, I spent the past two days organising, mopping, scrubbing, sand-blasting and laying sneaky lines of boric acid in the backs of cupboards. Also, the little buggers can feel free to visit any of the myriad "motels" I've distributed throughout my flat; I hope they enjoy the free continental breakfast. And then DIE.
This was a fun chapter... I mean, not "YAY!" fun, but enjoyable to pen because I'd been waiting for a halfway-decent time to bring the other characters into play. Some of them, at least. But there was no comfortable point at which to do so before this. Somehow. I don't know. Perhaps I'm still high from the inadvertent huffing of Fabuloso fumes.
Xpsi: Is it really crackfic now? Have I gone that far south? I apologise. I've strove for realism, but to use too much realism they'd have to remain straight, so I guess I was hoping that the barest sprinkling of angel dust might go a long way.
NEXT: A little light-hearted romance in the midst of all these emotional storms. Whew!